Happy New Year in Sydney!
Seeing Fireworks & Partying in the Harbor And Bars
It's a real blast all over Sydney, the first city to celebrate the New Year.
By Correspondent Joanna Hall in Sydney
Some say the New Year's Eve fireworks in Sydney are the Greatest Show on Earth. Just when you think it can't get any better, the organizers always seem pull something special out of the hat and treat people to another jaw-dropping display.
As ever, the format starts with a practice run at 9 p.m., designed for families, followed by the main event at the stroke of midnight. But if you don't have a city centre hotel room, or a friend with a pad in the thick of the action, there are a number of options for serious partygoers to get a glimpse of the colourful celebrations.
The fireworks for NYE in Sydney seem (somehow) to get better each year.
There are two basic rules for getting around on the day. First, leave your car at home. Second, go early to avoid delays and missing out on all the fun. You should also prepare for a long day, regardless of where you go and what you plan do. Even though the fireworks end around 12.15am, the party goes on until dawn and moving thousands of people out of the city at the end of it all takes lots of time and patience.
The city begins to wind down in earnest around midday in preparation for the big event. Roads throughout the city centre, Circular Quay and the harbour foreshore are temporarily closed, including the centrepiece of the display, the Sydney Harbour Bridge. To check on specific road closures, call the RTA traffic infoline on 132-701.
But public transport arrangements are excellent on the day. Ferries, buses and trains run on special timetables throughout the day and night, although the ferries stop temporarily between 7pm and 1am. Call the transport infoline on 131-500 for up-to-date information, and advice on getting to and from your chosen destination.
Party on the Water
Whether you choose a cruise or an island jaunt, both offer a unique view of the action. Most of Sydney's harbour cruise companies - such as Ausail or Sydney Harbour Charters - offer private and shared charters on the night, with prices ranging from $140 to $275 a head. Many are booked well in advance, however, although it's worth enquiring nearer the time in case of any cancellations. Contact the Sydney Tourist Information Office (9255-1788) or NSW Visitor Information (132-077) for an up-to-date list of operators.
You can also hire a water taxi to either get you to your destination or get you close-up view of the fireworks. Try Dolphin Water Taxis on 1-300-130-742 or call call the Sydney Tourist Information Office (9255-1788) or NSW Visitor Information (132-077) for an up-to-date list of operators.
Sydney Harbour's tiny islands, including Pinchgut (Fort Denison), Goat, Shark and Clark Islands, offer a great alternative to a cruise, but tickets are expensive and hard to come by. Pinchgut is literally spitting distance from the Bridge, and by far the best spot. A ticket for NYE cost around $270, but it does guarantee an excellent viewing spot, free entertainment and a fun ferry ride there and back. Call the National Parks and Wildlife Service (9247-5033) for further information and availability.
Party in the Air
The most expensive option is to fly over the action, but it comes with a great deal of risk as well as a hefty price tag. YouÕre expected to pay the entire cost up front and there's no refund policy; if bad weather prevents you from going up (as happened last year) you lose your money.
A safer and more comfortable option is to book a table at one one of Sydney's high rise restaurants. The revolving restaurant atop Centrepoint on Pitt Street is always popular even though the food isn't that spectacular. But the unique 360-degree view of the city, and the fireworks, makes up for the pricey menu. Assuming you can book a table, expect to pay something in the region of $160-$210 a head depending on where you're seated.
Another stunning elevated spot is Unkai, the lavish gourmet Japanese restaurant atop the Shangri La Hotel in The Rocks. Window tables are always booked out a couple of weeks in advance during normal times, but if you get in quick you might be lucky. The ones situated further back still afford panoramic views, as well as some of the best Japanese food in town.
Party on the Bridge
The RTA (Roads and Traffic Authority) offers a limited number of tickets to view the fireworks display from the dress circle position of the Cahill Expressway deck above Circular Quay. The emphasis is on family fun - no alcohol or glass allowed - but the venue offers a unique view of the event.
Tickets are available for both the 9 p.m., and midnight displays. They haven't confirmed a price at writing, but last year they were a bargain at only $5 each. Tickets can be purchased from several RTA motor registry offices in the Sydney metropolitan area, including Surry Hills, Chatswood , Five Dock , Maroubra , Miranda, North Sydney, Parramatta and Wynyard. Proceeds go to charity or a worthy local cause.
Party Around the Pubs
If you don't fancy risking the weather, you can watch all the action on Channel 9 on a big screen in one of Sydney's many pubs and bars. Be warned, though, the crowds are always as huge inside as they are outside, and it may take half an hour to get to the front of the bar for a beer. Some venues also impose a cover charge from around 9pm.
Many nightclubs also lay on special NYE parties, kicking off around 10pm and continuing until dawn. Tickets have to be purchased in advance and are always limited. Pick up a copy of Drum Media or The Brag (free, available in many city cafes, shops and bars), or check with the weekend newspapers before the big day.
The pick of the pubs in the heart of the action include The Slip Inn (111 Sussex Street, Circular Quay), The Quay Bar (Customs House, 31 Alfred Street (Circular Quay), The Orient Hotel (89 George Street, The Rocks), The Score Bar (Star City Casino, Darling Harbour), Aqua Luna (Opera Quays, East Circular Quay), The Australian Hotel (100 Cumberland Street, The Rocks), and The Lord Nelson Brewery (19 Kent Street, The Rocks).
For parties further afield, try The Clock Hotel (470 Crown Street, Surry Hills), The Palace Hotel (122 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst), Hugo's Lounge (33 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross), Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel (2 Bourke Street, Woolloomooloo), the Beach Road Hotel (71 Beach Road, Bondi Beach), and the Ivanhoe of Manly (The Corso, Manly).
Party Around the Harbor
The picturesque Sydney Harbour foreshore offers plenty of opportunities for partygoers to see the action for free. But to bag the perfect spot, you need to plan ahead, go early and be prepared for a long wait.
Mrs. Macquarie's Chair is a spectacular vantage point, but also one of the most popular. Situated in an outlet along from the Opera House, it faces the Harbour Bridge and offers unparalleled views.
Sydney Opera House is closed to the public on the night, but the adjacent walkway has plenty of atmosphere if you don't mind squeezing in there with thousands of other people.
Blues Point Reserve is an expansive area north of the Bridge offering great views. Milsons Point and Luna Park are situated right next to the Bridge, and both offer close-up views of the action.
Dawes Point is on the south side of the Bridge, and another popular option for in-your-face views of the fireworks. Being in The Rocks area it is close to some of the best pubs - and therefore parties - in the city.
Balmain Wharf offers a more intimate atmosphere. There are large areas of parkland along both sides, accommodating mostly crowds of locals and families.
Bradley's Head sits at the tail end of the long spit that leads up to Taronga Zoo, and has incredible views of the city from the north side. A bonus here is that the crowds are always lighter than in the city.
North Head offers a distant view of the action, but this quiet spot on the northern side of the entrance to Sydney Harbour attracts mostly locals from the Northern Beaches. With the Tasman Sea to your left, and the Harbour to your right, itÕs hard not to be charmed by the cool breezes and vistas.
South Head offers a similar atmosphere - and views - in reverse, and perhaps a slightly better view of the distant fireworks. A bonus here is Hornby Lighthouse, which adds a special touch to an already magical scene.
The author and husband love soaking up the Sydney good life and atmosphere.
Joanna Hall is a feature writer specialising in travel, and a partner in the Sydney-based media company, Seahorse Media.