Thousands watch Sydney New Years Eve fireworks from great spots for free each year. There’s time and some effort involved, but it’s all possible. Here’s how.
Sydney New Years Eve Fireworks Start Here
Start your search for the perfect fireworks view with the official map. It has all the details, showing the positions of the fireworks barges as well as all the official viewing areas.
If the vantage point you’re interested in does not show a $ sign on the marker, then it’s a free area. Load the map onto your phone or tablet, or print it out and take it with you.
Not all the paid viewing areas are expensive.
Ticketing is often used in very popular areas close to the city to avoid huge crowds of people having to sit in the hot sun for hours and hours to safeguard their viewing spot. And to control alcohol use (most ticketed areas have a no BYO policy.
Some, but not all areas, have bars where patrons can buy alcohol, subject to responsible service rules).
The Best Ringside View for Free
That’s the view from the Sydney Opera House. Directly across from the front of the bridge. Nothing between you and Sydney New Years Eve fireworks (except for all the boats on the harbour, of course).
It does sound too good to be true. But it’s not. You do have to be prepared for a very long day though. It is so popular that it fills up very quickly.
The site opens at 0730 and is closed to newcomers when it reaches capacity (7000 people). I wouldn’t count on getting in much after midday, you really do need to be early.
A couple of other things to be aware of. These are not seats, they are not in the Opera House. This is an open, unshaded area in the Opera House forecourt. You need to bring your own sun shades (parasol, umbrella etc).
Toilets are provided and there’s food and drink for sale. No BYO. There are no pass outs once the gates close.
If you can handle all that, then you won’t get a better view of the Sydney New Years Eve fireworks anywhere. And you get bragging rights for having seen them from the Opera House.
If You Want the Opera House in Your Fireworks Pictures
Then Mrs Macquaries Road could just be the place for you.
From here you have a view of the front of the bridge with the Sydney Opera House just under it to the left. Perfect framing for your videos and pics.
There are only 14,000 others who also like this spot – it can get crowded.
Even so, you don’t have to be there quite as early as you do at the Opera House.
Gates open at 1000. There’s grass and a few trees here (at the sides of the road) so early birds can sit in a bit more comfort.
Toilets, food and drink to buy, no BYO, no passouts, no chairs or sunshades.
Close to & In Front of the Bridge
Now we’re talking really crowded. Circular Quay, both East and West, Campbells Cove, the Rocks and Dawes Point (virtually underneath the Bridge).
They are all no BYO and no alcohol.
That means no alcohol on the streets. There are plenty of bars in the area, all of which will be open.
They have staggered opening times:
- 0900 East Circular Quay
- 0930 Campbells Cove
- 1200 The Rocks
- 1200 West Circular Quay
- 1230 Dawes Point
So if any one of these viewing areas is full, simply move to the next.
Fabulous, Free, Balloted
That’s the Cahill Expressway, which runs right along Circular Quay and is closed to traffic on New Year’s Eve. Stunning Sydney New Years Eve fireworks views! But there is a catch. Places are allocated by ballot so you need to think ahead and to have a bit of luck on your side. If you can nab a spot here, don’t bother with anything else. Partly because it opens at the very respectable hour of 1800 (6 pm) which means you don’t have to swelter through any long, hot hours of burning sun.
The Mary Booth Reserve at Kirribilli is the pick of the bunch here, only because it gets the full view, including the special theme icon (which is viewable only from the front of the bridge). It opens at 0800 and is full by early to mid afternoon (capacity 4500). Be aware that there’s no food for sale here so you have to bring it with you. It’s also no BYO, no alcohol.
If you’re not too fussed about the final icon then Bradfield Park (under the Bridge, capacity 35,000) and Blues Point Reserve (west of the bridge, capacity 15,000) are great options. The top photo on this page was taken from Bradfield Park.
Both open at 0800 and are no BYO, no alcohol. They’re still accepting people quite late in the day (get there before 5 pm for Blues Point, for Bradfield Park you can wait until even later).
If you’re staying on the North Shore these are your best close-up options. The problem with coming into the city from the north shore is the going home again afterwards.
Getting back across the harbour after the fireworks will take hours. There are always long waits and delays. You can’t even start walking back across the bridge until after 0130.
Cremorne Point is another for the North Shore visitor. Especially if you can walk to it as there will be limited buses and ferries.
It’s a gorgeous little park. Some views of the fireworks may be partially blocked by the trees, of which there are many. It opens at 1300.
West of the Bridge
Observatory Hill Park is another very old park close to the city. It has lovely old Moreton Bay Fig trees, a Victorian Rotunda and a great, close-up view of Sydney New Years Eve fireworks. It used to be called Windmill Hill and was the highest point in colonial Sydney. So they put an Observatory there and the hill then took its name from that. Opens 1200 (noon).
A little further away, across the water, Balmain and Birchgrove offer a number of vantage points. All are no alcohol, No BYO. All have toilet facilities unless otherwise noted.
And the Thornton and Illoura spots should let you see the Darling Harbour “family” fireworks at 2100 (9 pm) as well as the family fireworks on the harbour proper. I’m not 100% sure of this, though.
Because the western side is the ‘back’ of the harbour bridge, not all of the detail is seen. In particular, the final annual icon is visible only from the front. But it’s still all very dramatic.
- Lookes Ave Reserve: capacity 1000, opens 0800
- Illoura Reserve: capacity 3000, opens 0800
- Yurulbin Park, capacity 400, opens 0800
- Birchgrove Park, capacity 5000, opens 0800
- Mort Bay Park, capacity 3000, opens 0800
- Simmons Point: no toilets, capacity 300, opens 1000
- Thornton Park: capacity 1000, opens 1530
Access is an issue. It’s really best for those already staying in that area. Congestion and bottlenecks are a regular feature of trying to get in and out of both Balmain and Birchgrove and it will almost certainly be very bad on New Year’s Eve.
- Yarranabbe Park, on the foreshore just up from Rushcutters Bay, gives you a full view of the bridge. It’s quite large, takes 10,000 people, and opens at 1200 (noon). No alcohol, no BYO.
- McKell Park, capacity 1000. Beautiful clear views down the harbour to the bridge. There’s no food for sale. Opens 1200 (noon)
- The very small Duff Reserve is one of my favourite lesser known Sydney picnic spots. Capacity 100 (and that’ll be a bit of a squeeze). It’s down some steepish steps and there’s no food or anything for sale. Fab views. Opens 1200 (noon).
Avoid the Big Crowds
Get the Panoramic View
If you don’t want to be pushed and shoved, don’t want to fight for a spot and would prefer to avoid excessive delays in getting home after the event, then head out to the suburbs.
You will still get fantastic views of the Sydney New Years Eve fireworks and you’ll enjoy them in a much more relaxed atmosphere.
For a full view of the Bridge go to Dumaresq Reserve, Rose Bay: Capacity 250, opens 1500, no food for sale.
Or Choose a Partial Bridge View
With these next sites you trade off part (or sometimes all) of the bridge view. You’ll still get the harbour and the fireworks above it.
I can assure you it’s still spectacular. I overlook the harbour but don’t see the bridge. Yet friends clamour to visit for the Sydney New Years Eve fireworks. They’re dramatic, even absent the bridge. (And we sit in comfort overlooking it all, never underestimate that!)
So here are some of the ‘others’. Except for Pirrama Park they are all alcohol free, no BYO, and there’s no food for sale, so bring your picnic.
- Rose Bay Foreshore, capacity 100, opens 1400
- Robertson Park, Watsons Bay, capacity 500, opens 1200
- North Head, Manly, capacity 2000, opens 1730
- Pirrama Park, close to Bridge, partial views, alcohol allowed but no BYO, capacity 15,000, opens 1400, doesn’t get crowded, accessible and family friendly, food for sale
Almost all viewing sites have some or all of these restrictions:
- No glass
- No pets
- No BYO alcohol
- No busking
- No camping
For people with prams, wheelchair users and others who may have special needs, there is a easy access map tracker which will keep you up to date with details of accessible sites, levels of difficulty of access and more.
There are designated accessible viewing areas at Kirribilli, Pirrama Park, Mrs Macquaries Road and the Opera House. They are free but do need advance booking.
Watch and Listen
If you can’t get to the harbour you can still watch the Sydney New Years Eve fireworks celebrations. ABC TV will broadcast the evening live from 2035. And, after the event, it will be available to view on iview.
If you’re there and would like to hear the synchronised soundtrack to the fireworks – both at 2100 and at midnight, then tune into KIIS 1065 and you’ll receive it.