Circular Quay

Circular Quay

Circular Quay is a location in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It is located 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]

Circular Quay is made up of walkways, pedestrian malls, parks and restaurants. It hosts a number of ferry quays, bus stops and a train station.



Circular Quay in 1892
The QE2 moored at Circular Quay

Sydney Cove, the current site of Circular Quay, 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.[2] The Circular Quay railway station was opened on 20 January 1956 and the elevated Cahill Expressway was opened on 14 March 1958.

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[3] 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.[4][5]


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.

Circular Quay was formerly a large tram terminus and interchange. As many Sydney bus routes follow the previous tram lines, the tram terminus has become a major bus terminus for many bus routes.[6]

The railway station is the only station on the City Circle that is above ground. Additionally it is said to offer the best views of any CityRail railway station, as 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.

Both the Metro Light Rail operator and the Sydney city council have lobbied for the single light rail line to be extended to Circular Quay through the Central Business District. However the State Government contends that this would benefit neither commuters, nor traffic conditions throughout the CBD.[7]


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 and Australia Day fireworks displays.

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[8]. Each bear represents a member-country of the United Nations, symbolizing the universal principles of peace, freedom and friendship[9].

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


  1. ^ Geographical Names Board of New South Wales
  2. ^
  3. ^ The 1861 Pitt Street Tramway and the Contemporary Horse Drawn Railway Proposals Wylie, R.F. Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, February, 1965 pp21-32
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ The Inauguration of Sydney's Steam Tramways Wylie, R.F. Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, March, 1969 pp49-59
  6. ^ Sydney's tram history
  7. ^ Think bigger on light rail, says transport expert Sydney Morning Herald, March 26, 2006
  8. ^ United Buddy Bears in Sydney 2006
  9. ^ Messages of Greeting by John Howard

External links

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

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