If you are going to be in one of the greatest cities in the world on New Year’s Eve you are probably wondering about the best way to spend the night. So many questions spring to mind,

What is the best fireworks vantage point? Which restaurants have the best view? Should you go on a boat on the Sydney Harbour? When should you book your hotel?

Well, I am going to attempt to answer all these questions and more below. You might want to grab a drink…. this is a long post!

Information is correct as of May 1st, 2017. Events will be added as details become available. Some tickets are on sale now. Check each listing below for more information.

 

Sydney Harbour Fireworks Vantage Points

Postcard view Sydney from Mrs Macquarie's Point by Paula Morgan

When, where and how to watch the fireworks on Sydney Harbour

Sydney City Council stages the Sydney fireworks on NYE, and they have a brilliant website that has maps of the vantage points and rules for each place. There has been a significant increase in alcohol-free areas over the last few years so make sure you check the maps on the city of Sydney website for the rules before you head to your favourite spot.

The main thing to know is that the city is really very crowded on NYE, lots of roads are closed and most people travel by public transport. The buses and trains will be really full and moving around the city between 8 pm and 1 am is quite difficult. That said, it is still worth being there. You just need to plan in advance what you are going to do, where you will meet and what you will eat and drink.

You can bring your own food into almost all vantage areas, but most not allow you to bring your own drinks. They do however sell them at ridiculous prices inside some of the sites. To be safe check the NYE in Sydney website for the latest information on alcohol restrictions.

There are great viewing areas on both sides of the harbour so my strong recommendation is to stick to the side that you are staying on. Getting back across the bridge after it’s all over is tedious. My personal preference is to be able to see the front of the Harbour Bridge if possible; this is where the main climax of the fireworks takes place, and it’s usually spectacular. I think it’s a must for international visitors.

My favourite spots are:

North side of the Harbour

  • Cremorne Point Reserve – it’s an alcohol-free zone these days but still a beautiful place to view the action. Get there early – like before noon as only 5000 people are allowed. FYI there is no direct view of the Harbour Bridge from here.
  • Bradfield Park Milson’s Point – Room for 50,000 – no BYO alcohol – separate ticketing for North Sydney Pool. Access here is usually fine until late afternoon.
  • Bradley’s Head Mosman – This once free area now has some pretty steep entry fees. Adults are $60, and kids are $25 almost double what they charged last year. Because of this nearby free locations will attract even larger crowds this year. No alcohol is allowed here, and there is capacity for 5000. Tickets go on sale around September via the NSW National Parks website.

South side of the Harbour

  • Mrs Macquarie’s Point – this was once my favourite spot, these days I am not so sure.  The reserve fills up and closes by 4-5 pm most years so get here really early – and it’s no longer BYO so bring $$$ if you want to drink – capacity 19,000. Read my review of 2011 NYE at Mrs Macquarie’s Point if you are thinking of heading here.  Please note I have not spent NYE here for 5 years and things change so consider more current reviews that have been less positive. Things like restricted views due to the trees that have grown to cover much of the space and a very full on party atmosphere due to the popularity with backpackers means this may not be the right place for everyone.
  • Sydney Opera House – Any free area around the Opera House is beyond hectic on NYE – it’s  THE best view, but this is THE most crowded place you can imagine however if you don’t mind crowded the buzz here is incredible. The ticketed areas are a different story and outlined below.
  • Dudley Page ReserveThis reserve in the Eastern suburbs offers great views of the city. Tickets are on sale  $40 for adults and $18 for kids. Usually still available until the end of December.

West of the Harbour

  • Elkington Park, Balmain – Free site, no glass or alcohol. Good family friendly place. Slightly restricted views of the city. Capacity 3000.
  • Birchgrove – Free site with no glass or alcohol. Good shade for hot sunny days. Capacity 5000. This site has a good view of the western side of the Harbour Bridge
  • Barangaroo – West of the Harbour Bridge – Barangaroo Reserve opened for the first time last year and it sold out pretty quickly. It was a great hit so expect it to go more quickly this year.  Keep an eye on the Barangaroo website or sign up for their newsletter to be the first to know when they are available. Tickets $35 each.
  • Goat Island – A small island located directly west of the Bridge and almost entirely in line with it. You have a fantastic view although you do miss out on the light display on the front of the Bridge. You can read my separate review of NYE on Goat Island and see what I thought. Fewer than 800 tickets are sold, and there is plenty of space to move about unlike most other harbour venues. Tickets went on sale at the beginning of December and sold out in 2-3 days this year. You can BYO everything and tickets cost $185

New Years Eve 2017 in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens

The View from The Botanic Gardens

Watching the fireworks from The Royal Botanic Gardens is like sitting in the dress circle. They have three paid options for ticketed entry to their amazing locations for those who are not members of the “Friends of the Botanic Gardens”. I have to tell you this is my personal favourite place. If you are planning in advance for next year I suggest you register here to be advised when tickets are available.

  • Midnight at the Oasis – At the First Fleet Steps south Mrs Macquarie’s Point this site takes in the Opera House and Harbour Bridge together. They almost look like they are sitting one in front of the other. Ticket price includes a three-course meal and a midnight snack. I think this event is a great value considering the location. Drinks are not included though so it might not be the best bet if you want to drink the night away as the prices will be steep I am sure. This is an adult only event.  Tickets in 2016 cost A$385 and sold out in Dec.
  • Lawn with a view – This is an all ages area located on the lawn outside Government House and directly above the Sydney Opera House – a box seat view. Adult and child tickets in 2016 were $270. This usually sells out early.
  • The Point – Fleet Steps North, Mrs Macquaries Point. This is an over 18s only area. Includes food but drinks are from a cash bar. Tickets in 2016 were $355 and sold out.
  • Harbour Hoopla – A circus theme event with a summer picnic hamper and a cash bar.  Tickets in 2016 were $295. This was the last event to sell out as it was a first time offering after another company held a poor event on this site in 2105.

If you are planning on viewing the fireworks from anywhere within the gardens, either paid or unpaid, download a map for entry times and walking routes for the fireworks viewing locations.

Choosing a Sydney Harbour Cruise for NYE?

NYE Sydney Ferries

If you want to be on the water under the fireworks, then you are looking at somewhere between $250 and A$500 per person for a basic food and drink package. All the main tour operators offer cruises on Sydney Harbour on New Year’s Eve with some of the big name boats charging up to A$800 per person. For that, you get a 6-hour cruise with a five-course meal and drinks. This really is a great to experience Sydney on NYE if you can afford it. Just do your homework and make sure you chose a vessel that is suited to your musical/food tastes. 20 something’s may not like to listen to a 60’s band all night 😉 just like 50+ might not like 5 hours of dance music.

At about 9.20pm after the first round of fireworks, many of the vessels on the harbour turn on their lights and parade up and down the harbour until the midnight fireworks.

You can view the official Harbour of Light parade vessels for more details. If you would like to join one of them.

2017 Cruises on offer include;

    • Majestic Cruises have two cruises, a 4-course sit-down dinner for $900 and a canapé and drinks sail for $550.  
    • Harbour City Ferries will this year offer three charter ferry services with 1,550 tickets available in total. There are sailings for both the 9 pm and midnight fireworks. First sailing for the 9 pm fireworks departs at 8 pm and returns at 9:30 pm. The second sailing departs at 11 pm and returns at 12.30pm giving you time to have a nice dinner out before you board. Tickets range from $125 for kids on the 8 pm ferry to $350 for tickets that include the Harbour of Light parade and both fireworks shows. These boats are BYO food and are alcohol-free. – 
    • Captain Cook Cruises have the Rocket starting at $450 for a BYO food and drink cruise. An à la carte meal on their best vessel will cost up to $1295.  Guaranteed window seats $99 extra.
    • The Pontoon Ballroom vessel from Sydney Harbour Escapes has a $550 cocktail food and drinks cruise in their glass-sided boat. This is likely to attract a younger crowd.
    • Vagabond Cruises has three options on sale now ranging from $475-$675
    • RhythmBoat Cruises – has a cruise for $520 that includes seafood buffet and beer and wine.
    • Quayside Charters – Have a range of boats on offer with prices from $470 for their smallest boat right up to $750 for a glass boat in the light parade.
    • Manly Fast Ferry Cruises – BYO $175 for the 9pm show and $275 for the midnight show. (Earlybird prices)
    • Fantasea – A full range of options from the 90min family cruise for $650 (2A+2C) and $800 for the dinner, drinks and DJ.  This year they have joined Harbour City ferries in offering a BYO food express option 2-hour cruise for $350 with the main difference is this boat has a bar.
    • Fusion Cruises – 6-hour cruise with food and beverage packages $595 adults and $495 kids under 12.  

Tickets are on sale now, and all but the most expensive cruises usually sell out pretty by late October so if you are considering one of lower priced options buy early.  Be careful about purchasing from a smaller operator who does not have much history as there were issues last year with some people losing their money on a no-show boat.

Check out Sydney Boat Hire Another option is to hire a water taxi for either the 9 pm show for about $175 or $295 for the midnight show.

In 2014 I met a reader of this blog at the NYE fireworks who had followed by suggestion and booked a Harbour City ferry –my first meet with a real-life reader. Very cool 🙂 We had a fantastic view of the Harbour Bridge, and it was great fun to be in the middle of the action.

New Year’s Eve at the Sydney Opera House 2017

Sydney Opera House

Spend NYE at the Sydney Icon

There are several options for those of you who want to see in the New Year at the Sydney Opera House. Tickets are now on sale.
  • The Opera Gala – Opera Australia hosts the party here… This year you can choose between a full performance of La Boehme or the Opera Gala which features works from a variety of composers. The interval is timed for the 9 pm fireworks with viewing from the glass balcony at the front of the Opera House. Along with the Opera events, you can choose to add tickets to the Midnight Party $299 which includes canapes, drinks and live entertainment from 10:30 pm, or the platinum package for $1259 that included opera tickets, dinner, drinks and the party! To attend any of the NYE Opera events, you must have tickets for to the Opera Gala. Dinner packages are also available. SOLD OUT
  • Palm Springs Comes to Sydney Opera House – This year the Western Boardwalk will host a Palm Springs styled event with free-flowing Moet, catering by Lauren Murdoch, entertainment featuring soul, bass and funk style music and one of the best views in town. Over 18s only.  Tickets $595 available here Still Available 28/12/16
  • Opera Bar I love Opera Bar… it’s the bar with the white umbrellas that sits next to quayside of the Opera House and the ultimate outdoor venue for a NYE on the harbour. Tickets are $390 (+ $4 booking fee). This included express VIP entry to Sydney Opera House, live entertainment and a 5-hour canapé package with finger food and pizza – drinks are not included. I have reviewed NYE at Opera Bar after my visit a few years back. I loved it. You will need to get there really early if you want to a seat as seating is limited. Doors open at 6 pm. SOLD OUT 
  • Opera Kitchen – Same great view as Opera Bar. See the website for details or this site to book directly. Tickets $1230 per person. Still available 28/12/16

Restaurants with a view of Sydney Harbour for New Year’s Eve

Dining at Circular Quay

Great food with a view of the harbour fireworks is possible.

There are a few waterfront restaurants that will earn you a view of the fireworks with your meal, but you will pay for it. Having said that at least, you are guaranteed a seat, something to eat, that in most cases will be pretty sensational, and you don’t have to get there at midday to secure your place. I am not going to tell you which is best because I honestly don’t know. While I have eaten at most of these places during the year I have never done a NYE – I wish!

Most restaurants have not been fully booked before Christmas in earlier years so it is not as vital to book early for restaurants. I would suggest if you have your heart set on a particular place, and you have a small party of  2-3 book early as smaller tables seem to go first. Many need full payment at time of booking and are not refundable so choose carefully!  I will update 2016 pricing shortly.

South Side of the Harbour 

  • The Sydney Cove Oyster Bar is a picture perfect location with full view of the bridge and outdoors under the stars. This year they are offering an eight-course degustation menu at $750 per head and $650 per head for all other tables. A $150 deposit is required upon booking.
  • Cafe Sydney – Right above Circular Quay – fantastic view and the times I have been there I have had excellent food. Contact them directly for information on NYE. No tables of 2 are available.
  • Sebel Pier One – Have not eaten here, but the location is great – You will not see the front of the bridge, but you will be in the middle of the action. The Sebel have released their 2015 packages and this year it’s a bit different have two options.  – A five-course menu with drinks from $699 or a New York style loft party with gourmet BBQ, drinks and DJ. Register your interest for early ticket sales.
  • Aria has the best view of the front of the bridge. Canapé s and pre-dinner drinks followed by a four-course tasting menu with wines was $1200pp. They also have an under 12 years price of $600. All bookings are prepaid. Available now.
  • Altitude – perhaps the most incredible view in Sydney with a price tag to match, seriously check their website… the view is amazing. Awaiting pricing – 2014 was priced at Window seat $1250, View seat $1150 – 8-course degustation with wine.
  • 360 Bar and Dining at Sydney Tower offers spectacular harbour views from Sydney’s highest vantage point and music. On offer is a degustation dinner including wines. Tickets$680 (no under 18yrs) from 8pm-1am Last year did not sell out before the day so usually no rush on this one.
  • The Dockside Group have some venues at The Star Casino, Darling Harbour and in the Rocks including The Italian Village and Wolfies.  Great view of the Opera House, The Harbour Bridge is partially obscured.  Very reasonable pricing at $255 for the Rocks and under $200 for most of the Darling Harbour locations.

North Side of the Harbour

  • Ripples at Milsons Point  A degustation menu including beer and wine for $695 per person is on offer here.   Fantastic view of the Opera House and back of the harbour bridge.
  • Ripples at Chowder Bay – A view of the harbour and the fireworks but not of the icons.  $225 for dinner and unlimited drinks.
  • Q Station – Choose from a seafood buffet ($199) or a 4-course degustation($229)  Good views over the harbour – quite distant but still very nice.  Options for families and adults only.

Concerts and Parties on NYE in Sydney

Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks Pirrama Park Wharf, Pyrmont
The view from the wharf at Pirrama Park Pyrmont

Sydney has something to suit everyone

If you would prefer something a little more structured and planned you could try one of these events

  • Pyrmont Point Wharf – Tickets include a Jimmy Liks Menu, including a salad, a main & a dessert and a free glass of sparkling wine, wine, or soft drink, exclusive use cash bar throughout the night and exclusive toilets (yes this is a big deal lol) $176 for adults and $154 for kids.
  • Sydney Harbour Islands – There are four other harbour islands, Clark (DJ, band, food & drinks $495), Shark, Cockatoo and Goat, see below)
  • Goat Island – family friendly BYO ($130-195) – see my review of my Goat Island NYE 2012 visit here, Shark and Fort Denison and tickets usually go on sale in early October and the less expensive ones sell out very quickly.
  • Fort Denison’s package is over $1250 this year and surprisingly tickets run out quickly.
  • Darling Harbour will have free family areas as well as lots of restaurants offering special packages. It’s also home to several nightclubs so there is something for everyone but you should know that you don’t get the harbour experience from here. They have fireworks but in my opinion, it’s just not the same, particularly for first-time visitors.
  • Taronga Zoo – have not yet released 2016 details yet.  In 2015 they had three different packages available a total of just over 2000 tickets. Silver Reserve tickets with some restricted views started at A$175.00; Gold Reserve $275 unrestricted views. Both Silver and Gold tickets are bring your own. Diamond reserve were $510. All tickets include entertainment, zoo access, free parking and complimentary transport from the car park. The zoo is a perfect site, and limited numbers mean you won’t feel too crowded.
  • Sydney Observatory – over 18s event with DJs, finger food and beverage package, also a  late night snack and photo booth. Tickets $305 
  • Destination NYE at Cruise Bar – right on Circular Quay this is a great place with a really affordable price. 3 floors each with a different theme, New York, Ibiza or Shanghai – tickets in 2016 were $93 for level 1 and 2 and $410 for level 3

To sum up

My biggest tip is to plan early unless you do you may find there are limited choices many events sell out weeks and sometimes months in advance.

If you are reading this in December, don’t despair there are lots of free vantage points to see the world-famous fireworks, and it will all work out on the night if you just have a plan.

Last year I watched the action from the Cahill Expressway after scoring some free tickets in the public ballot.

I have reviewed my last 4 NYE outings so make sure you check them for full details.

How do you celebrate NYE in Sydney? – What would you like to do most?

36 Comments

  1. Hello, thanks for your tips!
    Is there any place with a party for people around 30, that you could recommend? You talk about a couple of clubs in DarlingHarbour, but don´t mention any name.
    Thanks.

    • Hi Raquel
      It’s hard to say without knowing your musical taste 🙂 The bars along King Street Wharf usually have parties, places like Cargo Bar and King St Brewhouse. There will also be parties at The Star Casino venues. Depending on your budget you could check out Opera Bar ($$$$) or Luna Park’s Harbour Party ($$-$$$) with tickets starting at $139pp https://harbourparty.com/ but the best bet would probably be a search of the Moshtix website which sells many of the NYE parties in Sydney.

  2. Hi there

    We are hosting two ticketed NYE events – one at the Sydney Observatory and one at the Australian Museum. Would love to be included/listed on your website if possible.

    Thanks

  3. Hi,

    First of all thanks for the effort.
    We are a group of 20 people around 25 years old. We like hip-hop, Techno/electro, reggaeton/latin, club music, etc.
    We want to go on a cruise on NYE, but we dont want to pay too much. Under 150AUS$ would be great. You know anything like that?

    Thanks you,

    Jorge

  4. Thank you so much for writing this. I just wish I had found this sooner. My friend and I are trying to decide between seeing the fireworks from Mrs Macquarie’s Point or the Harbour Hoopla. Does the Harbour Hoopla offer the same views as Mrs Macqurie’s Point. Thanks!

    • The view from Mrs Macquaries Point is of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge almost side by side. It is probably my favourite view of Sydney. If you are considering the free area you would want to be there very early in the day to score a prime position. The view from Hoopla is from just above the Opera House with the Harbour Bridge to the side. From either spot you can see both clearly if you are in a good position.

  5. Hi. Thank you so much for the information. I just found out that the tickets for the Foundation and friends picnic at the Mare and Foal Lawn at Botanical gardens are still available. This is my first time in Australia. We are trying to decide between the Harbour Hoopla and the Foundation and Friends picnic. In your opinion which of these events would offer the best view for NYE.

    Also is there a local Facebook or ticket sales page where people may post tickets to the other sold out parties at the botanical gardens. Thank you!

  6. Hey! Thanks for the nice tips. Are you sure if it’s really okay to bring your own alcohol to birchgrove or Balmain? Because on the official Sydney nye site they said it’s prohibited…
    Greetings

    • Hi Lars
      I have just checked, and it appears you are correct. All the Balmain sites are now alcohol-free. I am sorry for the error and have updated the page. It’s a shame that they restricted BYP in so many places as it makes it an expensive night out if you have to buy them from the bars on site.

  7. Hi,
    Can you give a small insight on the harbour hoopla… as that is still available for sale on the NYE official website

    • I think Harbour Hoopla is selling a little slowly this year because another operator ran that space last year and it was a disaster – bad food, long lines and very bad set up. This year the Royal Botanic Gardens have taken back the space, and I expect it will be managed as well as their other events that have been running successfully for year. You have a fantastic view from this spot, so I would certainly consider it.

  8. We are visiting Sydney from Europe for NYE and want to see the fireworks at 9pm with the kids! How early should we tealistiscally get there to get a good spot? Any idea?

    • Hi Mari
      It depends on where you are planning to watch from. The areas closest to the Opera House and the Bridge will fill quite early. Last year many were nearing capacity at 3 pm. If you are heading to Mrs Macquaries Point, for example, I would aim to be there in line by midday. Bradfield Park and Milsons Point seem to be OK until later in the day. Areas a little further out or without an Opera House view are a little slower filling up. I would head to the city around lunchtime to be sure of a good spot. The heat this year might make some people reconsider sitting out in the sun all day. Also, this is the first year they have locked down all open harbour spaces until 8 am NYE morning meaning you won’t have people camping out overnight for the best spots. Not sure yet what effect that will have. Also being a Saturday fewer people will be working so can come in earlier. So many variables, it is hard to predict. The Official NYE websitehttps://www.sydneynewyearseve.com/vantage-points gives details on how soon the city council expect each area to fill. Wherever you end up, I hope you have a fabulous evening!

      • Hi again! Thank you form your reply! We’ve been looking at the maps and reading about the vantage points and I think we’ll be heading to pirrama park, which is walking distance from where we are staying!

  9. Thanks for your useful info.

    Do you know when all those alcohol free zones got out in place? It’s such an embarrassment. Sydney must be the only city in the world where alcohol is banned in public parks on New Year’s Eve.
    Do you think the authorities in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro care about 1 million people drinking on one beach?

    I remember in the early 2000s we were free to drink in Sydney parks while watching the fireworks.

    • Hi Daniel It seems the alchol free zones are increasing every year. I think it really started increasing about 3 years ago and it’s gotten to the point of being ridiculous in my opinion. Sad you can’t see in the New Year with a glass of bubbly!

  10. Hi, I have got tickets for the Cahill expressway as well. Any tips on how to make the most of them and also what may be the best location? Thanks

    • Hi Andrea How did you find the Cahill? We arrived in time to get a front row spot not far from the elevator and were really happy with our view of the Harbour Bridge. We were not able to see the Opera House at all – that end of the road was really packed and we decided as locals it was not such a big deal for us. The bridge is more of a focus but it would certainly have been much better to have been more towards the western end of the road.

  11. You are absolutely amazing! Thank you for putting this together and replying to everyone as well! Just a quick question what would the atmosphere be like at cruise bar (if you’ve been there) do they have a capacity limit (to allow for breathing space)? And also would it be impossible to find a table to sit at etc? Looking to have a chilled out time rather then a “hard party” style.

    Cheers,
    RIZ

  12. Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair is not recommended for someone wanting to see the fireworks. Too many trees obscure the view. Great if you want to party with your friends though.

    • Hi Dave Thanks for raising this, you are right it seems Mrs Macquarie’s chair has turned into party central – I suspect this increased this year due to the fact most of the other free Harbour vantage points were alcohol-free. Certainly, something to keep in mind for next year and I will update my article to reflect this. If you get there early, it’s still a great view, but later arrivals will find you stuck under the trees.

  13. This is very helpful, thank you! Question about transport- are there ways to reserve a car service to/from the harbor if you’re doing a cruise or how do you recommend getting back to your hotel/arinbnb after the evening?

    • Hi Alex
      Glad you found the page useful. The streets around Circular Quay will be closed from mid afternoon on New Year’s Eve until early the next morning. You will most likely need to walk back to a meeting place determined by your car service. Uber and Taxis are very hard to find on this night, so I would recommend having a booking if this is important to you. Trains at Circular Quay station also stop for a few hours as the crush if it was opened would be just too dangerous. I would follow the advice of the car service company as they will be familiar with the road closures.

  14. I found your page whilst starting my research on a first time trip to Australia with limited time but for me NYE Sydney was a must. Very useful info .. torn between a tall ship experience and the Opera house.. but found the comment about booking a hotel on the same side to avoid crossing bridge useful though need to work out my geography now.. as a specific any additional ideas for the solo traveller ?

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