It’s getting cooler out, the days are getting shorter, and it may just be the Canadian in me, but Sydney is not only feeling more like home, it’s getting closer to one of my favourite events of the year, the Vivid Festival of Lights.
A few years ago, I took a walk through the city during Vivid, and I was blown away. While the beaches steal the show in the summer, the lights of Vivid warm your heart and lift your spirit in the winter, with this festival running between 26th May to 17th June 2023.
With an amazing combination of art, sound, and food, every street you turn down leads you to a new amazing experience. While we’d all love to spend a few days here, sometimes our schedule doesn’t match up, so the Sydney Harbour Days team has put together a way for you to plan your whirlwind tour to take in as much as possible in just one night.
This whirlwind one day Vivid itinerary will include:
So get your walking shoes ready. Let’s make the most of one night of Vivid this 2023!
It took me five years of living in Australia before I walked across the harbour bridge, and when I did, I asked myself, why haven’t I done this sooner?! The view. Was. Spectacular.
My favourite starting point for Vivid is Milson’s Point train station. It’s the quiet train stop on the other side of the Harbour bridge. From here, you can access the north part of the bridge and make your way across on the East side of the bridge. You’ll be greeted with an incredible panoramic harbour view as you do. You’ll see the Opera House lit up, lights everywhere, and Vivid boat cruises lighting up the harbour. It’s the best way to start.
You can stop along the way and take that iconic picture. Just make sure to hold onto your phones tight!
As you reach the Harbour Bridge’s end, walk down the Bridge Stairs and enter the Rocks. The Australian Heritage Hotel or the Glenmore are there to greet you for a quick refreshment stop. From this starting point is where the art show begins. You’ll see art installations everywhere you turn through the rocks and around the harbour. As you walk through some of the historic buildings and towards Circular Quay, you’ll see the lights dancing on the water or interactive art shows along the way. See this interactive map to see which ones you want to check out.
As you admire some installations, start making your way up Circular Quay back up towards the Harbour Bridge. You’ll walk past food stalls and more pubs on your way.
As you step on board your boat, you’re going to be in for a treat. One of the friendly crew members will be there to greet you and they’re ready show you a fantastic time on the Harbour. If you’ve liked the light show so far, a cruise will kick it up a notch. As you sail under the harbour bridge from your starting point (typically Towns Wharf or King St Wharf), you’ll see the light shows from a unique angle.
On a Vivid cruise in 2023, you’ll take in much more than just walking. You’ll sail past all the landmarks, the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Taronga Zoo.
The best part of a Vivid cruise is you’re away from the crowds. The boats have a capped number of guests, so you can be sure to get a stunning view as you make your way around the harbour, and you won’t need to push your way in to get that memorable photo of your favourite landmark.
Many of the boats are lit up, turning your Vivid cruise into one of the attractions. Some boats allow for BYO food and drinks or and others greet you with a welcome beverage. Light snacks, canapes to full bufet meals can be found to fuel you for the rest of your evening. There are a variety of Vivid boat cruise options for 2023 options so make sure you find one that’s right for you. Most of the Vivid cruises last for about 90 minutes – 2hrs and are much more affordable than you’d think!
Most of the cruises have multiple departure times in the evening, so if you want to spend more time in the city, you can get a later evening cruise. Just be quick, Vivid boat cruises will sell out, so make sure to book your cruise ahead of time.
You’ve fueled up on the boat or picked up some street food. Now we’re ready for a show. This year, you’re in for a treat with ‘Written in the Stars, ‘ a Vivid drone show that will take over the skies near Circular Quay.
If you haven’t seen one of these before, make it your mission to see one. They’re something special. The visual effects of the drones flying in unison, along with the shapes and changing colours, will leave you mesmerised.
Watch the weather, and check the Vivid drone show schedule to make sure you plan your evening accordingly. The drone shows for Vivid 2023 start at 9pm, so get to a good viewing spot by then.
Now that your visual experience has been overloaded, it’s time to delight the ears with some live music. From free outdoor festival performances to indoor music venues, you’ll be able to find an activity that will satisfy your musical itch.
From the Darling Quarter and Opera House to Mary’s Underground, your choice of music venues is plenty. Most shows start from 6 pm – late. Many free shows will take place in Darling Quarter, so you can walk through the city or jump on the train from Circular Quay to Town Hall to save your feet a few steps. Some performances will require tickets, so check out all the Vivid music shows playing here and get ready to enjoy the show.
We did it. We’ve taken you through the city and to some of our favourite venues. You’ll log about 6.5 km, and our above schedule should take 4-5 hours to complete, including some pit stops along the way.
So much is happening this year, and this annual festival is getting bigger and bigger. So if you’ve only got one day, plan accordingly. Music tickets and Vivid Cruises for 2023 will sell out, so get in early.
If you haven’t had enough and are planning for multiple days of Vivid fun, we’ve got you covered. Here are some incredible special mentions we couldn’t leave out.
Dark Spectrum – Wynyard Underground Tunnels – Nope, this isn’t the intro to the latest horror movie you’ve heard about. It’s the latest exhibit, turning the unused old tunnels of Wynyard into a visual spectrum of lights.
Make your way through this labyrinth of music and lights from Wynyard to the Rocks. Get your tickets or more information on Dark Spectrum here.
Talks and Taboos – Ideas – Expand your mind with some different topics that will get you thinking. Plenty of free talks are happening all through Vivid that cover anything from taboo topics to how you can protect the ocean (our favourite). Scroll through some of these talks here, and expand your mind.
Fill your stomach – Food Stalls and Dinners – You’ll be working up an appetite, so make sure you’re fuelled and ready to go. Find out where to get your favourite meal or where all the food trucks are going. Your taste buds will thank you.
Time to get planning your Vivid 2023. If you’d like to speak with us about private boat hire for this year’s Vivid Festival in Sydney, we’re here to help! Contact your Sydney Harbour Days team.
We believe planning your event should be fun and above all easy. Don’t spend your precious time browsing the web trying to find the perfect boat for your event. We'll do that for you, at no extra cost!