Sydney’s Top 10 Photography Hotspots
All images © Copyright Luke Zeme Photography
Sydney is Australia’s most populated city with over 5 million Sydneysiders living here in 2017. I think the appeal lies in living in a big city whilst having the beach on your doorstep. You can be sunbaking on the beach one day, then be in your suit the very next day which is the ultimate combination of lifestyles. Hidden in amongst the local communities and natural environments photographers will find an incredible abundance of subject material. In Sydney, photographers are spoilt for choice on what to shoot and can easily to shoot from almost any genre you can think of from Landscapes, Seascapes, Cityscapes, Street, Sports, Wedding, Aerial, Nature, Food, Fashion… You name it, you can shoot it in Sydney Australia!
Having been shooting here myself for a long long time and growing up nearby I thought my personal insights to the top photography locations would be beneficial to other Sydneysiders or visiting photographers to Sydney. The avid aussie photographer might already know most of these hotspots but some of the highlights might be new to you. Some of the locations might not necessarily be internationally known but I added them as they are my personal favourites. So take a look and scroll to the bottom for my #1 Sydney photography location. With Sydney having such a diverse mix of incredible natural and man made environments it was a tough choice!
So without further ado here are my Top 10 Sydney Photography Hotspots:
PHOTO HOTSPOT #10 - COOGEE
Coogee is shaped like a big bowl funnelling all traffic down to the beach… and where else would you want to be on a hot summers day then a Sydney beach? There are a few seaside pools at coogee that make for some stunning sunrise seascape photo locations. You can also get some nice light in the afternoons even though the sun is setting in the west, behind your back. The best seaside pool to shoot at is the Ross Jones Memorial Pool at the base of the Coogee Surf Life Saving Club, located at the south end of Coogee Beach.
Photography Highlights: Ross Jones Memorial Pool, Coogee Surf Life Saving Club, Coogee Beach Park, Bondi to Coogee Walk, Coogee Beach, Giles Baths, Wileys Baths and McIvers Baths (Women Only Pool).
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Photos from Coogee:
“Coogee Surf Life Saving Club” is the picture perfect aussie SLSC on the beach, definitely worth your time to photograph.
The “Ross Jones Memorial Pool” wall structures offer up a stunning silhouette for a seascape sunrise image. You can zoom in and create a nice abstract or go wide angle and take in the whole scene like this image. If you are lucky you can capture a sunrise like this 😉
“Wylies Baths” is one the most scenic Sydney coastal pools with a private entrance and its own stretch of rocky cliffs to make you feel far away from any city. There is also a women’s only pool, McIvers Baths, just around the head, which I have never seen in person unfortunately… as I’m a guy haha, but! from the photos I’ve seen it’s just as scenic and offers privacy via cliffs and a large fenced off area for lady swimmers in Sydney.
PHOTO HOTSPOT #9 - VAUCLUSE
Vaucluse is a suburb out in the Eastern Suburbs just passed Rose Bay. It is one of my favourite areas in Sydney to stroll along the waters edge with my camera gear during sunset. There is a trail that is made up of a combination of wooden boardwalks and dirt/sand tracks, which winds through the bush and vegetation. It is another place in Sydney that through the surrounding natural environment that lets you forget that you are 15 minute drive from the Sydney CBD. The best thing about this walk is that it has incredible vantage points of the Sydney skyline. I also have a favourite spot up on New South Head Road overlooking Sydney Harbour with the historical St. Michaels Anglican Church in the foreground.
Photography Highlights: Open views of the Sydney city skyline, waterfront walks along Sydney Harbour and amazing view on the hill near St. Michael’s Anglican Church.
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Photos from Vaucluse:
Stunning views of the Sydney skyline and harbour, shot from on New South Head Road.
Along the waters edge you can create some fantastic compositions with boats in the foreground and a setting sun directly behind the Sydney city skyline.
You can highlight the Sydney skyline by zooming in and cropping out any of the surrounding scenery. If you use a nice sharp zoom lense you can get some wonderfully crisp skyline shots.
PHOTO HOTSPOT #8 - NARRABEEN
Narrabeen is located on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and the ocean pool located … Narrabeen pool is one my favourites in sydney because it has this wooden walking platform that is suspended above the waters surface. It’s an experience in itself to walk around the edge of the pool on it but for us photographers it offers the opportunity to take stunning seascape shots at sunset and sunrise. I’ve been to this location many times and explored the surrounding headlands.
Photo Highlights: Narrabeen Pool, Narrabeen beach and a small area just passed the pool on the rockshelf where the waves crash into the rocks spraying high in the area.
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Photos From Narrabeen:
The rock shelfs at the northern end of the beach offer up some great spots to setup your camera and do some long exposures. As with all seascape photography if you didn’t get your feet wet then you weren’t close enough to the rocks! 🙂
PHOTO HOTSPOT #7 - MILSONS POINT
Milsons Point can be found at the base of the North side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and you can get their by either train or by a ferry which would be my choice. It’s on the opposite side of the harbour to the opera house and city CBD but this gives photographers the perfect location to get all the Sydney city landmarks into one photo. This location is perfect for sunset, but I if you are clever about your location and composition you can also get some nice sunrise photos here too. Another landmark is close by too, Luna Park, and you can create some really fun and interesting photos within the park. Be careful though because tripods are not allowed, but if you are quick you can get the shot you want like the ferris wheel shot I got below 😉
Photo Highlights: Sydney Skyline, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, Lavender Bay and Luna Park.
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Photos from Milsons Point:
You can get some fantastic cityscape shots of Sydney right down by the waters edge. It looks great if you play with all the old stonework in the foreground of your images too 😉
This next one was taken from inside Luna Park and during Vivid Light Festival, that’s why the Sydney Harbour Bridge is lit up like a christmas tree. I was very conscious of trying to get both the ferris wheel and the bridge in the shot when I took. Also had to use a tripod to get these long exposure times of around 15 seconds.
The famous Luna Park entrance, which I am sure scares many children who walk underneath this clowns grinning mouth! Here is a child fascinated by the landmark.
PHOTO HOTSPOT #6 - WATSONS BAY
Watsons Bay is so gorgeous on a sunny summer’s day and is packed with parks, hikes, beaches, bays, trails and some great fish and chip restaurants. The best way to get out there is to take a ferry as the ride is very memorable but if you drive you can pack a picnic and bring out some recreational gear. In terms of photography there are so many things to shoot out here from seascapes to landscapes. From the bay you can even spot the city skyline on the horizon. The trail to the Hornby lighthouse is a highlight, but you may have to pass by Lady Bay beach which is actually a nudist beach. So if this is an issue just take the north trail passed the gap!
Photo Highlights: The Gap, Camp Cove Beach, Watsons Bay Park, North and South Head (Entrance to Sydney Harbour), Hornby Lighthouse and The Gap Lookout.
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Photos From Watson’s Bay:
This is an incredible cliff face on the eastern side of Watsons Bay, not far from South Head.
The candy striped Hornby Lighthouse, worth the 5-10 minute walk from Gap Bluff. Both these locations are perfect for sunrise photography.
Here is one of my favourite beaches in Sydney, Camp Cove. During summer there are a lot less crowds compared to the big beaches of Bondi and Manly. Also for those that aren’t confident in the surf there aren’t any waves here! I love this old hut down on the beach and have photographed it on a few occasions.
PHOTO HOTSPOT #5 - BRONTE BEACH
Bronte Beach is a less populated version of Bondi Beach and it’s for this reason that many locals flock here. As you can see from the image below it has one of the coolest looking ocean pools in Sydney. It’s one of my favourite beaches in Sydney, and there are many coastal features to photograph here. Bronte photography is all about the coast and what you can find. It is in the middle of the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk which winds its way along the cliffs and beaches of Sydneys East. I’ve taken some great shots out in this area and it’s a lot of fun to get your feet wet down by the waters edge.
Photo Highlights: Bronte Baths, Bronte Beach Bondi to Coogee walk and Coastal rock formations.
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Photos from Bronte:
The incredible bronte baths are the perfect spot to setup and watch the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean. You can often get stunning sunrises here but this one was extra special. Sometimes you get to photograph the Bronte Baths alone, but there will usually be people swimming their morning laps. I try to not get in there way or point my camera straight at them. The last thing I’d want is people taking photos of me at 5-6am in the morning haha.
Down on the beach you will find some interesting rock formations to photograph, and these change with every big storm that comes and tears up the sand and dumps more in its place over time. You will find with most beaches in Sydney that some of the rock formations are fleeting.. as the next time you visit it will be completely different. This can often be disappointing so if you find a formation you like make sure you get the shots you want when you are there.
PHOTO HOTSPOT #4 - NORTH & SOUTH CURL CURL BEACH
There are a lot of beaches and coastal areas located on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and it’s hard to narrow it down to just one for this list. I could’ve easily just have added in Turrimetta Beach, Whale Beach, Bilgolga Beach or Palm Beach into this list! The thing I personally like about the Curl Curl coastal area is that it offers up some unique seaside pools, beaches and rock formation opportunities for seascape photography and it’s a short drive from the city! So a variety of subject matter and location came into play here. There are rock pools at both the north and south ends of the beach which is really spoiling photographers. But, they are quite far apart, in terms of walking distance with all your camera gear, so you need to choose a specific end of the beach to photograph before you arrive. Personally, I like the North end of Curl Curl Beach the best as the environment is stunning. At the sea pool you can walk all around its perimeter meaning you can shoot it at either sunrise or sunset too. Another thing to look out for, as with any seascape, are the tide levels or if there are any predicted large swells. Having a high tide is preferable at the pool because you can get some huge waves crashing into the pools creating some amazing lines and splashes for long or short exposure photography.
Photo Highlights: North Curl Curl Rock Pool, Coastal boardwalk on Carrington Parade, Tea Tree Lookout and South Curl Curl Rock Pool.
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Photos From Curl Curl Beaches:
This first one is take from the North End of Curl Curl Beach near the Surf Life Saving Club looking south towards the city CBD. I had come to shoot the sunset at the rock pool and just as I was leaving a HUGE electrical storm passed across the beach. I got so many shots of lightning but this was one of my favourites.
Here is another view of the beach from up on the cliffs as you hike along the trail to North North Curl Curl rock pool. You can witness some really beautiful sunsets up here as the sun sets over behind the mountains.
The view below is from the South end of the beach on the rock shelf near the ocean pool. It is a more established pool that has a few sections and can offer up a lot of interesting angles when you take your camera and tripod right down into the pool area.
PHOTO HOTSPOT #3 - MRS MACQUARIE'S CHAIR
Hotspot #3 has photographers, tourists and locals flock to Mrs Macquaire’s Chair on a daily basis to watch the sun set behind the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. I’ve been out here myself many times and seen some stunning sunsets. What’s fantastic about the stroll out here from the city is that it is through the botanical gardens. I often do more of a zig zag through the gardens then a bee line straight for the location. That’s the beauty of the spot is that you will find other things of interest along the way and then after you can walk to the opera house in about 10 minutes and take some shots in Circular Quay.
Photo Highlights: Sunset over the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Sydney CBD shots as well as the Sydney Botanical Gardens.
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Photos From Mrs Macquarie’s Chair:
This first one is the postcard sunset shot you can get of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, with some nice rocky foreground elements. In this shot I took a long exposure using an ND filter, which gives you the milky water 🙂
And if you pan your camera a little to the left you can get a superb cityscape composition of the Sydney city CBD. At night you can also get some awesome reflections of all the buildings on the water.
And finally another example of what you can do with the city from this location.. I have many many shots from Mrs Macquaries chair and I struggled as to whether to put it at the #1 hotspot photography location but if you scroll further down I think you will understand why I name another location #1
PHOTO HOTSPOT #2 - BONDI BEACH
Bondi comes in at #2 for it’s international appeal. If you talk to anyone around the world about Sydney they will more than likely bring up “BONDI BEACH”. I used to live in the eastern suburbs of Sydney and was minutes away from Bondi. The best time of the year to take photos there is obviously summer when the sand is packed with beach towels and groups of friends enjoying a sunbake and a swim. There’s so much subject material that you barely need to move your feet to get about 10 great shots. At each end of the beach are swimming pools, but the south end holds the most famous pool in Sydney, Bondi Icebergs. I’ve taken a lot of shots there and the best time to photograph icebergs is definitely at sunrise but with swimmers flocking there in summer you can get some action shots from the walkway too. The Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is also a must and it begins at Iceberg baths. The walk itself is pretty far and I’ve never gone all the way to Coogee and back in the same day. But I’ve walked the paths of it 100’s of times.
Photo Highlights: Bondi Beach, Bondi Icebergs Baths, surfing, fishing, the waves, beaches, cliffs, rock formations, cafes, Bondi to Coogee Coastal walk, skate park and the surf life saving club.
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Photos From Bondi Beach:
This first one is the swimming pool at Bondi, called Bondi Iceberg Baths, which is filled with the ocean water and is very refreshing to swim in. In the morning it is closed but you can take this photograph up on the walkway.
This next one was during another sunrise on Bondi Beach where I capture 2 surfers bobbing up and down in the waves whilst the light exploded with colour.
I like to create nice summer compositions as well using the lines of the Icebergs pool and capture some of the action happening in the water.
PHOTO HOTSPOT #1 - CIRCULAR QUAY
The #1 photography hotspot in Sydney has to be Circular Quay without a doubt. You have the expansive vista of Sydney Harbour itself, the international landmarks of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, as well as points of interest like the Museum of Contemporary Art and The Rocks pubs, stores and cafes. One of my favourites spots to check out is above the Circular Quay train station on the Cahill Expressway. You can get up their using the lift at the east end outside of the station and up there on the walkway of the road you have a stunning view of the harbour. Walking up and around the Opera House will provide endless subject material as well as being able to walk all the way around the other side to the base of and underneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Not to mention the Royal Botanic Gardens are next to the Sydney Opera House 🙂
Photography Highlights: Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Harbour, Ferry boats and Botanical Gardens.
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Photos from Circular Quay:
You can get some really great vantage points near the stairs of the sydney opera house. I used a long exposure technique to cut out all the crowds, and it can also require some patience as you wait to people to move from their spots.
This next shot was taken by walking over to the base of the harbour bridge and then looking back at the opera house across the harbour.
Once a year Sydney puts on a light show called Vivid and this next one captures the entire vista of Circular Quay during the festival.
This final shot was taken from up on the Cahill Expressway, which is the road above Circular Quay railway station.
PHOTO HOTSPOT HONOURABLE MENTIONS
- Turrimetta Beach
- Darling Harbour
- Sydney Royal National Park
- Barangaroo Reserve
- Avalon, Whale and Palm Beaches
- La Perouse
That concludes my list of top 10 photography hotspot locations in Sydney, hopefully you found something here you didn’t know about or it inspired you to go out and take more shots yourself.
If you have any of your own favourite spots that aren’t in the list, drop them in the comments below 👎 👎 👎