On 26 January, Sydney comes alive with locals celebrating the Aussie way of life right in the middle of summer. With events on the harbour, family festivities, boat races and a general vibrant, party atmosphere, there’s something for everyone.
A nod to the past
As the sun rises, connect with the world’s oldest living culture as First Nations artwork is projected on the Sydney Opera House and flags raised on the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Dawn Reflection.
Indigenous women at WugulOra, a ceremony celebrating Australia's traditional custodians on Australia Day
This is followed with a cultural nod to our Indigenous past with the moving WugulOra Indigenous Morning Ceremony at Barangaroo, honouring the world’s oldest living culture. An exciting series of free activities spanning Circular Quay, Sydney Harbour, The Rocks and Darling Harbour come after, for those wanting to stick around for some more action.
On the water
Don’t miss the Ferrython race, one of Australia’s most iconic events, when Sydney ferries race from Circular Quay to Shark Island and back to a glorious finish at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. For a bird’s-eye view of the race, take part in a special Ferrython BridgeClimb. You’ll also be delighted by the Yacht and Boat Ballet — a unique spectacle where yachts, tug boats, jet skis and ferries move in choreographed motions on the harbour. With Captain Cook Cruises you can actually be on one of these ferries, which manoeuvre at speed!
From 1pm, Sydney's Tall Ships will lead a fleet of historic vessels from Bradley's Head to the Harbour Bridge. Afterwards, the Australia Day Regatta has over 100 boats race around the harbour for a boating spectacle like no other.
Darling Harbour is a fantastic hive of activity for families on Australia Day, when it transforms into a summer playground. Watch live music and cultural performances, step inside a cooling misting tent, play outdoor games, feast on a huge barbecue cook up and watch the fireworks display. Plus, a Children’s Festival runs between 11am and 3pm.
In one of the oldest parts of Sydney, The Rocks, the annual and popular street party kicks off with a vibrant carnival atmosphere. The historic cobblestone streets are overrun with market stalls brimming with local fashion, jewellery and crafts; gourmet food stalls and roving street performers.
Australia Day in the Rocks
Run annually on Australia Day by the Sydney Bus Museum from morning until 5pm, all ages will have a ball travelling like it’s 1949 on a double-decker vintage bus from the Leichardt bus depot across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to St Leonards and back again.
Join Sydney locals and head to the beach for a barbecue picnic. You could take a hamper full of goodies to a harbour cove or fry up on one of the beautiful eastern beaches like Coogee or Bondi. Alternatively, Government House opens up its staterooms and gardens for the day, making a great place for a long lunch with live music.
Concerts & festivals
In the evening, Australia Day Live kicks off at 7.30pm and showcases some of Australia’s best-loved performers. While the event is free, it’s ticketed. Held on the forecourt of Sydney Opera House with the iconic sails in the background and the harbour beyond — this is a once-in-a-lifetime concert experience.
Parramatta’s popular Australia Day in the Crescent concert is scheduled to return to Parramatta Park in 2022 with a star-studded line-up of Aussie musicians and performers. There are also fireworks, an aerial hot air balloon display, a vintage car collection, rides and plenty of kids’ activities.
Australia Day also falls on the final day of the Sydney Festival — a vibrant cultural celebration that boasts theatrical performances, dance, cabaret, music and big ideas. Check out their website to see what performances or events might be scheduled for Australia Day.
Australia Day in Sydney
Australia Day in Sydney
Australia Day is an opportunity to reflect, respect and celebrate the Australian spirit. Check out some of the highlights in Sydney.
Destination NSW acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as the traditional owners and occupants of New South Wales land and water.