This article is for first time visitors to Sydney, Australia. The city and its beaches are riddled with picturesque spots so it will be difficult not to find a unique location. I will include the general areas around the beautiful harbor.
Being located on the east coast of Australia most of the beaches are idyllic for a sunrise followed by the obligatory breakfast at a cafe. The ambiance at dawn to sunrise along the beaches gives you an insight into how locals enjoy their lifestyle. On land, you will be dodging joggers, dog walkers, yoga classes, and photographers. In the ocean, surfers, swimmers, and kayakers are a common daily ritual for most locals who live close to the coast.
1. The Rocks, Dawes Point
The Rocks, Dawes Point is located directly under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. With a length of 504 meters its guaranteed to be a majestic view. Shooting ultra wide will help to get a sense of the scale. Looking north you can catch glimpses of North Sydney City and Luna Amusement Park. Ideally, a night shot just after sunset would be perfect.
2. The Rocks, Campbells Cove
The Rocks, Campbells Cove is another top spot when using different elements in the foreground to lead the eye to the famous Opera House. Facing east a sunrise shot from this spot would also be perfect.
The International Boat Terminal viewing deck where this black and white of the bridge and Luna Park was taken can also be a fabulous vantage point. Close up with a 24-70mm lens you can look straight down on the Opera House as well.
3. Milsons Point
Milsons Point is on the north side of the bridge looking back at the city, Dawes Point, and the Opera House. With the sun behind you at sunset, you will be facing south for this shot. I am standing next to Luna Entertainment Park. Walking along the shoreline you can also find some other great vantage points towards Jeffrey Street and Beulah Street Wharf (next Prime Minister's house). This spot is good for sunrise or sunset. A 16-35mm lens would be ideal if you wish to include the Opera House, Bridge, and City in a very wide sweeping view. At dusk on a weekday, it's peak hour for the ferries.
On the western side of Millers Point past the historic Rocks, you will find the sandstones along the banks. Barangaroo area used to be part of the territory of the Gadigal people, the original inhabitants of Sydney. The area was a very important hunting and fishing region for the local Aboriginal people. Beware of the slippery rocks and the occasional splash that comes from a passing ferry or boat. Looking west you can also capture a sunset with Anzac Bridge in the distance. This image is facing northeast so a sunrise from here may light up the sky depending on the time of the year.
5. Macquaries Point
Mrs. Macquarie's chair carved out of the sandstone rock on the point was a perfect spot for the fourth Governor General's wife to cure her homesickness. All the large ships that come into the harbor pass this point. This image is facing west at sunset. Sydney is picturesque from any angle along the foreshore. I would also highly recommend riding a public ferry to Watson's Bay to catch a similar view from a much farther distance.
Along the eastern coastline are numerous beaches worth shooting for a dawn/sunrise. Here are few samples depending on how rough or smooth you want to take the shot. Never turn your back on the ocean. Always check for tides and swells and bring a towel to keep dry. After your sunrise shoot, you can also jump in for a swim in the ocean or a rock pool as seen in some of the photos below.
Turimetta Beach (Northern Beaches)
Drive down Sydney Road and turn right into Narrabeen Park Parade and right again into Peal Place. It's next to the beach lookout and beach reserve. From there you have a steep hike down the stairs.
Narrabeen Pool (Northern Beaches)
Drive along Narrabeen Park Parade until you cross over South Creek where you find a sign to North Narrabeen Rock Pool and carpark.
Bronte Pool (Eastern Suburbs)
There are more than 100 rock pools in the state. They all have their own character. Bronte Pool is small but faces directly into a sunrise at certain times of the year. You are certain to run into a Seascape Photographer especially on a weekend. They have become as common as a surfer and swimmer.
Coogee Pool (Eastern Suburbs)
Located on the southern end of Coogee Beach is the small ocean pool. It's an ideal spot at high tide at Dawn. You can still set up far enough to avoid getting soaked. It's free for anyone to go for a swim. I usually use an 18mm or 50mm lens from this spot. The pools are a safe way to avoid the dangerous rip tides.