Last updated on February 28, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Sydney

Best Photography Spots in Sydney

Why finding the best photography locations in Sydney is not an easy job? Because Sydney is a rare example of a beautiful city made of 6 million people and there are really many spots that can be highlighted as the best around.

I do live in Melbourne but, as a photographer, I have been visiting Sydney on a regular basis for the last 15 years.

I just can’t stop myself from waking up early in the day and visiting a new corner of the city before starting my working day, or why not at sunset time?

In this post, you will find 15 of my favourite photography locations in Sydney, with a reference point in a map, the best time of the day to visit them and, where applicable, the buses or trains to catch.

Scroll to the end of the post and you will find also a video with even more photography spots in Sydney.

Without further ado, let’s get into it

Pin me on Pinterest!

15 Best Photography Locations in Sydney for sunrise, sunset and during the day

If you are in the city for just a few days I would probably suggest staying around the Harbour Bridge. You are almost sure that you will cover plenty of sites and you will visit some of the best photography locations in Sydney.

Below is a table of the sites with the best time to visit them and the best way to reach them, assuming you are based close to Circular Quay.

Name of the SiteWhen to VisitSuggested SettingsHow to Make the PhotoHow to Reach from Circular Quay
Botanical Garden – Art Gallery RdBlue hour after sunset13sec at f/10, 24mm, ISO 100Long exposure for light trailsWalk
Botanical Garden – Farm Cove30 mins after sunrise1/30sec at f/10, 25mm, ISO 100Use lead-in linesWalk
Central ParkDuring the day1/320sec at f/7.1, 65mm, ISO 100Play with compositionWalk or Bus
Sydney Opera HouseSunrise or Sunset299sec at f/18, 24mm, ISO 100Long exposureWalk
McMahons Point WharfSunrise1/100sec at f/16, 35mm, ISO 100HDR techniqueFerry from Circular Quay
Hickson Road ReserveNight or after sunset170sec at f/18, 24mm, ISO 100Long exposureWalk
South Head Walk – The GapSunrise1/500sec at f/13, 63mm, ISO 400VariesFerry to Watsons Bay, then walk
Newtown CemeteryDuring the day1/500sec at f/13, 63mm, ISO 400Depth of fieldBus
DarlinghurstEarly morningVariesDepth of fieldWalk or Bus
Ferry from Manly BeachSunset1/500sec at f/7, 35mm, ISO 400High shutter speedFerry from Manly to Circular Quay
Bondi-Coogee WalkEarly morningVariesVariesBus
Bondi BeachSunriseVariesPanoramaBus to Bondi Beach
Bare IslandSunrise10sec at f/18, 24mm, ISO 100Long exposure with ND10 filterBus #391 from Central Station
Mrs Macquarie’s ChairSunset118sec at f/18, 27mm, ISO 100Long exposureWalk through Botanical Garden
Sydney Observatory ViewSunrise in winter1/125sec at f/13, 18mm, ISO 100VariesWalk through The Rocks

I have placed a pin for each of the sites in this handy Google Map

Map of the top Photography Locations in Sydney
Map of the photo locations – See interactive Map on Google Map

By the way, if you are after travel photography tips, compositions, tutorials and much more then why not read my ultimate guide for travel photography? Over 70 pages that may change your way of making (not just taking) photos when travelling.

Botanical Garden – Art Gallery Road over M1

What I love the most about this location is how the light trails take your eyes straight to the city.

It’s a great site, not too far away from Sydney CBD, just next to the Art Gallery of New South Wales and The Pavilion Restaurant

Top spot for some light trail photography towards Sydney CBD
Botanical Garden – Art Gallery Road over M1

When: the blue hour after sunset gives the best result. The blue sky creates a lovely contrast to the city lights

How: check the quick Three steps to shoot light trails free tutorial. The long exposure is the key setting

Setting: 13sec at f/10, 24mm, ISO 100 (Nikon D600 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4)

Botanical Garden – Farm Cove

This is a beautiful small bay right in the middle of the Botanical Garden.

Come over in the early morning and just after sunrise you will have the sun shining straight on the Sydney CBD.

Use the walking path as lead-in lines to your main subject, the city

The Botanical Garden is a great location for some shots of the Sydney bay and city
Botanical Garden – Farm Cove

When: be there ready to start shooting 30 minutes after sunrise. The sun will quickly illuminate the skyscrapers

How: check the free tutorial How to use lead-in lines in landscape photography. How to drive the eyes to your subject.

Setting: 1/30sec at f/10, 25mm, ISO 100 (Canon 40D + Sigma 18-200 f/4)

Architecture and interior photography in Central Park

This is quite a new area of Sydney.

I was not extremely happy when I heard that new buildings were built but honestly, the result is very good.

Just wander between the building for some architectural photography.

Take your time, either before or after your photography session, for a tour at the White Rabbit gallery.

You can experience there some amazing contemporary collections from Chinese artists, a real eye-opener, surely one of my favourite galleries in Sydney

Best_photography_locations_Sydney_13a_Sydney_20131123_016_architecture_ Chippendale_ Shape_ Sydney-min
Architecture and interior photography in Central Park

When: during the day, no need for sunset or sunrise light. Planning together with a visit to the White Rabbit Gallery on the back of these buildings, after the green area

How: play with your composition. Did you find anything strange in this photo? It is upside down, although it does not look like, isn’t it?

Setting: 1/320sec at f/7.1, 65mm, ISO 100 (Nikon D600 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4)

Best_photography_locations_Sydney_13b_Sydney_20131123_002_architecture_ Chippendale_ Shape_ Sydney-min
A walk through the buildings

Sydney Opera House

It must be surely the most visited place in Australia and without any doubt one of the most photographed buildings in the world.

There is obviously a good reason, it’s a beautiful work of engineering/art genius.

Can you find a different corner, a side which was not photographed before?

Very unlikely.

I can only suggest trying to use different techniques or a close up that can take the Opera House outside of the Sydney bay contest

The Sydney Opera House is another great site for a photo of a Sydney icon
A long exposure at the Sydney Opera House

When: Sunrise may be a good choice if you are after a quiet time (don’t bet on an empty place though). Above photo was taken at sunset, with the sun behind the Opera House.

How: The place was pretty busy so I decided to go for a long exposure of almost 5 minutes. In this way, only the static people would appear in the photo. This is another creative way to make your picture. There is still a bit of ghosting here and there that could be fixed in post (you can still see some shadows). An easier way to avoid ghosting is to shoot with an even longer exposure, using a 5 or 10 stops ND filter

Setting: 299sec at f/18, 24mm, ISO 100 (Nikon D600 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4)

Close-up of The iconic Sydney Opera house
A close-up of the Sydney Opera House domes

McMahons Point Wharf

You can go to the McMahons Point Wharf by ferry.

Take one at Circular Quay, direction Balmain and it’s the second stop.

Ideally, the best time is sunrise however I was there in the morning and I was happy with the result as well.

There are a few nice cafes around Bay View Street, perfect for brunch 😉

The view of the city is quite spectacular

Best_photography_locations_Sydney_11_Sydney_20120211_254_5_6-2-2_Australia_ Bay_ Harbour Bridge_ New South Wales_ Portfolio_ Seascape_ Sydney-min
McMahons Point Wharf

When: Sunrise is the best time. You can also reach this place by train, get off at North Sydney station and have a 15-minute walk

How: If you are not there during the magic hours I would suggest using the HDR technique with 3 exposures bracketing (or more if available on your camera). So I did with my photo above. In this way, I was able to capture a broad dynamic range. With the latest cameras, you can work in post on the shadows and the highlights to reach the same result (as I usually do now with my Sony A7III).

Setting: 1/100sec at f/16, 35mm, ISO 100 (Canon 40D + Sigma 18-200 f/4) – HDR with 3 exposures bracketing

Hickson Road Reserve

This is another popular place with tourists.

You can easily walk here from Circular Quay.

This is the spot where you can probably have your best photos of the Harbour Bridge and the iconic Luna Park in the background

Best_photography_locations_Sydney_10a_Sydney_20130809_015_Bay_ bridge_ Harbour_ Luna Park_ Sydney-min
Hickson Road Reserve

When: There are so many photos at sunrise, sunset and daylight that I personally suggest to come another time of the day, which is during the night or after sunset when it’s already becoming darker.

How: Try a long exposure photo to give a milky effect to the bay area. Also black and white works quite well. Bridge close up is another option

View of the Luna Park from the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Hickson Road Reserve – A long exposure on the Luna Park

Setting: (above photo) 170sec at f/18, 24mm, ISO 100 (Nikon D600 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4). Read more on my favourite lenses when travelling and why.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge...or the Eiffel Tower?
The Sydney Harbour Bridge…or the Eiffel Tower?

South Head Walk – The Gap

This is such a lovely walk that should not be missed.

You will be pleased not only for your photography but also for the amazing coastal site.

South Head Walk - The Gap
South Head Walk – The Gap

When: Sunrise is again the best time. You can reach this point with your own vehicle, by ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay or by bus (train to Bondi Junction and bus #324 or #325 direction Watsons Bay). You will have the sun rising in front of you and the beautiful orange colours illuminating the coast walk

How: How to make a photo here really depends on the time of the day you arrive, how is the sea, and clouds….so many variables

Setting: 1/500sec at f/13, 63mm, ISO 400 (Canon 40D + Sigma 18-200 f/4)

Newtown Cemetery

Yes, this is quite a quirky place to visit.

Don’t think it is the usual cemetery though.

It’s actually a very old one, in the backyard of the St. Stephen’s Anglican Church.

It’s an unusual corner of Sydney to visit, besides a unique site to take a few photos.

Be sure that if you google this location it will not be as popular as the Opera House 🙂

Alternative site to photography in Sydney
Newtown Cemetery

When: During the day will work fine. You may want to avoid the hours right in the middle of the day when the sun is too harsh and the shadows become too dark. I was there just after an early breakfast. Exploring it by night can be another “horror movie” option. There are no gates and you can access from the street, the same entrance as the church

How: I played here with the depth of field and the focal length (see free tutorial Understanding focal length). Black and white works best

Setting: (above photo) 1/500sec at f/13, 63mm, ISO 400 (Canon 40D + Sigma 18-200 f/4)

Best_photography_locations_Sydney_08c_SYD-MardiGrass_20100226_0023_Newtown_ NSW_ Sydney-min
Newtown Cemetery – An alternative place in Sydney

A walk in Darlinghurst

Do you have a free morning? Maybe before breakfast or brunch?

Have a walk around Liverpool Street from Hyde Square up to Darlinghurst Road.

This is a lovely area to experience the old Sydney architecture.

Most of the buildings are dated back to the 18th century.

Lots of glamour.

Best_photography_locations_Sydney_070
A walk in Darlinghurst for architectural photography

When: It will be fine during the day. However as early as possible to avoid the harsh hours. It is ideal to have the walk before breakfast and stop at one of the many cafes after your photography “work

How: I played once again with the depth of field and focal length (see free tutorial Understanding focal length).

Best_photography_locations_Sydney_07e_KingsCross-Sydney_20090328_27_Kings Cross_ NSW_ Sydney-min
The famous Coluzzi cafe and bar

Ferry from Manly Beach

You have probably already read about Manly Beach as the place to spend an afternoon sunbathing and, why not, having a swim.

Organise your ferry back to the city around sunset time.

The colours of the bay will change magically and you will have one of the best 30-minute ride in your life

Best_photography_locations_Sydney_06a_Harbour-Sydney_20090328_4_NSW_ Sydney_ sydney bridge-min
Ferry from Manly Beach

When: definitely sunset time. Try to take a place on the front of the ferry to have the best view of the bay, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge

How: Pump up your shutter speed, at least 1/250sec (I decided to go for a 1/500). You are on a moving object, the ferry, that is navigating on a moving surface, the sea. You may have to use a high ISO as well, 400 or more. Silhouette photography works great as well

Setting: 1/500sec at f/7, 35mm, ISO 400 (Canon 40D + Sigma 18-200 f/4)

Best_photography_locations_Sydney_06b_Harbour-Sydney_20090328_9_NSW_ Sydney_ sydney bridge-min
Close up on the Harbour Bridge climb from the ferry

Bondi-Coogee walk

This is another famous walk that takes you from Bondi to Coogee along a well-signed walking path of 9km.

You can do the lot or just a section of it.

You can go back to the city from Coogee with a bus ride, easy.

What are the highlights of this walk?

The many small bays that you will encounter along the path, are just amazing.

Sometimes I felt I was in Europe, other times in Malibu….but I was always in Sydney 😀

You will walk also through a unique site in the world.

What is it? The Waverley Cemetery, facing the sea, you will be surprised

Best_photography_locations_Sydney_05_IMG_7341_Antonietta_ Cesare_ Sydney-min
Bondi-Coogee walk

When: start the walk as early as possible. This will give you the best chance to have great colours and to avoid the mass of people along the route, especially in the sections close to Bondi and Coogee

Bondi Beach

This is an iconic location you do not want to miss.

This is the most famous Australian beach.  

At the start of the walk to Coogee, you will find also the Bondi Icebergs Club.

Another world-famous place where you can often spot celebrities.

Besides the people, concentrate on the outdoor swimming pool, a good site for some cool photos

Best_photography_locations_Sydney_04a_20140127_110401-2-min
Bondi Beach – Photo stitch

When: sunrise is definitely a good time for the great light. Try it also on a bad day with lots of black clouds for a dramatic effect

How: take the tripod with you and stitch a few photos together for a great panorama image. The one above was actually done with a mobile camera and I quite like the result

Best_photography_locations_Sydney_04b_Sydney_20120311_160_bondi_ Icebergs_ Nature Perception_ Portfolio_ Seascape_ Shower_ swimmin pools_ Sydney-min
Bondi Icebergs Club

Bare Island

We are getting closer to the end of this post and here is another hidden place in Sydney.

Well, as I said, there are no hidden places in Sydney but sure this location is not that popular, despite its beauty.

It’s not a short walk to come here, not even actually a short bus ride (50 minutes)  however you can easily take a direct bus, number 391, at Central Station that will take you to La Perouse parking space.

From there it is a 5 minutes walk.

By the way, this island was also used in Mission Impossible II as the stage for the final battle with the motorbikes.

You can check the action scene on YouTube.

Best_photography_locations_Sydney_03a_Sydney_20131125_039_Bare_ bridge_ Cruise_ Impossible_ Island_ Laperouse_ Mission_ Sydney_ Tom-min
Bare Island

When: The sunrise is most definitely the best time of the day. The issue may be with the transportation that is not available that early. I did ride there however Sydney is not that bicycle-friendly I must say. Be aware.

How: Look for a different corner. There are already many photos from around the bridge. I had a walk along the coast and used an ND10 filter to capture the water movement (see the free tutorial Three easy steps to capture running water)

Setting: 10sec at f/18, 24mm, ISO 100 (Nikon D600 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4)

Best_photography_locations_Sydney_03b_Sydney_20131125_043_Bare_ bridge_ Cruise_ Impossible_ Island_ Laperouse_ Mission_ Sydney_ Tom-min
View of Bare Island from the coast (Long exposure with ND10 filter)

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair

You will not be alone here at sunset time.

Expect other photographers.

The view of the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the Sydney bay is magnificent.

It is not a crowded spot but sure a well-known place by the Sydney photographers

One of my favourite Top spot for landscape photography in Sydney
Mrs Macquarie’s Chair

When: The sunset is the best time. Arrive here around 30 minutes before to see the location, understand where you want to be and organise your setting.

How: You can either walk here through the Botanical Garden or ride your bike, easily. It’s a popular site where you will probably meet a few other photographers setting their own tripod (essential). I walked down straight on the rocks (it was a calm warm night, don’t do that on a stormy day, it can be quite slippery) and I was alone with another photographer (always looking behind the usual places). It was definitely the right time and place for a long-exposure photo

Setting: 118sec at f/18, 27mm, ISO 100 (Nikon D600 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4)

Best_photography_locations_Sydney_02b_Sydney_20130812_059-Edit-Edit_bridge_ Chair_ exposure_ Harbour_ House_ long_ Macquarie_ Opera_ Sydney-min
A long exposure to the Sydney Opera House

Sydney Observatory view

I started this article with 6 spots, then I thought I should add another couple, and one more, and….at the end here we are with the most hidden site of the best photography locations in Sydney.

This is still my favourite place and I have definitely to revisit it on a more stormy day to give a bit of drama.

The bench gives that nice dimension to the foreground.

Just what I wanted, an unusual view of the Harbour Bridge

My favourite photography location in Sydney. A great point of view, almost unknown
My favourite photography location in Sydney. A great point of view, almost unknown, the Sydney Observatory Hill

When: Sunrise has to be, although it has to be said that the best results are in winter as the sunrise in summer is way too easterly. Before I visit a location I spend a great time investigating the best spot, time etc. If you need more information check my Reference guide to travel photography.

How: You can walk there from Circular Quay through The Rocks. You will be alone (I was there a few times and I never met anybody). Take your time and have a hot coffee, you will need it on a winter sunrise

Setting: 1/125sec at f/13, 18mm, ISO 100 (Canon 40D + Sigma 18-200 f/4)

Accommodation I suggest using

I have written a dedicated post to the best areas of Sydney to stay. Here below are two of my suggested accommodations in the central area (CBD) of the city.

Best Western Plus Hotel Stellar

The Hotel Stellar is right next to Hyde Park and the Museum Station which makes it great if you want to stay in the city centre. It is also very close to all of the cafes that Surry Hills offers which is a nice plus for a break.

This is one of my favourite options when I visit Sydney because of its location and its great value for money.

Best Western Plus Hotel Stellar
Best Western Plus Hotel Stellar

Park Hyatt Hotel

If you are after a unique experience you may want to check the Park Hyatt Hotel.

This is one of the most luxurious hotels in Sydney with the best view right in front of the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the city (see photos here).

The rooms are spacious and you will have also a pool, of course with the best view

Park Hyatt
Park Hyatt

Supplementary video

Below is also a video I did with local travel photographer Alfonso Calero about these and other photography spots in Sydney.

Enjoy and remember to subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Here is the index to see again the places

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

18 thoughts on “15 Best Photography Locations in Sydney [Sunrise, sunset and during the day]”

    • There is a tour but it’s not focused on photographers. This means you will have to follow the group at the guide pace, which may be just alright. In these cases I usually position myself at the end of the group so that I can take photos with almost nobody around.
      Enjoy your trip!!

      Reply
  1. Planning a trip to Sydney in April and reading through your article I was able to gather so much information as to where are the good spots to take photos. My hobby is photography and wants to take a clear morning shot of the Opera House and Sydney Skyline on the back. I heard only way to do this by taking a ferry North bound. Can you give me some insights into this. Will this give me the right light if I take the morning ferry (not sure what time I should aim for). For the Sun set I will take your advice to go to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. Will this give me a chance to do long exposure? Thanks and great work.. Keep it up.

    Reuben

    Reply
    • Hi Reuben,
      thanks for your feedback.

      Let me start with the Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. Indeed no worries for the long exposure, just go down close to the water. the best spot.

      Milsons Point, in my opinion, the best spot to capture the Opera House and Sydney Skyline at the same time. Sunset and sunrise can be as good.
      With sunrise, you will have the sun on the left (my favourite time). Otherwise on the right.
      Enjoy!!

      Reply
  2. Thanks for the article. While in Sydney back in May I tried to get to Mrs Macquaries chair for sunrise, from the Circular Quay direction, but all access to the Botanical Gardens was closed until after sunrise. (Gates locked) Are other access points unlocked 24/7 or how do you get pre dawn access?

    Cheers
    Ross in NZ

    Reply
    • Hi Ross,
      the Mrs Macquaries chair is not inside the Botanical Garden walls/fences, which, as you said, it’s locked during the night.
      From Circular Quay you would need to walk up the Macquaries Street, turn left on Shakespeare Pl and again left on Mrs Macquaries Road. Follow that road till the end and you will be at Mrs Macquaries chair (around 30 minutes walk or 2.5Km).
      It’s a great spot for sunset, less so for sunrise as the horizon is covered by Garden Island and Potts Point in this month. In April works best, as the sun rises from Watsons Bay.
      Enjoy!!
      Cheers

      Reply
  3. Love the work – we are a Sydney based photography and videography company and will be using your list for our future scouting needs. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  4. Great photos and tips. I agree with you, the Sydney Observatory view is the best out of the lot! A thing I noted was there are a few small literary mistakes that can be easily corrected by anyone with just a quick read through, make that right and this article can be enjoyed even better.

    Reply
  5. Hello!

    Where is the “Art Gallery Rd over M1” at? I’m interesting to doing a shoot some photos of the light trails and playing around composition 🙂

    Reply
  6. Thank you so very much for this inspiring selection of photo spots! WOW!
    I’m going to Sydney in a few days for my 30th birthday, long time dream of mine and I cannot wait to walk in the city and shoot!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for your beautiful comment. Really appreciated.

      You will love Sydney, I am sure. Have a check to the Observatory viewpoint, really an amazing place to be, especially on sunrise.

      And, beside photography, Sydney is an amazing place to visit.
      Cheers

      Reply

Leave a Comment