Sydney Kingsford-Smith is the busiest airport in Australia (handling 42 million passengers in 2016) and the primary hub of Qantas. Located next to Botany Bay it has three runways colloquially known as “east-west”, “north-south” and “third”, though with the addition of the “third” runway the “east-west” runway which crosses the “north-south” is rarely used. The airport is also an important hub for Virgin Australia and Jetstar which both operate out of one of the two domestic terminals (the other is used exclusively by Qantas and its link operations). Across the “north-south” runway lies the International terminal and the cargo apron. The “third runway” lies some distance away from the rest of the facilities being built on reclaimed land from the harbour.
Traffic is largely made up of Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia with the usual mix of major Far Eastern and North American airlines visiting also. In addition executive jets are common and the airline sees several operators of the A380 including Qantas, Emirates and Singapore Airlines. The airport is one of only a few major ports which has a curfew in operation between 11pm and 6am whilst movements are also limited to 80 aircraft an hour.
Written and updated by Bernard Proctor, Noah Mauger, Jeremy Denton, Patrick Weis, Richard Stretton and Maximilian Kramer. Last update: September 2019
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| (36 votes, average: 4.17 out of 5)
|07/25||2.530 m (8.301 ft)|
|16L/34R||2.438 m (7.999 ft)|
|16R/34L||3.962 m (12.999 ft)|
|Terminal 1/International||All International carriers|
|Terminal 2||Virgin Australia, Tiger Airways, Jetstar, Regional Express, Qantaslink and other small regional carriers|
|Terminal 3||Qantas and Qantaslink|
|Car/Public Transport||A car is recommended but there is also a public transport service to almost every spotting location especially 8,9 and 13,14 are within a 15-20 minutes walk from a train station.|
|Restrooms||Within the terminals or the restaurants/fast food and hotels next to the locations.|
|Drinks/Food||Plenty of Fast Food chains around the airport. Check the map for it.|
|Hotels||There are several hotels spread around the field in all price categories. The most famous one for planespotting is the Rydges Hotel (spot 1).
Another hotel with nice opportunities ist the Citadines Cities Connect. We have a great deal for you if you plan a trip!
|Season||There is no special season but its very hot in the summer and heat haze can be a problem at some positions.|
|07/25||Almost never used except for some light traffic and when a south-westerly wind is blowing.|
|16L/34R||Always in use for aircraft up to 777 size. Most traffic from and to New Zealand and Oceania plus some traffic from and to Japan or China can be seen here. Aircraft taking off to the north often undertake a dramatic easterly turn away from the airport soon after take-off.|
|16R/34L||Always in use and sees all large widebody traffic as well as a wide range of smaller aircraft.|
|Spot #1 – Rydges Hotel Conference room|
+++We were told that the platform was closed. They open it from time to time for special spotter events but behind glass. Check their Facebook page for upcoming events. Check Spot #11 as it is a good alternative!+++
|WHAT||Good for landing, take-off and taxi-way shots of aircraft on runway 16R/34L. Most cargo uses this runway as it parks at adjacent cargo ramp. Long lens shots of portions of the Qantas domestic terminal and the Jetstar pier of T2. Portions of the deck have perspex glass across them making photography annoying as you have to use the few pre-cut holes in the perspex. Alternatively you can position yourself on the stairs to avoid some of the perspex. The view across the rest of the international terminal, which used to be ok, has been severely restricted by new construction rendering the deck a frustrating place from which to view traffic for long periods.|
|TIME||Afternoon shots, from around 1300.|
|MISC.||There are rubbish bins and toilets at this spots. There is also a restaurants and a bar inside, but they’re not cheap.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||From 100mm up to 400mm.|
|Spot #2 – Gate 33 International Terminal|
|WHERE||Between gates 31 and 35 on the left side of the left hand pier of the international terminal through security.|
|WHAT||Great views (albeit through often smeary glass) of the traffic on 16R/34L and the taxiways leading to 16L/34R. Photography without obstructions can be taken with care and assuming that gate 33 is unoccupied. Gate 35 is usually used by Qantas/Jetconnect 737-800s which are small enough not to pose much of a problem.|
|TIME||In the afternoons when the sun is not direct and when gate 33 is not in use. Other gates also provide ok views as individual gates do not have their own lounges at the airport.|
|MISC.||Plenty of shops and restaurants in the terminal. This spot is obviously through security.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||50-300 mm|
|Spot #3 – 25 Arrivals and Line up|
|WHERE||The spot is at the Ross Smith Ave, next to the Domestic Terminals. You can park your car here without problems. It is also within walking distance from the terminal.|
|TIME||You can use this spot if 25 is in use the whole day.|
|MISC.||A KFC a bit further down the steet or a longer walk to the domestic terminal. A bit shade at some times of the day|
|FOCAL LENGTH||50-300 mm|
|Spot #4 – The Sheps/Tower Mound|
|WHERE||There is a newly constructed offical viewing platform. It is located just next to the airport tower. You can reach this spot if you follow the Ross Smith Ave from spot 1. Park your car directly at the mound. You are on an elevated platform so no ladder is needed.|
|WHAT||This spot is good for all activities on 34L/16R and the taxiing planes from and to 34R/16L. This spot is the best to get nearly all plane activies if the parallel runways are in use.|
|TIME||This spot is good from sunrise till 12 a.m.|
|MISC.||You find a fuell station and a Mc Donalds like shown on the map. Several light poles are obstructing your views. Especially larger aircraft do not fit between the poles.|
|Spot #5 – 16L/34R morning|
|WHERE||This spot is accesable when you follow the Foreshore Rd and make a u-turn at the traffic lights at the boat ramp. Follow the road a bit and turn left the fist possible left turn. Park on the lot and walk a few meters to the overlook.|
|WHAT||This spot is good for alle 16L/34R movements in the morning hours|
|TIME||This spot has a good light from sunrise till 12:00 a.m.|
|MISC.||Just some rubbish bins there. No shadow at all!|
|FOCAL LENGTH||150 mm for A320|
|Spot #6 – The Beach – 16R/34L|
|WHERE||This spot is a bit tricky as the exit for this spot is on the split up of the M5 into M5 and General Holmes Drive. You have to drive onto the General Holmes Drive and leafe the road on the direktly next exit afther the split up. Drive to the old tower building and run into the street there and you wil be at the popular The Beach position.|
|WHAT||This spot is good for all activities that happen on the 16R/34L. Just the 16R depatures are a bit tricky as there are some trees blocking the view from the arriving or departing planes and you have to react a bit faster. Be carefull with taking a bath here as there are also shark movements in the water. There is a cage for swimming at spot 7|
|TIME||This spot is good from 1:00 p.m. – sunset|
|MISC.||Only some rubbish bins are located here. Depends where you stay you can have some shaddow.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||100-400 mm from the carpark/ a wide agle at the fence.|
|Spot #7 – Stone wall – 16R/34L|
|WHERE||This spot is located if you follow the General Homes Drive from spot 6 a bit more. Turn the first left afther the bridge and you will see the spot. Park your car just on the site before the traffic barrier.|
|WHAT||This spot is an alternate Spot 6 especially for 16R as you can react a bit earlier, but also for 34L as you are closer to the touchdown point from this spot.|
|TIME||This spot is good from 1:00 p.m. – sunset|
|MISC.||There is a seafood restaurant as shown on the map a couple of minutes away also with some public toilets. No shaddow at the spot!|
|Spot #8 – Dog Park – 34L Banking shots|
|WHERE||This spot is located on the parking space of the Tempe Golf Driving Range and the Dog Park here.|
|WHAT||This spot is good for Heavy planes taking off 34L if they are banking already|
|TIME||This spot is good from 1:00 p.m. – sunset|
|MISC.||There are some rubbish bins and some shaddow|
|FOCAL LENGTH||200-400 mm|
|Spot #9 – Swamp Road – 16R arrivals afthernoon|
|WHERE||This spot is located next to the Swamp Road behind the IKEA store. You can park your car next to the street and choose the spot you like by walking along the road.|
|WHAT||This spot is good for afthernoon Arrivals for Runway 16R|
|TIME||This spot is good from 1:00 p.m. – sunset|
|MISC.||There are no facilitys. Next restrooms in the IKEA.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||50-200 mm|
|Spot #10 – Domestic Carpark 3 – 34L dep and 25arr/dep|
|WHERE||There is a 10 story carpark on the eastern end of the domestic terminal. Parking is expensive so you can use the public transport on the Mascot Train or Bus 400 to the Terminal and then walk past the Express pick-up area to the carpark.|
|WHAT||Great location especially for heavy departures on runway 34L and 25 arrivals and departures (mainly taxiing shots but you can get the roll as well). This location isn’t suitible for 16R Departures or arrivals.|
|TIME||It’s a great location between 0600 and 1130 for 34L Departures and basically all day for runway 25 arrivals and departures|
|MISC.||There is no facilities at the location itself but there’s a McDonald’s, KFC & Krispy on Ross Smith Avenue, roughly a 500-600 metre walk and will take 10 or so minutes.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||200mm-300mm for 34L departures
100mm-400mm for 25 Arrivals and Departures
|Spot #11 – International Terminal Staff-Carpark – 34L dep and 25arr/dep|
|WHERE||This location is a replacement of the old Rydges Observation deck which is now rarely open and surrounded by glass. It is just accross from the international terminal and next to the hotel. You can access this staff carpark via public transport or by car parking at the official parking garage but expect some walking as well. You can park your car at/around the Tempe Recreational Reserve for free unless you want to pay for expensive airport parking in the actual carpark.
Via public transport you can get off at the privately owned International Airport station which costs between $15-$30AUD to get off at or walk about 1.5-2km from Wolli Creek station and pay a regular fare. Just follow the T1 International signs and look for the big carpark.
|WHAT||A 12 Story carpark with an overview of the entire airfield. The only useable shots you can get though are 16R Arrivals/Departures/Taxiing, 34L Departures.
25 Departures and 07 Arrivals are possible too but pretty far and not often in use.
This location is one of the best for elevated photographs in Sydney.
Arriving aircraft in front of the city are best shot form level 7 or 8 as they won’t be in front of the skyline anymore from the upper decks where therefore the apron is better to be shot from.
|TIME||The level 12 carpark is only suitable from 1300 to 2300 for 16R/34L. 07/25 all day.|
|MISC.||There are no facilites at the carpark itself but if you head to the international terminal which is just across you’ll find almost everything and anything you could possibly need whilst shooting aircaft. Food Court, Bathrooms, Power Outlets, Free WiFi, Newsagents etc. It is a staff carpark so if someone approachs you and seems angry or upset just let them know what youre doing and they wont bother you. DO NOT LITTER!
Its possible that security/police will pass by and ask you to leave as its “private property”.
|FOCAL LENGTH||100mm-600mm would be ideal for shooting A380’s to 737’s – anything smaller then an A320/737 and the chances of a useable shot degrade quite rapidly.
Runway 90 degree => 170mm = A380 / 400mm = Dash 8
Arrivals in front of the city => ~300mm = Heavies like B777, A380, … / >400mm from A330 on smaller
|Spot #12 -Blue Emu Carpark – Ramp, Taxiway, 34L departures|
|WHERE||Follow the signs to Blue Emu Long Term carpark near Sheps Mound. You can park there free for an hour then exit and re-enter and it’s free. On Public Transport you can catch the Blue Emu Shuttle Bus from Domestic Terminals 2 and 3.
SEP 2019: We were told that this position is supposed to not be accessibile anymore now. We are not sure yet, but be aware of this scenario.
|WHAT||This location is a great spot for almost every movement at Sydney Airport. Static shots on Kilo, Taxiing shots, Arrivals etc. Unlike Spot #4 this location is closer to Charlie, has a better perspective of 34L departure and the spot has far less clutter.|
|TIME||0600-1200 For well lit shots, in summer after 9am heat haze will become a real issu. After sunset you can get nice creative shots with the sunset colours in the background|
|MISC.||You’re shooting through a rusty fence so make sure your lens is betwen the holes in the fence. For Kilo ramp shots (Like A310 shot) you are shooting through the new black barred security fence, I recommend longer focal lengths when shooting throgh them and compensate with a low aperature.|
|Spot #13 – Nigel Love Bridge/Airport Drive – 16L/R arrivals|
|WHERE||From Domestic Terminal drive on O’Riordan Street, after 300 meters turn left into Bourke Street and after another 200 meters turn left into Coward Street. Go straight ahead until Coward Street makes a left turn. Here you can park your car at the curbside. Between the Toll Building and Gate Gourmet walk a footpath along the Alexandra Canal for about 10 minutes until you reach a billboard at the Airport Drive. Here you can stay in the shadow of the billboard or some trees till the beginning of the Nigel Love Bridge, depending on the angle you prefer.
By public it can be accessed via the Mascot train station, and is about a 20 minute walk.
|WHAT||Landing traffic on 16R. Scenery allows for beautiful urban backgrounds as well as reflections of the canal underneath. 16L can also be easily photographed from this site.|
|TIME||The sunlight favors 16R traffic until about noon, and then it favors 16L.|
|MISC.||There is nothing around, so bring food and water. At least you can stay in the shadow. When spotting, keep an eye out for joggers and cyclists along the nearby foot path.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||140mm for A320|
|Spot #14 – IKEA – 16R arrivals|
|WHERE||Not far from spot 9 you will find an IKEA store. On back side of the store the parking lots are not used very frequently, so you can check out your favorite position. You have a better angle here compared to spot 9.|
|WHAT||Landing traffic on 16R|
|TIME||From 3 pm until sunset|
|MISC.||As you can stay in your car and also some trees are around, shadow is available. In case you get hungry try the delicious Köttbullar (meat balls) from the IKEA restaurant.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||140 mm for A320|
|Spot #15 – Keith Smith Avenue – 16R Arrivals + taxiway/apron parts|
|WHERE||This spot can be found next to the terminal driveway “Keith Smith Avenue”, which runs between the domestic terminal parts. Where the driveway makes a 90-degree-turn (from western to eastern heading), you can take nice pictures from the curve shown on the overview below. You can either stand by the roadside here or on the staircase just next to the big streetsign. Position is best to reach by foot from the domestic terminals as you can not park directly there.|
|WHAT||16R Arrivals (which look like THIS ), taxi nearby taxiways and apron parts.|
|TIME||Sunrise till noon – also depending on the aircraft’s angle and exact position.|
|MISC.||Heat haze can be a problem on hot days. The surrounding light poles and foreground clutter may disturb your view depending on your exact position. Everything you need is inside the nearby terminal.
It is possible that security/police will pass by and ask you to leave as you may distract drivers.
A330 taxiway = 180mm
|WHERE||Heli spotting is a great possibility at Sydney as you can fly very low here and this offers unique shots. There are two major companies (Sydney Helitours and BlueSky Helicopters) directly at the airfield offering planespotting flights. However, Sydney Helitours is very friendly and tries very hard to realize your wishes… Best is to check with the company a one-two days before you wanna fly in their hangar here (-33.940770, 151.191524) and plan the flight. More information can be found on their website here: https://www.sydneyhelitours.com.au/aerial-photography
Price is once 80 AUS Dollar landing fee plus 1100 AUS Dollar an hour (you have to fly at least one hour) and after the first 60 minutes they will charge by minutes and not hours – all prices as of September 2019.
|WHAT||Depending on your exact position, but actually you can spot everything around the airport.|
|TIME||Depending on your exact position, but actually you could do it all day from sunrise to sunset. However, in the morning it may be hard to get access to the right position, thereby the afternoon is definitely better as it is a safer option.|
|MISC.||Heat haze can be a problem on hot days.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||70-300mm depending on your exact position
Overviews obviously need wide angle lenses
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