If you are not a planner and you find NYE approaching with nothing organised, read on; this article is for all of you who like to leave things to the last minute! See my full mega NYE list for more ideas.
There are changing expected to NYE Plan this year with the Labour government promising to make foreshore area free at the last election. Most years ticket sales start on 1 Sept. or they may start earlier, who knows! I will update this page as details become available.
What are the best last-minute options for New Year’s Eve in Sydney?
If you have finished saying Merry Christmas to family and friends and have just started looking, your pickings will be slim. That is not to say you won’t have a good time; however, you will need to pay some big bucks or prepare to sit it out for 12 or so hours before the fun begins. With New Year’s Eve on the weekend this year, fewer people are working, so things may fill up earlier than usual.
So let’s go to work out the best choice for you…what level of commitment (pain) are you ready to accept for your NYE in Sydney.
How early do you have to arrive at free viewing areas?
Sydney city council has a great website that maps out all the open viewing areas, and this will tell you the dos and don’ts of each spot and also what time they reached capacity last year.
Read on for my thoughts on each spot – pros and cons included.
Viewing areas on the Eastern side of the harbour
Mrs Macquarie’s Point
People begin lining up here on Dec 30, and this spot with a capacity of over 14k will be full by 3 pm. Over the last few years, more and more of this space has been carved away for paid events. Add to this significant growth of the trees and what you get is a substantial reduction in areas with a clear view of the Opera House and Bridge, which is the whole point of coming to this spot. In the past, this was my pick of the bunch, but unless you are among the first thousand or so in the gate, you will be hard-pressed to get a completely clear view.
At midday, the line up for security and the entry last year was over an hour and a half. This spot has lost its appeal for me. UNLESS you have tickets to the paid places at the front of the reserve (these are all sold out by early December most years). Oh, and do not drink too much – the toilets are beyond awful!
Dawes Point in the Rocks
The grass area under the Bridge at Dawes Point opens to the public at 12:30 pm – as long as you arrive then or shortly after, you will get a spot with a postcard view of the Opera House. And then you wait and wait for what feels like days. There is little to no protection from the weather, so make sure you bring sunscreen and a hat. I also recommend more food than you think you will need and a deck of cards or a good book.
Circular Quay/Opera House
If you think that little stretch of land between the East Circular Quay restaurants and the Opera House seems like a good spot, you would be right – the view is fantastic – trouble is this year it is ticketed (free), and they have all gone.
This means everyone else will head to the limited free area by the Opera House (capacity 7K), and it is always full and closed to anyone without an event ticket at the Opera House venues by lunchtime. Gates open at 7.30am…. better run.
Oh, and this one is NOT for the claustrophobic. You will have less space here than you do on a peak hour train in Tokyo! Last year this closed at 1pm.
First Fleet Park and the area outside the Museum of Contemporary Art opens at noon and should not reach capacity till about noon.
Embarkation Park Potts Point
The park at Victoria Street in Potts Point opens at 6 pm, but I have never found you need to get there so early. It is possible to stroll down to the park much later in the evening after dinner at one of the local restaurants as long as you are prepared to stand.
Balmain and Birchgrove
Both of these areas have numerous parks with Harbour Bridge views (no opera house shots here). You can arrive here around 6 pm and still score a spot usually. Yurulbin Park is my pick here.
Viewing areas with restricted views.
If you don’t mind having a clear view of the icons and are happy to just see pretty fireworks in the sky, then you can also consider Rushcutters Bay and McKell Park, which open at noon.
Areas with distant views
Watson’s Bay’s Robertson Park offers distant views and a great atmosphere. You could also consider North Head near Manly.
Viewing Areas on Northern Side of the Harbour
Many areas previously free and unticketed are now ticketed and will sell out.
Blues Point and Lavender Bay
This area is now ticketed and one of the first to book out last year.
This was once the best bet for any last-minute arrivals. It was not uncommon to arrive at 10 pm and get a great view. It is one of the later areas to sell out.
Traditionally less busy than other spots, but you still need to be here before lunch to get your own patch of grass. This space opens at 1 pm and has a great line of sight up the harbour but can be a challenge to get home from, and don’t even consider bringing your car!
Affordable Paid Options
2020 offerings are slow to come through – we will update this content in early December. Check out main NYE page for the most detailed info.
Two pubs in the Rocks are offering $30 tickets which will give you entry to the area even after it has closed off. I checked just now at 9am on NYE, and tickets were still available for The Push, which will give you entry to the Rocks, entry to the bar and a free drink. I think this is a pretty good option if you really want to be in the crazy of The Rocks and don’t want to spend all day there.
- Watch the action from a rooftop bar in Barangaroo. Untied Sydney at the Streets of Barangaroo has $140 tickets still available at 9 am 31/12
- Cruise Bay are Circular Quay has $149 tickets left as at 8 pm 30/12
- The Argyle in the Rocks has $99 tickets available as at 9 am 30/12
- The Butler at Potts Point $150 dinner- has a lovely view – no icons but good city skyline with plenty of fireworks action and damn fine food – contact for bookings
What is the timetable for the 2020 NYE show
Things will be mighty different in 2020 with 9pm cancelled. The other events will be updated as details are confirmed.
- Air show over the harbour at 6 pm
- Welcome to Country 8:35 pm – check the harbour pylons to see the display
- Family fireworks 9 pm – Cancelled
- Harbour of Light Parade 9:15-11:45pm
- Midnight fireworks – these run for less than the usual 12 minutes
Sydney Experts Tips to make your NYE more enjoyable.
I have watched the NYE Fireworks in the city more than 20 times, and these are my observations.
- The larger your group, the earlier you need to arrive to get a comfortable spot.
- Bring a big smile and be nice – people will move closer together for you to squeeze in if you are charming and ask and seem like someone they want to spend time with rather than someone who assumes they have the “right” to ask you to move over and make room for them.
- Bag checks are pretty through these days – do not bother trying to sneak in alcohol – they know all the usual tricks. If you are 50 plus they, look a little less carefully, but they still look.
- Opal machines will likely have massive queues as we really don’t have enough of them anyway. Make sure you top up. I saw ticket inspectors last year, so there is a chance you will be fined if you travel without a ticket.
- Ferries do not operate during the show. Check carefully for the last services. Ferries do not run from Circular Quay after 5 pm. The first services back out of Circular Quay are at about 12:45 pm but these are limited so check carefully if you plan to take one.
- If you think that arriving at 9.30 or 10 pm after the family fireworks show is a good idea, then it’s worth noting on average only 5% of the crowd go home at this time.
- Circular Quay Station closes between 5 pm, and 1 am due to safety concerns about overcrowding of this area. Milson’s Point Station will close at 6 pm so you will have to walk to northern foreshore areas from North Sydney Station.
- All city buses will stop at Martin Place or North Sydney from 5 pm. You will have to walk to the waterfront after this time.
- If you are a twitter user, you can follow all the services there @BusesInfo, @TrainsInfo and @FerriesInfo
Getting home is going to take a while. Circular Quay station is closed until 1 am — all buses heading south and east out of the city leave from Hyde Park. Last year we walked easily back to St James Station for a train but the year before we ended up having to walk to Town Hall and ultimately Central. Come in comfy shoes and a good attitude, and you will be fine!