We see it every year for New Year’s on TV. It is the first »western« city that enters the New Year and is therefore on every TV station. We have all seen videos with the Harbour Bridge and Sydney opera and the fireworks. I remember thinking: »One day I would like to see this and not just on TV.«
And we did. We came to Sydney two days before the big event. Please note that Sydney is the place to be for New Year’s so plan your stay accordingly. That means soon enough as the prices can climb to unreasonable amounts.
There are many vantage points from where you can watch the fireworks. All are well marked as the whole event is organised as one big party. Places from where you can watch the fireworks: Anywhere around Circular Quay (but you will need to camp the whole day to have a good spot), Taronga Zoo, The Opera house (if you attend a show they will let you hang around for fireworks) or you go on a Harbour cruise (ride) like we did. We can only speak for the latter from personal experience, but were told by friends (who we coincidentally met again, first time in Chile and again in Sydney) who were on the peninsula just east of the Opera house and they said that it was great.
But now more about the Harbour Cruise (ride). We started from Manly at 22.00. First the boat takes you around the harbour, but then it positions itself for the fireworks. There were many boats doing the same and when I say many I mean hundreds of boats similar to ours doing the same. But the experience was unforgettable. On the TV we only see the fireworks from the Harbour Bridge, but from the boat we saw 4 fireworks (all synchronised) from the Opera to the east. I have to admit that this was one of the most expensive things we have ever done, but completely worth it. The vibrations from the fireworks actually shook the boat a little bit. It was a very unusual countdown, because I think everyone was more excited about the fireworks than about New Year’s. After the fireworks the boat took us back to Manly and from there we went back to downtown Sydney (public transport runs the whole night on NY’s Eve). The only »disappointment« is the fact that everything is over after the fireworks. Australians spend the whole day at the beach waiting for the fireworks and then they go home (or so it seems). In Europe the countdown is the kick-off to huge parties that last very long, but in Australia the majority of the action happens during the day before. I think it’s because they can actually wait for New Year’s on the beach.
Our advice: If you ever have the chance to go to Sydney for New Year’s, go on a boat, because you won’t have to camp the whole day, you will have a great view of the fireworks and you can actually enjoy the last day of the year and not just wait for 12 or more hours in one place.