Celebrating the New Year can become tiresome. Same crowds, same faces, same same. So to liven up the whole thing, my girlfriend and I came up with a great idea to celebrate New Year in a different capital city in Australia – and find the best.
Looking back, this has been a brilliant adventure.
Because we were in a different city, everything felt new. Even shopping in the malls during the sales rush is tolerable. And instead of friends back home that can’t be bothered and want to stay in on the big night, you’re going out with people who want to party. It has put the joy and excitement back into celebrating New Year’s Eve.
So now we’ve spent New Year in every capital city, I’m ready to reveal the best place in Australia to party.
Confession: I live and always have lived in Sydney, so expect a little bias. Our harbour fireworks are truly magnificent. I’ve seen them countless times from Hunters Hill, rooftop apartments in Potts Point, Darling Harbour, Pyrmont, the Opera House forecourt and as far away as the Sutherland Shire.
They’ve never failed to impress.
Sydney is the benchmark by which all other Australian cities are judged. But we needed to see what else was out there.
Here’s our best-to-worst Australian cities to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
Melbourne regards itself as a city of style and elegance so our expectations for December 31 were high.
It didn’t disappoint.
We decided to spend big and went for the degustation menu at Vue de Monde. Poached marron tails, seared scallops and smoked duck breasts with matching wine pairings was pure extravagance. Service over four hours was attentive but never insincere.
Two groups of French visitors ended their meal singing old songs in their native tongue, which added a nice touch.
Dinner included a tour through the kitchen; a super quick Q&A with a couple of chefs, then we were spat out onto the dancefloor, in the bar next door, just in time to catch the fireworks.
Fifty-five floors above the city was a prime position to watch the pyrotechnics along multiple locations on the Yarra below.
Once that was over the music was turned back up and a couple of Middle Eastern drummers emerged, re-energising the crowd.
The venue kept the records turning for a good couple of hours into the morning. This remains our favourite New Year to date.
While Australia’s east coast, for the past couple of years, has been plagued by wet weather and the humidity of El Niño, Perth in summer is what Australia should and always used to be – scorching hot.
On NYE, the city foreshore offered a welcome respite from the searing heat. We tried the restaurants around the casino then moved outside for the fireworks on the Swan River.
The Perth crowds seemed particularly young and, after the bang of the last firework, everyone moved with purpose and the bars and nightclubs filled up very quickly.
New Year’s Day was spent relaxing on the water. A cocktail or two may have been involved. Not a cloud in the sky. Perth couldn’t be more glorious.
Adelaide, renowned as a foodie destination, guarded its reputation well. Despite the challenge, we secured a spot in some top restaurants without a reservation during this time of year.
For New Year’s Eve we ate at a seafood place on the River Torrens that offered a close-up view of both the early and midnight fireworks from the garden outside.
It was a relief to have a clear view without navigating massive crowds.
Making small talk with locals, I expressed my enthusiasm for the colourful display, which lasted longer than expected. One lady remarked, “Oh, this is nothing; you’ve gotta go to Sydney. That’s where it’s at.” Enough said.
Even though it bumps up accommodation prices, the buzz of the yacht race adds an extra layer of excitement to Hobart at new year.
The energy the sleep-deprived sailors bring to the harbour front is infectious.
Most fill up the bars trading tall stories with each other but there’s also a sizeable number that hit the dancefloors, too.
A great way to kick off New Year’s Eve is by sampling small bites from the food stalls along the dock at the Taste of Summer festival.
But Hobart is proof that the most expensive tickets in town don’t always guarantee the best experience. Sure, the end of the wharf is the best spot to watch Hobart’s fireworks (and they were good enough), but it didn’t take long after midnight for the celebration to fizzle out.
Disappointed, we headed back to our hotel only to stumble onto a free street party. There, an entertaining mix of upbeat and friendly locals, backpackers and sailors, danced their hearts out.
Although we were only going to stop for a quick boogie, the DJ laid down one killer track after another and we ended up staying until they pulled the plug.
This more than made up for everything. So despite the post-fireworks gap, Hobart gets a big thumbs up from us.
We’d heard reports that most Queenslanders prefer NYE on the Gold Coast rather than their capital city. The reason why became apparent quickly.
Most Brisbane restaurants want you out well before midnight and the overall mood in the city is a little reserved.
A modern bar we visited on the Howard Smith Wharves seemed to be stuck on the same playlist they had since the last time I visited.
Thankfully, there were enough revellers to create a party vibe. Guns were out. Phones were out. I’m not sure if it’s true but I’d bet there are more influencers here than anywhere else in Australia. The countdown starts. Story Bridge lights up. Brisbane truly is a beautiful city at night.
We’d heard they love a party and some fireworks in the Top End and it’s true, they do.
Although it’s obviously more scaled back than what we’re used to in Sydney, New Year in Darwin is charming.
The entertainment in the city’s waterfront precinct places great emphasis on live music and local talent, which really adds to the vibe.
As does the jubilant cheers from locals during the fireworks – which includes a unique water display – plus the way the celebrations meet a messy end on Mitchell Street. All of which stand as a testament to Terroritorian’s legendary reputation for partying hard.
I’ll admit it, as a city, Canberra has come a long way.
It’s now home to many cracking restaurants, but its nightlife on New Year’s Eve leaves a lot to be desired.
Atmosphere is critical and it’s challenging to create a great party vibe when half the population heads to Sydney and the rest to Melbourne at the end of the year.
The locals who remain in town hold private parties at home, which is little help to interstate visitors seeking a good time.
How is this a thing? This is Canberra.
Can you imagine the people of London, Paris or New York fleeing to another city to ring in the New Year? It really says a lot about our nation’s capital and perhaps our country as a whole.
In conclusion …
Travelling to different capital cities for New Year’s Eve has been a fantastic and rewarding adventure I’d highly recommend.
All Australian cities offer a unique take on the best our country has to offer. Both Adelaide and Hobart punch above their weight. Darwin is keen to impress. Brisbane, with a little tweaking could be incredible. Perth is bright, clean and welcoming. Melbourne offers luxury (at a slightly cheaper price than Sydney).
But, for the sake of Auld lang syne, avoid Canberra if you can.