12th October, 2022

9 Secret spots to look out for on a Sydney Harbour Cruise

Sydney Harbour is known as the jewel in Sydney’s crown. Its stunning natural vistas and iconic man-made attractions are visible for all to see from vantage points from the north and south sides of the foreshore (and beyond).

Among this larger-than-life beauty are hidden gems, some unknown to the locals. When Sydney Harbour is your office like it is for us, you stumble upon sites and interesting locations an irregular visitor might not know about.

Take a look at our top nine secret spots to look out for on Sydney Harbour; you might see them when you explore Sydney Harbour with Captain Cook Cruises.

1. Pylon Lookout and Museum

The South East Pylon of Sydney Harbour Bridge is the original Harbour Bridge lookout. While people can climb atop the bridge for incredible views, the South East Pylon still holds pride of place as a quiet contender for the best views on the Harbour.

The unassuming entrance (which can be a bit tricky to find) leads you to 200 steps to an outlook that is 87 metres (285 feet) above sea level, halfway to the summit of the span. There is also a museum in the pylon showcasing the history of Sydney’s internationally adored bridge.

You’ll cruise under Sydney Harbour Bridge on all Captain Cook Cruises dining experiences.

Ocean Deck window lounge bar with Harbour Bridge in the background
Cruising past the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Luna Park

2. Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden

While locals know the story of Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden, finding it is quite another thing! Artist Brett Whiteley and his wife Wendy lived in their family home in Lavender Bay for two decades. After Brett’s death, in her grief, Wendy started to clear the overgrown council land below their house.

Planting by instinct rather than knowledge, Wendy added Australian natives and exotics, herbs and towering trees and quaint artefacts. This new life brought a cacophony of bird song and wildlife to the area.

You might get a peek at Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden as you cruise past Luna Park and the entrance to Lavender Bay - the garden is located behind the Lavender Bay jetty.

3. Sawmillers Reserve – McMahons Point

Previously the site of an 1890’s sawmill in Berrys Bay (next to Lavender Bay) on Sydney’s north shore, Sawmillers Reserve is a pretty location with views of Darling Harbour. Witness remains of the former sawmill and its own shipwrecked barge keeled over in the water at the grassy foreshore.

A striking central wooden stair and deck structure provides access between the upper and lower parts of the reserve and the sloping embankments are filled with native vegetation. Dinner Cruise guests on Captain Cook Cruises can embark from King Street Wharf, Darling Harbour and watch for Sawmillers Reserve while passing Barangaroo to enter Sydney Harbour.

Group having cocktails under the Harbour Bridge charters events Sirius Room
Cruising under the Sydney Harbour Bridge

4. Dawes Point Park

Dawes Point Park (known as Tar-ra by the local Aboriginal people) is a heritage-listed site with an unparalleled view of Sydney Cove. It is found under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Hickson Road - a short walk from Circular Quay. Spot it as you cruise under Sydney Harbour Bridge on a Captain Cook Cruises sunset cruise.

Archaeological remains and relics are in situ here, including cannons, a guard house, officer’s quarters and the underground storerooms of the former Dawes Point Battery. Interpretative panels explain the site’s significance, while the lawns, trees and the underbelly of the bridge offer a shady area to picnic.

5. Foundation Park

Tucked in behind The Rocks is a unique space called Foundation Park. Here locals and visitors alike can wander through the foundations of the eight houses built into the sandstone cliff face from 1874 to 1878.

This open-air ‘museum’ of early life is located at Gloucester Walk, between George Street and Cumberland Street, in the centre of The Rocks. You sail by The Rocks Precinct as you leave Circular Quay on super-cruiser Sydney 2000 and veer left to cruise under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You will need to explore on foot to find this hidden gem.

6. Arthur McElhone Reserve

Named after an alderman and tucked away in Elizabeth Bay, this pretty little park has a curved ornamental water garden filled with goldfish and a stone bridge.

Located opposite the historic Elizabeth Bay House, this area was once the stately home’s carriage loop, offering a wild, picturesque setting from the water. To this day, the park offers incredible views of Sydney Harbour and a peaceful oasis from city life. You might still see Elizabeth Bay House from the water, often described as a gleaming Greek mansion.

Interesting fact: The park was designed by Ilmar Berzins, a Latvian immigrant and council worker, reputedly Australia’s first formally trained landscape architect.

Couple spotting whales sightseeing hoho with Sydney Heads in the background wildlife non-ccc dnsw
Discover secret Sydney Harbour spots from your cruise

7. McKell Park

Hidden in the back streets of Darling Point, with panoramic views of Sydney Harbour, is pretty McKell Park. Views extend to the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the west and Sydney Heads the east, and its elevation lends itself to a great place to watch happenings on the Harbour.

With its own ferry stop and overlooking compact Clark Island, McKell Park is a lovely spot for respite. You might glimpse McKell Park from the Sky Deck of Sydney 2000 as the vessel cruises around Clark Island as it circuits the Harbour.

8. Hermitage Foreshore Walk

In the eastern suburb of Vaucluse there is a hidden harbourside walk on which you will also discover several hidden beaches that offer secluded bathing spots to the locals. The Hermitage Foreshore Walk is reached by walking down the road next to the prestigious Kambala school until you find the opening of the signed track. The winding track showcases Sydney Harbour from her best angles!

Discover a couple of hidden beaches with superlative views to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. Sitting below lush vegetation, Queens Beach is a tiny cove, where shallow water laps onto golden sand. It’s not surprising to find the secluded Milk Beach at Heritage-listed Strickland House, on a cove called Hermit Bay.

Rocket Ferry leaving Watsons Bay attraction Hop On Hop Off non-ccc dnsw
Watson's Bay, a popular stop on the Hop On Hop Off Ferry

9. The ever so secret Kutti Beach

Tucked away like a private beach, Kutti Beach is a tricky spot to find and is even called The Secret Beach by the locals. Found at the end of a residential street, between Parsley Bay and Watsons Bay, a small wood gate opens to reveal a stretch of sand, fringed by opulent Vaucluse properties and a pile of tin boats (tinnies) at the far end. The calm waters and the Harbour views are your reward should you find it (and the locals are friendly too).

Experiences mentioned in this article

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