Watching a Sydney sunrise is like nothing else. In all the years I have been shooting them, I have rarely seen a bad one and it's a great way to start the day. When I first moved to Sydney from England, I couldn't believe how many people were up at the crack of dawn. Even in winter the beaches are busy with walkers, swimmers, bootcampers, photographers and people doing yoga, pilates and meditation. It's great to be surrounded with such positive energy first thing in the morning.
Here is a list of my favourite Sydney sunrise locations. In my experience most of the magic starts to happen around 15-20 minutes BEFORE the sunrise. So be sure to get to your location at least half an hour before sunrise. This website lists Sydney sunrise times throughout the year: http://www.timeanddate.com/sun/australia/sydney.
1. BONDI BEACH
Sydney's most well known beach offers fabulous sunrise viewing. For photographers, there is always lots happening and it's reliable at high and low tides. I'd recommend watching from the South end of the beach (the same end as the famous Icebergs ocean pool.) looking towards the north end of the beach. Keep an eye out for any puddles left behind by the waves as these can reflect any clouds in the sky and will add some foreground interest to your photos. You'll need to get down low to capture these. It's important to keep an eye on the surf - waves at Bondi can be unpredictable and I have often been caught out by a rogue wave with myself and my camera narrowly escaping a soaking.
2. BRONTE BATHS
About 3kms along the coast from Bondi is Bronte Beach. It's not as big as Bondi but is just as beautiful. It's famous for it's often pumping surf and it's ocean pool which sits on the south side of the beach. This pool is a photographer's paradise and it can get very busy in the summer months. My favourite angle to capture the pool is really low along the edge of the pool itself. There are always interesting water patterns, sometimes there are reflections on the concrete and on clear days, silhouettes of people enjoying the pool add interest to photographs.
The most important thing to remember when shooting at Bronte is to always, always keep an eye on the surf. There is a well known 'splash zone' along the pool edge which has caught me and many others out many times. Although you may be able to withstand the splash, your camera may not! I often use my waterproof point and shoot here. On cold winter days, the last thing you want is to be drenched with water. Watch the wave patterns for a few minutes before heading out.
3. MANLY BEACH
Manly is the jewel of Sydney's northern beaches. It has a huge surfing culture and in 2012 it was declared a world surfing reserve. There is 3km of beach front to explore as well as a walkway to Cabbage Tree Reserve and Shelley Beach which are well known snorkelling spots. There are of course also endless coffee and cafe options. My favourite part of Manly to photograph is the storm water pipes which are towards the southern end of the beach.
If you are getting the ferry to Manly beach be sure to get to the right beach! The ferry docks at the harbour beach so you'll need to walk through the corso to get to the ocean beach.
4. CAMPBELL'S COVE
Where better to watch the sunrise than over one of Australia's biggest icons - the Sydney Opera House. Campbell's Cove is situated on the harbour, directly outside the Park Hyatt hotel and looking directly out at the harbour and of course the Opera House. It's a particularly good spot if you are staying near the CBD and don't want to venture too far before dawn. It's an easy walk from most central hotels. Be sure to attempt the famous 'reflection' shot. To take this you need to stand on the steps leading down from the Park Hyatt hotel.
5. TAMARAMA BEACH
Sandwiched between Bondi and Bronte is the smaller Tamarama Beach - sometimes nicknamed Glamarama. This is my go to beach at high tide as there are some great rock pools which can create stunning reflections in the right conditions. To get to the best spot, walk along the rocks on the north end of the beach (the same side as the lifeguard tower) and around the corner. Be careful as the rocks can be very slippery. I would only ever attempt this at low tide so make sure you check before you visit (http://tides.willyweather.com.au/nsw/sydney/tamarama-beach.html). If you are not confident with climbing the rocks, the beach itself is also a great place to shoot. This is also a very popular surfing spot, so this is also a great location for surf photography.
6. BALMORAL BEACH
Balmoral is a harbour beach on Sydney's lower north shore. As it is a harbour beach, the water is peaceful and there is a beautiful pier as well as a couple of great cafes. Because it is a little less known than some of Sydney's other beaches, it is also usually much quieter too. On colourful mornings, the water can light up in all shades of orange, red and pink.
You'll need a car or a taxi to get to this one as public transport from the city is slow and limited, especially around dawn.
7. MAHON POOL
Mahon Pool is a popular ocean pool in Sydney's East. You'll find the pool just before Maroubra Beach as you head south along the coast from Coogee. Take the steep set of stairs down to the beach from the car park and there are an array of places to sit and watch the world go by. This is best avoided at high tide as the surf can get pretty big and it may be hairy if you are planning to get into the water unless you are a super confident swimmer.
8. WHALE BEACH
Whale Beach is approximately an hour's drive north from Sydney's city centre. It's a beautiful beach situated between Avalon and Palm Beach. There is a well known surf break here as well as the famous 'Devil's Couldron'. Please note that Devil's Couldron can be very dangerous, especially at high tide with slippery rocks and wild waves so should only be attempted by those super confident with the water. I was too scared to head out there as the tide was high but I still found stunning vantage points by the pool and along the main beach. You'll need a car to get access to this beach if you are not staying close by as public transport is non existent at sunrise.
9. MAROUBRA BEACH
Maroubra is another Eastern Suburbs beach but this one is a little further south of the city centre. I call this my lucky beach as I have always had a beautiful sunrise every time I have shot here. It's a pretty long beach but my favourite area to shoot is on the north side as there are lovely exposed rocks. It's another well known surfing spot and is good in both high and low tides. It is much quieter than some of the other Eastern beaches and I rarely see other photographers there. To get to Maroubra, follow the coast south and it's approximately 10 minutes past Coogee.
10. BOMBO QUARRY
Technically Bombo is not really in Sydney but I wanted to include it because it is so completely stunning. It's about an hour and a half's drive south of Sydney near the town of Kiama and is a hugely popular photography spot.
It can be hard to find and the first time that I went, I got lost several times! The best place to park is on Darian Avenue. At the end of the road, take the lane and keep following all the way down until you come to the quarry - it's about a ten minute walk.
As the name suggests, it was once a working quarry. It's known for it's dramatic and unusual basal columns and there are plenty of spots to shoot. The water can be wild so be sure to watch the water for a few minutes before setting up to ensure that you don't get a soaking!