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 waking up early in the day and visit a new corner of the city before starting my day shooting, 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 train 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
In this guide you will see
- 1 15 Best Photography Locations in Sydney for sunrise, sunset and during the day
- 1.1 Botanical Garden – Art Gallery Road over M1
- 1.2 Botanical Garden – Farm Cove
- 1.3 Architecture and interior photography in Central Park
- 1.4 Sydney Opera House
- 1.5 McMahons Point Wharf
- 1.6 Hickson Road Reserve
- 1.7 South Head Walk – The Gap
- 1.8 Newtown Cemetery
- 1.9 A walk in Darlinghurst
- 1.10 Ferry from Manly Beach
- 1.11 Bondi-Coogee walk
- 1.12 Bondi Beach
- 1.13 Bare Island
- 1.14 Mrs Macquarie’s Chair
- 1.15 Sydney Observatory view
- 2 Accommodation I used in the last few years
- 3 Summary
- 4 Map of the Best Photography Locations in Sydney
You can read also
- Where to stay in Sydney (the best areas and what to avoid)
- Sydney Photo Gallery
- Top 5 photos of Sydney Harbour Bridge and how to make them
- How to get from Melbourne to Sydney, all the possible options (with photos)
- Best photography locations in Melbourne
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, the Botanical Garden, have a bus trip to Bondi Beach and take a ferry to Manly.
You are almost sure that you will cover plenty of sites and you will visit some of the best photography locations in Sydney
There is definitely not a ranking in the below list.
The numbers are not related to a visiting order either.
It is all based on what you are looking for, as a subject, and the type of photography.
The last location (Observatory) is probably one of the most hidden places, at least in my Sydney experience
At the end of the post there is a summary map with all the locations.
You can save it or print it and use it as a reference in your Sydney photography walk.
By the way, if you are after travel photography tips, compositions, tutorials and much more then why not reading and, if you prefer, downloading for FREE (no need to pass your email, no worries) this ultimate guide for travel photography. Over 70 pages that may change your way to make (not just take) photos when travelling.
FREE (no email required) Reference Guide to Travel Photography
Here below 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.
Botanical Garden – Art Gallery Road over M1
What I love the most of 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
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
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
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)
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?
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
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)
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 few nice cafes around Bay View Street, perfect for brunch 😉
The view of the city is quite spectacular
When: Sunrise is the best time. You can also reach this place by train, get off at North Sydney station and have a 15 minutes 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
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
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.
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.
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, clouds….so many variables
Setting: 1/500sec at f/13, 63mm, ISO 400 (Canon 40D + Sigma 18-200 f/4)
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 make few photos.
Be sure that if you google this location it will not as popular as the Opera House 🙂
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, same entrance as for 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)
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.
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).
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 mins ride in your life
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 an 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)
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, 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
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
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
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
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.
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)
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 known place by the Sydney photographers
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, easy. It’s a popular site where you will probably meet 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 look 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)
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
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 a hot coffee, you will need it in a winter sunrise
Setting: 1/125sec at f/13, 18mm, ISO 100 (Canon 40D + Sigma 18-200 f/4)
Accommodation I used in the last few years
For more information on the city, you can read my updated Guide to the best areas of Sydney to stay.
Here below a small selection of Hotels where I had a great time
Accommodation in Sydney is expensive and quite often booked out.
Whenever you find your perfect room, I suggest to book it straight away (in most cases you can cancel it later free of charge)
Located in Surry Hills, the Shakespeare Hotel is still one of my favourites because of its quirky style (see photos here).
It’s one of the cheapest options too in the central area.
It’s above an old-style pub but it closes around 11pm, therefore do not expect much noise.
Best Western Plus Hotel Stellar
The Hotel Stellar is more expensive than the previous option however it offers a much higher level of service and quality (see photos here).
It 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 another of my favourite options when I visit Sydney
Summer House Newtown
I have already been there a few times and I will keep returning.
The Summer House is located in Newtown, one of my favourite areas in Sydney, lovely cafes around and some of the best restaurants.
It’s also quite close to the Airport and therefore very convenient for a taxi ride.
Here is the best tip.
The Summer House is based in two buildings. The first one more for backpackers and the second one more for a quieter environment in a lovely backyard (see photos here).
Book in the second building, called “St.Kilda”. You can always use the swimming pool of the main premise 😉
If you have read till here you have probably realised how beautiful is this city.
So many places to visit.
Of the above best photo locations in Sydney, I am quite attached to the Observatory and Bare Island.
These are the sites with great photo potentials and “less competition”.
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Map of the Best Photography Locations in Sydney
18 thoughts on “15 Best Photography Locations in Sydney [Sunrise, sunset and during the day]”
Is there a tour to take at the Opera House that would allow me to photograph the interior main hall from the back featuring it’s interior architecture?
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!!
Really thaxs for this post.I really, don’t know about such cool sites . These Beautiful sites perfectly ok sor Photography in Sydney .
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.
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.
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?
Ross in NZ
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.
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!
No worries, many thanks for your feedback
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.
Many thanks Anthony for your feedback. I am on my way to improve this post including the fixing to the literally mistakes. Again thank you so much
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 🙂
This is the google maps link
It’s zoomed in 100%. Zoom out to have a contest 😉
few meters from the Bus 441 stop, opposite the Art Gallery of NSW
Stop ID: 2000144
Let me know if you need more info and enjoy the location
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!
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.
Leaving for Sydney this Saturday from the US! Thanks so much for the informative post.
That’s great Reed. Just a pity I am not in Sydney in these days otherwise we could have met.
Enjoy and let me know how did it go