A Perfect Night: New Year’s Eve in Sydney

Part 2 of New Year’s Eve in Sydney. Part 1 can be found here.

So after this stunning sunset…

…it was time to make our way to Sydney Harbour for the main event — the world famous midnight fireworks. But first:

Family Fireworks: Turns out Sydney actually has two fireworks shows on New Year’s Eve. The first, the “Family Fireworks”, occur at 9 PM — presumably for those with kids they want to put in bed by midnight (though I believe everyone should be allowed to stay up on New Year’s Eve!).

Mike and I had just returned to our hotel to put away our glassware and leftover food when these began, which again was a lucky move — turned out from our hotel’s tenth floor we had a private and unobstructed view of the fireworks in Darling Harbour. Plus, the Family Fireworks seemed to focus most on Darling Harbour; continuing long after the ones at Sydney Harbour ended.


The Rocks: This was the part I was worried about. I’d read that to claim a really good position for the fireworks, you needed to stake out a spot by 6 PM. We didn’t head out towards the harbour until 9:30, and to say the streets were packed by then would be like saying the Amazon just has a few trees. I was terrified we wouldn’t find a spot to see the Opera House — for me, simply seeing fireworks in Sydney on New Year’s Eve wasn’t good enough. What I always wanted was to see the fireworks AT the iconic Opera House.

We had a few scares. At one bridge, we were barricaded back by police, who said there were already too many people in the harbour area. Then, after we were let through, we elbowed our way through the crowd but kept reaching only mediocre vantage spots. We even pushed all the way to the end of the street and found ourselves almost directly under the Harbour Bridge, which would have been good enough for most — but from there we weren’t able to see the Opera House. So no bueno.

Harbour Bridge, you’re just not good enough…

Walking back through the streets, we found a growing group of people pushing to get through a small gate. Security was slowly letting people through, and we decided to get in line. Turns out, it was the entrance to The Rocks!

As we’d both just arrived in Sydney, neither of us knew the city layout or that The Rocks was the place to be — or that we had been walking directly parallel to it for the last hour. We’d timed it extremely well; only a few minutes after we went through, security stopped letting people in and said the area was at capacity.

Waiting for midnight — Harbour Bridge on left, Opera House on right

I couldn’t believe our luck — with only an hour to go until midnight, we had managed to snag a prime viewing position. From where we stood, we had the Harbour Bridge to our left and the Sydney Opera House to our right!


I was ecstatic; something I’d dreamed of for years was unfolding perfectly before me. Estimates say 1.5 million people were in Sydney for New Year’s — and it felt like every single one of them was down in Sydney Harbour with us. The atmosphere tingled with thousands upon thousands of noisemakers, sparklers, silly hats, and snuck-in bottles of alcohol. We were surrounded by people from different countries, all speaking different languages, but everyone’s excitement was palpable.

After the most exhilarating countdown I’ve ever been a part of, MIDNIGHT struck — and $6.3 million dollars’ worth of fireworks exploded into an unbelievably spectacular twelve-minute show, accompanied by a soundtrack of Australian contemporary music and the additional symphony of people shouting and cheering all around us. It was absolutely incredible.

After the fireworks ended, we slowly made our way through the crowds of people, many of whom were dancing and partying in the street. We took our time walking home, soaking up the atmosphere — like them, we didn’t want the night to end.

I loved that Sydney’s theme this New Year’s was “Time to Dream.” Even though it involved a lot of luck — the gorgeous day, the picnic spot and sunset, our view of Darling Harbour’s fireworks, our spot at The Rocks — the day was perfection and this New Year’s was an absolute dream come true. It was the perfect ending to 2011, and the perfect beginning for 2012.

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  1. I love, love, love those photos of the firework over the Opera House! (And the photos of the two happy, good-looking people in front of it aren’t bad, either :)

    More blogging, I say!

    • Thanks — that’s exactly why I had to stake out a spot where I could see the Opera House! It’s just not New Year’s in Sydney without that view :)

  2. Hey Edna, greetings from Jakarta! I found your blog through one of the links forwarded on Twitter and later through @adventurouskate. I was browsing your blog, and I saw this post – was so happy to read it because spending New Year’s Eve in Sydney was also on my bucket list, and I was there at the same time as you! (My post is here http://misslailai.com/2012/01/02/mission-accomplished-sydney-nye-fireworks/) I love Sydney, it’s still my favourite city in the world; can’t get enough of it.

    The New Year’s Eve was awesome, wasn’t it? And I have to say, some luck you had to grab a great spot to view the fireworks!! I didn’t want to risk it and ended up waiting since the afternoon, even paid for an entrance to Barangaroo. But it was definitely one of the most memorable moments of my life.

    Happy to have found your blog, and will be following your journey as you travel and work abroad :)

    • Thanks Veny! How funny that we were there at the same time — though I’m not surprised, I think something like 1.5 million people go to Sydney for the NYE celebrations?!

  3. Edna, I’m reading this and I’m smiling as the quote “the grass is always greener on the other side” popped up. I’ve never heard of Sydney’s NY fireworks being on anyone’s bucketlist until today! I come from Sydney and rarely make the effort to see the live fireworks every new year. My friends and I (and a lot of Australians) take things for granted. Kinda like the french with eiffel :) I’m really glad I took the time to see the fireworks December 2011 before moving to Paris. Hey you and I were meters away!! :) I’m so happy to read you had a wonderful experience in Sydney and the way you talked about it. Not only does it make me appreciate where I come from even more. Have a wonderful day :)

    • Haha I can totally relate though — growing up close to New York I’ve always said you couldn’t pay me to go spend NYE in Times Square! You never know what you’ve got until you talk to someone non-local :)

  4. Ha! I just stumbled onto this post. I was in Sydney for that same NYE – watching the show from Vaucluse. Admittedly I’ve seen many Sydney shows (grew up there) but each one is better than the last.

  5. Ha! I was one of those 1.5 million people, watching the show from Vaucluse. No one does NYE like Sydney. I’ve seen in the new year there many times, as I grew up in the city. Each is better than the last. So glad you got to experience it!


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