Sydney’s status as a global city is based around the harbour. It’s a beautiful turquoise frame for the best things Sydney offers to travellers: beaches, parklands, restaurants, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the Sydney Opera House.

Exploring the harbour from the water is a treat: the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House are beacons of an-all year tourist destination. From the sky though? The added perspective means the harbour itself is the masterpiece, along with everything in, on and around it. We were fortunate enough to experience the harbour’s dizzying dimensions with help from Bondi Helicopters.

Looking down on the eastern suburbs
Looking down on the eastern suburbs. Picture: Nathan Dukes Art

After taking off from Sydney Airport we headed north. Hovering high over the harbour city there’s endless inlets and sandy coves, green fingers covered in parks, and luxury homes reaching into the blue abyss. Roads stretch like arteries in every direction. The bridge and the opera house play a part in the view, but they’re a cameo; a bit-part in the larger, beautiful whole. Anyone who’s had the fortune of a window seat flying into Sydney Airport will say the same: Sydney Harbour from the sky is a treasure to behold.


We loop around the city and head east, over the navy base at Garden Island. Ships bob like toys in the bathtub, ready to be yanked out of the water or capsized like child’s-play. The scale of the world is all wrong. It’s easy to feel small in a big city, but from 1500ft I’m a giant, looming over my domain. I feel empowered.

Nielsen Park busy on a sunny day.
Nielsen Park busy on a sunny day. Picture: Nathan Dukes Art

Further on we find the luxury homes of the eastern suburbs: Rushcutters Bay, Point Piper, Rose Bay, Vaucluse. Yachts idle from the jetties of multi-million-dollar homes. The mansions lean against the water, and each other, as if jostling for the best views. Nobody needs a backyard when you have the most incredible harbour in the world at your back door.

In between the leafy suburbs lie the beaches, and on our sunny summer day they’re filled. The colourful umbrellas and green bay waters contrast against the scorched yellow sand. Red Leaf and Nielsen Park are the local’s favourites, so loved for their beautiful parklands.

Waves crash against South Head, near Hornby Lighthouse
Waves crash against South Head. Picture: Nathan Dukes Art
Clifftop homes at Dover Heights.
Clifftop homes at Dover Heights. Picture: Nathan Dukes Art

On we fly past Watsons Bay, famous for Doyles fine-dining seafood restaurant, where we’ll be enjoying our lunch later today. Through the Sydney Heads we’re treated to the golden sandstone cliffs of Dover Heights and North Bondi. The infamous “Gap” the only significant break in a 6-mile stretch of solid rock, slowly being eroded by wind and the pounding Pacific Ocean.

Bondi Beach appears into view: the symbol of summer. Thousands line her shore like lemmings, while thousands more cool off in the turquoise water. The famous stretch of beach is heritage listed, such is her importance to Sydney. We following the famous Bondi to Coogee walk, a path enjoying by tourists and joggers alike for its striking natural beauty.

Bondi Beach has never looks so special.
Bondi Beach has never looks so special. Picture: Nathan Dukes Art

The smaller beaches of Tamarama, Clovelly and Bronte whizz by, before we turn west for the airport over the suburban neighbourhoods of Randwick and Maroubra. Red tile roofs in perfect rows dot the landscape, a throwback to the housing booms of the past which filled the area when Sydney’s growth was east, not west as it is today.

Perfect rows of red roofs in Randwick.
Perfect rows of red roofs in Randwick. Picture: Nathan Dukes Art
Enjoying the view (and wine) from Doyles seafood restaurant.
Enjoying the view (and wine) from Doyles seafood restaurant.

The sensation of returning to the ground is unusual. After flying weightlessly over the harbour you suddenly feel heavy and planted. Driving through the eastern suburbs towards Watsons Bay I’m reminded of the view I had of the area from the sky. The colour of the water is different, so to the coverage of trees – Sydney is like a forest from the air. From the road everything feels further away. Maybe it’s just the traffic.

Sitting in Doyles waiting for our amazing seafood lunch, we look over the harbour towards the city and clink glasses at the fortune we have of living in such a remarkable city.  You need not fly over the city in a helicopter or dine at a world famous restaurant to enjoy Sydney – I’d happily eat battered fish and chips on the sand at Balmoral – but our day has given us a new perspective and appreciation for what Sydney has to offer.

Cheers, Sydney.

Posted by:Nathan Dukes

Nathan is an Australian journalist, photographer and graphic designer

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