The Best View Of The Sydney New Years Eve Fireworks

Why did I decide to move to Australia in December, smack in the middle of my beloved Christmas season, where I’d be alone for the holidays?

One reason: I was dying to see the New Years Eve fireworks in Sydney.

Y’all know about my love for bridges, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge is certainly a stunner. Throw in the Sydney Opera House, a city skyline, and some fireworks and hot damn! Show me a better backdrop for a colorful pyrotechnic display, I dare you.

So, catching the Sydney New Years Eve fireworks was very high on my Must-Do List for my upcoming year in Australia. Almost immediately after booking my flight to Sydney, I began researching locations from which to catch the fireworks. If I wanted a good view, my options were threefold:

  1. Befriend someone with connections to an apartment right on the harbour with a good view (Meh, not likely)
  2. Camp out in the Botanic Garden starting at 6am the day of and have a semi-obstructed view (Sounds like hell – would it even be worth it?)
  3. Pay $385 AU to attend an exclusive dinner party right on the harbour with a guaranteed good view (#*&$*#&^ Are you for serious?!)

While trying to wrap my mind around #2 – aka giving up 18 hours of my life for, best case scenario, a view of the fireworks framed by trees from the garden – I turned #3 over in my mind. Could I justify dropping that much money on one night? Every frugal bone in my body screamed HELL TO THE NO out of habit.

Sydney Harbour at night

View from The Point

But I didn’t give up Christmas and extra weeks of paid work to take a gamble on this. I was here to witness the Sydney New Years Eve fireworks in their finest glory So call it YOLO, go big or go home – I splurged on a ticket to see the NYE fireworks in Sydney.

New Years Eve in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden

The Royal Botanic Garden provides some of the best and most easily accessible views of the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and city skyline. It’s an extremely popular location from which to catch the Sydney New Years Eve fireworks.

There are three ticketed New Years Eve parties held in the Royal Botanic Garden: Lawn With The View, The Point, and Midnight At The Oasis. If you don’t have a ticket to one of these, the only other location from which you can view the fireworks in the Botanic Garden is at Mrs. Macquarie’s Point, the wooded hill just behind The Point and Midnight At The Oasis (see rejected Option #2 above). The garden is closed to non-ticket holders at 3pm, but in reality you’ll need to arrive by 10am if you want a chance at a decent spot at the point.

Sydney New Years Eve fireworks map 

Lawn With The View – $270 AU – Bennelong Lawn
This is the most affordable and casual option, where attendees sit in lawn chairs or picnic blankets on a hill near the Opera House. You’re closer to the fireworks, but don’t have that sweeping view of the Sydney Opera House right in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. A picnic box is included for snacking, while drinks are available for purchase.

The Point – $355 AU – Fleet Steps North
This festival-themed party has guests sitting at tables right on the harbour just near Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. Food from the adjacent vendor tents is included and drinks are available for purchase at the cash bar. From this location you have THE most sweeping view of the skyline, where the Opera House appears right next to the Harbour Bridge. I thought this would have been the best spot for pictures of the fireworks, but the view is obstructed by too many sailboat masts.

Midnight At The Oasis – $385 AU – Fleet Steps South
This is the fanciest option, located just next to The Point but slightly more inland. From here, the Opera House appears beneath the Harbour Bridge rather than right next to it, but the view is not interrupted by large sailboat masts so it’s actually a better vantage point if you’re concerned with getting the best photos of the fireworks. Attendees are assigned to communal tables and get to enjoy a three course meal (excluding drinks), live band, and dance floor as well. When I booked just 5 weeks out, this was the only event that still had tickets available.

Note: In 2015, there will be a 4th party added called NYE Under The Stars. It will be an all inclusive food/drink event located right next to Bennelong Lawn for $395 AU.

Midnight at the Oasis

While most everyone at my hostel had packed up breakfast, lunch, and dinner and woken up at 5am to spend the entirety of New Years Eve camping out in the Botanic Garden for a chance at a free obstructed view of the fireworks (again, see the aforementioned rejected Option #2), I took it easy all day and didn’t venture out until early evening.

The party began at 7pm. As we entered, we were all given boxes containing fancy appetizers like salmon, ricotta salad, and trout potato salad. I plopped down at my empty table, quickly surmising that it was the reject table due to its undesirable location just behind a tree. It hardly mattered to me though, since I planned on standing at the water’s edge to catch the fireworks.

Sydney New Years Eve - Midnight at the Oasis 

I had assumed I’d be placed at a family table and forced to make small talk with older folks around me, but thankfully I was joined by a group of five friends from the UK who were around my age. I couldn’t have asked for better company! Chatting with them was an excellent way to kill time before the fireworks.

In my very unprofessional opinion, the food provided was not so great. To be fair, though, I think this might be due to my meal choices. Did I really choose beef and strawberry cake over chicken and chocolate cake? Really?! I love chicken and chocolate infinitely more, so not sure what I was smoking when I selected the other options instead. My UK companions seemed to be underwhelmed by the food as well, though they did say the chocolate cake was lovely.

Sydney New Years Eve - Midnight at the Oasis 

One thing I did really enjoy was the live band that played a mix of covers and original songs. With all the nicely dressed folks around me sipping champagne, it felt like I was enjoying music at a wedding reception. They were on until 10:30, at which point the music transitioned to a DJ set. I opted not to hit the dance floor because I was solo and with a massive backpack of expensive photo gear – but mostly, I was preoccupied with scouting a prime spot on the waterfront and taking test shots before the fireworks went off!

OKAY OKAY, enough with the wordy recap. You want to see the fireworks, don’t you?

Disclaimer: I’ve watermarked these images because I feel like they’re susceptible to being ripped off, and that’s no bueno. I know, watermarks are the worst – I hope never to have to use them again!

The 9pm NYE Fireworks

At 9:00, a small 8-minute display of fireworks went off around the harbour: on the south side of the Opera House near the city (very close to where Lawn With The View was held), and further out in the harbour toward Fort Denison and The Point. There was only a blip of fireworks under (not over) the Harbour Bridge, so it wasn’t quite the shot I was looking for – but it was good prep for the big show at midnight!

Sydney New Years Eve fireworks

Sydney New Years Eve fireworks 

The Midnight NYE Fireworks

The big fireworks show started at midnight and went on for 12 too-short minutes. In addition to the same two small fireworks clusters from the 9pm show, they set off bigger fireworks over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. There were only a few of these bursts, though. I’m not sure if this is the reason behind it, but those displays left big clouds of smoke and haze over the bridge. Allowing a minute or two for the smoke to clear before setting off more fireworks yielded better visibility in the end.

And fear not! There was plenty of space along the waterfront to set up a tripod and go to town photographing the fireworks. Most people were content sitting at their table or viewing them from the bar.

Sydney New Years Eve fireworks

Sydney New Years Eve fireworks

Sydney New Years Eve fireworks

Sydney New Years Eve fireworks

Sydney New Years Eve fireworks 

So… was it worth it?

For me, yes. I know I would have regretted it had I not gone all out and splurged on my New Years Eve ticket to Midnight At The Oasis. I don’t think it was quite worth $385 AU, but I had a great time and got the photos I wanted so I’m happy. It’s not really something you would do every year, but to experience it once is something special for sure.

And for anyone debating between the New Years Eve parties: If you prefer the excitement of seeing the fireworks up close and right above you, opt for Lawn With The View or NYE Under The Stars (the new party debuting in 2015). Otherwise, if you want a photo-worthy view of the fireworks over the skyline, Opera House, and Harbour Bridge, go for one of the other two parties. They are two entirely different experiences, so consider which is more your style.

Alternatively, if you’re considering the free Option #2, camping out all day at Mrs. Macquarie’s Point: I can’t speak from experience, but those at my hostel who did it were completely exhausted from the experience and did not come back raving about how awesome it was. The general consensus was that they were glad they did it, but it wasn’t super amazing.

Pin it!
Best View of the Sydney NYE Fireworks

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Lindsay Buckley is the photographer and travel blogger behind Frugal Frolicker. She's a New Yorker currently based in Sydney, Australia, documenting outdoor travel experiences Down Under and beyond. Follow along with Lindsay's travel photography on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to sign up for the monthly Frugal Frolicker newsletter!

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  • Those pictures are absolutely stunning!! This experience is totally on my bucket list…I’m glad you splurged for something that was worth it to you!!

    • lindsaypunk

      Aw, thanks so much girl! It should definitely stay on your list, let me tell you. Hope you get to see it someday! :)

  • Love the photos! I’m much like you in thinking such a cost could never be worth it, but for this event it just might be. All the free harbourside areas are PACKED by mid afternoon, so paying for some space and of course not having to line up for public toilets all day would be a huge bonus!

    • lindsaypunk

      Exactly! Especially being by myself, there’s no way that holding a spot in the crowd in one of those popular public viewing places would be anything less than a gigantic hassle. I wouldn’t have gotten the photos I wanted, that’s for sure. So between that and all the time and stress I saved, I think I can just about justify the cost :)

  • Melissa Trinidad

    I would have done the same thing. I’m a proponent on splurging for experiences. Except wtf on not choosing chocolate cake?!

    • lindsaypunk

      Yes, love that mantra! :D And ugh, I still don’t know. I think I would have changed my mind had I gone to fetch the dessert myself and seen it there, but someone else at my table offered to get it for me and I told them strawberry. Its description was more enticing!

  • Oh i would PAY !!!! These photos are amazing ! Provinding i was in Sydney at that very moment of the year, you can be sure that i would allow a consequent part of the budget to BE THERE and SEE THAT (and try and get decent photos, for sure).

    • lindsaypunk

      Thanks, Olivia! So true – if you’re there to see the fireworks, you better do it right, ya know? I’ll make up the cost by skimping on other things that don’t matter so much to me.

  • For such a huge bucket list item, I definitely would pay! You shots are fantastic!

    • lindsaypunk

      Thanks, Amanda! Glad you’re on the same page. I think it’s often worth the money for special experiences. Whenever I want something that’s pricey, I hold off on buying. If I find that I keep thinking about it, and that it’s not just a passing impulse – I’ll often buy. That’s what happened with these NYE tickets, and I think it was worth going with my gut!

  • WOW Linds, AMAZING photos, however I personally could not pay that much money (a plane ticket right there), so I will live vicariously through your photos until I get to Sydney myself :D

    • lindsaypunk

      Oh god I know! That could be a flight out to Utah or maybe even California – possibly even somewhere in Central America if you’re lucky. The thought definitely crossed my mind while I was debating whether to buy!

  • Laura

    Photos are fantastic! I am just deciding which ticket to buy, I am stuck between getting up close or getting a fantastic view and photos.. What camera are you using here?

    • lindsaypunk

      Thanks, Laura! I know, it’s a tough call – honestly you’ll have a sensational view no matter which ticket you buy. I was using a Canon 5d mark III :)

  • Stalem

    Those photos are amazing! By the way, I booked my trip to Sydney over NYE after reading your post :D I’m just about to buy tickets for Midnight at the Oasis and thought I’d check with you if this is still the best option in your opinion? Someone wrote a review on tripadvisor saying their table was behind a tree, people were standing and blocking their view, etc. What do you think of a harbour cruise? Thanks!!!

    • Oooh congrats! NYE in Sydney is just the best! :D My table there was actually behind a tree too, but maybe it’s because I booked it so late and that’s all that was left. Most tables do not have an obstructed view like that so I wouldn’t worry. I didn’t even sit at my table once the fireworks started – you can easily just stand at the waterfront with a better view than any table provides! :)

  • Jorge Cardoso

    Hi Lindsay, thanks for sharing your experience. This is the only place I could get a detailed descriptioin of the event so far. Your pics are amazing, by the way. I’ll be in Sydney for NYE 2015 and I’m about to buy the same ticket as you. Could you be more precise about the food and beverages they served, please? What type of food? At what times? Any alcohol? Any champagne or chance to buy it? And finally at what time did the party ended? Thanks and sorry for so many questions.

    • Thanks, Jorge! :) It was a 3 course meal, but don’t expect too much – portions were small and not that delicious. I don’t remember what exactly was served, but you get a snack box when you walk in, then either a meat or veg dinner box like an hour later, and then your choice of a dessert (probably the best part of it). There’s a bar you can buy all sorts of beverages from. Ending time… maybe 11pm? I left shortly after the fireworks show ended, but the dance floor was still going.

  • David Lo

    Very informative post, thank you. I would like to attend the Midnight At The Oasis also, but the website indicates tripod is not allowed. Did they have that restriction last year also ? Or are they not so strict about this ?

    • Really?? Hm, I don’t recall that restriction being in place last year. There’s so much space along the pathway at the waterfront, away from the tables, and hardly anyone had a tripod if I recall correctly. Honestly, you don’t really even need one – I think I ended up just placing my camera on the ledge and that worked perfectly :)

  • Rich

    THIS POST WAS SOOOOOO HELPFUL and INSIGHTFUL. THANK YOU THANK YOU. I am in an almost exact same situation as you- traveling to Sydney solo for the spectacularly hyped NYE fireworks.

    I did lots of googling and really dreaded the #2 option to camp all day out on a lawn as you did. $400 AUD is steep, but you convinced me that it’s worth the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. Your photos are breathtaking.

    • YAY!! I’m so happy it helped you! :D You won’t regret it, the experience is really something else :)

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  • Philip Souter

    Thanks for an interesting read. I am on a working holiday visa and travelling solo. Have always said since I arrived in Perth that I would head to Sydney for New Years Eve but the past few days have been dreading the idea of spending it alone. Reading your article has certainly perked me up to the idea again and as I am currently working would be happy to splash the cash on a ticket to one of the events. Thank you Lindsay. I do wonder if the new party mentioned would give as good photo opportunities.

    • You are so welcome! I hope you’re able to make it out there for it, even if you’re solo! :D Just make sure you keep an eye on tickets in case they sell out! I’m curious about the new party as well – judging from the location, I’ve no doubt that the view there will be glorious! (though a bit different from the one I had)

  • Catherine Griffiths

    Lindsay, your photographs are inspirational. I travel a lot mainly looking for wildlife and over the last few years have managed to take some nice shots of leopards, jaguars etc to adorn our walls at home.
    I head Tasmania in December looking for mammals, but fly out of Sydney on New Years Day, so have booked the Midnight at the Oasis as you did, to try to get some decent shots.
    I have a few questions about the photography if I may as I’m outside my wildlife photography comfort zone!.
    I have been specifically told that tripods are not allowed, so will take a beanbag – looking to rest on a table or ledge somewhere.
    What lens did you you use? I have a Canon 300mm F2.8L II which I’m sure would be too big and a Canon 17-55mm. At what mm/focal length were your shots taken? Did you use bulb? I’m guessing that I’ll need to use bulb, with a remote release cable, for 2-3 seconds at ISO 100.
    Perhaps you would be kind enough to let me know the Aperture, Speed, Focal Length and ISO of one of your shots?
    I have read that some photographers use an ND Filter to allow them to take longer exposures to capture multiple bursts of fireworks…?
    Apologies for asking so many questions

    • Thank you, Catherine! I was able to bring my tripod last year no problem, but I didn’t even use it. You should be able to prop your camera up on the stone ledge by the waterfront. A beanbag might be a good idea in case you want to adjust the angle (totally taking this idea and picking up one of these for myself!).

      I used a 16-35 on my 5dmkIII which was too wide (I shot at 35mm and cropped all of my shots). I think 50-60mm would be good for getting the whole scene in – longer if you want to get up close. Your 17-55 should be pretty good at the long end. I didn’t use bulb, just threw the camera on 2s timer before each shot.

      Looking at my images, most were at ISO100, f/8, and 5-6s (it was BRIGHT!). I can’t remember my focus technique, but I think I must have focused on the bridge – given my focal length and aperture, getting the scene mostly in focus was not an issue!

      No problem at all with all the questions – I love to geek out over photography talk! :P I hope you get some fantastic shots!

      • Catherine Griffiths

        Hi Lindsay!
        Thank you so much for taking the time to look up your settings and share your experience.
        Did you use a cable release, because if you didn’t the shots are even better!

        About the beanbag. I travel with my boyfriend, Steve, and he insisted that we got a beanbag. We got one with small lightweight polystyrene balls as the filling, so it is light to take on a trip/flight etc.
        One particular way that we use it is for taking shots of animals when on safari i.e. we rest it on the the door frame with the window of the car wound all the way down.

        We fell out when he had another idea. We now also take an old make up bag of mine, about 10 X 8 inches, with a pvc lining. Very light to travel with, but he then fills with sand or grains of rice. I now have to admit that it works REALLY well.

        From your blog it suns as though December may be your last month in Australia, or have I got that totally wrong?

        Anyway, thanks again for being kind enough to give me the chance of getting some half decent NYE photographs.

        Cheers,

        Catherine

        • That is SUCH a brilliant idea – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve propped my camera up on a ledge or rock and tried to angle it on the rolled-up camera strap. A sand-filled pouch will be so much better, thank you! :D

          No cable release used :) Plan is to return to Australia a week before Christmas on the tourist visa. Fingers crossed I won’t have any issues getting back in!

  • Mili Rosales

    Thank you Lindsay for this post! Thanks to you, my husband and I spent this past New Years at the exact same spot and it was AMAZING!! Thanks for the detailed explanation and tips! I 100% recommend people to spend the money to go to Midnight at the Oasis because is worth it! We met awesome people and we had an amazing time! And of course the highlight were the fireworks which were spectacular! I will be mentioning you on my travel blog post, which I’m writing right now! Thank you Thank you Thank you! :)

    • AHH, so happy to hear! :D Wasn’t it just an incredible experience? I know I’ll never forget it!

      • Mili Rosales

        Amazing experience! Yes!! :)

  • ekta gandhi

    is it a good idea to be inside the sydney opera house and see the fireworks?
    or will it be better from a distance?

    • I don’t think you can be *in* the Opera House, but you can be very near it which I think would be an awesome vantage point. Equally, I loved viewing the fireworks from further away as well. I think both would be great options!

  • Thank YOU for the kind words!

  • Good question! I booked my ticket for Midnight at the Oasis on Nov 27. A few days later, it sold out. The other ticketed events at the Botanic Garden had sold out before Nov 27.

    • Keith kenny

      I think I’m going with the lawn with a view option (the exchange rates are killing me lol) still not on sake thou 😢

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  • Sabrina

    Which section did you buy?

    • My confirmation email says “A/A8 8” under seating information! Not the best seat ’cause a tree was slightly in the way, but it doesn’t matter because you’re free to get up and move around. After eating, I just stood by the water with my camera and enjoyed the best view in the house!

  • keith kenny

    Hi lindsay I have booked my ticket now, midnight at the oasis. But I have been allocated section C table C9. Would you know how good a seat this is? Thanks in advance. Keith

    • Hooray! :D I have no idea where that seat is, but it hardly matters because you can get up and move closer to the water when the fireworks go off :)

  • Hey there! Sorry I missed replying to this sooner, but I hope you enjoyed your SydNYE! :) Were tickets still available that close to New Years??