Experts in Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific

Where to watch Sydney's New Year’s Eve celebrations

Posted 20 December 2017
Find the best spots to watch the new year celebrations kick off in sparkling Sydney, as well as the most suitable places to make the most out of your celebration.

New Year’s Eve in Sydney is the biggest public event held in Australia, the highlight of the summer and a party the whole city gets involved in. So if you’re wondering where the best spots to join the celebration are, head for these amazing vantage points:

Sydney Opera House

Opens at 7.30am

Capacity 26,000 reached by 7pm in recent years

If you like to be right in the thick of it, shoulder to shoulder with an excited group of onlookers at one of the most iconic landmarks in the world, then it doesn’t get much more central than the Sydney Opera House. Some sections here will be cordoned off and reserved for paying guests. Nevertheless, if you like to be at the defining centre of the party, you’ll find it here. 

East Circular Quay and the Rocks

Opens at 9am

Capacity 6,000 reached by 10:30pm in recent years

Right in the heart of the city, Circular Quay and the Rocks is the jumping off point for ferries to the northern shores. It also provides close-up views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and is home to many bars and restaurants. And while there’s plenty of free standing room, be warned, there’s also no view of the Sydney Opera House. 

West Circular Quay

Opens at 12 noon

Capacity 26,000 reached by 7pm in recent years

Offering close-up views of both the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, you may find space at a premium here, but the reasons for its popularity are apparent as soon as you arrive at this central location – that iconic bridge towers above you. 

Mrs Macquaries Point

Opens at 10am

Capacity 14,000 reached by 7pm in recent years

Named after the wife of the Governor of New South Wales, Mrs Macquaries Chair is an exposed limestone rock that was carved into a seat so that she could watch the ships sail into the harbour.  Today, this vantage point is still a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike featuring dramatic views of the bay.

Clark Island

Opens at 6pm

Capacity 480 – a ticketed venue only

As the name suggests, this island could be one of the most unique spots to see in the New Year. Smack-dab in the middle of Sydney Harbour, you’ll feel like royalty here. It has all the facilities you need including toilets and will offer a more relaxed ambiance to enjoy the celebrations.

Bradfield Park at Milsons Point

Opens at 8am

Capacity 35,000 reached by 11pm in recent years

It just goes to show how many different yet still spectacular vantage points there are around the city to watch the celebrations. Bradfield Park is situated on the North Shore at the base of Sydney Harbour Bridge itself. Expect to be fully illuminated here. As with most prime locations, it’s best to turn up early to bag the best spot.

Blues Point Reserve – McMahons Point

Opens at 8am

Capacity 15,000 reached by 6pm in recent years

The main benefit of this vantage point is the perspective you have of the bridge as it arches across your view from left to right. If you’re a keen photographer who is handy with a long lens, then expect to get some iconic pictures.

Board a ferry

An unforgettable way to witness the fireworks is to get out onto the harbour. You can jump on a ferry for the round trip between Rose Bay Wharf and Manly Wharf to either watch the family-friendly fireworks at 9pm or the midnight celebrations – or pay for both. Or, you could book a seat on a stationary ferry in Circular Quay. These do not go out on the water, but even parked up, they offer one of the best views in the city.

Our top tip

Part of the beauty of this city is its geographical location – built around a series of hillsides surrounding the bay – so you don’t have to be on the water or even near the water to have a grandstand view. Thus, many residential properties with balconies have direct views overlooking the harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. It’s worth asking friends to see if they’re having a party on New Year’s Eve, especially if you’re not keen on crowds.

Some things to remember before you secure your spot for the fantastic display:

The order of events

There are several, separate events to consider. The first is a 6pm aerial display in the skies above, followed by a tug boat display on the harbour. Next, is the Welcome to Country ceremony, placing indigenous tribal traditions at the heart of the celebrations. Then, at 9pm a family-friendly fireworks display ensues, followed by the Harbour of Light Parade of illuminated boats. Finally, as midnight strikes, fireworks erupt from seven barges, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House in one of the greatest pyrotechnic displays on the planet.

Restrictions on alcohol

Most official vantage point do not allow you to bring your own drinks, but have licensed vendors that will sell you beverages. Some places will be strictly alcohol free while others, particularly family-friendly spots, will be smoke free zones. Therefore, choosing the spot that is right for you is important, but there are a few general golden rules. 

Choosing a location

Stick to the side of the bridge you are staying on. Getting back across the bridge after celebrations have finished will be time-consuming and not ideal when you’re feeling slightly the worse for wear. Some vantage points will be ideal for families with small children whereas others will have a full on party atmosphere that may not be to your taste. 

Book a table with a view

If you’re thinking of booking a table at a restaurant with a view, prepare to pay a substantial deposit toward your eventual bill to reserve the table. This is normal practise and the reward here is that you have a guaranteed ringside seat, with all the comfort and amenities (toilets) a restaurant affords. 

However you take part in New Year’s Eve, always drink responsibly and most of all, from all the team here at Austravel, have a happy New Year!