Sydney Essentials: Circular Quay

by jblack

Circular Quay makes it wonderfully easy to tap into some of the best sights and attractions in Sydney.

Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge
By Larry Darter (Own work)

Circular Quay


Circular Quay, the focal point of Sydney Harbour, is located on the small inlet Sydney Cove.  From this vantage point visitors can take in some spectacular views of beautiful Sydney Harbour.  Given the generous number of lodging and dining options in and around the quay, it serves admirably as a base of operations for exploring many of Sydney's most popular sights and attractions.

To the east, pathways to the iconic Sydney Opera House and famed Royal Botanic Gardens beckon.  To the north, the majestic Sydney Harbour Bridge arches in the distance.   When in port, luxury cruise ships can be seen moored at the cruise terminal located at Circular Quay.  Just a short walk east across First Fleet Park, lies The Rocks, the oldest and one of the most intriguing parts of the city. 

Situated near the business district, Circular Quay is fittingly a hub for local transportation.  Harbour ferries leave from the docks every few minutes serving Sydney commuters and tourists alike.  At the southern end stands the Circular Quay railway station from where NSW City Rail light-rail trains transport shoppers, tourists, and office workers to the suburbs and other distant parts of the cities.  City bus stops and taxis are also nearby.

Sydney Skyline
Sydney Skyline
By Larry Darter (Own work)
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House
By Larry Darter (Own work)

Sights and Activities Not to Miss

While personal preference and interests govern what a Circular Quay visitor wishes to experience, there are some things that no one should miss.  Five suggested sights and activities include;

  1. Taking a Harbour Cruise.  Luxury cocktail and dinner cruises are available from Captain Cook Cruises and leave at scheduled times from No. 6 Jetty.  There is really no substitute for the views of the harbour sights available exclusively from the water.  Yet those very same views and photo opportunities can be had by the budget-minded with passage on the Manly Ferry, departing Wharf 2 about every half-hour.  Exact schedules can be obtained at the Sydney Ferries website.
  2. Touring the Sydney Opera House.  Attending a performance at the opera house can be a bit pricey, but the history and stories of this famed, architectural masterpiece can be savored by booking a spot on one of the fascinating and informative guided tours.  Advance "early bird" bookings for the tour can be made in advance online at a substantially discounted price.
  3. Touring The Rocks.  This historic area was the place where the first Australian settlers stepped ashore in January 1788.  Later it was the area where the convicts banished to Australia from England were housed and a warehouse district frequented by drunken sailors, prostitutes, and all-manner of unsavory cutthroats.  Today trendy restaurants, fascinating museums, stylish pubs, souvenir shops, and tempting boutiques abound along the narrow, cobblestoned streets of this fascinating, historic district.  A Sydney Visitor Centre is located in at the intersection of Argyle and Playfair streets where visitors can obtain maps, brochures, and information on tours.
  4. Visiting the Beaches.  No visit to Sydney would be complete without a visit to one or more of the famous, beautiful visits.  Manly Beaches is one good choice and can conveniently be reached from Circular Quay via the Manly Ferry.  Manly is perched on a beautiful peninsula surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean and Sydney Harbour.  One of the most famous and internationally known Sydney beaches is Bondi Beach, located east of the downtown central business district.  Bondi has a definitely different atmosphere than Manly, more of a laidback, surfer feel.  Visitors can expect the occasional topless female sunbathers at Bondi which isn't typical of Manly Beaches.  Food, souvenir shops, and lodging are readily available in the immediate vicinity of both beach areas.
  5. Seeing the Bats.  One of the unique things about Sydney that isn't much publicized or widely known by outsiders is that the city is home to a significant population of bats, specifically the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus), a large fruit and nectar eating bat variety.   These creatures nest during the daylight hours in the trees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, to the consternation of many of the locals.  A little after sunset, they begin leaving lively their roosts to feed throughout the Sydney metropolitan area.  Just about any location around Circular Quay is a good spot for viewing this spectacular but perhaps slightly creepy, wildlife spectacle.

With its pulsating, lively atmosphere, rich history, and breathtaking views, Circular Quay is a portal to near nonstop adventure for Sydney visitors.

Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach
By Larry Darter (Own work)
Manly Beaches
Manly Beaches
By Larry Darter (Own work)

For Further Reading

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Updated: 01/07/2012, jblack
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Australian Working Holiday on 03/04/2012

A great write up of what to see and do in Sydney. Nice work.

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