Australia Trip Report: Christmas Eve on Darling Harbour

After a whirlwind three days of meeting uncles and cousins for the first time, we ventured outside of the Rouse Hill suburb and to Darling Harbour for the Christmas Eve fireworks show. There are several fireworks displays in the city, but this one is more family friendly. You would think people would be at home on Christmas Eve, but apparently, the holiday is celebrated a bit differently in Australia, as the harbor front was packed with tourists and locals alike, wandering the area, enjoying the various street performances, and finally the fireworks show. The weather had cooled a bit from the heat wave of the first few days – enough where I had to put on a jacket.

Christmas Eve in Darling Harbour Sydney Australia
Darling Harbour on Christmas Eve

My uncle has a friend who manages an apartment complex near the harbor. He took us up to the rooftop, which had great views of the city. We were going to come back here to watch the fireworks, but ended up opting for a front-row seat on the harbor.

Darling Harbour Sydney
Rooftop View of Darling Harbour

We walked around Darling Harbour, where you can actually spot jellyfish right off the docks. The area is very touristy, with one of maybe two Starbucks locations I spotted during my entire visit. The locals seem to have a disdain for Starbucks and consider local coffee shops as better sources for good coffee. This particular location was packed with tourists. I found the prices to be on par with the US and the drinks were pretty good too.

Starbucks Sydney Australia
Starbucks Darling Harbour

Street Performers on Darling Harbour

There were several street performers on this particular day. One was a Canadian with a math/astrophysics degree who found his calling tossing around various objects that were on fire, and contorting his body in cringe-inducing ways.

Sydney Harbour Street Performer
A math/astrophysics major turned street performer
Sydney Harbour Street Performances
Sydney Harbour Street Performer

At the end of the show, he told people about his educational background, proclaimed that he was happy following his dream, and that he’d appreciate tips since he was out here hustling on Christmas Eve. However, if you did not have money, then please come up and tell him you enjoyed his show. This worked, as he ended up being hounded afterwards and probably came away with $200 or so. Not bad for 30 minutes of work. I spotted him inside the nearby shopping mall later, eating a sandwich alone. I don’t know why, but it was a sad sight. It can’t be an easy job, especially considering how unpredictable income can be.

Another sight you’ll see all over the tourist areas are the Aboriginese, dressed in traditional (?) getups and playing a didgeridoo, with techno music in the background. For a few bucks, they will pose for a picture with you in a “wilderness man” stance. When I see native people trading on their culture this way, it kind of makes me sad. It kind of trivializes their culture and perpetuates stereotypes. If this comes across as offensive, it’s worth pointing out I’m always rooting for the underdog.

Australian Aboriginese Street Performers on Sydney Harbour
Australian Aboriginese playing the didgeridoo on Sydney Harbour

There was also this bizarre Santa Cruise (not to be confused with Santa Cruz, a city in California), where drunk hipsters were dressed like the bearded papa and managing not to fall off the boat.

Santa Boat Darling Harbour Sydney
Santa Cruise Darling Harbour

Fireworks Display

After wandering around the nearby mall, we took our place on the harbor for the fireworks display, which was incredible and totally put any Fourth of July display I’ve ever seen to shame. I’m sure the ozone layer took a hit and the waterways in front of us had fewer fish by the end of it, but it was spectacular. If only my iPhone took better photos…

Sydney Darling Harbour Fireworks
Darling Harbour Christmas Eve fireworks – the only non-blurry image I could find

Afterwards we headed back home and breezed through with no traffic. I don’t even know how that’s possible in a big city that thousands of people flocked to on a public holiday.

Note: If you’re ever in town for New Year’s Eve or any other holiday that warrants a fireworks display, the Four Points Darling Harbour has a great location on the harbor with direct views of the fireworks. Of course, you’ll have to make sure you ask for a Harbour View room. The hotel is a Category 5 Starwood property, requiring 12,000-16,000 points per night.

Darling Harbour Sydney Australia at Night on Christmas Eve
Darling Harbour at Night

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