Sydney Harbour. Photo by Canva

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The Sydney Harbour forms the backdrop to perhaps the most spectacular New Year celebrations in the Southern Hemisphere – and the earliest as well – with bedazzling fireworks lighting up the skies above the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, making it the mecca for almost all travellers who come Down Under.

But New Year aside, the cerulean–indigo waters of what is perhaps the deepest Harbour in the world forms an amazing tapestry of scenic reserves, native bushlands, secluded coves, and bustling waterfront precincts.

With miles of corrugated shorelines all around the Harbour, there is something for everyone any time of the year – bushwalkers, hikers, foodies, photographers and even the recluse vagrant. Scenic, visually appealing, bobbing with sailboats and kayaks and wrapped with colourful beaches and people, there are many lookout points to explore around the Harbour.

Here are the top 10 scenic views of Sydney Harbour:

1. Royal Botanic Garden

Venus fly traps at the Royal Botanic Garden. Photo by Ayan Adak
Venus fly traps at the Royal Botanic Garden. Photo by Ayan A

Easily accessible from the touristy heart of the City Business District (CBD), the Royal Botanic Garden lies just a stone’s throw distance beyond the Opera House. Complete with beautifully manicured paths trailing around bounteous flower patches, the Garden provides amazing views of the Opera House with the Harbour Bridge in the backdrop.

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Other must-sees while inside this floral jewel box include Mrs Macquarie’s Chair (the road to which provides the best views), the rare Wollemi pine (a ‘dinosaur tree’ that has survived since Jurassic times) and the Calyx that houses hundreds of rare plants including Venus fly traps and pitcher plants. If you’re traveling with kids, don’t forget to board the choo-choo train that frequently winds around the Garden.

2. Pylon Point

The view from Pylon Point. Photo by Ayan Adak
The view from Pylon Point. Photo by Ayan A

This is perhaps Sydney’s best-kept secret, and very close to the CBD as well. The Pylon Point is housed in one of the four pylons – or stone towers – that guard the entrances to the Bridge.

With a museum that details the formation of the iconic Bridge, there is a vantage point at the very top that offers the best views of the Sydney Harbour just above the Opera House.

Look around, feel the wind in your hair and try to spot the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Observatory, the Governor’s house and Fort Denison. Don’t forget to look out for the iconic cream and green coloured ferries that crisscross the Harbour throughout the day.

3. Milsons Point

Milson's Point. Photo by Ayan Adak
The view at Milson’s Point. Photo by Ayan A

If you walk across the Bridge – an easy hike – you will reach the northern shore of Sydney Harbour, to Milson’s Point which is a captivating destination that seamlessly blends urban vibrancy with picturesque landscapes.

The real showstopper is the unobstructed view of the Sydney Opera House nestled under the Harbour Bridge. Not far behind lies the iconic Luna Park, a must-see amusement park for the little ones, with its unmissable smiley-faced entrance that has been entertaining Sydneysiders for the last nine decades.

A little walk further lies the picturesque Lavender Bay and Wendy’s Secret Garden, a beautiful spot to take a break and enjoy the spectacular water views.

4. Cremorne Point

Cremorne's Point. Photo by Ayan Adak
The view from Cremorne’s Point. Photo by Ayan A

One of Sydney’s most affluent suburbs, Cremorne Point is one scenic ferry from the CBD (Circular Quay). It has a wonderful walk from the jetty by opulent houses, a quaint swimming pool and lots of hidden bushlands that offer secret vantage spots to quietly sit by the shimmering waters of the Harbour and become a poet or a philosopher.

A short walk away lies the longitudinal strip of the Lex and Ruby Graham Gardens, another of the city’s quaint gardens with a rich history and lots of Instagram-able spots.

5. Blues Point

Blue's Point. Photo by Ayan Adak
View from Blue’s Point. Photo by Ayan A

If you keep walking along Lavender Bay – which becomes bustling in early summer with hundreds of tourists flocking in to see the avenues of Jacaranda trees – the next promontory that juts into the Harbour is Blues Point.

Named after a Jamaican convict – Billy Blue, who was deported for stealing one bag of sugar and who later turned a ferryman in these very waters in the early 1800s – Blues Point offers spectacular views of the CBD with its glass towers juxtaposed by the Bridge.

The Blues Point Reserve is a wonderful spot for a picnic on the Harbour, with regular ferries taking you back to the CBD. Look out for Sydney’s ‘Other Bridge’ – the ANZAC bridge, which though less popular, is another of Sydney’s architectural wonders.

6. Balls Head Reserve

Ball's Head Reserve. Photo by Ayan Adak
View from Ball’s Head Reserve. Photo by Ayan A

The next promontory after Blues Point is the Balls Head Reserve, but unlike the other vantage points, is covered with dense bushlands and a few remnants from old coal mines that were once operated in the heart of Sydney.

The coal loader and loading ferry are other such memories that make for a wonderful visit to the past. Then there are long walks on Sydney’s sandstone shore filled with native bushlands and gum trees, all with peaceful views of the aquamarine Harbour.

7. Clarkes Point Reserve

Clarke's Point Reserve. Photo by Ayan Adak
View from Clarke’s Point Reserve. Photo by Ayan A

If you take a ferry from Circular Quay to Parramatta (the second CBD), you will pass by the dazzling Hunters Hill suburb facing the historic Cockatoo Island. You can get off at the Clarke Road jetty and walk to the sprawling Clarke’s Reserve for a wonderful half-day picnic.

Or you can pitstop here after a tour of Cockatoo Island. The Goat Paddock, the Woolwich Pier and the Sailing Club are other places to check, besides iconic and classy restaurants that dot this place

8. Rose Bay

View of Rose Bay. Photo by Ayan Adak
View of Rose Bay. Photo by Ayan A

To Sydney’s south – in the South Head – lies a string of beaches, reserves and walks that form another unmissable lot of places to enjoy the Harbour’s beauty. Beyond Point Pier lies Rose Bay – which once housed Sydney’s first international airport, with seaplanes in the 1930s connecting Syndey to London.

Even today, you will see seaplanes offering short scenic sojourns over the Harbour. Else, you can walk along the Hermitage Foreshore Reserve – one of Sydney’s most popular walks – and explore Milk Beach, Nielsen Park, and many a heritage bungalow from Sydney’s past including the most popular Vaucluse House.

The walk – part of the newly opened Bondi to Manly walk – will take you to Watson’s Bay, yet another gem on the Harbour.

9. Watson’s Bay

Hornby Lighthouse. Photo by Ayan Adak
Hornby Lighthouse. Photo by Ayan A

Watson’s Bay is renowned for its iconic views of the Sydney skyline and the Tasman Sea. A climb up to the Gap Park provides a stunning vantage point, allowing visitors to witness the dramatic cliffs and crashing waves that define the rugged beauty of the coastline.

Very close to Watson’s Bay lies the historic Hornby Lighthouse, a picturesque landmark that adds a touch of maritime history to the landscape. The Bondi-Manly walk continues from Rose Bay to Watson’s Bay and then onto Bondi via yet another lighthouse – the site for Australia’s oldest – Macquarie’s Lighthouse.

Do not forget to dig into some sumptuous seafood at Doyle’s, considered amongst the oldest restaurants in Sydney.

10. Taronga Zoo

Koala at the Taronga Zoo. Photo by Ayan Adak
Koala at the Taronga Zoo. Photo by Ayan A

Sydney’s flagship zoo – Taronga, offers an unforgettable wildlife experience that transcends the ordinary. From the moment you arrive via the iconic ferry, and then the sought-after Sky Safari cable car, the breathtaking views of the harbour set the stage for an extraordinary day of exploration.

Home to a diverse array of wildlife, Taronga Zoo provides close encounters with kangaroos, koalas, birds, and seals while reinforcing the zoo’s commitment to conservation and education.

There is plenty to see – with lots of walks, but in between, do not forget to take a break preferably on one of the many resting spots overlooking the aquamarine waters of the Harbour bookended by the cityscapes and the Harbour Bridge. 

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Author Bio: Ayan Adak is a consultant by profession and loves travelling, writing and photography. He has travelled to over 30 countries and has published multiple books on travel and poetry.

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