8 lesser-known spots for the best Sydney harbour views
The Sydney Harbour is home to the city’s most iconic sights: the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and over 240 kilometres of stunning coastline and beaches. For the best views of the harbour, a rooftop bar in The Rocks or iconic lookouts like the Sydney Tower Eye and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair are hard to beat. But if you’re hoping to take in the views from a quieter spot, we’ve gathered this list of lesser-known viewpoints and lookouts across North, South, and Central Sydney that are just as (if not more) awesome.
Trust us, we even went down to check it out ourselves.
1. Sydney Ferries
Best for: 360 views, touring Sydney’s top attractions, sunsets
There are loads of luxury harbour cruises for you to choose from, but don’t shrug off the humble ol’ Sydney ferry. For less than A$10, these iconic yellow and green ferries get you unobstructed, panoramic views of the harbour. You don’t even need to queue for tickets—just tap your contactless or Opal card as you board. For the full Sydney Harbour experience, we recommend the 20-minute ride from Circular Quay to Manly. It takes you along the must-sees like the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, and towards other hotspots like Kirribilli House, Bradleys Head, and South Head.
The ferry is also one of the most convenient ways to get to other top Sydney sights like Taronga Zoo, Luna Park, and Cockatoo Island. These trips are shorter than the other luxury options, but the views are just as sweet. If you’re visiting those spots in the day, plan your journey back in the evening for a stunning sunset boat ride.
2. Barangaroo Reserve
Best for: South side views, picnics, history
Barangaroo Reserve is one of the city’s newest waterfront parks, designed to recreate the original shoreline and greenery of pre-colonial Sydney. Head up to the big lawn on the hill to enjoy the views over a picnic, or down to the golden sandstone rocks by the water where you'll find closer views of the Harbour Bridge from the southern side.
Other than the views, there are lots of other things you can do in the reserve. You can take a walk or bike along the paths, admire the public art, or go for a swim at Marrinawai Cove. There’s also an Aboriginal cultural tour where you can learn about the native plants and the area’s significance to the local Indigenous people.
3. Observatory Hill
Best for: People-watching, picnics, sunsets
Up on Millers Point is Observatory Hill, where you can go for some of the best views of the Harbour Bridge and Darling Harbour in inner city Sydney. It’s home to the Sydney Observatory—which gave name to the hill—and is a great spot for picnics, especially at sunset. This large open space is perfect for people-watching—you’ll spot many locals with their dogs off-leash, celebrating special events like birthdays, or even the occasional wedding photoshoot. There’s a small gazebo and lots of large Moreton Bay fig trees for shade on hot days, and secluded benches if you prefer some alone time.
To make the most of your visit, go between Wednesdays to Saturdays when the observatory is open for tours, and to join their nighttime stargazing program.
4. Pylon Lookout
Best for: Close-up views, a unique perspective, a workout
If you haven’t mustered up enough courage to do the Sydney BridgeClimb, here’s a more relaxing and economical alternative: Pylon Lookout. Walk up 200 steps inside the pylon nearest to Circular Quay, and be rewarded with one of the most brilliant open views of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and the Sydney CBD. There are no lifts, but the views are well worth the climb. Plus, tickets are only A$24.95 for adults.
The space is tight so leave your bags elsewhere, and come prepared with a wide-angle lens for capturing photos. It’s busier closer to sunset so get there early—travellers say they can spend at least an hour there taking in the views. There’s also a little gift shop and a small museum that showcases the history of the Harbour Bridge.
5. Wendy’s Secret Garden
Best for: Views from afar, secluded surroundings, sculptural art
North Sydney is often overlooked by travellers, but locals will know that there are tons of secluded harbour viewing spots on this side of town, Wendy’s Secret Garden being one of them. This not-so-secret public garden has been nurtured over the last 30 years by Australian artist Wendy Whiteley, who shows her artistic flair through the whimsical sculptures and art scattered throughout the garden. Set up a picnic on the grassy areas and see the Harbour Bridge peeking through the trees, or have a seat at one of the rustic tables or benches deeper inside this quiet garden oasis.
Just remember: there’s no signage or directions to the garden. The easiest way to get there? Find the stairs down to the garden at the start of Lavender Crescent.
6. Maccallum Pool
Best for: Skyline views, leisurely swims
While up north, check out the locals’ best-kept secret in town: Maccallum Seawater Pool. This historic public pool is set and fed by the waters of the harbour, and offers stunning views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. It’s open 24 hours all year round, so you’ll find sunseekers doing laps in the 33-metre-long pool or sunbathing on the deck, even in winter. It’s hard to resist when the views are that good.
Maccallum’s just a short walk from the Cremorne Point Wharf ferry terminal, where you’ll find a little cafe for coffee and snacks, and toilets to freshen up after your swim. The pool is closed for cleaning once weekly, so remember to check online before you go.
7. Dudley Page Reserve
Best for: North side views, picnics, coastal walks
This grassy hilltop in the eastern suburbs is one of homegrown musician Carla Wehbe’s favourite spots for harbour views in Sydney. “You can see the whole harbour from there, the sunset’s amazing,” she says. Carla suggests enjoying Dudley Page Reserve’s panorama of the Sydney harbour and skyline over a picnic with friends. Located along the Bondi to Watsons Bay coastal walk, it makes for a great midway pit stop to refuel and take in the views. And if you’re in town for the New Year’s, the reserve is a wonderful vantage point for the fireworks—there’ll even be live DJs, lawn games, a bar and food stalls around the area.
Want to know what Carla and other up-and-coming musicians get up to in Sydney? Check out our Sydney guide to see more of their favourite spots.
8. Camp Cove
Best for: Views from the beach, secluded surroundings
If you really want to get away from it all, Camp Cove is a quiet little beach near Watsons Bay on the way to South Head. This 240-metre-long stretch of beach has beautiful golden sand, calm waves, and expansive views across the harbour from Sydney City all the way to Manly. Don’t take it from us—we spoke to a Sydneysider who loves this spot for its seclusion and awesome harbour views from the rocks. The sheltered bay and gentle waters make it a popular spot for families, but if you’re looking for a bit more fun, the nearby Lady Bay is worth a peek (it’s a nudist beach!)
If you’re looking for more hidden gems like this one, we interviewed locals for their favourite cool and underrated spots and gathered their recs in one big Sydney itinerary.