New Year’s Eve in Sydney will be the biggest and best yet with a record 8.5 tonnes of fireworks set to light up the night sky. Here’s your complete guide to Sydney’s world-famous fireworks.
From New York’s Times Square to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate; from the beaches of Rio to Hong Kong Harbour. In anyone’s language, New Year’s Eve is a big deal.
Epic fireworks displays, all-night dance parties and a seemingly endless booze-up can make for a memorable (or sometimes forgettable) night no matter which corner of the world you’re in.
But few places seem to put on a party quite like Sydney.
The City of Sydney spends around $7 million ($US5.14 million) on the New Year’s Eve spectacular, with an estimated $133 million ($US98 million) injected back into the local economy on the night.
Helping to swell the crowd are the throngs of interstate and overseas travellers who converge on the Harbour city specifically for the New Year’s Eve spectacular. In 2015, for instance, research showed around 46 per cent of visitors were from overseas.
The Biggest and the Best
There’s no doubt Sydney is a major drawcard for people around the world because it’s one of the first major cities to welcome in the New Year.
It also puts on one of the biggest and best firework displays in the world, with two shows – a teaser at 9pm and a 12-minute extravaganza when the clock strikes midnight.
This year, a record 8.5 tonnes of fireworks, 13,000 shells and 35,000 shooting comets will mark the arrival of 2019 as part of a light and sound colourful spectacular.
In total, well over 100,000 individual pyrotechnic effects will light up the night sky in Sydney – 500 kg more than last year.
The event is so big that 18 shipping containers of equipment, weighing 120 tonnes, are needed.
In keeping with this year’s theme – Pulse of Sydney – a cavalcade of new fireworks are planned, including dramatic star-shaped and wave-effect displays, where the colour moves across the display rather than exploding from the centre of the firework.
Extremely bright, pulsating fireworks that strobe on and off in various colours – red, orange, green and lemon – will light up much of the harbour.
In a world first, there will be lime and peach-coloured fireworks to celebrate summer in Sydney, all thanks to new technology that allows the use of pastel colours.
While the fireworks are undoubtedly the main event, there are a host of activities to keep you entertained in the countdown to midnight.
The city is in party mode from late afternoon, starting with aerial acrobatics and a fly over by RAAF aircraft.
As day turns to dusk, a flotilla of more than 50 illuminated boats glides up the Harbour as part of the traditional Harbour of Light Parade.
For the first time there will be a “Calling Country” segment just after 9pm. It will include stunning images of Australia’s Indigenous heritage including water, birds, fish and plants beamed onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons.
Australia’s famous beaches and outback will also feature in a five minute mini-movie animation inspired by Aussie music anthem Great Southern Land, to be projected on the Sydney Harbour Bridge at 11pm.
New Year’s Eve in Sydney offers something for everyone with party cruise boats, tall ships, harbour picnics, opera performances, garden picnics and dance parties.
One of the most sought-after tickets in town is the 55-dish buffet served over six hours at the revolving Sydney Tower restaurant. It doesn’t come cheap though, at $550 per adult and $250 for children, but if you book a table of 10 one person eats free.
If you just want a glimpse of the 9pm fireworks, can buy tickets to the Sydney Tower Observation Deck for $100 or $65 for children. All guests must leave by 9.45 pm.
O Bar and Restaurant, another revolving restaurant at Australia Square near Wynyard Station, will serve an eight course degustation menu at $695 per person. It might just be worth it given the 360 degree views you’ll have from the 47th floor.
But you can still get tickets to Harbour Party under the Big Top at Luna Park, with the Veronicas head-lining an all-female entertainment line up this year.
You can even spend New Year’s Eve on an exclusive island in the middle of the harbour. The iconic Shark Island will have a DJ, a licensed bar and a tonne of food options as you count down to midnight. It’s not cheap though, with adult tickets costing $247.23 and children $175.
Where To Watch The Fireworks For Free
There are free sites up and down the Harbour foreshore where you can enjoy the night without the huge crowds and expensive entry prices – if you can reach them.
That’s because major road closures and special event clearways are in force around the city centre, North Sydney, the lower North Shore and the Harbour foreshore around the eastern suburbs from early afternoon on December 31.
If you park inside the shutdown area you will not be able to leave until the roads reopen the next day.
Here are some of the best vantage points around Sydney Harbour. But be warned: it’s best to get there early.
Viewing spots around Cockle Bay are prized locations and this year will be no exception with more than 40,000 people expected to converge on the Harbourside precinct west of the CBD.
With a free program of live music and flame and light shows every hour from 7pm, as well as the famous 9pm and Midnight fireworks, Cockle Bay at Darling Harbour will be heaving. Restaurants and bars along the Cockle Bay promenade will be open on New Year’s Eve, but booking are a must.
If you’d like a family-friendly, grassed area with full views of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and the CBD, then it’s hard to beat Mrs Macquarie’s Chair near Farm Cove.
This area is a non-ticketed public viewing area, but there is usually a gold coin donation request before you enter. This site has food and licensed beverages available, with visitors also welcome to pack a picnic.
Because it offers a bird’s eye view of the Harbour, expect space to snapped up early.
McMahons Point, Blues Point Reserve and Lavender Bay – west of the Harbour Bridge on the lower North Shore – are ideal spots to catch all the New Year’s Eve action.
These locations are some of the best in Sydney and they fill up fast, so get there early to secure your spot.
Bradfield Park, under the northern span of the Harbour Bridge at Milson’s Point, is ideal for families and groups to sprawl on the grass and watch the fireworks light up the night sky.
Because it’s virtually within sneezing distance of the Bridge, expect this free vantage point to be bursting at the seams as early as 10am on New Year’s Eve.
On Sydney’s lower North Shore, Kurraba Point and Cremorne Point (pictured) are prime locations to catch the fireworks and enjoy the early evening entertainment.
The parks in these residential neighbourhoods fill up fast – and they’re alcohol free zones – so get there early. Most streets are closed to non-residents from early afternoon so be prepared to walk.
Each of these eastern suburbs harbourside parks offer only limited views of the Harbour Bridge and the city.
You might see some occasional fireworks from barges positioned at this end of the harbour. These parks are perfect for families trying to avoid the maddening crowds around Circular Quay.
Perfect for anyone who is looking to get as far away from the CBD as possible while still enjoying a decent view of the fireworks.
Right in the centre of Watsons Bay, Robertson Park is a great place to picnic with playground facilities and harbour and city views.
The iconic Doyle’s Watsons Bay is taking bookings for New Year’s Eve dinner and the Watsons Bay Hotel is hosting a ticketed beachside party.
Sydney NYE Schedule 2018
6pm: Air displays start above Sydney Harbour by flying ace Matt Hall and Scott Bretland. 7pm: Fire tug presents its water display on Sydney Harbour. 7.30pm: Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony on the Sydney Harbour by the Tribal Warrior Association. 8pm: Air displays continue above Sydney Harbour. 8.30pm: Sydney Harbour Bridge pylon and bridge effects start. 9pm: Family fireworks (8 minutes) includes the ABC Design Your Own Firework competition firework display. 9.08pm: Calling Country segment honouring Australia’s indigenous heritage. 9.15pm: Harbour of Light Parade starts. 11pm: New music moment. 12am: Midnight fireworks (12 minutes). 1am: Sydney Harbour Bridge lighting effects end. 2am: Sydney Harbour Bridge pylon projections end.
Where to See the NYE Fireworks
Take Public Transport
The key to a hassle free New Year’s Eve is to use public transport and arrive early to claim your spot. Extra bus, train and ferry services run from midday on NYE and all through the morning on New Year’s Day to get everyone home.
Trains: From 5pm until midnight: Trains won’t stop at Circular Quay due to large crowds. For access to the harbour foreshore, walk from Wynyard, Town Hall or Martin Place stations. From 5pm until midnight: Trains won’t stop at Circular Quay due to large crowds. For access to the harbour foreshore, use Wynyard, Town Hall or Martin Place stations. Buses: From 2pm to 6pm: Circular Quay services will run to and from Martin Place. From 3pm to 3am: Buses in North Sydney will use alternate stops while Blue Street is closed. While the Sydney Harbour Bridge is closed from 11pm for the midnight fireworks, buses will terminate at North Sydney station. From 6pm to 4am: All buses from the city will relocate to temporary bus stops in Hyde Park, Town Hall and Wynyard. Access to buses at Wynyard will be from King Street only. Ferries: Ferries won’t stop at McMahons Point wharf after 10am on New Year's Eve. Ferries won’t t stop at Milsons Point wharf after 3pm. At some wharves, the last ferries to the city leave around 4.15pm. Ferries won’t stop at Circular Quay after 5pm. A harbour exclusion zone will be in place from 8pm until 12.45am. No ferries will operate during this time. Ferries will not travel on the Parramatta River or to the eastern suburbs after the midnight fireworks.
Be sure to buy an Opal card before you travel on trains, buses or ferries so that you can easily tap on and off. Top up your card in advance so that you are not stranded or queuing for hours on the busiest night of the year.
There’s also a Trip Planner app to help you manage your journey on New Year’s Eve.
For real-time updates on road closures and traffic conditions, follow @LiveTrafficSyd.
This blog was updated on December 4, 2018.