The Spectacular Vivid Sydney Festival 2022

Vivid Sydney, the iconic festival of light, music and ideas is back on the calendar in 2022. Australia’s favourite light show will run from 27 May to 18 June when artists will light up buildings and historic laneways turning the town into a fairytale wonderland.

The festival is a spectacle of light, music, and ideas that has quickly become one of Sydney’s most popular events alongside the city’s NYE celebrations. It’s easy to see why, with something for everyone from families to art lovers and creators of all types.

Check out our guide to the best Vivid eats and cocktails

Last updated: 3 February 2022

The Vivid Sydney Festival will run from 27 May – 18 June 2022.

This year it’s back, bigger and better than ever with the Light Walk making its way from the waterfront all the way to Central Station.  A continuous 8km trail that will see 47 installations and projections on popular landmarks along the route!

After more than a decade of attending the Vivid Festival, I have put together my tips for surviving the crowds and getting the best views of the amazing light installations of one of the most popular festivals in Australia. 

While the festival is best known for its spectacular light show, it is worth checking out some of the program’s talks, films, and performances.

After skipping last year, this year’s bigger event will benefit from some planning before you visit if you want to see as much as you can.

Earth Deities
Earth Deities. Credits: Jessica Maurer & Kane Sullivan

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Where are the best spots to see the Vivid Light show in 2022?

This year the Vivid Light walk kicks it up a notch with an 8km path leading from the Sydney Opera House to Central Station. There will be 42 installations along the length of the walk.

Vivid Light is the largest festival of light in the Southern Hemisphere, and while it’s hard to go past the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge with their breathtaking installations this year, the action will spread south and some of the best installations will be found in Barangaroo, Darling Harbour and The Goods Line at Central Station.

The key installation areas are:

  • The Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • The Royal Botanic Gardens
  • Circular Quay and Customs House
  • The MCA and Cadman’s Cottage
  • The Rocks
  • Walsh Bay
  • Barangaroo
  • Darling Harbour
  • Goods Line at Central

and outside the CBD

  • Carriageworks
  • Taronga Zoo
  • Chatswood

We think 2022 Lights must see installations include:

  • Searchlights – This year the city skyline will be transformed by over 150 carefully choreographed searchlights that will present a kaleidoscope of colours and patterns across the harbour from Circular Quay to Milsons Point.
  • Sydney Infinity – created by Oracle Liquid, Sydney Infinity at Cockle bay will move the action south. An enormous sculpture featuring towering jets pushing water up to 80 metres into the sky. It will be accompanied by a dynamic lighting and soundtrack from DJ Pee Wee Ferris.
  • Ephemeral Oceanic – This work by by Sydney-based artist Atelier Sisu will see over 200 giant bubbles float above the water at Walsh Bay. A floating walkway will let you get up close and feel as they you are walking on water.
  • Convergence – Created by Mandylights, the unused Goods Line tunnel at Central will see the largest scale laser installation in Vivid Sydney history, with over one hundred custom-made laser units producing a near-infinite array of dispersed beams that will entirely fill the Goods Line tunnel.
  • Frankly My Dear – See Frank Gehry’s “paper bag” aka The Sydney Business School at UTS come alive. Responding to the level of activity in the area, the dynamic light show will transition from a “frenetic pulsing of saturated colour during ‘peak hour’ to a more subdued and relaxed feeling as the evening winds down”.

See all the amazing installations and plan your night using the Vivid website

My Tips for Enjoying Vivid Sydney

Future Natives Chris Daniel
Future Natives. Credits: Chris Daniel
  • Try to visit on one of the first few days. The last weekend is pure hell.
  • If you have to go on the weekend, go later in the night and choose Saturday or Sunday over Friday.
  • If you can eat dinner and hit the lights at about 9 pm when most families have headed home, the lights stay on until 11 pm this year.
  • Don’t forget the areas outside the harbour – as the crowds grew, so did the locations, and there are now several areas outside the Quay to explore.
  • Don’t try to see too much in one night – you have three weeks, so a few visits are entirely feasible for locals. If time is limited, check the festival website for highlights and pick a few areas.
  • If you are attending with kids, consider heading to the Taronga Zoo sessions instead of the city.
  • If you hate crowds consider a cruise – we have covered the ones we think are best below.
  • Do not bring your car to the harbour zone of Vivid. Road closures and crowds make it less than enjoyable. If you do, check out Gateway at Circular Quay who offers great parking prices during the festival.

Choosing a Vivid Sydney Cruise

If crowds aren’t your thing, then a Vivid cruise is a great way to see many of the lights in comfort. There are so many packages on offer, it’s hard to know which one to choose. Over the last decade, I have tried quite a few, and I think there are two key differences, the quality of the food and the route the boat travels.

Major companies offer the benefit of a known product and a reputation that they will not want to risk by providing a substandard experience. I have booked both premium and discount cruises in the past, and while the discount boats can be great, it is a bit hit and miss, so if you are on a one-time visit to Sydney, I think it is worth paying a little more for one of the better-known products. 

I have added both types below so you can see all your options and decide what works best for you. Prices for Vivid harbour cruises range from $25-$130+. Private charters are also available.

Captain Cook Vivid Cruises – Best Dinner Cruise option

Captain Cook is the best-known and best quality cruise operator in Sydney. They will be offering a variety of Vivid Cruises.

Captain Cook Cruise
The Captain Cook boats look great with their Vivid Lighting.

Gold Vivid Dinner Cruise

The Gold Vivid Dinner Cruise offers a 6-course degustation dinner, along with Penfolds private bin and vintage wines. It will be an experience to remember because of the gold class personalized service, live music, and access to an outdoor open deck which lets you see a 360-degree Vivid Lights view.

Location: King St. Wharf No. 1
Date: 27 May to 18 June 2022, Sat-Sun, 7pm
Book and Get the cruise’s full details here.

Starlight Vivid Dinner Cruise

The Starlight Vivid Dinner Cruise includes a premium upper-deck seating with up to 3 hours of relaxed cruising, along with a 4-course premium menu, which is perfect while enjoying the 360-degree harbour views and the full canvas of Vivid Lights from the water.

Location: Darling Harbour King St Wharf 1
Date: 27 May to 18 June 2022, Sat-Sun, 7pm
Get the cruise’s full details or book here.

Captain Cook’s MV Sydney 2000 Credit: Destination NSW

Vivid Sydney Dinner Cruise

Offering amazing value-for-money, Vivid Sydney Dinner Cruise will let you enjoy the one-of-a-kind backdrop of Vivid Sydney lights while savoring a quality contemporary Australian 3-course dining and live entertainment.

Location: Darling Harbour King St Wharf 1
Date: 27 May to 18 June 2022, Sat-Sun, 7pm
Get the cruise’s full details or book here.

Vivid Cocktail Harbour Bar

Vivid Cocktail Harbour Bar features an Australian Cheese & Charcuterie Board between two,that you can share, plus one welcome cocktail and your choice of one house beverage each. This cruise offers 5:00pm and 7:00pm schedules, which will let you experience the unique perspective of Vivid lights.

Location: Darling Harbour King St Wharf 1
Date: 27 May to 18 June 2022, Sat-Sun, 7pm
Get the cruise’s full details or book here.

5pm Vivid Special Dinner

Experience 1.5 hours of relaxed cruising perfectly timed sunset while dining on a 2-course menu on this 5pm Vivid Special Dinner. Complete the experience by immersing yourself in Vivid’s new ‘Sydney Infinity’– the largest liquid and light show ever seen in Australian history.

Location: Darling Harbour King St Wharf 1
Date: Thu-Sun & Mon 13 Jun 2022
Get the cruise’s full details or book here.

Harbourside Cruises – Best Vivid Buffet

Experience the Vivid Sydney Festival from a prime location on a Harboursides luxury catamaran.

Your cruise includes

  • 2 Hour Sydney Harbour Vivid Sydney Cruise
  • Delicious Standing Buffet – Grazing Station ( Selection of Canapes, Hot Dishes & Salads)
  • Professional DJ playing your favourite tunes
  • Complimentary Glass of Bubbly or Soft Drink on arrival
  • Cruise on Harbour Spirit a Luxury Catamaran
  • Range of casual seating and standing options throughout the night
  • Spacious indoor & outdoor decks for Harbour Viewing

This great value cruise is currently selling for $45 with two cruises per night over Vivid. You can view the dinner menu here.

Harbourside Cruises Catamaran

Departure Location: King st Wharf No 9 Darling Harbour
Date: 27 May to 18 Jun, Tue to Sun
Get the cruise’s full details here.

Sydney Vivid Tallship Cruise – Most unique option

If you have never boarded one of the two Sydney Harbour tall ships now is the perfect time. These ships are not just for tourists. I have been on several cruises and it’s a fun experience.

Your cruise includes:

  • 1.5-hour Sydney Harbour Tall Ship cruise past the Vivid sites
  • A tasty meal served on board
  • Drinks included (excluding premium beers)

Departure Location: Campbells Cove The Rocks
Date: Everyday between 27 May to 18 June – 3 departures per night 6pm, 7:45pm and 9.30pm
Get the cruise’s full details here.

Journey Beyond – 3 Course Fine Dining Vivid Dinner Cruise

Cruise the harbour during Sydney’s Vivid Lights Festival watching the sunset with its stunning pink glow over Sydney Harbour while indulging in a luxurious and intimate 3-course dinner cruise.

Your dining experience is a regionally focussed menu highlighting the multicultural influences that make Sydney cuisine so special by using an array of fresh and high quality NSW ingredients.

Your cruise includes:

  • Free cocktail on arrival
  • Luxurious and intimate 3-course dinner cruise
  • A selection of beers, wines, soft drinks and tea or coffee hand selected by sommeliers from some of the finest wine regions in NSW
Fine dining on Journey Beyond

Departure Location: Towns Place Wharf, Millers Point
Date: 27 May to 18 Jun, Mon to Sun
Get the cruise’s full details here.

Budget Vivid Cruises with no meals

Captain Cook Vivid Lights Cruises

Captain Cook Cruises has released an exciting program of family-friendly Vivid Light cruises taking in the key precincts of Barangaroo, Luna Park, The Rocks and Circular Quay including Sydney Harbour Bridge and the sails of the Sydney Opera House.

Location: Darling Harbour King St Wharf 1
Date: Thu-Sun & Mon 13 Jun 2022, starting from 5:45pm
Get the cruise’s full details and book here.

Sea Sydney Harbour – Catamaran Cruise with Canapes and Drink

Experience the Vivid Sydney Festival from a prime location on a boat cruising Sydney Harbour. See the spectacular sights and enjoy the picturesque views of Sydney’s cityscape and landmarks from an intimate catamaran with roaming canapes.

Your cruise includes:

  • A 1.5 hour cruise with an experienced skipper and deck hand/host
  • A selection of canapes
  • One complimentary beverage per person (beer, wine, soft drink, or juice) and the option to purchase more drinks onboard

Departure Location: Towns Place Wharf, Millers Point
Date: 27 May to 18 Jun, Mon to Sun
Get the cruise’s full details and book here.

Sea Sydney Harbour – Vivid Sydney Small Group Catamaran Cruise

Experience the Vivid Sydney Festival from a prime location on a boat cruising Sydney Harbour. See Sydney and the harbour’s famous landmarks lit up with colour from a luxury motor catamaran, with maximum passenger numbers of 20. Indoor and outdoor viewing areas on a small vessel

  • A 1.5 hour cruise with an experienced skipper and deck hand/host
  • Light refreshments including an Italian inspired antipasto spread with bread rolls
  • One complimentary beverage per person (beer, wine, soft drink, or juice)

Departure Location: Towns Place Wharf, Millers Point
Date: 27 May to 18 Jun, Mon to Sun
Get the cruise’s full details here.

Choose a Unique Vivid Sydney Experience

Vivid Lights Secret Bar Crawl

Visit 3 of Sydney’s best secret & small bars while exploring the Vivid Lights artworks! This 3 hour tour is a great option for solo travellers. Your guide will showcases some of the best light installations, while weaving in stories of the area and insider knowledge on Sydney’s nightlife.

Over 3 hours, you’ll visit 3 bars including some well-hidden ones, with two drinks included. The 2 included drinks are a glass of wine or beer at the first bar, and a cocktail at the second bar.

This is a great way to have a fun & unique night out during Vivid while discovering some amazing hidden bars.

On Tuesday nights during Vivid, the route will cover the Central and Darling Square area, while on Thursday nights you’ll explore Circular Quay and the Rocks.

Sydney Expert readers can get a $10 discount by using the code “SydneyExpert” at the checkout.

Vivid Photography Tour

A professional photographer leads this 3-hour walking tour from the National College of Photography, leading you to the best spots to shoot the Vivid installations. You will also get lots of tips to help you create the best photos in night conditions.

Vivid Sydney
One of my favourite Vivid shots

The tour is designed to visit the spots at the best times, so you can navigate the crowds and get amazing photos to take home. I did this tour two years ago and learned so much!

Departure Location: Towns Place Wharf, Millers Point
Date: 29 & 31 May & 1, 3, 5, 7-8, 10, & 14-15 Jun
Get the full details here.

Getting the Best Photos at Vivid Sydney

  • Go on Sunday – Monday and be prepared to stay all night.
  • Get up above the lights if you can – Cahill Walk, The Observation Deck at the Overseas Passenger’s terminal, are good choices. I have heard they may close this area to the public for security concerns, but I see lots of photos taken from this spot, so perhaps ask when you arrive. The footpath on the Harbour Bridge offers excellent vantage points.
  • If you are a keen photographer or someone who wants to learn more, look out for some of the photos walks – they usually have the best locations sorted and will give you useful tips. I did one with Canon a few years ago that was excellent.
  • Take a tripod and a manual camera.
  • Share your photos using the official hashtag #vividsydney
  • There are some significant technical tips here
West side Sydney Harbour Bridge Vivid
The Bridge from the western side at Vivid 2017

Vivid Helicopter Flight over Sydney Harbour

If you’re looking to experience Vivid in style, why not choose this 25-minute scenic flight over Sydney Harbour at night for views of Vivid at every angle. For a unique experience, see Sydney after dark from above and be dazzled by the illuminated skyline aboard the exclusive twin engined Eurocopter EC135 helicopter.

Vivid Chopper Flight
Vivid Chopper Flight Credit: Klook

This flight includes a photo opportunity with the pilot and aircraft, plus commentary with BOSE voice-activated headsets for the best experience possible.

Departure Location: 472 Ross Smith Ave, Mascot
Date: 27 May to 18 Jun, Mon to Sun
Get the full details here.

Vivid Bridge Climb

Bridgeclimb Vivid Sydney
I can only imagine how much the city must resemble fairyland from up here during Vivid

If you want a memorable way to see the lights, then check out the Vivid Bridgeclimb. Last year the climb included a flashing disco floor. I can’t imagine a better way to see the harbour at night than during Vivid.

Take a look at the details here. These climbs do sell out so book early to be sure you don’t miss your chance.

Vivid Music

Live music at Central Station’s Grand Central Concourse – Opening with the Vivid Sydney Brass Band who according to the press release offer “Louis Armstrong meets The Dirty Dozen with nods to Dr John, Stevie Wonder, Professor Longhair and all that gooey funk that lies in between”. Following weeks include Bluegrass darlings The Morrisons, Balkan mayhem of Lolo Lovina and finally spicy rhythms of Cope St Parade From 7-10pm on Saturday evenings. Find out more here.

Darling Harbour’s Tumbalong Nights free shows from Wednesday to Saturday night, right in the heart of the Light Walk. Music will start at 8pm each Wednesday and 7pm each Thursday to Saturday, with Saturday kids shows at 5pm.. Check the line up here.

Vivid Accommodations

If you plan to visit Sydney for the Vivid Festival and want to book accommodation, it’s good to get in early if you can. A lot of the budget hotels are booked out by large tour groups. We have a list of our favourite budget hotels that we would be happy to stay at so check there if you are having trouble.

Hotels with a view of the Harbour are a good option if you want to view the lights from above.

If it’s your first visit to the city, you might like to read our article on choosing the best part of town to stay in depending on your travel style.

If you are bringing the kids, we have also listed our favourite hotels for families.

Feature image: For Sydney with Love by Ken Done- Credit Spinifex Group.

Check out these awesome music festivals across NSW.

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11 thoughts on “The Spectacular Vivid Sydney Festival 2023”

  1. Anybody into photography and wants to explore Vivid Sydney, 2020? Lets set dates and I’ll be there.

  2. Vivid Sydney is one of our most favourite times of the year! Not only because it’s such an amazing time to get out and fall in love with the city all over again, but we also get to host amazing events for our clients at this time of year to the backdrop of the incredible light installations. Roll on Vivid 2019!

  3. This looks so nice. I have been to Sydney twice (though my last visit has been a while) but never heard of the festival before. Hope, to see it on my next trip (though I hope I visit OZ in summer)

  4. I think if you were trying to stay away from the crowds the Zoo would be a good option. Because it’s ticketed it will most definitely attract fewer people.

  5. This looks like such a fun festival. I love that the zoo is getting involved. I’m not great with large crowds so would definitely consider the cruise 🙂

  6. I’ve never been to Vivid, but it looks like an amazing event! I attended NYE in Sydney a couple of years ago and really did not enjoy the crowds – so your tips for avoiding them would come in really handy at this festival. But most of all, I think the 75-minute cruise would be perfect for me – limited people and great views – what more could you want?!

  7. These cities always look amazing when they light up great building with their colorful lights. Sydney is no exception and looks fantastic with its iconic major sites looking all pretty

  8. Wow! What a wonderful way to make a fabulous place even more interesting! Would love to see this festival! Sydney is high on the bucket list.

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