In my opinion, Sydney has the best New Year’s Eve fireworks display in the world.
Over the years I’ve spent NYE in many destinations. Some of my favourites were partying at the Falls Festival in Tasmania, taking in the street festivities in Prague, and dancing to country music at a classic Texan bar in Austin.
But nowhere in the world has been more exciting than Sydney. I’ve watched the fireworks display in Sydney twice, and both times it has completely blown my mind! The city spends millions of dollars on the fireworks show every year, so it’s no surprise that the show is so god-damn spectacular.
There are two major things you should know when considering your spot for watching the NYE fireworks in Sydney:
- First, the layout. The show changes slightly every year, but it’s generally centered around the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There are also a handful of barges placed throughout the harbour that pump out fireworks, so anyone standing on the waterfront near the city can get in on the action.
- Second, the timing. There are actually two fireworks displays: one at 9PM (which is mostly for the sake of families with young kids) and the main gig at 12PM. The earlier show is not as huge as the midnight one, but it’s still pretty good. Best to watch both if you can manage it! The midnight show is an absolute must, so try not to get too drunk before then so that you can properly appreciate it.
I’m going to list out all the main options for seeing the fireworks. These vary in price greatly so prepare to be shocked by how expensive some of the options are! The NYE fireworks display in Sydney is incredibly popular, so the more you pay, the better views you will get. I’ll also list a few free/cheap options for those of you who don’t want to bankrupt yourselves on this event!
Option 1: Do a boat cruise
There are thousands of parties, events, and festivals that you can join every December 31, but if you want prime views of the fireworks, a boat cruise is probably going to be your best shot. It’s one of the most expensive options, but if you’ll only be spending NYE in Sydney once in your life, then it’s probably worth splashing out on.
There are loads of companies that offer boat cruises on the harbour on NYE. You can get a cruise for just one of the fireworks shows, or for both. The boat cruises will usually include a drink (or sometimes an open bar) and food or snacks. They’ll sail around the harbour and then set up in a good viewing position before the fireworks begin.
Option 2: Attend the concert at Sydney Opera House
Each year there is a ticketed concert at Sydney Opera House with live entertainment, usually featuring some of Australia’s most famous musicians. It has all-you-can-eat food along with free-flowing alcohol. This concert is actually televised so many people watch it at home, but being at the event gives you the added benefit of watching the fireworks from arguably the best spot in Sydney.
Option 3: Find a venue with a view
In 2014, a friend invited us to a house party at his new apartment in McMahons Point. In true Australian style, we spent the afternoon having some bevvies (slang for alcoholic beverages) with our mates, then made our way up to the rooftop for the fireworks display. With views of the Harbour Bridge, it was the perfect vantage point for the light show!
There are some hotels and restaurants that overlook the harbour (such as Pier One) or bars with rooftops (such as The Glenmore) that will throw a NYE party where you can watch the fireworks. For something totally luxe, you can go up Sydney Tower for a fancy dinner with wine pairings and views of the fireworks from the tallest building in Sydney.
Option 4: Go to a paid entry park
The ticketed parks are a fairly cheap way to see the NYE fireworks. It might seem silly to have to pay for entry to a public park, but it’s actually a good way for the city to limit numbers of people in these spots (otherwise they would get waaaaaaay overcrowded).
Check the Sydney New Year’s Eve website for park options. The Royal Botanic Gardens and Barangaroo Reserve are some solid choices for good views. These parks will also have public bathrooms, and sometimes they have entertainment and food/drinks for sale.
Option 5: Go to a free park
Last year Rob and I went to Ballast Point Park in Balmain, which is free to enter and doesn’t get overly crowded. It’s harder to get to as there are no train lines going into Balmain (only buses) and some of the streets get closed off, so it’s mostly locals who go there to watch the fireworks. If you want a more low-key and cheap experience away from the crowds, I’d highly recommend this option or one of the other free parks around the city.
Be sure to get there early. The Sydney New Year’s Eve website usually gives an indication of what time each area is meant to fill up. One thing to remember is that each park has different rules, like whether alcohol is allowed, and some have different opening times. Once you’re in the park, it’s best not to leave until after the fireworks display as you might lose your spot.
Plan for a long day/evening on the lawns by taking along essential supplies – a picnic blanket, a shade umbrella or wide-brim hat, a jacket to keep warm after sunset, plenty of food/snacks, and a water bottle (there will be taps that you can use to refill it inside all of the parks). Also remember to take sunscreen as midsummer in Australia means you will burn extremely quickly in the sun!
Book your tickets early. If you are choosing one of the paid options (boat cruise, events at venues, or paid entry parks), get your tickets as soon as possible! The most popular options usually sell out a few months in advance, so the later you leave it, the less chance you’ll have of getting the option you want.
Public transport can be a mess. Before and after the fireworks display, the trains and buses get severely overcrowded… last year we couldn’t get onto a bus out of Balmain (and taxis/Ubers are just not an option at this time) so we ended up skating home which took about an hour! Prepare for difficulties with public transport by taking your trips around the city much earlier than you think you need to, and plan an alternate method of getting back to your accommodation.
Police are everywhere. They are literally swarming the city on New Year’s Eve. This can be a bit intimidating, but just remember they are there for your own safety. They’ll be on the lookout for unruly behavior, illegal drugs, and alcohol where it’s not allowed, so just be careful about sticking to the rules.