Circular Quay is one of the first stops on any Sydney schedule because of its prime position on the harbour. This is the place to take in the majesty of its iconic structures which overlook the glittering water. As the city's main ferry terminal, it's also a great spot to kick off your sightseeing activities.
Things to do
Circular Quay in Sydney Cove is bordered by the Sydney Opera House and Royal Botanic Garden on one side and the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the other. If you only have a short time in town, this will give you bang for your sightseeing buck.
If you can linger longer, catch a ferry across the sparkling harbour to Manly, Watsons Bay, Taronga Zoo or under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and along the Parramatta River to check out the UNESCO World Heritage-listed convict sites of Parramatta Park and Old Government House in Parramatta.
The Sydney Opera House isn't just a World Heritage-listed architectural masterpiece, it also hosts world-class shows. See the exciting events calendar for what's on or take a backstage tour. While the Royal Botanic Garden isn't just about native flora, it also hosts exhibits at The Calyx, a purpose-built horticultural exhibition space, and annual opera shows on the harbour.
The western side of the quay is home to the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in The Rocks, where the British colony began in 1788. Stroll to the eastern side of the quay and explore Sydney’s dark past at the Justice and Police Museum, housed in a former colonial court and police station.
Walk along the foreshore and be rewarded with spectacular views. Wander under the world’s largest steel arch bridge to Walsh Bay, a theatre precinct with heritage wharves. Follow the same path along the water and you’ll arrive at Barangaroo Reserve, and if you continue further down, you’ll get to the Barangaroo precinct.
A great range of tours leave from the quay, including guided walks, tall ships, jet boats, delicious lunch and dinner cruises and Aboriginal-led Tribal Warrior Harbour Cruises. Between May and November, whale-watching cruises depart for the ocean outside The Heads to spot humpbacks.
Eat & drink
Dotted around the quay are a range of restaurants and bars, including acclaimed fine-dining restaurants Quay, Aria and Bennelong, which is housed inside one of the Opera House’s white sails. For stunning harbour views, head for Cafe Sydney on the rooftop of heritage-listed Customs House or Hyde Hacienda in the Pullman Quay Grand.
Hinchcliff House is a new, four-level dining destination set in a heritage wool store. The Gateway food court is home to over 30 fast-casual dining options. Nearby, Mary’s Circular Quay does a mean cheeseburger, head to Tapavino for Spanish tapas, Bar Patron offers Mexican fare and Botanic House is a pan-Asian restaurant in the Royal Botanic Garden.
The Squire’s Landing is a brewhouse boasting world-class views on the northern end of the Overseas Passenger Terminal and Cruise Bar, in the same building, is all about cocktails. On the other side of the harbour, Opera Bar is a favourite with locals and tourists alike for its stunning views.
Circular Quay is one of Sydney's major transport hubs, making it a great base to explore the city on public transport. It's the main ferry terminal in Sydney, plus there's the light rail, trains and buses which will take you all over the city.