Last Minute Ideas for New Year’s Eve in Sydney

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. 

In 2023 NYE the NSW government made good on its promise to make foreshore area free.

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If you have finished saying Merry Christmas to family and friends and have just started looking, your NYE party 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.

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.

Mrs Macquarie’s Point

People used to begin lining up here on Dec 30, and this spot, with a capacity of over 14k it was always full by 3 pm. It 2023 it was at capacity before the dates opened at 11am. Arrive early to get a top spot here. Capacity is about 10,000, but my guess would be only the first few thousand get an unobstructed view, so get here early and have your running shoes on for when the gates open.

Crowds at Mrs Macquaries Point on NYE
Mrs Macquaries Point waiting, waiting

Over the last few years, there has been significant growth of the trees and as a result there 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 in the gate, you will be hard-pressed to get a completely clear view.

Dawes Point in the Rocks

The grass area under the Bridge at Dawes Point opens to the public at 9am – as long as you arrive by lunchtime, I think you will get a spot with a postcard view of the Opera House. 

Dawes Point restricted view
If you arrive later, this is the Dawes Point restricted view

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 perfect spot, you would be right – the view is fantastic.

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.

The Rocks 

First Fleet Park and the area outside the Museum of Contemporary Art opens at noon and reached capacity mid afternoon around 3pm in 2023.

West Circular Quay view
View from West Circular Quay

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.

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.

Hornby Lighthouse in bad weather
Robertson Park

Many areas previously ticketed areas are free, although some still need tickets.

Blues Point and Lavender Bay

Blues Point was the first area on the North side to reach capacity with it full by mid morning in 2023. Lavender Bay was a little later.

Lavender Bay North Sydney
Lavender Bay

Bradfield Park

This was once the best bet for any last-minute arrivals. It was not uncommon to arrive at 10pm and get a great view. It is one of the later areas to sell out.

Cremorne Point

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 1pm 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!

This view of the city from Cremorne
This view of the city from Cremorne was taken just left of the pools

Affordable Paid Options

Check outr main NYE page for the most detailed info.

  • Cruise Bar in Circular Quay
  • The Argyle in the Rocks
  • The Butler at Potts Point
  • Watch the action from a rooftop bar in Barangaroo

What is the timetable for the 2024 NYE show

Air show over the harbour at 6pm

  • Welcome to Country 8:35pm – check the harbour pylons to see the display
  • Family fireworks at 9pm
  • Harbour of Light Parade 9:15-11:45pm
  • Midnight fireworks – these run for about 12 minutes
Waiting for darkness on Sydney Harbour
Mrs Macquarie’s Point view

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 probably have massive queues as we really don’t have enough of them, anyway. Make sure you top up or use your credit card. 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 12:45pm but these are limited, so check carefully if you plan to take one.
  • If you think that arriving at 9.30 or 10pm after the family fireworks show is a good idea, then it’s worth noting on average only 5% of the crowd goes home at this time.
  • Circular Quay Station closes between 5 pm, and 1 am because of safety concerns about overcrowding in this area. Milson’s Point Station will close at 6pm 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 5pm. 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!

Have questions about things to see and do in Sydney?
Head over and join our Facebook Group and we will be happy to help

Have questions about things to see and do in Sydney?
Head over and join our Facebook Group and we will be happy to help

Have questions about things to see and do in Sydney?
Head over and join our Facebook Group and we will be happy to help

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