Sydney fireworks (Australia)

The Sydney New Year’s Eve Fireworks


fig1, 9pm fireworks display 2010

Sydney stages its annual New Year’s Eve fireworks celebration on Sydney harbour around its iconic harbour bridge. With a backdrop of the Sydney opera house and an armada of spectator water craft, the event is regarded as one of the world’s greatest shows fig1. (This photograph was taken in 2010 at the 9pm display from Dover Heights, the location shown in fig2 by a red arrow).

Sydney Fireworks Vantage Points.

There are numerous vantage points on the harbour’s extensive foreshores fig2, see also ,
but there is also upward of 1.0 million people competing for the best locations.


The public (free) site with the most dramatic view of the fireworks is at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, Fig4, with a capacity of 20,000 spectators.

sydney fireworks-exclusion-zone

fig3,Sydney fireworks exclusion map.

Sydney fireworks-vantage-points

fig2 Sydney fireworks vantage points map.


There is of course a challenge with Mrs Macquarie’s Chair as the number of prospective spectators exceeds its capacity. In fact many people camp the previous night (and earlier) at the fireworks entrance gate some 800m from the viewing site. The head of the queue at the entrance gate and the back-end of the queue (300m away) are shown 1 hour before the gates open at 10am on the 31 December 2010 in fig5-6.

Sydney Fireworks Viewing sites reserved for prepaid ticket holders.

1)There are a number of boats and ferries which take passengers for the fireworks display eg see
Note there is a large exclusion zone for boats, see Sydney fireworks exclusion zone map fig3.
2) There are also a number of premium land based sites for which tickets can be purchased in advance.


fig6 back-end of queue.


fig5 front of queue and entrance gate

fig4. View from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.

A) The closest to the fireworks and the site that has the most intimate view of the fireworks is at Fort Denison see Sydney fireworks map Fig2, a small island situated within the fireworks exclusion zone. It has a maximum of 150 persons and costs $1000 pp including dinner.  I have tickets for the 2011 display and will report. Contact: [email protected] tel: +61 2 93615208 . Tickets now on sale.
B) The Friends of the Royal Botanical Gardens have three reserved sites, Fig7. Tickets on sale around October?


i) The best of these is Midnight at the Oasis near the Fleet Steps. I photographed the 2000 millennium fireworks from this site. (The photo is not shown here, being reserved for my book).  It is a great site. The 2011 price  $325/pp including dinner,  see 2011 contact:
ii) The Mare and Foal Lawns at Farm Cove. All bookings must be made by members . Cost $98/pp (2011), see 2011 contact:
New Year’s Eve with Friends
iii) Lawn with a view. Cost $220 /pp (2011), see 2011 contact:

Some Observations.
Sydney fireworks reserved areas Royal botanical Gardens

Fig7. Royal Botanic Gardens ticketed areas.

♦There are two fireworks displays, a shortened one at 9.00pm, and the full 15 minute display at midnight. A few precursor fireworks may be set off a short time before these displays.

♦Small boats less than 15m tall can anchor next to Mrs Maquarie’s Chair, so if photographing the fireworks, make sure the masts of the boats which can move around do not obstruct your view.
♦The fireworks are launched from a series of barges in various locations in front of, from the sides and from behind the bridge, so the fireworks cover quite a large area, see Sydney fireworks map fig3.
♦If  you get to Mrs Macquarie’s chair get an elevated or protected position for you tripod, e.g. on some rocks so that people cannot block you at the last moment, because it will get shoulder to shoulder.
♦The fireworks themselves are very bright, and it is difficult to find one exposure correct for the bridge, ships, opera house and fireworks. The further the vantage point from the harbour bridge the more difficult this becomes.
♦Most hotels close to Circular Quay, will require a minimum stay of 3 to 5 nights and/ or increase their rates (some dramatically) around this time.
♦It is a great spectacle, involves a lot of hassles, but in the end well worth the effort.


UPDATE for Sydney NYE Fireworks


Fort Denison ready for the 2012 NYE fireworks


Sydney NYE fireworks 2011 from Fort Debnison


Went to see the Sydney NYE fireworks from Fort Denison, the small rock island 1.4Km from the Harbour bridge and within the boat exclusion zone. This is one of the top places to be for the Sydney New Years fireworks display, and it lived up to my expectations. From the ramparts and from the landing pier, I had an unhindered view of the fireworks display, the harbour bridge, opera house and city skyline. I could feel the percussion of the exploding fireworks and hear the whoosh of the Roman candles as they formed a golden waterfall for the climax of the evening. There was no visual obstruction from boats, or  buildings etc. The New Years eve party on Fort Denison was relaxed and had substantial personal space  as there was a limit of 150 persons on the island. There was a sumptuous dinner with quality champagne and great wine.
This is one of the top places for photographing and experiencing the fireworks display.


Drinks on the lawn Fort Denison 2012 NYE fireworks

The disadvantages were.
♦It was expensive, and I had to book months ahead. Booking can be made at  [email protected]
♦It was difficult to get to the shuttle boat from Campbell’s cove wharf due to the large crowds on the foreshores even at 5pm, some 2 hours before the boat was scheduled to leave. There was also a lack of instructions as where to go etc. and the local security guards knew nothing about the shuttle boat.

Photographic background for Sydney NYE fireworks from Fort Denison.

♦Best place for unhindered view: On jetty near first pylon.
♦Best lenses:
i)16-35mm to include bursting fireworks and opera house and harbour bridge. But opera house is too far detached for intimate composition. Best vantage point for overlapping Opera house and bridge is has opera house  is at midnight at the oasis.
ii)35-7mm zoom. This gives good view of the bridge and fireworks near bridge ( ie the waterfall) but the star burst fireworks are out of the frame as they are above you.
♦ Tried fisheye 8-15mm,but bridge too small.
♦Exposure examples. ISO at 800. For the not too bright fireworks 2-3 secs F9 to get image bridge. For general exposures 2-3 sec at F11. For the very bright fireworks need to go up F22 not to overexpose fireworks and extend exposure to 5 sec to expose bridge.

NAME: admin WEBSITE: Date:02/01/2012


One Comment

  1. admin 8 February, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    If you know more or have corrections or updates on the Sydney NYE fireworks please add them in the comment section on Sydney fireworks page.I want this website to be the most authorative on the subject,

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