New Years Eve in Sydney for Beginners

Planning to spend your first NYE in Sydney 2018

Sydney Harbour fireworks Ferry view

If you are planning on being in Sydney for the first time and maybe only time this NYE  you are probably keen to get your plans sorted. Consider this a beginners guide to New Year’s Eve in Sydney’.

So let begin with some of the decisions you are going to need to make for everything to go smoothly

  • Decide how long you will be in Sydney
  • Work out where to stay
  • Do you want to attend a ticketed event or a free viewing location?
  • Do you want a meal, is food an important part of your night?
  • Do you have a good tolerance for crowds and busy places
  • Do you need mobility assistance?
  • Will you have kids in your group?
  • How will you get home?

Ready, let’s get started.

Updated: 3 April 2019

Where and how long will you stay in Sydney?

Deciding how long to stay in Sydney

Most hotels and hostels have a minimum stay over the new year period. This usually ranges from 3-7 days.

Choosing where to stay for NYE

The Park Hyatt Hotel Sydney is unlikely to be on your shortlist
The Park Hyatt Hotel Sydney has THE best New Years Eve view.

NYE is the busiest time of the year for booking accommodation in Sydney. If you are travelling on a budget now is the time to hunt down any long-lost relatives.  If you are not staying with family or friends, you will find that Sydney’s hotel and accommodation prices become pretty ridiculous between Christmas and New Year. My best advice is to try to book as early as you can. If you are not entirely sure of your plans, it can be worth securing something that you can cancel if things change rather than miss out.

Do not take this warning lightly! If you are not sure which part of the city to stay read through my extensive pros and cons of the different areas in Inner Sydney or check out my list of budget hotels in Sydney – which to be honest are ridiculously expensive between Christmas and New Year.

If you want to book a hotel with a view of the harbour, then you should book as soon as they become available. If you choose the Park Hyatt (pictured above) or one of the other harbour view hotels, you may find you have access to their in-house events, and you won’t need to find anywhere to go on NYE.

If you are travelling on a budget, then my top pick is the Sydney Harbour YHA. It’s guests only NYE party will solve the problem of a nye party venue too!  There is a minimum stay for NYE, and you need to book eight months or more in advance for the twin rooms. The YHA NYE packages go on sale on April 4th 2019.

If staying in the inner city is beyond your budget consider some of the cities inner suburbs. Places like Mascot, Coogee, Maroubra, and anywhere on the suburban rail network will still allow you a relatively easy trip to and from town for the fireworks show. There are a bunch of “airport” hotels at Mascot that fit the bill perfectly considering its a quick 15 min train ride to the city. There are quite a few new serviced apartments and hotels here, and it’s a straightforward 15-20 minute trip to the city.

Alternatively, look for Airbnb and holiday homes.  Head over to the Facebook group where we have discussed suitable suburbs extensively.

What type of event do you want to attend?

Portside Sydney Opera House

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.

Watching the show from the Sydney Harbour foreshore.

Sydney City Council hosts the Sydney fireworks on NYE, and they have a brilliant website and free app that includes maps of the vantage points and the rules for each place. Over recent years there has been a significant increase in alcohol-free areas so make sure you check the maps on the city of Sydney website for any restrictions before you head to your favourite spot.

The main thing to know is that the city is very crowded on NYE and roads are closed, so everyone travels by public transport, catching a cab is no easy feat. Buses and trains will be full and moving about the city after 7 pm can be quite tricky.

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

If you are travelling on a budget, there are free areas all along the foreshore that offer incredible views and a chance to be right in the thick of the action surrounded by your new friends when midnight strikes.

If you want a guarantee of a great location to watch the show without having to wait hours waiting for it to begin then a ticketed area is the best way to go. Choose from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Barangaroo or the National Parks and Wildlife Harbour Islands.

Do you want a restaurant dinner with a view of Sydney Harbour?

If you like the idea of a slap-up meal with your fireworks, there is plenty on offer, but you will pay a pretty penny for it. Most of the waterfront restaurants around the city offer special menus for NYE, and you do need to make reservations well in advance although not as early as many ticketed areas.

I would suggest if you have your heart set on a particular place, and you have a small party of 2 or 4 book early as smaller tables seem to go first. Many restaurants require a deposit or sometimes full payment at time of booking.

Some places to consider if money is no object:

  • Aria
  • Sydney Cove Oyster Bar
  • Bennelong at the Opera House
  • O Bar and Dining
  • Cafe Sydney
  • Quay
  • Park Hyatt

Would you prefer an event with music or a party atmosphere?

Concerts and dance parties in Sydney on New Year’s Eve are a popular choice. From a dance party at Luna Park to at Taronga Zoo, there is plenty of choice for those who want some entertainment along with their fireworks.

Tickets for these events begin at about $90. Not all parties include views of the harbour so make sure you confirm this if it’s important to you. I maintain a list of parties and concert events with prices on this page

New Years Eve in the Royal Botanic Gardens

The View from The Botanic Gardens
The View from Midnight at the Oasis in the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

This is my dream spot to watch the fireworks when my budget allows. Tickets go on sale in early October and sell out pretty quickly.  There are several packages from picnic style to formal dining so whether you are looking for a family-friendly spot or want to dance the night away, you are covered by one of these.

  • Midnight at the Oasis – This is an adult only event.
  • Lawn with a view – This is an all-ages area located on the grass outside Government House and directly above the Sydney Opera House
  • 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 on sale now $355. The Point offers the very best view in my opinion.
  • Harbour Hoopla – a family-friendly circus-themed event
  • NYE at the Calyx – Free flowing food and drinks will keep you happy at this event. Just before midnight, you walk through the gardens to the harbour foreshore for the main event.

More details here

Planning a family friendly NYE

Barangaroo NYE Picnic event

If you are bringing kids to the city for NYE, you really need to plan. Big crowds and small children do not always make a good fit. I would not brave one of the free spots with children under ten years.  The crowds and the long wait make it too hard to keep the kids entertained.

Among the best spots for families are:

  • Harbour Hoopla in the Botanic Gardens
  • Barangaroo
  • Taronga Zoo
  • Fast ferries or Sydney Harbour Ferries family cruises

Alternatively, book some accommodation with a view and party from your balcony.

Accessible Areas to Spend NYE in Sydney

Sydney City Council offers a service to help make the celebrations available for everyone. Their official NYE website lists a range of resources to help you plan your big night out.

Six areas are listed as fully accessible and feature accessible bathrooms. You need to complete a booking form to secure your spot at these locations.

  • Mary Booth Reserve at Kirribilli on the northern side of the harbour
  • Mrs Macquarie’s Point in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
  • Pirrama Park at Pyrmont
  • Sydney Opera House
  • Cahill Expressway (Balloted)
  • Barangaroo (ticketed)

The Botanic Gardens and Opera House areas are also suitable.

There is also a Facebook group called Accessible Sydney that might be useful if you need further advice.

Public Transport in Sydney on New Year’s Eve

How to get to the NYE Fireworks

Firstly the good news is that extra bus, train and ferry services fun from midday on NYE to help get everyone into the city. If you are planning on driving (i.e. if you are mad) or taking a cab, note that all roads north of Goulburn Street will be closed from 7 pm.  If you park inside the shutdown area, you will not be able to leave until the roads reopen the next day.

I recommend you wear comfortable shoes as trains will not stop at Circular Quay from 5 pm and midnight and will not stop at Milson’s Point from 6 pm until after midnight so you will need to walk down to the harbour foreshore from up to 1km away.

Ferries will not stop at Circular Quay after 5 pm. Other wharves on the harbour will close at 8 pm

How to get home from the NYE Fireworks

Public transport will be running through the night to get you home, and I am not sure if Google will be updated with the latest info so make sure you read the signs around the city when you arrive and confirm the best place for your return trip.

Roads: The Harbour Bridge will be closed in both directions from 11 pm until 1:30 am. All roads north of Bridge Street will close from 2 pm, and roads north of Goulburn Street will be closed from 7 pm until approximately 4 am on New Year’s Day.

Buses: On NYE bus stops will not be where they usually.  There will be temporary bus stops in place from 3 pm in North Sydney and 4 pm in the city. If crowds are bigger than expected, this may begin a few hours earlier. These bus stops will operate until about 2 am, after this regular stops may resume for some services, for example, buses from the east and south will terminate at Hyde Park.

Coming home bus services will operate from the following stops:

  • Eastern Suburbs – College St near the Cathedral for buses to Bondi Junction, Bondi Beach, Rose Bay and Elizabeth Bay.
  • Eastern Suburbs – Elizabeth St for buses along Anzac Parade, Bunnerong Road, Crown Street and to Botany Road Mascot.
  • Eastern Suburbs – Park St for buses to Randwick Junction, Coogee, Clovelly and Kingsford
  • Inner West – Castlereagh Street near Town Hall for buses to Newtown, Marrickville and other inner west and south-west areas.
  • York Street Queen Victoria Building – for buses to Pyrmont, Balmain and along Victoria Rd.
  • York Street behind Wynyard station – for buses to Chatswood, and stops along the Pacific Highway and Epping Rd.
  • Carrington St near Wynyard – for buses to suburbs on the Lower north shore and northern beaches.
  • Clarence St between Town Hall and Wynyard – for buses to the Hills, including Kellyville, Castle Hill, Dural and West Pennant Hills

Ferries: There will be no ferries running on the harbour until after 12.45 am.

Light rail: The last light rail service from the city to Lilyfield will leave Central at 3 am on New Year’s Day.

Trains: Trains will not resume at Circular Quay immediately at midnight and will not start running across the bridge until a little after midnight.
Some other stations such as Wynyard or Town Hall may be closed if they become overcrowded and you will need to walk to Martin Place, St James or Museum stations.

Taxis: Taxis stands inside the area of closed streets will not operate until after 1 am.

Getting home from NYE celebrations in Sydney is never easy, but it is part of the experience, so my best advice is to expect it to be challenging, pack your best manners and an extra dose of patience and just keep smiling. Who wants to spend the first hour of their new year in a bad mood.

This transport information is from 2018, it is unlikely to change very much, but 2019 details will be available in the week before New Year. 

Have you ever celebrated NYE in Sydney?  Share your advice for future visitors.

Need help planning your trip to Sydney? Join our Sydney Expert Facebook Group where you can ask questions, stay up to date with what’s happening in Sydney and meet a bunch of friendly locals just waiting to share their advice!

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      • Hi Christina, it really depends where you are planning to go, people line up from dawn. It will be a very hot long day this year so it’s hard to say if that will deter the crowd or not. Also, several previously free areas are not ticketed so it is hard to compare to last year.

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