Circular Quay

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This article is about the locality. For the racehorse, see Circular Quay (horse).
View of Circular Quay from Sydney Cove

Circular Quay is a harbour in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on the northern edge of the Sydney central business district on Sydney Cove, between Bennelong Point and The Rocks. It is part of the local government area of the City of Sydney.[1]

The Circular Quay area is a popular neighbourhood for tourism and is made up of walkways, pedestrian malls, parks and restaurants. It hosts a number of ferry quays, bus stops, and a train station.[2] Despite its name, the waterfront at the quay is roughly square in shape.


Trams in Circular Quay, early 20th century
Circular Quay in 1892

Sydney Cove, on which Circular Quay is located, was the site of the initial landing of the First Fleet in Port Jackson on 26 January 1788. In 1794 Thomas Muir, a Scottish constitutional reformer, was sentenced to transportation for sedition. Thomas Muir purchased Lightfoot's farm. Muir also had a cottage on what is now Circular Quay. It is likely that the farm was located at the Jeffrey Street end of Kirribilli (not near Admiralty house) and was named "Huntershill" by Thomas Muir, after his father’s home in Scotland. Thomas Muir escaped from the colony in 1796 aboard an American brig, the Otter.

Circular Quay was originally mainly used for shipping and slowly developed into a transport, leisure and recreational centre.

Circular Quay was originally known as "Semi-Circular Quay", this being the actual shape of the quay. The name was shortened for convenience.[3] The Circular Quay railway station was opened on 20 January 1956 [4] and the elevated Cahill Expressway was officially opened on 24 March 1958.[5]

Circular Quay was the focal terminal point of most electric tram services to the eastern suburbs. The first tram to operate through Circular Quay was horse-drawn, running from the old Sydney Railway station to Circular Quay along Pitt Street in 1861[6] allowing easy transfer to ferries. Trams operated from Central station down Castlereagh Street to Circular Quay and back up Pitt Street in a large anti-clockwise loop. For many years, 27 regular services operated from Circular Quay.[7][8]


Circular Quay is a major Sydney transport hub, with a large ferry, rail and bus interchange. The Cahill Expressway is a prominent feature of the quay, running from the east, over the elevated railway station to join the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the west.

The railway station is the only station on the City Circle that is above ground. The platform looks out over the ferry terminus, providing views of Sydney Harbour, including the bridge and Opera House.

The wharf complex hosts five commuter ferry wharves and is the terminus for all public ferry routes in Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River other than the Mortlake Ferry between Mortlake and Putney.

Circular Quay was formerly a large tram terminus and interchange. As many Sydney bus routes follow the previous tram lines, the tram terminus in Alfred Street has become a major bus terminus for many bus routes.[9] A large number of Sydney Buses routes originate from there as well as two Sydney Explorer routes.

In response to increasing bus congestion in the CBD, on 13 December 2012 the NSW Government announced a commitment to build a $1.6 billion light rail from Circular Quay down George Street to Central Station, then across to Moore Park and down Anzac Parade. South of Moore Park the line will spit into two branches - one continuing down Anzac Parade to The Nine Ways at Kingsford, and the second heading to Randwick via Alison Road.[10] Many of the bus routes that currently traverse Anzac Parade to access the city will be replaced by feeder routes connecting to the light rail network.


Circular Quay from the eastern side
Customs House
Circular Quay is a tourist attraction all the year round

Circular Quay is a focal point for community celebrations, due to its central Sydney location between the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It is one of the main congregation points for Sydney New Year's Eve.

Circular Quay is also the home of Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art and the City of Sydney Library in the heritage-listed Customs House. In autumn 2006, the largest open-air art exhibition ever in Australia took place on Circular Quay: Over 7 weeks the Berlin Buddy Bears visited Sydney.[11] Each bear represents a member-country of the United Nations, symbolizing the universal principles of peace, freedom and friendship.[12]

The quay is mentioned in Eric Bogle's 1971 song, "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda".


Panoramic style wide angle view of Circular Quay from Sydney Harbour Bridge showing clearly the major features. February 2015.
  1. ^ "Circular Quay". Geographical Names Register (GNR) of NSW. Geographical Names Board of New South Wales. 
  2. ^ "Circular Quay". Retrieved 5 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Sydney town and port established 1 7 8 8 – 1 9 0 0
  4. ^ Circular Quay Railway Station and Viaduct NSW Environment & Heritage Retrieved 4 December 2014
  5. ^ How to Build a Street Cahill Expressway
  6. ^ The 1861 Pitt Street Tramway and the Contemporary Horse Drawn Railway Proposals. Wylie, R.F. Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, February 1965 pp21-32
  7. ^ The Cable Trams of Sydney and the Experiments Leading to Final Electrification of the Tramways Wylie, R.F. Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, July/August 1974 pp145-168/190-192
  8. ^ The Inauguration of Sydney's Steam Tramways Wylie, R.F. Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, March 1969 pp49-59
  9. ^ Sydney's tram history
  10. ^ "Sydney's Light Rail Future". Transport for New South Wales. 13 December 2012. pp. 15, 24. Retrieved 14 December 2012. 
  11. ^ United Buddy Bears in Sydney 2006
  12. ^ Messages of Greeting by John Howard

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°51′40″S 151°12′40″E / 33.861°S 151.211°E / -33.861; 151.211