SUNSET IN SYDNEY – WHERE TO CAPTURE SUNSET PHOTOS OF SYDNEY HARBOUR
Sydney Harbour puts on its fair share of spectacular sunsets. I’ve been lucky enough to witness them while photographing both weddings and landscape photographs! One such sunset, was so incredible that the glow continued well after the sun had dipped below the horizon then continued by filling the sky with pastel pinks and purples toward the east. Crazy beautiful!
The Sydney skyline with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge is ideal for composing sunset photos as the sun sets directly behind them. Find yourself a great place to watch sunset in Sydney, and you can almost guarantee if the weather is right, you’ll capture some beautiful images!
Let’s take a peek at some locations you can photograph sunset in Sydney and also some tips on how to check the weather forecast and how to compose beautiful images of Sydney Harbour. Scroll down for a map to all the locations mentioned!
*Just to note, since Sydney is huge, this guide will be focusing solely on some locations around the main sights of Sydney Harbour/Circular Quay. A more in-depth Sydney guide is in the works!
01 – From a boat or ferry
What better way to photograph sunset than from the water. Jump on board one of the Sydney Ferries (timetable here) departing Circular Quay + heading east at the right time, and you’ll find yourself perfectly positioned to capture sunset photos with water in the foreground and the main sights of Sydney at your disposal.
Look for one of the following ferry routes; F6, F2, F7, F9 or the F1 to Manly which should guarantee sunset views in either direction! Once on board, find yourself a spot on the back deck so you’re outside and don’t have to photograph through the windows. Depending on which direction you’re heading, whether it’s to or from Circular Quay, you’ll either need to find a spot at the stern or the bow of the boat.
Alternatively, you can take a sunset cruise with one of the many tour operators departing Circular Quay or Darling Harbour. Better yet, hire a private taxi boat to simply bob out in the harbour so you can photograph the views. One of my favourite photos of a sunset in Sydney was captured from a taxi boat on the way home from photographing a wedding. The couple had ordered the boat to pick me up from a floating pontoon at 7pm, and at that exact moment, the sky erupted into a wall of vibrant colours! I of course captured a few images of the couple before jumping in the taxi and then continued to photograph the entire trip back to Circular Quay – such an incredible experience behind the lens!
Photo Tip – When photographing sunset from a boat in Sydney Harbour, ensure you check your settings and are snapping sharp images! The combination of low light and movement from the boat can easily result in blurry photos so watch your shutter speed/ISO and adapt to the conditions.
Read the ‘Setting the Scene: Guide to Golden Hour’ here.
02 – Mrs Macquarie’s Chair
This is probably my favourite spot to photograph sunset from in Sydney Harbour. The way the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge line up from this vantage point, mean they’re not too far away, but just far enough that you can work with other elements to make your images creative.
There are some great rock formations to compose with, waves from passing ferries and rock pools for reflections. It’s a really great spot to sit and watch the sunset in Sydney, but for those of us who can’t stop taking photos once golden hour beings, this location will keep you busy until well after dusk.
Capture movement from passing ferries and sailing boats, wait to line up the glowing sunshine with the sails of a yacht or cross your fingers that the sun will dip just behind the Opera House and create a gorgeous backdrop to illuminate the Sydney skyline.
One tip for this location, arrive early! It’s not a secret location and is popular for a reason. If you’re seeking a particular angle or want to secure a great vantage point, arrive early or scout the location at some stage throughout the day so you can arrive and be ready to photograph sunset if the light is incredible!
Just to note, when accessing Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and staying for sunset, the walking route via the Royal Botanic Gardens may close at a certain time. You can still walk back towards the city along Mrs Macquaries Road past the Art Gallery. Check park closure times here
*Shoot with a wide angle lens to capture the Sydney skyline, or opt for a lens like the Olympus 40-150MM f2.8 like I did to capture a closer image below.
03 – Under the Sydney Harbour Bridge
While you won’t necessarily be able to photograph the skyline with sunset, being under the bridge as the sun is setting can provide you with some great opportunities to photograph the anti-sunset…eastern sky!
I took a wander under the bridge on the southern side to capture some reflections of the Sydney Opera House with the dusk pink skies filling the sky. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get creative and seek out new ways of photographing iconic monuments.
Walk through The Rocks, an historic area of Sydney, toward Dawes Point and the Ives Steps Wharf to see what you can compose. I loved using the railings and looking back toward the Opera House, then using my phone for a reflection to include the textures and structure of the bridge.
04 – Circular Quay, near Park Hyatt
Walking around Circular Quay always presents some fantastic photography opportunities, no matter what time of day it is! When it comes to sunset, you’ll be facing east from this location, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be beautiful. If you’re a pastel fan like I am, it’ll mean you’re in exactly the right place.
Find a spot in front of the Park Hyatt hotel or from Hickson Point Reserve and watch as oranges, pinks and purples fill the sky over the Sydney Opera House.
This location is ideal for getting a little arty and using the motion of passing boats within your frame. Try some ICM Photography techniques, capture long exposures of the harbour scene too. Once the sun as set, you’ll be able to create long exposures and light trails as ferries pass by.
If it’s been raining, you’ll find puddles work wonders for reflections, or make your own on a dry day and create your own reflection wherever you need it! This is one of my favourite things to do when photographing a city scene, while it gets some funny looks, pouring some water to make your own puddle is a great way to work with the scene and make it uniquely yours.
05 – Jeffrey Street Pier
From the northern side of the harbour, this location provides a great vantage point to photograph Sydney Harbour at sunset from a different angle. It’s a favourite spot for local photographers as it’s away from most of the crowds seen on the city side of the harbour.
Here you’ll find a short path that leads from Lune Park around to Waruda Street in which you can wander along and see which angles and compositions take your fancy. I loved using the Jeffrey Street Pier as a great spot to place a subject (in this case my sister).
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is nice and close from this vantage point so get art with reflections (I know, I can’t stop recommending reflections!) and enjoy playing with the scene.
Other places to explore for sunset in Sydney –
Bradleys Head – Offering a great view back toward the Sydney skyline, Bradleys Head has an amphitheatre and open spaces to work with…and plenty of water to use within your shot!
Milk Beach – A gorgeous place to watch the sunset in Sydney, Milk Beach is right near Neilsen Park and from this location, you can photograph the entire Sydney skyline and also include some greenery from Shark Island. There are rockpools, waves and lots of water to incorporate into your composition. One thing to note, because of the distance from the Opera House, it can appear to blend in a little to the skyline as the sails are less obvious than when photographing from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair for example.
Shark Island – If you can get on a boat, or if the ferry times permit, photographing sunset from Shark Island will ensure a beautiful view of the main Sydney sights and iconic monuments.
How to find the sunset time for Sydney Harbour?
Weather forecasting and planning a landscape shoot is something I get such a kick out of. If you do too, you’ve no doubt already got your go-to weather apps and planning sites to help you know when and where to be to photograph sunset in Sydney.
If not, then I suggest heading to a website like accuweather.com which notes the sunset time when you click on the ‘hourly’ forecast. Local weather sites will also note the sunset time, but also be sure to arrive far earlier than this because the time noted, is the time the sun dips below the horizon. As photographers, we want to be there around an hour before the noted sunset time to capture the golden hour light in all it’s glory.
One thing to note when planning to photograph sunset are to check for any obstacles or subjects that may block the horizon. When photographing from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair at certain times of the year, the sun will glow beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge and it can almost appear as if it’s dipping into the harbour. However, most of the year, the sun will dip behind the skyline and for this reason, ensure you plan to be there before and after to photograph the best of both light conditions!
Read my guide to ‘Weather Forecasting for Photographers‘ for a more in depth look at planning your sunset photoshoot.
Your Map to the Best Places to Photograph Sunset in Sydney –
If you’ve got somewhere to add or have a favourite place to photograph sunset in Sydney, share it in the comments below!
Hello! I’m the founder and photographer behind The Wandering Lens.
With 17+yrs experience as a professional travel and landscape photographer, all advice found on this site is from my personal experience on the road. I hope it’s useful for your own travels and would love to hear in the comments about your trips and experiences around the world.