Australia Day Sydney | Fireworks, Events, Ceremonies and more

Sydney's Aussie pride comes alive on 26 January 2017 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 beachbound 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 happening on Australia Day in Sydney Harbour?

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

  • WugulOra Indigenous Morning Ceremony at 8am: A traditional performance of song and dance to recognise the original custodians of our land.
  • 28th annual GIO Oz Day Wheelchair 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 11am: The welcoming of Australia’s newest citizens.
  • Salute to Australia at 11:45am: 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 12:30pm: 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 181st 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

Every year without fail, Sydney caps off its Australia Day celebrations with a fireworks spectacular over Cockle Bay Wharf.

The celebrations in the precinct begin at 6pm with live entertainment that includes a working vessels parade, Australian of the Year recipient ceremony and a welcoming of new Australian citizens.

At 9pm, the fireworks fill the sky in a 15-minute demonstration of pyrotechnics, light installations and music. Some of the best vantage points for the fireworks are the Sydney Harbour foreshore and on a nearby cruise vessel.

Fireworks vantage pointsWhat's happening?Food and drink
Cockle BayStarting from 11am (Fireworks at 9pm). Live music, children's festival with activities, bush challenges in Tumbalong Park, from 6pm boat parade, dragon boaters, performances by Hot Dub Time Machine and more.Food and drink for sale. No alcohol or glass.
Harbourside Shopping CentreNo events planned, short walk along the water to Cockle Bay.Restaurants with views along the water in the shopping centre.
Skyterrace at The Star (Partial fireworks view)Starting from 5pm. Sydney Festival DJ series, classic Aussie BBQ, live entertainment and games.Food and drink for sale.
Pyrmont BridgeNo events planned on the bridge, short walk along the water to Cockle Bay.No food or drink for sale.


Australia Day at the 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.

The full lineup as well as tickets will be released late 2016. You can register for ticket updates here.


Shop the True Blue Sale

What better way is there to show your Aussie pride than to do your part to boost the economy? Last year we started the True Blue Sale to help support Australian retailers and have managed to score deals with local favourites like THE ICONIC, Surfstitch, STA Travel and Showpo.

It's on for just 48 hours starting at 5pm on 25 January, so you'll have to tune in then to see just how much you can save.

Check out the True Blue deals

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 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.



Goat Island Sounds

The Australia Day music institution that was Big Day Out may be no more, but festival fiends can still let their hair down on 26 January at Goat Island Sounds.

True, the music may not be of the rock calibre that Big Day Out had, but for those seeking a chill and feelgood vibe Goat Island Sounds comes up with the goods.

Held in Sydney Harbour National Park, this electronica music festival features some of Australia’s best and emerging artists; it’s no surprise then that it acts as a countdown to the triple j Hottest 100, which is released on Australia Day annually.

More info: Goat Island Sounds


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 15th 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 a true blue Australian flick.

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’s 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. It’s a wicked mix of eats, beats and festival treats such as the House of Mirrors – a bewildering labyrinth of mirrors and optical illusions.

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 includes an aerial hot air balloon display, CARnival vintage car exhibition and big barbeque 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


Children’s Festival at Darling Harbour

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

From 11am, Tumbalong Park in Sydney’s Darling Harbour will be bursting with fun-filled activities for kids of all ages. Think live entertainment, a true blue bush challenge, water playground and carnival-style rides.

To cap that off, The Wiggles will be putting smiles on kids’ dials with a free concert between 11am and midday. Wiggle on down early to stake a prime position on the Tumbalong Park lawn to dance the hot potato with them.

More info: Childrens Festival at Darling Harbour

Top free things to do on Australia Day

  • Host a barbeque: 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 Beach installation at Barangaroo Reserve and a Chillout Zone at the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

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: Open from 10am–6pm
  • Westfield Bondi Junction: Open from 10am–6pm
  • Broadway Shopping Centre: Open from 10am–6pm
  • Supa Centa Moore Park: 10am–5pm
  • Westfield Warringah Mall: Open from 10am-5pm
  • Westfield Miranda: Open from 10am-6pm
  • Westfield Parramatta: Open from 10am-6pm
  • Chatswood Chase: Open from 10am–5pm
  • Westfield Chatswood: Open from 10am-5pm
  • Macquarie Centre: Open from 9am–9pm

You can also spend this public holiday shopping from the comfort of your own home. We're throwing a True Blue Sale, celebrating Australian retailers, were you can save big on your favourite Aussie brands. Check it out here!

Feature image: Australia Day in New South Wales

Stephanie Yip

Stephanie is the travel editor at On top of being an avid traveller, she's an all-round bargain hunter. If there's a deal or cheap flight available, she'll know about it. And she'll let you know about it, too.

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