Customs House to Finger Wharf

Fast Facts

Duration: 2-3 hours
Price Guide: 15
Last Reviewed:
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Customs House to Finger Wharf

Get your fill of some of Sydney’s spectacular historical sites with this self-guided tour.

Starting the tour

Circular Quay station.

Section 1:
Directions:

The grand heritage building just outside Circular Quay station is Sydney’s Customs House (31 Alfred Street, Circular Quay).

Stopover:

Customs House has an open meeting space on the ground floor that many consider a ‘city lounge’. There’s also a magazine salon, TV wall and internet access inside. If you have a few spare coins, sit down at one of the drink venues: Young Alfred and the Quay Bar. You can’t miss the glass floor – there’s a full-scale model of the Sydney CBD embedded in it. Upstairs is definitely worth a visit too. You’ll usually catch an exhibition on display, but it’s the library that steals the show. It overlooks the whole of Circular Quay.

Section 2:
Directions:

Cross over to Phillip Street to the Justice and Police Museum (Cnr Albert and Phillip Streets,
Circular Quay).

Stopover:

Previously the Water Police Court (1856), the Water Police Station (1858) and Police Court (1886), it is now the Justice and Police Museum restored in its 1890s character. Sydney sandstone fans won’t be disappointed – the building is made of heavy sandstone blocks. Its spiked gates are a reminder of the establishment’s history of law enforcement. Features of the museum include a magistrates court; a recreated police charge room and remand cells; a gallery of mug shots of Sydney’s early criminals; a confronting selection of weapons; and relics from notorious crimes and criminals. It costs $8 to enter.

Section 3:
Directions:

Curve around the waterline to reach the darling of the harbour – the Sydney Opera House.

Stopover:

You can’t miss the most famous sails piercing the skyline at Sydney’s Bennelong Point. They were the creation of Danish architect Jorn Utzon, who won a design competition set up by the NSW government in the late 1950s. Each year the Opera House stages some 1500 performances to an estimated audience of 1.5 million. You can pay for a knowledgable guide to take you on a thorough tour (in various languages), or feel free to wander around at your leisure.

Section 4:
Directions:

If you continue along the waterline you’ll approach the outskirts of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Stopover:

There are so many opportunties to learn about plants and horticulture in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens that, by the end of your visit, you’re sure to feel like your Latin really wasn’t as bad as you thought. But if you can leave the language lesson behind, the grounds are a perfect place to relax and enjoy Sydney’s superb sunshine and glistening harbour. Even before dusk hits, the gardens’ fruit bats start to take their nightly flight over to Centennial Park and other parts of Sydney’s east to feed. You’ll see them making their way by the hundreds. Then, every morning, they return to the gardens to sleep. You can see them hanging from trees all wrapped up in their tailored wings. But beware of droppings!

Section 5:
Directions:

Head to the eastern edge of the gardens, along the waterline.

Stopover:

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair provides one of the best vantage points in Sydney. It was originally built for governor Lachlan Macquarie’s wife, Elizabeth, who was known to regularly sit and enjoy the view. The chair is cut out of a rock ledge there and has obvious historic charm.

Section 6:
Directions:

Continue along the path and you can’t miss finger wharf pointing out of the shoreline like an index finger.

Stopover:

It might be terribly taunting to strut down Woolloomooloo’s finger wharf with limited funds but it’s worth it, even for the things that money can’t buy, like a dramatic sunset and choppy harbour waves. However, if you can part with a few dollars, sit yourself down at one of the funky bars that line the boardwalk and soak up the wharfy ambience.

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