Tourists Guide/Review of Sydney Observatory and Observatory Hill Park

This is a guide/review of Sydney Observatory and Observatory Hill Park to convince you that it’s worth visiting this under-appreciated area.

I live in Sydney, so I’ve seen all the regular tourist sights several times as we’ve shown visiting international relatives and friends visiting Australia around the city.

However until recently even I as a local hadn’t been to Sydney Observatory and Observatory Hill Park.

day time view sydney observatory hill

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Don’t worry about my review being biased because I’m a Sydney local, my reviews are always written in a completely upfront “tell it like it is” style.

How to Get There

From Wynyard station – Walk along Kent st, up the Agar steps, past some terraced houses and you’ll reach Observatory Park.

From Circular Quay – walk north along George Street to Argyle Street, through the Argyle Cut and up the steps opposite the Garrison Church. Continue up Watson Road and walk through Observatory Park.

No onsite parking is available. Visitors can either park in Watson Road or Argyle Street. The Observatory is then only a short walk up Watson Road and through the Observatory Hill Park.

Observatory Hill and Observatory park have been described by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Bruce Elder as:

“the Cinderella of Sydney. While the crowds rush to Mrs Macquarie’s Point, mooch around The Rocks and stroll the Royal Botanic Gardens, they forget that only a few hundred metres away is one of the cities richest and most iconic viewing points”

Photography Tips

I arrived in the late afternoon with my Panasonic FZ30 camera (f2.8-11 / 35-420mm lense) and a tripod.

As you can see in the photo above there are plenty of opportunities to take photos of the Sydney Harbour bridge from an unconventional angle during the day framed by the branches of a large tree or to capture the colours of the Sydney skyline at late dusk like the night-time photo below (when the tripod was required to get a sharp shot).

night time view sydney observatory hill

Inside Sydney Observatory

There are no daytime charges for admission to gardens and the observatory/museum only. Entry charges apply for tours, talks and programs.

Note that all night visits must be pre-booked and prepaid prior to arrival at the Observatory. Payment for night tickets is not refundable.

I came along for a night tour where we were guided by an experienced astronomer:

  • Saw Rigel and Orion from the telescope dome
  • Saw a movie in the 3-D space theatre of planetary orbits, asteroids, meteors, comets etc. I thought this was better than IMAX
  • Afterwards the astronomer took us outside for a Q&A session and he used his really powerful laser pointer to show where different constellations and star signs were in the night sky.

Conclusion

Is the price reasonable? Is it worth visiting?

I say YES for both. The entry fees are not much compared to entry fees for most tourist attractions and Sydney Observatory /Observatory Hill Park are well worth visiting especially since a lot of the things to do and see are free.

Regardless whether you’re a tourist or a local Sydney-sider you’ll appreciate that there are hardly any other people around compared to the throngs in the normal touristy areas around Sydney Harbour.

In fact it’s a pretty good spot for a picnic lunch or afternoon tea eg: I saw several couples had brought blankets to sit on in the park and were enjoying wine/beer and snacks in the late afternoon.

Further Information

I’ve reviewed other tourist attractions in and around Sydney, New South Wales, Australia including: the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), Sydney Centrepoint Tower Observation Deck, Sydney Wildlife World and Sydney Public Transport Trip Planner for Trains, Buses & Ferries etc.

5 thoughts on “Tourists Guide/Review of Sydney Observatory and Observatory Hill Park”

  1. Seeing stars of southern hemisphere and Sydney, or any other city for that matter, without being cramped by crowd and rushed by tourist guides sounds really promising. Very nice review as usual.

  2. It will most likely be a while until I make it to Sydney, but I love observatories. There was a large one at my University that I really enjoyed.

    Besides, I would love to be able to see the Southern Hemisphere sky.

  3. This just reminded me of a date out at Macquarie Point in 1996 – we found a secluded spot, drank wine while the sun went down and the Opera House and city light glowed in front of us, and then we interrupted repeatedly by hordes of tourists above us using an audio guide. We’d sat right underneath an observation point. Turned out to be not all that romantic after all.

    EDITOR: LOL, you’re right that area of Mrs Macquarie’s Point, directly east of the Opera House on the eastern edge of the Royal Botanic Gardens, provides excellent views west across the harbour to the Bridge so a lot of tour buses stop off there

  4. that’s right, you know the spot. One of my favorite memories down there is walking by MacQuarie’s Point one evening with some friends I revisited Sydney with in 2000. Just as the sun was coming down we got a shooting star passing right over us – beautiful! haven’t been back to Sydney since then and not back to Aus since 2004 – really am missing the place.

  5. I have a 6 year old son obsessed with planets and the galaxy and notice that both the Maquarie uni and the maas have a night observatory tour. Can anyone recommend one over the other? Ps. We come from rural South Australia so this could well be it for our observatory/planetarium experience.

    EDITOR: that’s a great question Kellie. I haven’t been to the Macquarie university, the Sydney Observatory night tour is worth it if you visit Sydney. Have you considered options closer to home? South Australia has great dark night skies, I suggest checking out the Astronomical Society of South Australia website

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