We arrived in Sydney on the 27th of December, ready to settle into one of the world’s great cities for 10 days. As we were planning our trip, I told Jeremy, “I don’t care where we are any other time, but I want to be in Sydney for the new year!” This turned out to be a somewhat stressful requirement, as we started looking for places to stay when we were in New Zealand (about a month before the new year), and most accommodation in the good neighborhoods over the holiday are either booked or they cost about $500/night. Ouch! So here’s a tip if you’re ever thinking of staying in Sydney over the new year: book early! Seriously, booking a place a year in advance would not be overly cautious. I bet a lot of affordable places with a view of the Harbour Bridge get snatched up before the fireworks go off the year before.
After talking to a friend of a friend who lives in Sydney, we started off looking for apartments in Potts Point, Kings Cross, Woolloomoolloo, and Darlinghurst. These are the affordable suburbs in Sydney that have a view of the Harbour Bridge, where all the action happens on NYE night. Actually, it is not essential to have a view of the bridge to see fireworks since they are pretty much all over the city—there were at least 10 barges around the harbour and multiple buildings in the CBD set up with fireworks—but the most spectacular show is the one around the Harbour Bridge.
We got incredibly lucky and found a 1BR apartment in Potts Point listed by SydneyLinks on the website Gumtree for AUD$150/night (US$125). This was a little more than we wanted to spend but it turned out to be very reasonable for Sydney (and the neighborhood) over the holiday period. Our apartment didn’t have a view of the Harbour Bridge, but most of the places that did were serious money. On the bright side, it did have a lovely deck with a view of Elizabeth Bay in the Sydney Harbour:
And the interior wasn’t too shabby either…imagine going from the Hippie camper to this!
The neighborhood was really great, too: walking distance to King’s Cross (sort of the red-light district in Sydney, but also a major transportation hub for the trains and busses), across the street from a great Woolworth’s supermarket, and a 15-minute walk to the Botanical Gardens, Hyde Park, and the CBD (Central Business District). We were really happy with our digs.
OK, now on to the main event…New Year’s Eve! NYE is a huge event in Sydney—they close off some of the parks with nice views of the bridge and people start camping out (sometimes) days before the event! Jeremy and I were just starting to get a little worried about where we were going to go—we heard that the streets of Sydney could be pure madness and we were worried about getting a good view. We were just starting to scope out some locations in our neighborhood when the most amazing thing happened—the heavens opened up, the stars aligned, and we were sprinkled with magical good karma dust: we got invited to go out on a boat in the Sydney Harbour! New Year’s Eve night! With a Commodore! On a boat! In the Sydney Harbour! New Year’s Eve night!
Basically, what happened was this: Randy and Laurie (Jeremy’s parents) share a work building with an Aussie woman named Sonia. They mentioned to her that we were on this trip and said we were in Australia. She emailed us and said, “You have to get in touch with my Dad. He has a boat and loves to take people out sailing. Oh and by the way, he was the Commodore of the yacht club in Sydney.” We were excited about the idea of going out on a boat in the Sydney Harbour, but never expected to be invited out on NYE night!
We met Commodore Hans and his partner Val (and about 10 other friends of theirs) at the yacht club in Rushcutters Bay on NYE night. We had a few drinks there and then we headed out on the boat before the 9PM family fireworks. The sun was just starting to set over the CBD (central business district), and it was coloring the sky the most incredible shades of blue and orange. The harbour was ultra calm and clear…in other words, it was the perfect night!
Just as dusk finally fell on the city, they set off the first round of fireworks.
It was amazing to see the brightly colored fireworks lighting up a night sky that was still bright orange near the horizon. We were happy campers.
We headed back to the dock after the first round of fireworks, and that’s when Val busted out the champagne, Sydney rock oysters, Balmain bugs (they don’t have “bugs” in the States—they are kind of like a cross between a lobster and a prawn and they are really delicious), and other delightful treats. Not only do Hans and Val know how to party, but they are amazing hosts as well! We all feasted on the boat while waiting for the midnight fireworks.
Finally, it was time…we pushed out of Rushcutters Bay around 11:40ish. Many other boats had already claimed their spots and anchored in the harbour. It was pretty congested in many of the best viewing areas, but the Commodore had a plan. We crept slowly, slowly out towards the harbour, and as soon as the fireworks went off, he glided straight into the secret spot. The patrolling officers are busy watching the fireworks and don’t bother you until after the fireworks are over…and you get to watch the show in the middle of the harbour, with no one else around you (apparently he has repeated this same program several years in a row now).
It was a beautiful show. The fireworks danced off the water, and since there was no one around us in the exclusion zone, it was calm…almost peaceful, despite the loud explosions and the bright lights. What a way to ring in the new year! It’s gonna be a great 2009.