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Sydney is one of the best places in the world to capture a sunrise over the ocean. It is east facing and also has tons of coastal features such as coastal cliffs, picturesque hills, beaches, rock platforms and other goodies. So, every now and then I go to the cliffs to get some sunrise pictures...
Sydney is known for many things. And beaches in Sydney are not at the end of the list for sure! So where to go if you have limited time and want to create a fantastic beach sunrise? This article will guide you and show you some of the beautiful places in Sydney to visit. You can easily access all locations by a car or public transport. I will list the sites in no particular order.
Maroubra Beach Sunrise
This one is broad and epic and is easily one of the best beaches in Sydney. In fact, Maroubra Beach has at least five excellent photographic spots itself. This beach is so good that I have written a separate guide for the site. It deserves it! If you are not sure where to go, boldly go to the Maroubra Beach. Here is a detailed photography guide.
During the low tide, you can enjoy the quite flat reflective sand, which is excellent to catch the reflections when the sky is beautiful. During high tide, the rocks here become partly submerged, and you can play around with the flowing water like I did on the 1st of January 2017. The added benefit of this area is that the curved shape of the shoreline. The coast shape means that during winter months you can also see the Sun from the southern direction.
Sandy part of the Maroubra water-front with the Sun and flowing water
This place is not exactly there, but very close to the north and is still considered part of the area. Mahon Pool is no doubt my favorite spot for the beach sunrise, and also it is one of the best lookouts in Sydney. I have created so many beautiful dawn images here that it is hard to include just 1 or 2 in this blog post. Anyway, once you arrive there, keep wandering back and forth, there are interesting little spots and compositions everywhere. Please note the pool itself is not right before the Sun rises over the horizon as a powerful magenta street light beaming on it. But all other cliffs are yours to explore.
Mahon Pool with Sun rays from the cliff top
Sorry to disappoint you, but there is no magic in there. The place noted is to the south and is less attractive and photogenic than the others so I wouldn’t go there if you have other options.
How To Get There
There is a free car park and plenty of street parking available next to the Maroubra Rock Pool on Torrington Road and Marine Parade. There are plenty of buses going here, and you usually arrive well before the first light on Saturday. On Sunday you will need to drive or get a taxi as buses start later.
The rocks. On medium to high tide the rocks are partly submerged
Portion of the sand with the Sun visible during winter
Cliffs, lots of photographic opportunities
Way to the Magic Point, less impressive
This place is a hidden gem, but I have never seen other photographers there for some reason! The beach sunrise spot is not on the Clovelly Beach itself, but on the cliffs ahead of it. Google Maps knows it as a Shark Point. Never saw sharks there too. You should not go there on two occasions:
During the rain – rocks will get slippery, and you may fall.
During high tide and large waves. You may go there when it’s just a high tide or when it’s an average storm. But when it’s something powerful, stay away.
This place is a rock platform at the base of the cliffs. It gets lots of waves and water and wind and salt spray. But the beauty is incredible. Shark Point is much smaller than Maroubra, just a hundred meters long so you will need max 5-10 minutes to get to the dead-end. The only thing is that you will have to climb the rocks and the road is pretty narrow in one place – an average person has to go sidewise. While standing on the rocks 5-10 meters above the sea level, don’t get fooled by the ocean! Now and then the rogue wave will reach you with the splash at best, so keep an eye on the situation. Pleasant to shoot the ocean storm and ocean pictures in general.
Shark Point ocean storm with the massive wave
During the ultra-low tide you can go a little further, climb a huge rock safely and get a magnificent view like this:
Shark Point in panoramic format overlooking Coogee
Also, you can use the stairs that go from the Ocean Street and do photos from the top if you feel like it.
Beach At Night
A little bonus here. Clovelly area is the darkest part of the coast in Eastern Suburbs. So if you feel like shooting night stars and don’t feel like traveling, try Shark Point. To capture it adequately at night you will need a good tripod, lens, and some knowledge.
The Galaxy Center is visible February to October, but the best time to shoot Milky Way starts in April and goes up until September-October. Night stars are waiting, give it a go.
Clovelly moonrise with the night stars
How To Get To The Shark Point
You have three options:
Bus 360 that runs from Bondi Junction
Bus 339/X39 from the CBD
Drive and park on the Ocean Street
There is a little way down from the Ocean Street.
Sand and Rock Platform
Another small sand shore here. In fact, one of the smallest beaches in Sydney, but with a few promising viewing angles for the photography session. First obvious things are the rocks right on the sand. On medium to high tide, they are partly submerged, and you can get some excellent flowing water to play with. The rock platform itself is more or less ordinary, nothing worth mentioning. The advantages of this rock platform are the proximity of the surfers and the view with city lights.
Tamarama rock platform overlooking Tamarama and Bronte
Attention, a hidden gem here! It is only accessible on low tide and small to average waves. You have to go along the cliff on the winding road a few hundred meters. There is an unknown vantage point with a mesmerizing view, perfect for some breathtaking pictures. I have never seen other photographers there.
Secret Tamarama spot on the cliffs
How To Get To The Tamarama
A little harder to reach with just a single bus available (381) so you could instead drive and park on one of the nearby streets, all of them are pretty close.
Beautiful mossy rocks on the sand
Rock platform with city lights view
Cliff-top vantage point
Secret vantage point
Garie Beach Sunrise
Garie is located in the Royal National Park in the southern part of Sydney. It is a decent drive from anywhere.
Garie is a long sand strip with impressive rocks and terrain full of character, perfect for this kind of shots. Typically, it is pretty secluded and only has a few fishers, especially during the morning. There is not much to recommend here because once you are there, you will figure it out easily. I never walked to the distant cliffs, not sure if they are any good.
Garie in warm colors
How To Get To The Garie
You can access the park after 5.30am because before that time the area is closed due to the planned deer shooting. Also, another option is to camp inside and enjoy all wonders of camping life along with the relaxed journey to the site. Plan in accordance with the sunrise time.
Also, there is an entry fee, just a few bucks.
Hornby Lighthouse is an excellent place for the beach sunrise images. From this scene, you can see the North Head, the Hornby Lighthouse and a bit of city. Should I tell you that the lighthouse is one of the famous places of interest in Sydney in any given list of attractions?
The path starts from the wooden steps at the end of the sand part, where the sign reads “South Head Heritage Trail”. Go along the footpath uphill through the gun emplacement until you reach the asphalt road. Continue walking the path until it becomes a narrow footpath. Go past the Lady Jane Beach as we are here because of the shoreline, not the nudes. After a short walk, there will be a sign indicating the loop track start. Walk just a little more to see some views of the city, Manly and Eastern Suburbs. And very soon after the footbridge you finally reach the lighthouse.
Now there are two options:
Do photos staying on the cliff top
Walk down to the rock platform. This descent is only possible during the low tide. But if the path is accessible, I recommend to try it out.
Hornby Lighthouse from the sea-level rock platform
How To Get To The Hornby Lighthouse
There are two free car parks, and also street parking is available on the Cliff Street. The other options include bus or ferry from the city, but you will have to check the timetable if it even works for the photographer’s timeline.
Collaroy is only lovely during the low tide when the rocks are not entirely underwater and the rock platform as well. The southern part is what you are after. Alternatively, this is merely a short walk from here to the Long Reef, which is also only available during the low tide. There are also some pelicans in the area fooling around.
How To Get To The Collaroy
There is a whole lot of buses in the area and also street parking available too.
Make sure to check on both sides of the rock pool. #2 has some magnificent rock formations.
Collaroy reflective rocks morning
Other Beaches in Sydney
There are lots of beautiful Sydney sunrise spots, I’ve just picked my favorites. I may add more to this article later after discovering more hidden gems for the sunrise photography.
When planning a dawn adventure session, I typically use several online tools.
WillyWeather provides an accurate tide and swell info. Just type in the place name or choose on the map.
Suncalc. A very handy and easy to use an online tool to see where will the Sun be.
SkippySky. It is a little confusing but provides valuable info about the cloud coverage.
If you ask for a single tool, which is a must, then it is Willy Weather for sure. Whenever you go to shoot a beach sunrise, check at least tidal information.