There are no two ways about it, Sydney is one seriously photogenic place. And you don’t have to take our word for it: in 2019, Australia was officially declared the most Instagrammable country in the world (according to Big 7 Travel's annual poll), with the majority of must-have geo-tags located in the Harbour City.
With its winning combination of internationally-famous landmarks, astounding natural beauty and unbeatable weather, it’s little wonder the world is turning its lens on Sydney. And while we always recommend experiencing this city with your eyes rather than your camera, it’s also a well-known truth in this age of social media: if you didn’t ‘gram it, were you even there?
It goes without saying that the Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach are top of the pops when it comes to Insta. And further afield, there's a glut of fabulous photo-ops across NSW at destinations like the Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley and Royal National Park. But for those willing to make the effort, there's a treasure trove of ‘grammable gold to be found right here, within the city.
So, check out our 20 favourite Instagrammable locations in Sydney, get geared up and get ’gramming.
This epic mountain-meets-sea backdrop is worth the trek out to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Barrenjoey Lighthouse marks Sydney’s most northerly point and will give you stellar views across the hourglass peninsula and Palm Beach. The climb is short but steep; a leisurely 20 minutes will get you up the stairs. While the lighthouse is heritage-listed in all its 19th-century glory, you might recognise it better from a certain Aussie soap: Home and Away. Fans can also head to nearby Summer Bay Surf Club to bring their TV dreams to life.
Want a postcard-perfect Sydney pic but can’t stand the crowds at the harbour? Head to Mrs Macquarie's Chair for uninterrupted views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House nestled among the city skyline. It’ll take you 20 minutes to walk from Circular Quay along the foreshore of the Royal Botanic Gardens to reach this gem. As the name suggests, the seat was carved into a rock ledge for Mrs Macquarie, the wife of 19th-century Governor Lachlan Macquarie. The chair faces away from the famous landmarks because they weren't around during her lifetime. She was a big fan of the view facing east, and we have to agree, it's well worthy of the 'gram as well.
There’s strong debate in the patisserie community over whether this sharp-edged, white layered rock formation actually looks anything like a cake. And yet, dubious as its name may be, that hasn't stopped people from ’gramming this geological confection – more than 25,000 times to date, in fact. This definitely-not-edible Sydney landmark sits precariously on the coast of the Royal National Park, so we urge you to follow our social media motto: 'gram safe or not at all. Aside from the perilous drop, Wedding Cake Rock is also sinking; the vertical fractures in the rock, which give the appearance of expertly molded marzipan, are telltale signs of unstable rock strata. And it's for this reason that NSW Police have been called in to stop people clambering all over it. You have been warned.
Ah Bondi, the true homeland of any Insta-addict. Tourists and locals come in droves to soak up the sunshine on this suburb’s internationally renowned beachfront. The sandy expanse is always a winner, but many are enticed to abandon the sand by the mighty whitewash crashing against these aquamarine pools. The Icebergs Pools are home to the Winter Swimming Club which formed in 1929, but this salt-sprayed photo-op is open to the public year-round. For $7, adults can enjoy a swim and time in the sauna from as early as 6am. But don’t be caught out: remember that Thursday is cleaning day, so check opening hours before making the trip.
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This Victorian beauty adds a little elegance to the CBD, with ornate ironwork, bold marble columns and richly tiled floors making it so much more than a simple retail centre. Built in the mid-19th-century, it now houses some rather posh jewellery stores, Australian designer labels, boutique gift shops and stylish cafés. But the romance is in the building itself. The photographer’s test is capturing softly tinted light as it shines through stained glass windows onto carved cedar balustrades and fancy shopfronts.
It starts with the coffee and ends with the inevitable photo-shot in the garden. The Grounds of Alexandria took the remnants of a heritage-listed warehouse in Sydney’s Inner West and created a wonderland of greenery, complete with resident farm animals. Visiting the Grounds is almost a rite of passage for Sydneysiders and the consistently packed-out venue speaks to its popularity. Whether you’re having lunch at the café, checking out the stalls at the weekend markets or trying your hand at one of their masterclasses (latte art and cake decorating are our faves), you’ll be overwhelmed with Insta-ready scenes.
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Sitting on the boardwalk at Darling Harbour, the Museum of Contemporary Art houses some incredible work from Australian and international artists inside a fittingly creative and varied building. Works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists recognise the cultural and historical significance of the area to its traditional owners, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. While the art is the star of the show, the building itself is striking. It was extensively renovated in 2011, adding a new modern wing to the old sandstone heart. Its chic facade is a breath of minimalistic fresh air in the historic quarter of the Rocks, and its uncluttered, airy interiors draw you into the space to experience the work.
This is the ultimate pool with a view; you can almost clamber up the Harbour Bridge or leap onto the Ferris wheel at Luna Park from the lido. It’s slap bang in the middle of the city’s most recognisable landmarks and with Art Deco design and playful plasterwork, it could barely be more aesthetically pleasing. If the 50-metre heated pool, gymnasium, sauna, indoor pool and café don't impress you, perhaps its pedigree of aquatic achievements will. A whopping 86 world records have been set here, and it's a favourite haunt of Aussie swimming legends like Shane Gould and Lorraine Crapp.
If you find yourself wandering around Angel Place by the City Recital Hall, listen out and look up: the laneway connecting Pitt Street and George Street is alive with birdsong and rests beneath a canopy of 50 birdcages. It's an art installation with an important message: the calls you hear are recordings of birds who once populated the inner Sydney area but were forced out by urbanisation. The work was strung up in 2012 and quickly became one of the city’s most photographed urban artworks. It's free and open day and night, with appropriate nocturnal sounds after dark.
Sure, you could join the tourist crush to bag that quintessential Sydney snap of the Harbour Bridge. You could brave the selfie-sticks and street performers and the over-priced ice cream of Circular Quay to get up close and personal with the city’s most photographed structures. But we suggest you up your Insta-game by working smarter, not harder. A 20-minute wander through the cobbled streets of the Rocks (also a highly Insta-worthy area) leads you to Observatory Hill, a lesser-known vantage point on the Harbour’s architectural wonders that won’t be crawling with people.
A trip to Taronga is a nose-to-tail Insta-adventure. First, there’s the ferry ride from Circular Quay, with its highly photogenic views of the Harbour. Next, there’s the cable car, which reveals the stunning Sydney skyline as it ascends from the wharf to the zoo’s entrance. And then there’re the animal attractions, from red pandas (awwwww) to capybaras (also awwww) to koalas (mega awwww) and our personal fave, the meerkats (all the awwwww). Once you’ve binged on all that cute, you can get your Attenborough on with arty shots of gorillas, Sumatran tigers, Asian elephants and chimpanzees.
It may sound strange, recommending a billboard as a must-snap destination. But Kings Cross’ famous Coke sign has been a treasured part of the Sydney skyline since the mid-1970s. In 2015, the original electricity-guzzling neon lights were replaced with a more energy-efficient LED sign that’s capable of some pretty nifty and colourful displays. But, should the Coke sign’s charms wear thin, simply do a 180 at the top of Williams Street for some damn impressive views of the city. Pro tip: the skyline is especially Insta-ready at sunset.
Sydney’s ANZAC Memorial isn’t just a poignant tribute to Australia’s fallen soldiers, it’s also a prime piece of Art Deco architecture. This beautiful structure has recently undergone major refurbishments, both inside and out. This has included the installation of cascading water features on its southern side, making it even more photogenic (if that’s possible). A word to the wise: this is a place of solemn remembrance and should be respected as such. We recommend keeping photography outside, where you can also take in shots of the leafy boughs of Hyde Park.
It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that one of the city’s glitziest five-star hotels has equally glitzy five-star views. The cocktail bar of the Shangri La Hotel, located on Cumberland Street just a stone’s throw from Circular Quay, is perched on the 36th floor with views all the way to the open ocean. Overlooking Bennelong Point, Circular Quay, the Harbour Bridge and Luna Park, a photo from this lofty height captures all the greatest hits of Instagramable Sydney in a single shot. And should you want to up the ante, you can always include some tantalising pics of that other reliable Insta-fodder: elaborate and colourful cocktails.
If you fancy yourself a bit of a landscape photographer, then Cockatoo Island is the Insta-destination of your dreams. It’s got industrial chic with the rusting behemoths of the old shipyard machinery. It’s got historical intrigue with the crumbling remains of the convict accommodations and colonial-era gaol. And it’s got oodles of culture, especially when the Sydney Biennale rolls around and transforms this Harbour island into a contemporary art hotspot. Don’t forget to capture some dramatic close-ups of the Harbour Bridge as your ferry carries you beneath its monumental girders.
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Ocean views? Check. Dramatic coastline? Check. Cute-as-a-button lighthouse? Check. Yup, Watsons Bay is an Instagram slam dunk. The slim peninsula of the South Head offers the rare opportunity to capture waterside views of both sunrise, looking out over the Tasman Sea, and sunset, looking back towards the Sydney skyline. The lovely golden crescents of Camp Cove and Lady Bay Beach are flanked by rugged, highly snappable rock faces, and if you head a little further north, you’ll find the Hornby Lighthouse. With its red and white candy-cane paint job, it’s just begging to be papped.
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Darling Harbour is a frenetic hub of activity, busy with white-collar types, shambling tourists, construction workers, and bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Western Distributor. So, it’s nothing short of miraculous that in the midst of this urban madness is a leafy retreat of sublime spiritual calm. For $6, you can explore this beautifully landscaped Chinese water garden, dotted with traditional pagodas, lily ponds and even a picturesque waterfall. Immerse yourself (and your smartphone) in this cleansing space, then reinforce your new-found inner peace with the validation only double-taps can supply.
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If you want to talk statistics, Bondi beach is officially the most instagrammed location in Australia. But why stop at just one sandy stretch? Sydney has more beachfront than you can shake your budgie smugglers at and you can access a string of the most popular along the Bondi to Coogee coastal path. At any time of year, the sea views, rock formations and dramatic waves are enough to make anyone snap-happy. But in the months of October and November, the coastal path is also home to the ever-grammable Sculpture by the Sea exhibition, guaranteed to bring the double taps in their droves.
Even when there’s nothing on at this cultural hub, Carriageworks’ complex of decommissioned tram sheds in the heart of Redfern is still ripe for the ‘gram. Capture achingly arty shots of industrial doorways and rusting rivets as you explore the semi-derelict site. Despite external appearances, the internal spaces of this major arts venue are far from run-down. This busy space is regularly brought to life by a vibrant program of exhibitions and events, including showcases for Sydney Festival, the National, Sydney Contemporary, and Sydney Biennale alongside its own curated program of happenings. Trust us, your lens will love it.
We all know the shot: Sydney’s sprawling skyline, complete with its pair of world-class wonders – the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House – sat atop the watery expanse of the Harbour. There are plenty of places on the North Shore where you can capture this epic vista, but perhaps the most fool-proof can be found on this sliver of land near Mosman Bay. With its ideal position at the tip of the Cremorne Reserve, the Robertson Point Lookout (more colloquially known as Cremorne Point) offers uninterrupted views of the full CBD panorama. For those looking to amp-up the beauty, simply frame this impressive sight with the boughs of the Reserve’s many mature trees.