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circular Quay
Written by Shrinivas on May 26, 2020 Share on

Circular Quay: What To Know About This Sydney Landmark

Circular Quay is an international passenger shipping port and a tourist destination located in Sydney, Australia. It was formerly a commercial port which is now a public piazza, a heritage site and transport node in new south wales. The Circular Quay area consists of walkways, pedestrian malls, parks and restaurants and is a very popular tourist neighbourhood. It is also a common location to view Sydney’s fireworks on new year’s eve. 

Circular Quay is a major transport hub in Sydney, with a large interchange of ferry, rail and bus services. The Quay is a prominent feature of the Cahill Expressway. Until the colony’s early years foreign ships have docked and moored at Circular Quay. Located on the Quay, the Overseas Passenger Terminal is a big transport hub in Sydney that serves cruise ships and ocean liners.

Circular Quay at night
Source – Unsplash


Warring, Meaning ‘Little child’ was the initial name given to the Circular Quay. In 1837-1844 Circular Quay was developed by the restoration of the southern part of Sydney Cove with an artificial shoreline. However, in 1870s, the harbour became too small to accommodate the increasing number of commercial ships entering into Sydney. Commercial shipping was moved to Darling Harbour. With no merchant ships, the harbour was gradually being used for passenger transport. 

Colonial Mutual Life acquired land along Circular Quay for a large scale development between 1971 and 1989. There was also a tram hub at Circular Quay. It has been the focal point of most of the Eastern Suburbs electric tram services. The first tram to operate through Circular Quay was horse-drawn, running from the old Sydney Railway Station to Circular Quay along Pitt Street in 1861[11] enabling easy transportation to ferry services. Trams travel down Castlereagh Road from the Central Station to Circular Quay

From 1936, Circular Quay ‘s shapeshifted radically with the building of a railway viaduct, and later the elevated Cahill Expressway over the viaduct, over the cove’s southern shore. On 20 January 1956, the Circular Quay railway station was opened and on 24 March 1958, the elevated Cahill Expressway was formally opened.

Getting There

The circular Quay is located on Sydney Cove, on the northern side of the central business district of Sydney, near Bennelong Point and The Cliffs. It falls within the district local government area. It hosts a number of ferry quays, bus stops, and a railway station if the visitors choose to take public transport. Alternatively one can even choose to drive down to the port if they are hiring a self-drive vehicle to explore the country.

Circular Quay at daytime
Source: Unsplash


Circular Quay, due to its central location in Sydney between the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge, is a focal point for community celebrations. It is one of the main points of the congregation for New Year’s Eve in Sydney.

Circular Quay is also home to the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art and the City of Sydney Library in the Customs House, a heritage-listed building. Sydney Writers Walk-a series of plaques that commemorate writers with some connection to Sydney-was installed along Circular Quay in 1991 on the footpath.

In autumn 2006, Circular Quay held the biggest open-air art show ever in Australia: for 7 weeks, the Berlin Buddy Bears toured Sydney. Each bear portrayed a United Nations member-country symbolizing the basic values of tolerance, democracy and friendship.

Things To Do 

A brief history of the English colonisation can be observed by visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art which is just ahead of the transport hub in the harbour

Visitors can also take a short ferry cruise to Manly, Watsons Port, Taronga Zoo or under the Sydney Harbor Bridge and down the Parramatta River to UNESCO World Heritage sites in Parramatta. 

The events calendar gives all the necessary details regarding the world-class shows at the Sydney Opera House. 

A broad variety of tours depart from the quay including guided hikes, large ships, fast boats, tasty cruises for lunch and dinner, and Tribal Warrior Harbor Cruises operated by Aboriginals. Whale-watching cruises leave for the ocean beyond The Heads between May and November, to find humpbacks.

The tourists can also choose to take a stroll along the harbour while taking the spectacular views the place has to offer or just simply choose to have a delicious meal in one of the many options available. Notable establishments include acclaimed fine dining restaurants Quay, Aria Sydney and Bennelong, which is inside one of the Opera House’s white sails.  Cafe Sydney on the rooftop of Customs House is the best stop to get amazing views of the entire harbour from one spot. Opera Bar is a favourite with locals and tourists on the other side of the harbour, and Bulletin Place is a great little bar.

City view from the circular Quay
Source: Google images

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Australia itself would be during the warmers days in December to February. It is the peak season time and attracts visitors from all around the globe. These months see the lowest amount of rainfall and days although still not hot, can range between 16 to19 degrees centigrade. However being the peak season time, a large amount of crowds. If thin crowds and off-peak rates are the goals of your trip, then off-peak season between February and march or October and November would be the ideal time to plan the trip. The days are considerably warm and relatively dry.

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