On the 26th of January, Sydney comes alive with residents celebrating the Australian way of life in the midst of summer. People across the nation celebrate Australia Day, commemorating the anniversary of Governor Arthur Phillip hoisting the British flag at Sydney Cove, New South Wales, and the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships there in 1788.
As a day of national celebration, there is something for everyone to enjoy- with events on the harbour, family celebrations, boat races, and parties, etc. So if you’re wondering how to spend a day in Sydney during Australia Day, here are some of the major events that happen on that day.
Pay respect to the past
Join the Dawn Reflection, when flags are raised on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and First Nations artwork is projected on the Sydney Opera House, to experience the world’s oldest living culture. After that, homage is paid to the Indigenous heritage with the stirring WugulOra Indigenous Morning Ceremony at Barangaroo, which honours the oldest still-existing culture on Earth. If you want to stay for more action, there are a ton of free fun activities spread across Circular Quay, Sydney Harbour, The Rocks, and Darling Harbour.
Celebrations on the harbour
One of Australia’s most famous events, the Ferrython race, features Sydney ferries racing from Circular Quay to Shark Island and back to a spectacular finish at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Participate in a unique Ferrython BridgeClimb to get a bird’s-eye view of the race. Or get a ticket for one of the Australia Day Cruises if you want to watch the harbour events from the waters. You could celebrate this Australia Day in style on board a classic paddlewheeler as you watch the festivities from the calm waters of Sydney Harbour.
A time to spend with family
When Darling Harbour transforms into a summer playground on Australia Day, it becomes a fantastic hub of activity for families. Play outdoor games, enjoy a massive barbecue cookout, take in live music and cultural performances, enter a cooling misting tent, and watch fireworks. In addition, a children’s festival is held from 11 am to 3 pm. In the evening, the fireworks display usually starts from the evening and lasts till night. And for a better experience, watch it onboard one of the Australia Day harbour cruises in Sydney.
The annual and customary street party begins in The Rocks, one of Sydney’s oldest neighbourhoods, with a lively carnival-ish vibe. Market stalls bursting with regional clothing, jewellery, and crafts, gourmet food stands, and roaming street performers are everywhere along the historic cobblestone streets.
Head to the beach with Sydney locals for a barbecue picnic. You could bring a basket stuffed with treats to a harbour cove or cook on one of the stunning eastern beaches like Coogee or Bondi. A great location for a lengthy lunch with live music is Government House, which also makes its staterooms and gardens available for the day.
Turn the volume up
Some of Australia’s most well-known performers will be featured during Australia Day Live, which begins at 7.30 p.m. Although the event is free, admission is ticketed. This is a once-in-a-lifetime concert experience, held on the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House with the harbour beyond and the iconic sails in the background.
This is not even close to how the entire country celebrates the national day, but just a major part of it. Different cities and states have different traditions on how they embrace their patriotic spirit but in the end the hope and faith remains the same – a better, unified future for their homeland.