Sydney is my favourite city in the world.
It is so beautiful, and the beachy, relaxed Sydneysider culture just speaks to me. It’s a city that gives me a flutter of excitement whenever I visit.
Pretty much any point on the coastline has an amazing view. I’ve found some of the best lookouts in Sydney by opening Google maps and pointing to a spot!
The best views in Sydney on this list are all accessible by transit, and are within an hour or so from Sydney’s CBD.
As a part-time Sydneysider, here’s my list of the 10 best views in Sydney
1) Hornby Lighthouse
Hornby Lighthouse is the main attraction on the the South Head heritage trail (aka my favourite coastal walk in Sydney). The iconic red and white striped lighthouse has been standing at South Head since 1858. I consider it one of the best lookouts in Sydney because not only are the views stunning, the lighthouse itself is an awesome little piece of history.
There aren’t words for how beautiful this walk is. I make a point of doing it every time I visit Sydney, and it’s #1 on my must-do-in-Sydney list. The walking loop only takes around an hour. You’ll see an amazing view of Sydney Harbour, a panoramic view of the cliffs of South Head, and probably a few penises (oh yeah, there’s a nude beach called Lady Bay Beach along the walk. It is usually frequented by older men).
2) Milk beach
Milk beach is one of Sydney’s worst kept secrets. This beach is on every “secret beaches in Sydney” list. Despite its online popularity, it’s pretty quiet on weekdays. Milk beach has a totally unobstructed harbour view, and it’s one of the best lookouts in Sydney to catch a sunset over the city.
Of course, this beach is located along another Sydney coastal walk. If you think I have a thing for Sydney coastal walks… you’re absolutely right. Milk beach is located on the Hermitage Foreshore walk (another one of my favourite walks in Sydney). Popular Shark beach is nearby, and has equally stunning views. But Shark Beach is a bit of a busy spot (don’t worry, it’s safe to swim there!). I recommend Milk Beach if you prefer some peace and quiet.
3) Fairfax Lookout
Fairfax Lookout is just down the street from Manly beach, and it is way more interesting than the beach. From Manly beach, it’s a 10-minute drive or a 45-minute walk. The lookout is part of the North Head Sanctuary loop, a walking track that weaves past military fortifications, through Aussie bush, and along sweeping cliffs.
North Head has a view of the city on one side and a wicked view of the open ocean on the other. It is one of the best lookouts in Sydney during winter, as a popular whale watching spot.
North Head Sanctuary is an ecologically protected area for a number of species, including the endangered long-nosed bandicoot. It’s a uniquely protected spot in Sydney, and it’s hard to believe it’s right next to one of Sydney’s most popular beaches!
4) Diamond Bay Reserve
Diamond Bay Reserve has grown in popularity over the last few years. It’s a little reserve tucked in the residential area of Vaucluse. It’s known for its dramatic cliffs and pounding waves. The cliffs are gorgeous… but also frequently on the news for tourist deaths. The spot has a unique (and dangerous) set of stairs cut into the cliff face. The steps were open when I last visited, and it was adrenaline inducing to watch fishermen scramble up and down the stairs.
Since then, I heard the steps have been blocked off after one too many accidents. But the empty stairs make an awesome picture, and you get a great vantage point of the power of the ocean. It only takes about 20 minutes to walk the little trail around the reserve.
5) Shangri-La Blu Bar on 36
The Sydney Shangri-La Hotel is famous for its glamorous view of the iconic harbour. The Blu Bar is a cocktail bar located on the 36th floor of the hotel. It’ll burn a bit of a hole in your wallet, but it’s worth the cost. You’ll get a gorgeous view of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge from above.
I recommend going at sunset, and it’s worth it to linger a little to see Sydney’s sparkling lights come on. The night time view over Sydney’s most famous landmarks is why Blu Bar rightfully boasts about having one of the best views in Sydney.
6) Blue Point Reserve
Blues Point Reserve is the perfect spot for a sunset picnic. It is one of North Sydney’s most popular parks, and has all the amenities needed for a relaxing day. It’s perfect for some good ol’ family time, with a playground, bathrooms, picnic tables, and plenty of green space.
Blues Point Reserve is situated right across the bay from Circular Quay. You’ll get a unique view of the Sydney Opera House peeking out from under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s a popular dog walking and sunset watching spot on the North shore.
7) Cape Solander
Cape Solander hands down has one of the best views in Sydney for whale watching. It has an uninterrupted, panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. This spot did not disappoint: the amount of nature I saw splashing off the shore was astounding. I saw multiple groups of dolphins and whales. And that’s on top of an already gorgeous view!
It’s best to visit Cape Solander by car, but it is possible to take transit. It is located in Kamay Botany Bay National Park, so there is a small entrance fee for car access and parking (~$8 AUD). If you’re driving to Cape Solander, you might as well make a day of it and take advantage of the bush walking tracks nearby!
8) Manly ferry ride
How would you like to go on a cruise of the Sydney Harbour for only $7.65? The budget backpacker’s version of a Sydney cruise is taking the transit ferry. In my opinion, regardless of your budget, taking an iconic green and yellow ferry is a must do. The ferry routes have some of the best views in Sydney. Seeing the city from the water makes it all the more magical.
The Manly ferry is a 30 minute ride connecting Manly to Circular Quay. You’ll pass by the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, a few small islands, and the Hornby Lighthouse. Every moment on this salty ferry ride is gorgeous.
If you have an Opal card (Sydney’s transit card – which I absolutely recommend getting), the ferry fare is reduced to $2.50 on Sundays. That’s appallingly cheap to experience one of the best views in Sydney!
9) Pylon Lookout
When I think about the typical tourist experience in Sydney, the Harbour Bridge Climb comes to mind. But no one I know – including myself – has ever done it because it is so dang expensive (a minimum of $175, and that’s for a “sampler” walk of just a quarter of the bridge). Pylon Lookout is the budget bridge climb experience. It’s a small museum and lookout point in one of the Harbour Bridge pylons, and costs only $19 for adult admission.
Okay, so you won’t get to the top of the bridge, but I think it’s still arguably one of the best views in Sydney. And it’s the view that I can afford, so it’s on the list. It’s worth coughing up the $20 for an unobstructed view of the harbour (if you just walk across the bridge footpath, there are rails that block your view). You’ll also get to learn some of the history behind the bridge.
10) Circular Quay Station
Every visitor to Sydney ends up at Circular Quay station at some point. It’s the closest station to Sydney’s famous landmarks. The station has the perfect vantage point, right over the ferry terminals, and with the Harbour Bridge and Opera house in the same frame. I love to watch people milling about below as I wait for my train. You get to experience the beauty of Circular Quay, without being in the thick of the tourists below.
These 10 best lookouts in Sydney are my go-to spots to enjoy the view
It’s unreal how photogenic Sydney is. These viewpoints are my favourite spots in the city to take in the best of what Sydney has to offer: a memorable skyline and insanely gorgeous beaches and cliffs!
Looking for some more gorgeous views in Sydney? Here’s my guide to the best coastal walks in Sydney