Couples often ask me for advice to help them choose the perfect location for their wedding photos. It's no easy task! Sydney has some of the most spectacular locations for photography, and couples are literally spoiled for choice, especially on Sydney's North Shore, Northern Beaches and North West areas. Whatever your style - whether you like barefoot-on-the-beach, or a romantic private garden, edgy cityscape or dramatic harbourside sunset - Sydney's North has some of the best photo locations on offer, including many hidden gems.
When thinking of an idyllic spot for a private shoot, I always tell couples to avoid the obvious hotspots. The city's classic postcard places (think The Rocks, Balmoral Beach, Opera House or Botanical Gardens) may promise the iconic Sydney photo but are usually overcrowded most hours of the day with tourists, partygoers and other wedding parties all vying for the same shot.
Here is a list of my 14 favourite 'secret' locations in and around Sydney's north where you'll be guaranteed a gorgeous backdrop, whatever your style.
Sydney's 'Best-Kept Secret' Gardens:
1. Wendy Whitley's Secret Garden, Lavender Bay
Wendy Whitely (wife of the late artist Brett Whitely) created a beautiful sanctuary just a few minutes from North Sydney CBD. It's hard to believe the lush garden overlooking the harbour in Lavender Bay was once a jungle of weeds on an abandoned pocket of hillside land.
Love: The spectacular views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge among the greenery makes a stunning backdrop for your wedding photos.
2. Lisgar Gardens, Hornsby
If you don't mind the steep climb down (and then back up) the stairs, the beauty and tranquillity of Lisgar Gardens will not disappoint. Built into a steep hill, the labyrinth of stone and bush paths among flowers and ancient trees feels like something out of an Enid Blyton book (although I've yet to come across any elves or fairies myself). At different levels there are ponds, waterfalls, rainforest as well as formal English and French-inspired areas - so lots of inspiration for classic wedding photography magic. Bookings are essential
Love: Dozens of peaceful and secluded spots for uninterrupted moments!
3. Lillian Fraser Garden, Cnr Bellamy and Lawrence Streets, Pennant Hills
Tucked away in Pennant Hills, is one of my favourite hidden gems - the Lilian Fraser Garden. You would never imagine such a beautiful sanctuary is hidden so close to busy roads, but as soon as you walk among the wisteria and cherry trees you'll feel a world away from the suburbs. This garden was gifted to the community by Botanist Dr. Lilian Fraser and is well-cared for. Die-hard romantics will love this springtime wonderland, although it is magical all year round, especially on hot summer days when you'll love a cool and relaxing backdrop. Advanced bookings are required. Love: September to October this garden comes to life with purple wisteria and flowering pink and white cherry blossoms, for a whimsical romantic scene.
- Swain Gardens, Killara Another local North Shore hidden gem is Swain Gardens (not to be confused with Swanes nursery) in Killara. Tucked away in a suburban street, this terraced English-style garden offers a tranquil setting, lush green, mossy sandstone pathways bathed with dappled sunlight. You'll most likely be the only ones there! Love: Sunken in a valley, the air is cool and the light is lovely and even, so no squinty-eyed-photos!
Or if you prefer Stunning Sunsets…
5. Bradleys Head, Mosman
As the sun sets, Bradley's Head on Mosman's peninsula is simply breathtaking. It has it all - million-dollar Sydney Harbour views, mixed with sand, rocks and bushland scenes for hitch-up-your-dress relaxed wedding style. From the stepped amphitheatre, you have spectacular views of Sydney from Kirribilli to Watsons Bay, including the bridge, the CBD, the Opera House, Clark and Shark Islands, Rose, Double and Watsons Bays and Nielsen Park. It is a popular spot for outdoor weddings, as is nearby Athol Hall.
http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/venues/athol-hall which also has excellent views of the bridge and cityscape from the lawns and beach. Love: Breathtaking views with harbour, city skyline and bushland, especially at sunset
6. Careel Bay, Avalon
In a sleepy part of Pittwater at Avalon (at the far north of the northern beaches) you'll find a humble-looking marina and a collection of row boats and moored sailing boats on Careel Bay. As the sun sets to the west, the sky over the bay is washed with colour and on calm days, the reflections are magical. Love: the coastal vibe that feels a million miles away (but is really only about 45mins north of CBD).
7. Narrabeen Lake, Wakehurst Parkway, Narrabeen
Soft pink and orange sunset skies look even more beautiful reflected on still water. This is why I love Narrabeen Lake. There are many spots to choose from around the lake, with lovely bushland and open grassed areas. It's such a serenely peaceful place, you'll never guess your only minutes from the busy northern beaches or Sydney suburbs.
Love: The many different locations around the lake, so you can get away from crowded spots.
…A Nautical, Water theme?
8. Dee Why Beach
There's something magical about the light at Dee Why Beach that makes it stunning for photography. The south-easterly aspect means you won't get the classic sunset dipping below the horizon shot, but the twilight light seems to reflect off the water and sandstone rocks for a great effect.
Love: Near the pool, the southern headland provides both protection from southerly winds and a stunning sandstone rock backdrop.
9. North Harbour Reserve, Condamine Street, Balgowlah
Located in the Sydney suburb of Balgowlah, North Harbour Reserve is not far from popular, busy Manly, but not nearly as busy. This picturesque grassy reserve is situated in a quiet cove overlooking Sydney Harbour, so there are always yachts and other boats moored close to shore. It's popular for picnics but it's not a good swimming spot, so it tends to be quieter than other nearby harbour beaches. Love: Wide open grassed areas and grand Morton bay figs provide lots of space for dramatic backgrounds
10. Chinamans Beach, Balmoral
If you want a beach setting for your wedding shoot, my tip is to give busy Balmoral a miss and instead, head next door to Chinamans Beach. This beach is a bit of a local secret, so tends not to draw the crowds that flock to Balmoral, and parking is much easy too. Tucked away behind Rosherville Reserve in Sydney's Middle Harbour, Chinamans faces north towards Clontarf Reserve separated by sparkling middle harbour waters. Love: It is especially lovely in the cooler Autumn and Spring months, and perfect for an evening shoot when the light glistens on the water.
11. Tambourine Bay Park, Riverview
Tambourine Bay Park is a secluded park on the edge of the Lane Cove River, in Riverview (near Lane Cove) that few people know about. There is a gentle sloping grassed area surrounded by bush and a track down to the water's edge. For the adventurous couple, you could venture down to the river where the sea scouts boat shed provides a weathered nautical backdrop. Love: rustic boatshed with river water lapping the edge of the bay provides great inspiration
Or what about immaculate gardens, a little further-a-field…?
12. Fagan Park, Galston
When you first visit Fagan Park, you'll instantly understand why it's a popular wedding venue and one of Sydney's top 10 parks. The many national-themed gardens - Japanese, Mediterranean, European, Chinese, North American and Australian gardens - are all located in the one 55 hectare park along with a lake (complete with cute footbridge and weeping willows) and rolling hills of lush green grass. There is literally a portrait-worthy photo opportunity at every turn. If the outer north-western location is too far from your reception venue, Fagan Park would well be worth considering for your engagement shoot. Bookings are required so you can have free rein in the themed garden of your choice without interruptions. Love: endless photo opportunities and inspiration
13. Wahroonga Park, Coonanbarra Road, Wahroonga
If you're looking for a picturesque rotunda surrounded by beautifully-manicured gardens for wedding photos (or your ceremony) Wahroonga Park is my top pick. Located on Coonanbarra Road, Wahroonga, this beautifully landscaped park appears to have been designed for special occasions and weddings. It has many crisscrossing paths lined with roses, azaleas and mature trees.
Love: The park's grand Rotunda which you can book for weddings.
14. Swanes Nursery, Dural
Swane's Rose Garden (part of Swanes Nursery in Dural) is a picture-perfect setting for a wedding ceremony or photography location. As you'd expect being part of a nursery, every corner of the lawns, roses, wisteria arches and trees are immaculate, creating stunning backdrops for classic wedding portraiture. Peak rose season is March - May and October - November, and early bookings are recommended. Love: mornings provide the best light for photos here.
Whatever location you choose, I'd love to help capture the magic of this occasion with you. Contact me here
Tags: Best Locations for Photos; Gorgeous wedding photography locations in Sydney, North Shore Photography locations