Sydney Harbour Bridge is the single most recognizable landmark in Australia… Well, aside from the Opera House right next to it.
Finding the perfect viewing point is at the top of the to do list for many Sydney visitors, but most do not venture past the area immediately between the bridge and the Opera House.
But a number of the best spots are just a short ferry ride away where you can get far enough back to see the whole thing, and also enjoy a relaxing coffee or picnic in some nicer surroundings than the crowded CBD areas.
Read on for our best viewing spots on both the north and south side of the harbour.
Best Harbour Bridge Views from the South Side
1. Balmain East Wharf
While this is no. 1 on our list by alphabet, it is also our favorite spot due to the close proximity to the bridge, and position opposite the Barangaroo area.
This offers an outstanding view from the side of the bridge and also the city skyline. Sydney’s newest landmark also sits right opposite this area with the new Crown Sydney building sitting on the water’s edge.
The wharf itself is positioned perfectly for those uninterrupted bridge views. But you can also walk south to Illoura Reserve where you can have a picnic right on the edge of the water.
In between the two places is a cafe with nice facilities if you wanted to grab a coffee or something to eat.
It is a magnificent spot to enjoy on a sunny day, and the view just screams Sydney!
While it is quite isolated if traveling by land, you can take the ferry in just a few minutes from the Barangaroo Wharf.
Hidden away behind the terrace houses, old sandstone buildings, and finger wharves of Millers Point is this quiet and well kept green space.
Popular for runners and the odd picnic, but for the most part this area is almost empty. Which is strange for such a nice spot in the city.
If you go back to the photo above of Balmain East you will see this vantage point just behind the ferry wharf. So you get a much closer view of the bridge and can even dip your toe in the harbour if you wanted to (watch out for sharks).
You won’t find a proper viewing platform here and will have to go out onto the rocks for a clear look. But the view is one of the best you will get and you will almost have it all to yourself.
3. Birchgrove (Yurulbin Park)
Also located on the Balmain Peninsula is a very different vantage point at Birchgrove.
This is the most northern tip of the peninsula, and sits at the end of a long and skinny scratch of land that sticks out between Snails Bay and the main harbour.
This is further away from the Harbour Bridge but the view is almost directly side on.
Also accessible by ferry from Circular Quay with the trip taking around 20 minutes.
4. Circular Quay Train Station and Ferry Terminal
Surely one of the best views from a train station platform anywhere in the world!
The Circular Quay train station is the only station in the CBD that is elevated above ground level. It is a bit of an eyesore for everyone behind the station, but what it does provide is a fantastic viewing platform right in the middle of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House walk.
If you are traveling around the city by train then you will stumble across this without even trying.
For those coming in or out by Ferry you cannot miss the bridge.
If you are heading anywhere to the west then you will go right underneath it!
5. Mrs Macquaries Chair (Royal Botanic Gardens)
For one of the most iconic views in Sydney you will have to walk through the Royal Botanical Gardens of Sydney all the way out to the most north eastern point.
Here you will be treated to a view to the west that has the Sydney Opera House in the foreground, and the Harbour Bridge in the background.
We made the trip out here to enjoy the morning sun, but we would also recommend getting out here for one of Sydney’s signature colourful sunsets.
Just be mindful of the seasonal closing hours of the gardens if you choose to do this.
You also have the added bonus of being relatively close to Fort Denison which sits in the middle of the harbour.
6. Observatory Hill
This spot is a reminder of just how much the terrain underneath Sydney’s CBD can change!
In very San Francisco’esque fashion, you will have to walk up some steep hills or stairs to reach the top of the hill here.
The highest point has an open lawn which faces to the north and presents amazing harbour views, with the Harbour Bridge central to this from an acute angle.
Of course this close proximity means that the noise from the highway and train lines will be in the background, but it is still a very pleasant spot.
7. Opera House
There probably isn’t much to be said about this iconic landmark that hasn’t already been said. Without question it is one of the best places to see the Harbour Bridge because it is right next to it at the opposite end of Circular Quay.
You can take a walk from the Opera House, around the Quay, and within 15-20 minutes you could be standing right underneath the enormous bridge!
But if you have ever seen a mpa or postcard of Sydney, you probably already know this.
8. Queens Beach
This is the one spot where we thought we were not really meant to be there. You can only access this via a very narrow street with some of Sydney’s most expensive real estate on either side.
The locals have obviously campaigned to restrict accessibility with everywhere you could stop a car marked as No Stopping.
Given the steepness of the road to get in there it is not something we were going to do on foot. We were only able to get this photo by Anh jumping out of the car, while I sat in there keeping a lookout for an unlikely parking inspector.
If the super rich were going to pick any spot to build their castles, I can see why this is the spot.
There is a steep cliff that leads down to the actual beach, with the houses sitting in an elevated position that stares straight down the center of the harbour.
It is something that everyone should view once. I can only imagine the new years eve parties these people have!
9. Dudley Page Reserve, Dover Heights
This is the last point where you can get a clear view of the bridge as you head north towards Watsons Bay. Any further north and you will have land and buildings in the way.
It is a similar position to Queens Beach, but it is in a much higher position and is far more accessible to the public. The park is big enough for multiple sports fields, work out equipment, and some well placed seating to just enjoy the view.
If you walk in the opposite direction you hit the Pacific Ocean within 200 metres. So this area is very exposed to the wind. A great place to fly a kite, but a picnic may prove challenging on anything but the calmest of days.
While in the area you can head towards the Federation Cliff walk if you wanted to see the ocean side of this area. The views are simply amazing!
Best Harbour Bridge Views from the North Side
1. Beulah St Wharf, Kirribilli
This is not really a picnic spot, but a small ferry wharf that is wedged between residential buildings.
The wharf is used more as a fishing spot than anything else. So you will also get a bit of a fishy smell in the air.
But the view is amazing!
You are directly opposite the Opera House on the south side, and over to your right is an impressive view of the Harbour Bridge.
2. Bradleys Head Amphitheatre
Picnic area, fishing spot…. And an exceptional wedding venue.
You will see why it is one of Sydney’s best spots for all three as soon as you lay eyes on the tiered parkland that leads out to an old stone jetty.
In the background you have an uninterrupted view of the Harbour Bridge and city skyline to the west.
This is one of the best sunset spots in Sydney.
3. Cremorne Point
You won’t get a full view of the bridge here, but it is still a worthwhile spot.
The top of the big coat hanger structure is visible, as is the city and Opera House.
Also check out Robertson Point Lighthouse which is just around the corner with the bridge out of view.
4. Mary Booth Lookout Reserve
Amongst this small cluster of viewing sites on the north, Mary Booth Reserve is the only one where you have greenery and space.
The park is small, but spacious enough to hang out and take in the sights.
Compared to 1, 5 and 6 on our list you get a better experience here because there is nothing else in the way, and you are just far enough away from the bridge to actually see it all.
5. McMahons Point (Blues Point Reserve)
Over on the western side of the bridge you have only Lavender Bay separating McMahons point and the Harbour Bridge.
This is the closest spot on this list where you can be nearly side by side with the middle point of the bridge.
There is a park at the end of this land mass called Blues Point Reserve. If you walk right out to the tip you will be in line with that mid point of the bridge.
6. North Sydney Pool and Luna Park
Sitting almost underneath the massive bridge is North Sydney swimming pool. This is a public swimming pool which opened up only four years after the Harbour Bridge itself!
That was over 80 years ago!
It is an open air outdoor pool that has the bridge towering above.
And of course right next door is the entry for Luna Park. There are multiple spots to stop and take in the views here.
Not the best spot for getting a full view of the bridge because it is so close, but it will give you an appreciation for just how damn big the structure is!!
7. Reflection Pond, Kirribilli
A favourite amongst tourists looking for a unique pic of the Harbour Bridge… Maybe its not so unique now that it has been Instagram discovered…
8. Taronga Zoo
While harbour views are not the selling point for visiting Taronga Zoo, there are multiple vantage points where you can see both the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge from an elevated position.
The zoo is built into the side of a hill that makes its way up from the water and is steep enough to give you a similar elevation to what we mentioned at Queens Beach. Just not as clear (and not as exclusive!).
Bonus Bridge Views from the Sky
1. From a Plane
If you are lucky enough to land a window seat on the correct side of the plane, then you may be treated to a glorious birds-eye view of the Harbour Bridge (hopefully more glorious than the gloomy pic above).
Sydney Airport is located just a few kilometers outside of the CBD to the south so you are often at a low level when passing over this area.
It is a great introduction to Sydney if you are a first time visitor, and I have always enjoyed the feeling of coming home when I see this view after a long time away.
2. From a Helicopter
Scenic helicopter flights also leave from the same airport and take the route over the eastern suburbs of Sydney straight to the Harbour Bridge.
From there you take a right turn to make your return journey over Watson’s Bay on the south headland, and Bondi Beach.
These trips are reasonably priced and will get you an unmatched view of the bridge.
I have a knack for attracting rain whey I fly….
You now have 17 places to capture that postcard perfect photo of the world famous Harbour Bridge.
There are a lot of nice days out that go with these destinations and I hope you have as much fun exploring them as we did.