Sydney Observatory and Observatory Park

Sydney Observatory is a historic site, a museum and a park all in one

Sydney Observatory showing the time ball tower and the observatory towers
Sydney Observatory showing the time ball tower and the observatory towers cc licensed photo by g_kat26

The Sydney Observatory is our only attraction to be listed under three different categories. In addition to being a historical site it's also a museum and the surrounding gardens form a lovely park with superb views.

Day or night it is free to enjoy a stroll around Observatory Hill Park where you will be treated to panoramic vistas of Sydney Harbour including the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. Consider visiting during the early morning or at night to avoid the busiest times. You can also see the exterior of the heritage-listed Observatory through the gate.

Sydney Observatory Tour

If you would like to explore inside of the Observatory compound and enter the Observatory itself you can book a Sydney Observatory Tour. The one hour tour, available Wednesday to Saturday leads guests through the Observatory's grounds, revealing the stories behind Fort Phillip, the bombproof shelter, the flagstaff, and the numerous buildings on site. Visitors are invited to step inside the Observatory building to explore objects from the Powerhouse collection and investigate the site's role in surveying, timekeeping, and astronomy.

Ascending the Observatory's narrow staircases, guests will be able to venture into the astronomy domes, where they can witness historic and modern telescopes in action. From this stunning vantage point, visitors can take in the breathtaking view of Sydney Harbour and, when conditions are suitable, observe terrestrial objects through a telescope.

It is important to note that the tour includes approximately 125 stairs, some of which have no wheelchair access due to the steep and narrow staircases of the heritage-listed site.

Sydney Observatory Family Tour

A Family Tour that is more suited to families with younger children between age 6 and 12 operates on Friday and Saturday evening.

In the event of rain, tours will be cancelled and payments refunded. Cancellation notices will be sent to participants by email four hours prior to the start of the tour.

Sydney Observatory Late

Sydney Observatory Late is a free program occuring once each month and offers an evening of stargazing, lectures from distinguished astronomers, and live music and performances.

The program is tailored to events taking place in the night sky and includes informative astronomy talks, as well as telescopes for observing the stars. Guests can enjoy live music, and food and drinks are available for purchase.

Sydney Observatory History

Construction of the Observatory took place from 1857 to 1859. It is strategically located on the highest ground overlooking Sydney Harbour. The first purpose of the Observatory was to keep accurate track of the time based on the positions of the stars. A time ball located on a pole on top of a tower is dropped each day at exactly 1pm as a time signal to ships in the harbour.

Beginning in 1887 the Observatory participated in a world-wide project to map and photograph the entire sky. It was nearly 80 years later when the Sydney Observatory had finally completed the large portion of sky that was allocated to them.

The observatory was also responsible for keeping records of meteorological observations and, for over a century, it served as a signal station using various flags to relay information about arriving ships or to communicate weather conditions to the port authorities and to other points around the harbour.

Recent archaeological excavations have clearly revealed the foundation walls of Fort Philips which was built between 1804 and 1806. The Fort even had a bomb shelter, but its primary purpose soon changed to that of the shipping signal station described above.

Without a doubt, a visit to the Sydney Observatory and Observatory Park should be high on your list of things to see and do in Sydney.

Nearby attractions include: Garrison Church, The Rocks and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Facts For Your Visit

Fee: Park access is free. Guided walking tours with access to the inside of the Observatory are subject to a fee and must be booked in advance. See the official website for details.

Hours: Weather permitting: Sydney Observatory Tours (Ages 12+) are available Wednesday - Saturday. Family Tours (Ages 6+) are available Friday and Saturday. Closed on Christmas, Boxing Day and Good Friday. See the official website for full details.

Address: Sydney, NSW

Phone: 02 9217 0222

Official Website: Sydney Observatory

Accommodations near Sydney Observatory:


Line Nearest Station Walking Time
L2, T2, T3, T8 or FerryCircular Quay12 minutes

How to get to Sydney Observatory by

By Train or Ferry: Make your way to Circular Quay Station; exit and proceed west and north through the park to Argyle Street. Go west on Argyle continuing through the pedestrian plaza and the bridge approach underpass. Take the steps to your left across from Garrison Church to Watson Road and follow it uphill to the park entrance.

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Video Tour of the Sydney Observatory

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