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Circular Quay

The main departure point for most of Sydney's ferries; see if you can spot the man with the didgeridoo.

TravelCurious Tip

If you can’t decide what to do with your day, this is the place to come – its waterfront is full of useful sightseeing information, and is serviced by regular transport heading all over the city.

The Central Business District just to the South may be the commercial hub of Sydney, but Circular Quay is in many ways the city’s beating cultural heart. With the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge marking either end of the quay, and so much to do in between, it is little wonder that it has become such a draw for so many of Sydney’s visitors.


Where It All Began

Circular Quay is arguably the spot where modern Australia began. In 1788, the eleven ships which comprised the “First Fleet” landed in this bay at Sydney Cove, where Circular Quay now stands. Commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip, crewed by naval seaman and carrying plants, livestock and over 700 convicts, these ships had set out over eight months previously with the mission of establishing a penal colony in New South Wales. The western shore of the cove became the site of the early settlement, and the focal point from which the city eventually grew.


Well Connected

It seems appropriate that, as Australia’s original port, Circular Quay has retained its position as one of Sydney’s major transport hubs to this day. From here you can catch ferries to Manly Beach, Sydney Olympic Park or Watsons Bay, all of which provide great opportunities to admire the city from a different perspective. Don’t feel like you have to rush off though – there is plenty to do on the quay itself. The area is packed with superb restaurants, lively bars and quirky cafes. If it’s culture you’re after, Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art can be found on George Street, and the City of Sydney Library is located in the nearby heritage-listed Customs House. At the very least, a stroll along the waterfront will provide you with some of the finest views the city has to offer.


Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Sydney
Sydney Opera House
One of the most iconic buildings of the modern era, designed by Jorn Utzon and opened in 1973.
The Rocks
Established shortly after Sydney's formation and now in the shadow of the harbour bridge, this neighbourhood has character in spades - and the city's oldest pubs.
City Skyline
The city's iconic silhouettes are best viewed from across Darling Harbour, the North Shore or from a ferry cruise.
State Library of NSW
Officially the oldest library in Australia, with a grand exterior to match its distinction.
The Rocks Discovery Museum
A museum charting the history of The Rocks from pre-European times to the modern day.
Cadmans Cottage
Sydney's oldest surviving residential building, one of the last remaining of the original colony.

Related Tours

Private Half Day Highlights of Sydney with local guide
You will start your tour at Circular Quay, famed as the main departure point for the city’s many ferries and also for the didgeridoo players close-by.  

Sydney Opera House

Your guide will lead you on a short walk to what is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the city: the iconic Sydney Opera House.  Set on a spit of land jutting out into Sydney Harbour, and opened in 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II, this centre for performing arts has won international acclaim for its style and beauty.  You will visit the outside the Sydney Opera House and take a look out at the magnificent panoramic view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Downtown Sydney

Now heading inland, your guide will take you up Macquarie Street, stopping briefly to admire the State Library of New South Wales - the oldest public library in Australia.  At the end of Macquarie you’ll be faced by the lush greenery of Hyde Park, Sydney’s equivalent to Central Park in New York or the original Hyde Park in London.  Flanking one side of park is the imposing St. Mary’s Cathedral that is the current seat of the Archbishop of Sydney.

After a quick stop in the park, you’ll move across town through one of Sydney’s oldest shopping arcades, The Strand, before heading back to circular quay down high-rise George St.  This will be the perfect opportunity for your guide tell you the story of modern Sydney and how it has grown into the metropolis you see today.

The Rocks: Convicts and Rebellion private tour
Hidden to some degree under the shadow of the Harbour Bridge, The Rocks neighbourhood is as old as Sydney itself.  Although gentrified these days, The Rocks retains the old architecture, historic pubs and mazy streets of its turbulent and fascinating past.

History of Convicts and Rebellion

You will start your tour at The Rocks Discovery Museum which chronicles the remarkable history of the area all the way from pre-European times to the modern day.  This will serve as a light overview for the tour to come, moving from the British landing in 1788, to the convict struggles in the 19th century, to the transformations that have shaped The Rocks we see today.

The chief of these changes is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which looms over the historic Rocks as a constant reminder of modernisation.  Your guide will walk you and talk you through the ins and outs of this world-famous bridge that was at the cutting-edge of architectural design when it opened in 1932.

Pubs and Eateries

With its rough, working-class, convict roots, it is no surprise that the oldest, most-atmospheric pubs can be found in The Rocks.  Your guide will take you past three of the oldest: Fortune of War, the Lord Nelson Brewery and the Hero of Waterloo, and there’ll certainly be time to have a quick taste.  On their sandstone facades, be sure to look closely for the fine etchings made by generations of convicts.

Finally, you will be taken through more alleyways to Cadman’s Cottage, one of the oldest and best preserved buildings in Sydney.
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