The Tale of the Opera House Seal

Everyday, hundreds, if not thousands of people go to visit Sydney Opera House, but most of them, don’t realise that if they took a few steps round the back of the building toward the harbour they’d get to see another fabulous Sydney sight, Benny – The Opera House Seal.

What We Know About the Opera House Seal

I first encountered Benny in December 2016 while on a run. I saw people standing by the harbour wall taking pictures down into the water – which isn’t the normal angle for cameras when you have the Sydney Harbour Bridge directly in front of you and the Opera House behind you so I stopped and looked down myself…and there he was, fat, whiskery, and fast asleep in the sunshine.

He quickly became the number one stop in our list of fun things to do in Circular Quay!

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Exactly when Benny arrived no-one knows. A seal was first spotted in the same place back in November 2014, but didn’t stick around; a year later another seal turned up there with a pup.

What’s not clear is whether the current Opera House Seal is that first seal realising the error of their ways and returning, whether it’s Seal Two back again or the pup all grown up.

Perhaps word’s out in seal-land that the Opera House steps are the place to hang out if you want to become  an instagram superstar in the pinniped world (#bennytheseal), and it’s actually a different seal each time, but he seems to have made the harbour his home, popping up in front of kayakers, waddling round the steps and mostly, sleeping with one flipper in the air.

Admittedly, it bugged me that I could find so few hard facts about the Opera House Seal.

I did try and get more information – I even emailed Sydney Opera House press office a list of questions I hoped they might answer, but they obviously, filed me in the ‘Benny Botherer – possibly slightly dangerous’ file and didn’t reply.

All we do know for sure is he/she is a New Zealand Fur Seal (I’m using he because, erm Benny, but it could be a girl!) and that the fact that he doesn’t go anywhere means he’s happy, the water’s clean and there’s enough fish around to sustain his, erm, very healthy, layer of fat!

How to Find the Opera House Seal

If you’re heading to the Opera House, add visiting The Opera House Seal to the list of things to do.

He’s easy to find as he’s now so famous, he’s actually got a Google Map sightseeing star marked Opera House Seal Steps.

I can’t promise he’ll be there. He is wild after all. Nor can you see if he’s there from a distance as he lives about halfway down the steps, but there’s handy ‘Do Not Feed the Seal’ signs so you know you’re in the right place if he isn’t present.

He definitely comes and goes – he was definitely last here in August 2022 as there are pictures of him on instagram – and, as I came in on a ferry the other day (Dec 2022) there were a lot of people around the steps so I’m guessing he might have been making an appearance.

I’ve seen him regularly when I’ve run past in the morning and also spotted him at lunchtime.

Oh and cute and cuddly as he might look, seals are bitey so keep your distance!

What Else is Nearby?

Erm, the big white building to your right is kind of a big deal, and if you want a close up view, you can book a tour around the Opera House itself.

You also have a pretty good view of the bridge right now and you’ll probably see a heap of people climbing it – but, if you don’t have quite the head for heights (or the budget to climb it) you can also climb one of the pylons

You’re also just steps away from the Royal Botanical Gardens (where if your lucky, the rare, but smelly Corpse flower will be blooming). If not, then it’s still a lovely place to take a wander – and find some shade.

If it is hot and you don’t mind getting wet, booking a ride on one of the jet boats is still one of the most fun things we’ve done on the harbour. Click to see prices here.

Also, check out the nearby Opera Bar for a drink with one of the best views in the world. Just watch the seagulls if you order food. They are terrifying!

Some other goods bars and restaurants around here include Wahlburgers, Mark Wahlberg’s burger joint,which is great for a cheap meal with a million dollar view, there’s also a new branch of Ippudo at the southern end of the Quay. City Extra is great for breakfast – and, if you fancy Malaysian, head to Jimmy’s in the Gateway nearby.


Modern Toilet Restaurant in Ximending Taipei is a poop themed restaurant

Who Writes Differentville?

My name is Helen Foster and I’m a journalist and author living in Sydney.

My travel articles have been published in titles include The Australian, Body & Soul at the Sunday Telegraph, RAC Horizons, Jetstar magazine and more.

I like the weird, the wonderful and anything that makes me jump and down with glee like I’m about three. That’s what you’ll find here.


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Did you know that there's a seal who sometimes makes his home behind the Sydney Opera House? Here's where to look for Benny the Opera House Seal. #sydney #sydneyoperahouse #operahouseseal

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