“There will be over a million people!”
“You will need to arrive early and make a day of it.”
“Most of the good vantage points are ticketed and will cost at least $150.”
“All the free spaces are alcohol-free.”
In the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, my head was spinning with information overload. This was my first, and likely only, time in Sydney for the celebration and I was determined to see the world famous midnight fireworks…I just didn’t know how I would pull it off.
The city of Sydney published a helpful website full of information regarding vantage points along the harbor, ticketing information, and changes to public transportation, which all served as a great starting point. After speaking with several people about options and scouting out a few key spots along the harbor, my friends and I decided that finding a free vantage point, even if it was also alcohol-free, was our best plan. Sure, we could find a party with a DJ, food, and drinks, but it would cost us over $300 per person. No, thank you.
It’s difficult to know what to expect from an event like this. How early would we need to find a spot? When would public transport stop running? Will there be public restrooms? How will we get home? There were so many questions that I wasn’t able to answer without experiencing it for myself. But now, having the joy of checking this major event off my bucket list, I can share a few tips for those who one day hope to achieve the same.
My friends and I opted for a spot across the harbor called Blue Point Reserve. We chose this because it took a little extra effort to reach and therefore wouldn’t fill up as quickly as spots along the city-side of the harbor (TIP #1). It was also close to the bridge but not directly on top of it and would offer unobstructed views. Plus, it was free! Three of the girls in our group packed a massive picnic and trekked over to find a spot at 10AM. Already lined with people, the girls threw down in a perfect location under the shade of a tree and close to the public toilets. They saved our spot for the entire day, taking turns napping, walking around, snacking, and sun-bathing. I will forever be grateful for their sacrifice. 🙂
I arrived around 5PM with snack reinforcements, sunscreen, water, and my Bluetooth speaker, ready to wait out the setting sun. Sydney actually has two firework shows, one at 9PM for families, and a second showing–the main event–at midnight. The city also tries to entertain their patient guests with water shows, including a parade of sailboats along the harbor, each boat covered in glowing lights.
The sun set shortly after 8PM and by 9 o’clock, everyone was ready for the start of the fireworks. I assumed that this first set wouldn’t be as spectacular as the midnight display, but was pleasantly surprised as the sky lit up with colorful explosions over the Harbor Bridge and off barges placed along the water. After the family fireworks ended, several groups of spectators went home. (TIP #2) As it turns out, you don’t have to wait all day to snag a great spot! Although the vantage points will reach capacity and close by 6PM at the latest, they will re-open again after families leave. Be ready to enter just outside your destination and spend less time waiting out the main event.
The last few hours seemed to fly by and, before we knew it, we were all edging closer to the water, ready for the show. Starting from 90, a countdown appeared on either side of the bridge. The crowd began to cheer as we ticked closer to 0. We were standing along the harbor with 1.6 million people, excitedly waiting to celebrate the first few minutes of 2016! As we reached the final 10-seconds, you could hear the masses shouting out our countdown. It was the best 10-seconds of the year!
Right on cue, the fireworks set off when we reached “zero!” and amazed its crowd for 12 glorious minutes. While the bridge fireworks were my favorite, the explosions along the water added to the overall beauty of the event. At first, I was torn between enjoying the moments and capturing it on my camera to re-experience later. Thankfully, reality got the better of me, and after a few snaps, I stopped worrying about that perfect Instagram shot and focused on the stream of colors lighting up the night sky (TIP #3).
This was easily the best fireworks display I have ever seen. They made my 7-hour wait well worth it! Sydney, you are magical. Cheers to 2016!