Australia Day Sydney 2018 | Fireworks, Events, Celebrations and more

Sydney's Aussie pride comes alive on 26 January 2018 for Australia Day. Onya, 'straya!

Australia Day. It's the day when the First Fleet arrived in Port Jackson in 1788. The day when Australia was founded. Our national day.

It's also a public holiday.

Yeah, you know where we're going with this. It's a day off. A day to crack open the beers with your mates over a backyard barbie. A day to whack on the thongs and go beach-bound to bake in the January summer heat.

Searching for more ideas and activities to fill up this no-work all-play day? We know a few…

What's Australia Day celebrations are happening at Sydney Harbour?

Throughout the day, Sydney Harbour and its surrounds will host a variety of events. Highlights include:

  • Wugulora Indigenous Morning Ceremony at 7:45am: A traditional performance of song and dance to recognise the original custodians of our land.
  • GIO Oz Day 10K Wheelchair Road Race at 9am: A ripping race through The Rocks on wheels.
  • Ferrython at 10:45am: An annual ferry race that runs between the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
  • Lord Mayor’s Citizenship Ceremony at 10:30am: The welcoming of Australia’s newest citizens.
  • Salute to Australia at 11:30am: The Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force pay tribute to our nation with a 21-gun salute, the national anthem, a handling display and the tug and yacht ballet on the water.
  • Australia Day flyover at 11:50am: Red Berets, Qantas and Russian Roolettes fly over Sydney Harbour.
  • Australia Day Harbour Parade at 12:45pm: 40 boats decked to the nines party on the water vying for the honour of "best dressed?".
  • Australia Day Regatta at 1:30pm: Now in its 182nd year, this regatta sees over 100 boats race around the harbour.

Throughout the day there will also be festivals, activities and events in The Rocks, Barangaroo Reserve and the Overseas Passenger Terminal.



Australia Day Sydney fireworks

This year the acclaimed Australia Day fireworks moves away from Darling Harbour, finding its new home at Circular Quay which is where the brunt of the day's celebrations are being held.

A street party overtakes The Rocks from 11:30am-6:30 pm when the Live At The Quay celebration begins. This promises to be a "breathtaking maritime, musical and dance extravaganza" with an itinerary that includes interviews with the Australians of the Year, the inaugural Sydney Cove Cup race, sunset ceremony featuring Koomurri dancers and special performance by an Australian musical great.

At 9pm, the fireworks fill the sky in a 15-minute demonstration of pyrotechnics, light installations, music and jet ski and flyboard prowess. Some of the best vantage points for the fireworks are First Fleet Park, Hickson Road Reserve, Circular Quay East, Overseas Passenger Terminal, Sydney Opera House western boardwalk and on a nearby cruise vessel.

Fireworks vantage points What's happening? Food and drink
First Fleet Park Warrane DJ stage from midday-6pm. Food and drink for sale. No alcohol or glass.
Hickson Road Reserve Starting from 11:30am-6:30pm The Rocks plays host to the official street party. This includes interactive games, roving performers and market stalls. Food and drink in The Rocks. No alcohol or glass.
Circular Quay East Live At the Quay entertainment from 6:30pm-9:30pm. Food and drink for sale.
Overseas Passenger Terminal Australia Day Chillout Zone available from 10am-4pm. Food and drink in The Rocks. No alcohol or glass.
Sydney Opera House western boardwalk Live at the Opera House ticketed event from 7:30pm-9:30pm. Food and drink for sale.


Australia Day live at Sydney Opera House

Each Australia Day, the Opera House hosts a Live At Sydney Opera House concert in its forecourt.

This is a free though ticketed event that runs from 7:30pm–9:30pm and features some of Australia’s best known artists as well as emerging artists.

This year's lineup includes Marcia Hines, Christine Anu and Anthony Callea. Ticket information will be released closer to the date here.

The best of the rest: Australia Day events and experiences in Sydney



Australia Day harbour cruises

The best seat in the house is on the water.

Just as with Sydney’s spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks, you could either stake your spot on the foreshore all day long to catch that breathtaking moment when the colours dress the night sky, or you could book a spot on a cruise for prime positioning on the water.

Australia Day cruises run throughout the day as well as at night to catch the fireworks.


Tall ships race

Witness historic vessels in the ultimate race across the harbour.

Australia’s historic ships weigh anchor to cut across the harbour in a race to the finish line on Australia Day.

The race starts at 1pm at Bradleys Head and ends at Sydney Harbour Bridge so you won’t be short on vantage points to capture the ships on the water. However, for a more intimate experience, book a tall ship cruise to sail alongside or in the race.

After the race, the tall ships will be available to marvel over at the Overseas Passenger Terminal from 2pm.


Yabun Festival

When else would you have the largest one-day celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders than on Australia Day?

Now in its 16th year, the Yabun Festival is an enriching and entertaining celebration of the original custodians of our great land. Held in Victoria Park, Camperdown on the traditional land of the Gadigal people, it features music and dance performances, panel discussions, child-friendly activities and market stalls.

More info: Yabun Festival


Ben & Jerry's Openair Cinema

Head to the beach to put up your feet as the summer sun sets on Bondi Beach – with a Ben & Jerry's in hand and a movie in sight, naturally.

The Australian summer overflows with outdoor events, and openair cinemas are no exception. From St.George OpenAir cinema to Moonlight Cinema, you’ve got more than a handful of options at your disposal. Our pick? Ben & Jerry's Openair.

Year on year, this Aussie Day fave opens with a slew of Australian bands and features an Australian-inspired flick. This year is no exception with the opener on 25 January (the cinemas don't operate on Fridays) being The Greatest Showman which features our very own Hugh Jackman.

More info: Ben & Jerry’s Openair Cinema


Sydney Festival

Let the Sydney Festival entertain you this Australia Day.

One of the biggest and most colourful festivals on the Aussie calendar is the Sydney Festival. Running over three weeks in January, it' a quirky program of dance, music, comedy and theatrical performances as well as interactive displays.

On Australia Day, the hub of activity will be at the Festival Village in Hyde Park where the party runs from 4:30pm until moments to midnight. It’s a wicked mix of eats, beats and festival treats such as a ghoulish Ghost Train, boisterous karaoke carousel and flash-bash 10 minute dance parties.

More info: Sydney Festival

Australia Day celebrations and activities for kids

Major suburbs and councils hold local celebrations on Australia Day. Here are some of the most family-friendly.


Australia Day in Parramatta

Quickly becoming Sydney's second CBD, Parramatta brings the Australia Day celebrations to the western suburbs with a busy day of food, music and fireworks.

Renowned for its family-friendly activities and atmosphere, 26 January in Parramatta is a jam-packed day that starts at 6am and runs for a manic 15-hours. This year's festivities includes a hot air balloon display, CARnival vintage car exhibition and big barbecue in the park.

Kid-friendly activities will be available all day and live music by local artists will play into the night.

The city’s fireworks spectacular kicks off at 9pm.

More info: Australia Day in Parramatta


Summer Playground

Schedule in a family outing to the heart of the city for one of the best Australia Day children’s festivals.

From 10am, Darling Harbour will be bustling with fun-filled entertainment for kids of all ages with an endless round of true blue entertainment and games to the tune of a thong toss, watermelon eating competition, circus workshops and roving performers.

When you're ready, wiggle on down to Tumbalong Park for one of two The Wiggles concerts at 9am and 1pm respectively.

Then, stick around past 3:30pm when the park transforms into an adult's playground for the afternoon sessions. Craft beer will flow and DJs and live musicians will entertain no end with party favourites to keep everyone jumping.

More info: Summer Playground

Top free things to do on Australia Day

  • Host a barbecue: C'mon, it’s an Aussie tradition. Pick up some snags and a mountain of six-packs from your local and invite your mates over.
  • Bake on the beach: Australia Day is notorious for being one big swelter fest. The best way to cool down? At the beach, naturally.
  • Catch the Sydney Harbour fireworks: When it comes to pyrotechnical displays, Sydney doesn’t hold back. Take its New Year’s Eve spectacular as case in point. So for a crackin’ good end to an awesome day out, don’t miss the 9pm fireworks at Sydney Harbour – early enough for even the kids to catch it.
  • Australia Day at The Rocks: The Rocks and its surrounds will be bustling with free activities throughout the day. This includes market stalls at The Rocks, the This Is Australia culinary and musical event at Barangaroo Reserve and a Chillout Zone at the Overseas Passenger Terminal.
  • Summer sessions at Gateway: Circular Quay is no doubt the place to hang this Australia Day. On 26 January, Gateway will be overrun by a series of free entertainment. Expect face painting, men on stilts, professional singers and more. The Sessions Series runs from 11am-4pm.

Are shops open on Australia Day in Sydney?

Here are the major shopping centres that will open for Australia Day and their trading hours:

  • Westfield Pitt Street: 10am-6pm
  • Westfield Bondi Junction: 10-6pm
  • Broadway Shopping Centre: 10am-6pm
  • Supa Centa Moore Park: 9am-5:30pm
  • Westfield Warringah Mall: 10am-6pm
  • Westfield Miranda: 10am-6pm
  • Westfield Parramatta: 10am-6pm
  • Chatswood Chase: 10am-5pm
  • Westfield Chatswood: 10am-6pm
  • Macquarie Centre: TBA

Feature image: Australia Day in New South Wales

Stephanie Yip

Stef is the Travel Editor at and has been writing about travel for over a decade. She's visited over 50 countries and has had some incredible experiences, including hot air ballooning over Cappadocia, hitchhiking across Romania and seeing the Northern Lights (twice!). And while she’d never say no to a luxury escape, she's far more likely to stretch her travel dollars as far as they can go by keeping her ear to the ground for unbeatable travel bargains. And she'll tell you all about them, too! Stef has had articles featured on Travel Weekly, Escape and Hostelworld.

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