The end of the year is finally here, and if you’re feeling a bit dazed at the fact that 12 (or 20) months have just sailed by almost without you noticing, you’re not alone.
However, there are few better places in the world than Sydney Harbour to ring in the new year, so at least we can send off 2021 with a bang and hope and pray that 2022 is better and less pandemic-y than the previous two years.
New Year is really where Sydney shines and reminds you that, despite the ridiculous house and rental prices, the shoddy transport, and the lack of decent nightlife, the Harbour City is still one of the greatest places on Earth to live.
The rest of the world also holds a soft spot for Sydney too, as we just so happen to be one of the first cities to ring in the new year, well and truly marking the start of the transition to the next year for everyone else. People from all over tune in to see the iconic Harbour Bridge and the Opera House light up like something out of Star Wars – no shade to New Zealand, who also put on a great show (probably).
However, actually getting a first-hand viewing of that world-class explosion show is difficult business, often requiring months or potentially years of planning (if buying a house with a harbour view is your tactic of choice).
Sydney has fireworks at 9pm with the ‘welcome to country’ display and again at 12am to celebrate the end of the year. Here’s how to get the best view of the best way to see in 2022.
Where to Watch the Fireworks For Free in Sydney
Back in the day, Sydney Harbour used to be a bit of a free for all, but, as the city has got busier and restrictions have been put in place, the access to the water at New Years has tightened. This trend has, of course, been supercharged by COVID, meaning there are rather limited places to watch the fireworks without having to buy a ticket.
As you can see, there are 32 official vantage points around the harbour from which to watch the fireworks. Only 14 of these are free entry, with seven being un-ticketed (dotted in pink) with an additional seven requiring free but necessary tickets.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of these free spots are designated as alcohol-free, meaning if you want to pop a bottle at midnight, you’ll have to go elsewhere.
There are only three free-entry sections out of the 14 in total in which you can drink alcohol and only two where you’re allowed to bring your own booze. Those are Gilba Park in Pyrmont and Bicentennial Park in Glebe but neither of these has the best view of the water. The only other place you can drink and not have to pay for a ticket is Dudley Page Reserve in Dover Heights, although alcohol has to be purchased within the grounds.
If you want to get a spot at any of the free sites, you’ll have to move quickly as some, like Lavendar Bay, open at 8am and people take getting a spot very seriously.
The rest of the harbour will be relatively well cordoned off and trying to get to an unguarded or unofficial vantage point is likely to cause issues. Last year, many roads and parks around the harbour were closed to non-residents to limit crowd numbers and for the past few years, local councils have been fencing off areas like Balls Head and only allowing those who live within the vicinity to access them. It’s possible to try and get down to some of these places early and see what happens but it’s sensible to have a plan B in case you’re stopped from entering.
Of course, you can always ask around and see if any of your friends (or friends of friends of friends) work in an office in the CBD with harbour views. More often than not these places like to utilise their views for New Year’s parties and can offer prime viewing if you can swing an invite.
Where to Watch the Fireworks Ticketed in Sydney
If you can’t secure a free spot, you’re looking at ticketed events and, while these are arguably the better option for having a sense of confirmation and order around the night, some of the better spots have already booked out.
Across the 31 vantage points in Sydney, just 28 spots still have tickets and they’re moving quickly. If you want to drink, only 9 of those spots have tickets left.
The Sydney Opera House has arguably one of the best views of the harbour and is right in the centre of the action. Their forecourt tickets sell for just $10-25 dollars and have just gone on sale. Act not if you want a piece of this action as they will sell out shortly.
Other great spots include the Barangaroo reserve at Millers Point, which offers great views from the southwestern side of the bridge with tickets selling for between $20 and $46. Taronga Zoo and the Bradley’s Head region offer spectacular views across the whole harbour as well, with tickets starting at $12 and going up to $110.
The Botanic Gardens have a number of options too with awesome views of the bridge and the Opera House. You can sit on the Mare and Foal lawn for $130-$150 or at Mrs Macquaries Point for $25-150, which includes a wide range of food trucks and pop-up bars. The best option however is the Botanic Gardens Bridgeview, positioned right above the Opera House with top-notch views of the fireworks. The tickets don’t come in cheap though, at a high of $260, however they’re likely to be the best seats in the house.
Bars and restaurants around the harbour are also offering New Year’s Eve packages, with Pier One at Circular Quay dishing up harbour-side fine dining at The Gantry as well as private viewing rooms and private dining rooms in addition to general entry, all with access to their viewing platform.
Cafe Sydney, at the top of Custom House in Circular Quay, is also available for some high end eating, with a six course, wine-paired modern Australian dinner on the menu. That deal also comes with Perrier Jouët Brut to toast the new year.
If you’re a north-of-the-bridge resident, Wharf Bar and Bar Tropic in Manly are hosting viewings for the local Manly fireworks in the harbour, soundtracked by a Touch Sensitive DJ set and a set menu dinner feast.
If you decide it’s all too much and you’d rather watch the bangs and lights from the comfort of your own sofa, ABC will be broadcasting live from Sydney Harbour from 8:30pm. The fireworks will also be live-streamed on the official Sydney New Year’s Eve website and ABC iView.