Travel: New Year's Eve in Sydney, Australia

More than 1.5 million people take in the world's premiere spot for getting an early start on the festivities, but there's more to see than just fireworks.

New York’s ball drop in Times Square may have more pop-cultural cachet, but the real New Year’s Eve capital of the world is Sydney, Australia. Because of its proximity to the International Date Line, Sydney is one of the first cities to welcome in the New Year. More than 1.5 million people gather around its iconic harbour for the all-day event, which includes live performances, an air show, a parade and two fireworks shows. Broadcast live, the midnight fireworks are viewed by one billion people around the world. The event is the official start of the five-week-long Vivacity Sydney campaign, a celebration of Australian culture featuring sports, art and Australia Day, the national holiday.

Sydney Harbour Bridge
The focal point for much the day’s celebration, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, known locally as the ???coat hanger,??? was completed on March 19, 1932, and wasn’t fully paid off until 1988. Over 150,000 cars cross the bridge daily, each paying an average toll of $3.

$1 = $1

Harbour of Light Parade
Following the 9 p.m. fireworks display, 51 illuminated vessels set sail on a 15-kilometre circuit around the harbour. The parade includes tall ships, Sydney’s Heritage Fleet and commercial charter boats. These are the only ships allowed on the harbour waters on New Year’s Eve, and tickets aboard go fast.

Restaurant Arras
Located on the ground floor of a historic wool store, the exposed-brick atmosphere at Arras is elegant but relaxed. Choose between the pear-glazed duck with risotto and berries, or a plate of mirepoix for the restaurant’s twist on traditional British food. 24 Hickson Rd.

Park Hyatt Sydney
Situated on the water opposite the Sydney Opera House, this 158-room hotel offers guests private balconies with unobstructed views of the Sydney Harbour, fireworks included. New Year’s Eve rates start at $990 per night. 7 Hickson Rd.

Royal Botanical Gardens
As an event partner, the Sydney Botanic Gardens Trust will be hosting two choice events on New Year’s Eve, both offering panoramic harbour views. The $300 ticket for Midnight at the Oasis gets you dinner, DJ and a dance floor. The Lawn with a View event offers a gourmet picnic menu for $200 a head, picnic blanket not included. Mrs. Macquaries Road

Midnight fireworks
Firing from barges, city rooftops and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, this annual display is the largest and most technologically advanced fireworks show in the world. It takes 15 months to plan, and features 7,000 kilograms of explosives, which include 11,000 shells, 20,000 shooting comets and 100,000 individual pyrotechnics.

104.1 2DayFM
Owned by the Austereo Group, one of Australia’s largest entertainment companies, 2DayFM is one of two official media partners for the New Year’s Eve bash. For viewers watching on TV, the station has exclusive rights to provide a synchronized music soundtrack for both fireworks displays.