Sydney is one of the most photographed cities in the world, and for good reason. There are many iconic locations that are perfect for photography, from the Opera House to the Botanic Gardens. Besides the CBD, there are many beautiful places to photograph.
After this year’s festival in Bondi and Paddington, we thought we would shine a light on some of our city’s most photogenic spots. Many of these places often get overlooked by tourists but are a treasure trove for photographers of all kinds.
Some of the locations on this list have found their way into past Head On exhibitions, while others are fresh ground just waiting to be explored by the intrepid photographer!
Whether you’re into pristine landscapes or rugged street photography, we’re about to let you in on Sydney’s best-kept secrets!
All the locations featured in this article are on land belonging to the Aboriginal peoples of the Eora Nation. We pay respect to their elders past and present.
Coogee Beach & Giles Baths
We’ll start with an old favourite of the Head On team!
Coogee is a famously gorgeous beach in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, perfect for swimming, beach sports or just hanging out. There’s plenty here to keep you busy as you take photographs of the landscape and people of Coogee beach.
If you’re looking for a more secluded spot to take in some stunning views, then the nearby Giles Baths are perfect. There are no formal entrances, making the baths perfect for a private and undisturbed shoot.
Otherwise, Coogee’s beachfront walk and seaside pool provide great locations for street photography.
Check out Paul Blackmore’s exhibition Heat (2019), a study of Coogee Beach as a refuge for Sydneysiders during three back-to-back heatwaves.
Walsh Bay Wharf Precinct
City of Sydney
Let’s move on to a place that is just a quick walk from The Rocks and Circular Quay. Head south under the Harbour Bridge’s southern pylon and you’ll find Walsh Bay, which is like a whole other world yet still iconically Sydney.
The Walsh Bay Wharves Precinct is a huge industrial dock with buildings dating back over a century. There’s a timeless charm about this place. The blasts of sea air, the hum of cocktail-hour activity and some mismatched modern twists make Walsh Bay a locale for all seasons. It’ll offer you something a little different with every visit. Whether you’re interested in capturing slices of nightlife or harbour views, Walsh Bay and the surrounding jumble of terraces offer a fresh and interesting angle on Sydney.
On top of being a picturesque spot for sunset snaps, you’ll find everything to delight the cultural connoisseur at these repurposed industrial wharves. There’s the Sydney Theatre Company’s main strip of performing venues, authentic European and Asian cuisine for every price range and even a number of public art installations like the iconic and unmissable Still life with stone and car by Jimmie Durham.
The Three Sisters
We couldn’t resist showcasing Simon Harsent’s incredible work Mist over the three sisters from Head On Photo Festival a few years back.
The Blue Mountains are a favourite haunt for the wildlife and landscape photographers of New South Wales, named for the hazy clouds that turn the peaks a deep shade of turquoise. Whether you’re there for some hardcore bushwalking, retreating to a quiet cabin or exploring the bustling historical town centres, this area has something for every traveller.
The Three Sisters themselves have a fascinating role as a rock formation sacred to the traditional owners of the land, the Gundugurra. In the Dreamtime (the realm of Aboriginal legend), three sisters, Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo, were transformed into these stones by their witch-doctor father to save them from a terrifying Bunyip.
In addition to the natural beauty of the site, the nearby town of Katoomba is the quintessential Aussie country town, with some gorgeous heritage buildings and quirky restaurants.
Please note that the Three Sisters and the surrounding country are of deep, sacred significance to the Gundugurra people. On your visit, please ensure to respect the land and its traditional custodians by treading carefully, not littering and following the signage around you.
Long Reef Beach
A favourite among Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Long Reef is one of the most popular sunset spots in the area. The mini rock pools around it make for both a gorgeous backdrop for any photoshoot and a goldmine for lovers of marine life.
The rock formations on the reef are thousands of years old, often covered with sea plants and algae, and home to hundreds of species of fish.
For the history-lovers among us, Long Reef is also famous for its shipwrecks! There has never been a lighthouse at Long Reef despite its treacherous rocks, so a number of ships have met their end here over the past two centuries, from a sloop called the Windsor (1816) to the coal steamer SS Euroka (1913).
So, who knows? You might even find some treasure! But nothing will ever be as priceless as this magnificent landscape.
Barrenjoey Lighthouse & Palm Beach
Going even further up the coast, this Instagram-worthy viewpoint is one of a kind – situated on the Barrenjoey headland. With panoramic views of stunning beaches, lush green landscapes and the sea, this spot is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a good place to take Instagram shots!
Barrenjoey Lighthouse is right next to Palm Beach, a stunning retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city or the monotony of the suburbs.
On top of the surrounding bush walks and gorgeous views, Palm Beach and Barrenjoey offer a relaxed seaside atmosphere with a variety of trendy bars and eating establishments. Hiring a motorboat, water taxi or even a yacht across the bay is a must-have experience!
Although Sydney is known for its beautiful waterfront locations, we would also recommend a visit to an iconic and picturesque location right near the cultural hub of Newtown’s King Street.
Newtown Cemetery can be found around the back of St Stephen’s Church, with the graves themselves dating back to 1792. That makes this cemetery one of the first three burial grounds in Sydney, and the last one that you can still visit! The other two made room for Sydney Town Hall and Central Station.
Additionally, the cemetery has an apple orchard and a public park that offers a lovely spot for a picnic lunch. So it’s a very pleasant place: not just suitable for spooky or gothic photoshoots! The beauty of its trees and the abundance of both natural light and dappled shade make Newtown Cemetery ideal for something more rustic or romantic, while the graffiti art on the surrounding walls adds a punky edge to the landscape.
We love sharing Sydney’s best-kept secrets and hidden gems.
If you know of more fascinating and hidden destinations that you think would interest photographers, from anywhere in the world, why not submit a blog or photo portfolio for our Interactional Magazine?
In the meantime, go check these places out – either to get your artistic juices flowing, or just to take the edge off!
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