Am I still dreaming or did we really just spend Sydney New Years Eve together watching the fireworks from what has to be the best free NYE vantage point in Sydney? No I’m not, we have the pictures and videos to prove it (you do stop taking pictures etc as you become entranced by the display). As I write this on New Years Day nursing a medium sized hangover, it does feel a little dreamlike.
This was the main reason we decided to come to Australia, at what has to be the most expensive time of the year. Has it been worth the extra expense, oh yes and a little bit more so.
New Years Eve Sydney : Your Options
We had spent quite some time looking at what to do for New Years Eve. Seeing as we had travelled all this way, there was no way we were going to see the display from behind a tree. If you are thinking of coming for 2012 here is a quick guide to what to do with rough costings.
On a Boat – you have a range of options here to be on a boat with or without food/drinks included and these range from AUS$299 (with Bring your own food and drink) up to around AUS$600-700 with food
In a Restaurant with a View - Depending on the view and the menu! you will spend anywhere between AUS$350 and $900 but usually include drinkies with the food. However, popular locations like the Royal Opera House Bar sell out fast so book as soon as tickets available usually Oct/Nov time.
At a paid vantage point – there are numerous, but some of the best will have to be in the Royal Botanical Gardens where you get both the view of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. This would set you back AUS$300 – $500 depending which of their two offerings you chose, again the cheaper option sells out fast so book early. We also checked out Cockatoo Island where you can camp, but having visited on the ferry we did not think the view was that great.
Take your chances at the free vantage points, which happens to be what we did. This does cost you, not dollars but time and planning, and an early start is essential. Here is how we did it
Getting a Good Spot 101
Pick your desired spot, we had it nailed down to two or three
Sydney Opera House – Great view of the bridge but the opera house is behind you so we jibbed this one as it only allows 6000 in and we expected it to fill up early.
Tarpeian Precinct – Great views of the bridge, but again the Opera House is to your right so you miss the perfect view, again admits only 6000 so difficult to get a spot
Mrs Macquaries Point - The prefect view in my book, however the number of good viewing points means that about 2000 of the 20,000 admitted will be fighting with you to actually get one of these prime pieces of grass. We managed it, just.
The Longest Day
We set the alarms for 4.15am, we toyed for a while about sleeping out, but this seemed a bit too much so we aimed to get there for 5.30am. In the end our picnic packing and kit assembly took a while longer than expected. We arrived at 6am and joined the back of the 1500+ sleeping and early arrival merchants (who were about 80% Chinese – we know this from the flags they were waving – although I didn’t realise that China had a new flag).
The entry gates actually opened at 10 and with the queue snaking back through the park it took us until 11.15 to enter the park. The time flew by as you chat to the other foolhardy early risers and in my case write and publish a blog. (We also spoke to people who arrived much later and they reckoned it took about three hours to get through the queue).
As we slowly moved to the entrance gates we were both getting very nervous that we had left it too late and we were not going to get a good spot. I actually had butterflies in my stomach as we neared the gates. You have your bag searched (no alcohol or glass allowed, or open/empty water bottles as advertised, but also no cans, not as advertised, so the contents of our picnic were deprived of some tasty morsels. Slightly annoying that.
Looking for Lawn
We made a dash for our desired spot, Fleet Steps (we had done a reckie the day before) and got one of the very special wristbands (one of about 2,000) and were granted entry to the harbourside lawns. From a distance it already looked full, but as we raced down I spotted a little sea of green amid the already comfortable crowd who had spread out their rugs and picnics and were already getting comfy/sleeping. We grabbed it and spread ourselves out and then turned around and admired the view. As did Pichachu – remember him?
I glanced at my watch and realised we had only 12 1/2 hours until the fireworks went off (well 9 1/2 actually they do a show at 9pm as well). We had packed all our entertainment technology to keep us amused, but we never actually used any of it. The time was filled watching the revellers revel, the Chinese playing cards, painting their faces and having lots of pictures in front of the many Chinese flags. Wandering back up the steps to go for a pee and just soaking up the amazing party atmosphere, and of course in our case having a few glasses of wine($30 a bottle (or carton as it was served in, not a bad wine really) to smooth away the hours.
We also chatted to our fellow campers (a group of German backpackers and some Irish friends) and generally just watched the sun drop behind the skyline and felt the excitement build until the 9pm fireworks and then reach a complete frenzy by the time the real ones came at midnight. We felt it only right to buy a bottle of bubbly which for AUS$40 I didn’t think was bad. I think John even had a little dance with the party people, when the sun went down.
We had a complete uninterrupted view of the whole show as everyone who was camped moved forward towards the barrier which meant it was only three deep.
The Journey Home
After the smoke had cleared and the last pyrotechnic had petered out it was then the mad dash to get home. Sydney put on fantastic bus and train service for New Year and given the amount of people they had to move after the event. None of our services made us wait for very long. A half hour walk and then two short train hops and we were back slightly tipsy, mightily tired but also having had one of the most memorable New Year experiences of our lives. This now knocks the Great Ocean Road off the top spot for this leg of the travels.
I managed to lose a thong (flip flop) getting on the train (it slipped off and fell down onto the tracks and there was no way of retrieving it) on the way home so discarded the other and did the walk back home barefoot. John said he hated them anyway as they squeaked when I walked. Oh well small price to pay for the evening wouldnt you say.
Snapping fireworks is tricky
As you will see trying to get good pictures of fireworks without a tripod is a rather tricky business, but luckily we had the good sense to do more videoing than snapping, these little video treats I hope will let you witness the show and capture a little soupcon of the atmosphere.
There are others on my YouTube Channel if you want to see some more…
This was truly an amazing day, surprisingly romantic and intimate considering the number of people there, and probably for us a once in the lifetime experience. It’s well worth making a visit to Sydney at it’s busiest time of the year to join in the party with other visitors and Sydneysiders.