Circular Quay, home to two of Australia’s most iconic landmarks, is the starting point for many visitors to Sydney. A hive of activity, there is never any shortage of things to do in Circular Quay.
Most Australian’s will probably find this hard to believe (at least my Aussie friends do) but Circular Quay is one of my favourite places in Sydney…in Australia in fact.
Ok, at first glance, it’s a bustling transport interchange, busy with commuters, tourists and noisy with buskers and street entertainers but there is something magical about getting a glimpse of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge that never gets old.
About Circular Quay
Once a working port Circular Quay is now many things. A transport hub (the city workers must have the most scenic commute in the world!), a place to dine out, have a drink and home to two of Australia’s icons
If you visit Sydney, it’s likely you’ll end up here at some point. So what should you do there? Here’s my suggestions of what not to miss…
Things to do in Circular Quay
Visit the Sydney Opera House
This building needs no introduction. If there is one thing you should do in Circular Quay it
Best photo spot: Head over the Hyatt Hotel for a view back to the Opera House.
Explore the Sydney Harbour Bridge
If one world famous landmark wasn’t enough, Circular Quay has two. One of the most recognisable bridges in the world, the harbour bridge is
You can walk, drive or climb over the bridge. Or just sit and admire it from a distance.
Best photo spot: Some of the best views include looking back at the bridge from the base of the Opera House. To get both the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in the same photo, head over to Mrs Macquarie’s Point in the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Tip: Visit the Pylon Lookout for a cheap way to get up close to the bridge and enjoy the spectacular views without splashing out on the full bridge climb experience.
Visit Dawes Point Park
At the tip of The Rocks overlooking Sydney Cove, Dawes Point Park is a great place for views across the harbour. You also get a unique view of the Harbour Bridge which runs over the top of the park.
The park is on the site of Australia’s first fortified position, constructed to protect the cove from foreign invaders. Five Cannons remain from the former Dawes Point Battery.
Admire the view from the Cahill Expressway
I know you are probably thinking why
You don’t see it mentioned in many guides, in
Get on the water
One of best ways to enjoy Sydney Harbour is on the water and there are plent of options available. Many of which are start in Circular Quay.
- Be a Sydneysider and jump on a ferry – be a local for the day and explore the harbour on the extensive ferry network. Or jump on the Manly Ferry for a ride to one of Sydney’s most famous beaches.
- Sit back and enjoy the views on sightseeing cruise – a number of sightseeing cruises depart from Circular Quay which will take you all around Sydney Harbour. You can choose from cocktail cruises, afternoon tea cruises (my favourite) or even take a whale watching cruise outside the harbour.
- Jetboat around the harbour – If you are looking for something a little more adventurous then why not take a jet boat around the harbour? You’ll see all the iconic sights (if you can bear to keep your eyes open) while doing 360-degree spins and tricks.
Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
With a prime spot overlooking Circular Quay, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is home to over 4000 works from Australian artists. The museum also holds exhibitions of all forms of contemporary art and from both Australian and International artists.
The MCA cafe offers some of the best views in the city so make sure to take a pit stop here.
Stroll round The Rocks
On the edge of the harbour, The Rocks
Nowadays, the narrow cobbled lanes are home to shops, cafes and one of Australia’s oldest pubs. If you visit over
Things to do near Circular Quay
There is enough to do in Circular Quay to keep you occupied all day but if you wish to explore further afield there is plenty to do in the surrounding areas.
- Royal Botanic Gardens – you’ll be hard pressed to find gardens with a better view. Located next to Sydney’s central business district and on the harbour’s edge, the gardens offer a peaceful oasis in the middle of the city.
- Sydney Observatory – head up to Observatory Hill for panoramic views over the harbour. Explore the southern skies with a night visit.
- Art Gallery of New South Wales – one of Australia’s largest art galleries, you can easily lose a few hours in here. Discover works from Australian and international artists or check out one of their temporary exhibitions.
- Barangaroo Reserve – Sydney’s new harbour foreshore park. A great spot for a
water sidepicnic or a stroll around the park lands
- Museum of Sydney – uncover the history of Sydney in this museum which is built around the remains of Australia’s first Government House.
How to get to Circular Quay
Circular Quay station is on the City Circle line which starts and ends at Central Station and loops around the central business district.
Circular Quay is home to the Sydney Ferries hub so most ferry routes begin and terminate here.
Head downtown to Alfred Street, The Rocks or Macquarie Street to access Circular Quay.
Where to stay near Circular Quay
There is accommodation to suit all budgets near Circular Quay. Here are a few I’ve stayed in over the years and recommend.
Sydney Harbour YHA – My hostel days may be over but this is one hostel I make an exception for. The location is unbeatable. Within a few minutes walk you are on Circular Quay. The roof terrace overlooking the harbour and Opera House offers spectacular views at the fraction of the cost of nearby hotels.
Intercontinental Sydney – if you are looking for something more indulgent then the Intercontinental is for you. Perched on the edge of Circular Quay many of rooms have spectacular views across the harbour and city. They also do one of the best cups of tea I’ve had in Australia.