Your Ultimate Guide to The Brand-New Sydney Solstice

Anna Tabrah, Staff Writer

Aexplosion of fireworks over Darling Harbour. A kaleidoscope of Indigenous artworks on the Opera House. A street party in Paddington – you’ve never seen Sydney like this before.

As the nights get longer and temperatures drop, it takes something pretty special to tempt Sydneysiders and visitors out of winter hibernation – enter: Sydney Solstice. A vibrant celebration of colour, cuisine and culture, the festival (which runs 8–20 June 2021) takes Vivid Sydney’s usual winter slot and is the ultimate reason to Holiday Here This Year (and the antidote to seasonal sluggishness).  

Celebrate everything Sydney across four of the city’s precincts (CBD, Darling Harbour, Newton and Oxford Street) and more than 200 events, discovering exciting new artists, unearthing ancient Aboriginal history, joining a gourmet workshop, dancing in the streets and watching the night sky come alive under a canopy of stars and breathtaking moonlight.  

Follow our ultimate Sydney Solstice itinerary and celebrate the lead-up to the longest night of the year as you see the city like never before. 

Ready to book your Sydney escape? View our hotel packages here.

Day 1: Sydney CBD 

11.45am: Discover the Secrets of Sydney’s GPO (9–19 June 2021) 

Image courtesy of The Fullerton Hotel

Where better to start than a Sydney icon? Take a guided tour through the hallowed halls of the heritage-listed General Post Office building, stepping back in time to 1874. A resident guide will regale you with tales, legends and little-known facts about Sydney’s ‘Grand Dame’ as you admire her intricate stonework and sculptures. Find out why the Pitt Street carvings caused public outrage when they were first unveiled and discover the Tank Stream relics, which facilitated Sydney’s original water supply. Your experience concludes with signature afternoon tea at The Fullerton Hotel, which now takes pride of place in the former GPO building. Over 90 indulgent minutes, enjoy a range of sweet and savoury delights paired with your choice of special winter solstice-inspired drink. 

Sunset, approx. 5pm: Catch the Badu Gili Winter Nights (8–20 June 2021) 

Image courtesy of Destination New South Wales

You’ll have to get your timing right to catch it: every Solstice evening, the Opera House’s eastern Bennelong sails will come alive with inspirational First Nations artwork hourly from sunset. This year’s Badu Gili is the Wonder Women projection, which brings to life various artworks painted by six female artists from the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ collection, featuring tales from the Eureka Stockade to the devastating 2019/20 bushfires via a series depicting intimate family encounters and an imagined world of superheroes. Stick around for live music, talks and poetry at the top of the Opera House steps.

6pm: Join the winemakers at Aria After Dark (9–10 and 1617 June 2021) 

Presented by Matt Moran’s flagship fine-dining restaurant, Aria Restaurant Sydney, this immersive wine experience is hosted by a different New South Wales winemaker every night. Step behind the scenes of the state’s exciting food and wine scene as you try local drops complemented by gourmet snacks from Aria’s Executive Chef, Joel Bickford. Sessions run for two hours (at 6pm or 8.30pm) and include two glasses of wine, tastings and three snacks per person. With appearances from Nick Spencer of Nick Spencer Wines, Brokenwood’s Kate Sturgess, Angus Vinden of Vinden Wines and Will Gilbert from Gilbert Family Wines, this is an unmissable event for wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike.  

8.30pm: Celebrate the return of Sydney’s nightlife with YCK Laneways presents: Night over Light (8–20 June 2021) 

Image courtesy of Time Out and Cassandra Hannagan

After last year’s enforced hibernation, Sydney’s nightlife is coming back with a bang. Join fellow revellers at YCK Laneways, the city’s newest small bar precinct, for a diverse program of ticketed music, dance, theatre and art events. Fifteen participating small bars have come together to create a multidimensional experience, designed to unite the community. From cocktails and live jazz to drag queen bingo, trivia nights, sea shanties and tarot readings – the only thing you can’t get is bored.  

Day 2: Darling Harbour 

10am: Embrace fun for all ages at the Darling Harbour Winter Festival (8–20 June 2021) 

Image courtesy of Darling Harbour

Swap your slippers for ice skates and transport yourself to a European Christmas market at Darling Harbour, where all things winter are celebrated in style. Fun for the whole family, the waterside festival caters to little ones with themed decorations and ice skating, while adults and older kids will love the live performance stage and special winter foodie market at Tumbalong Park. Have a go on the giant artic slide, enjoy regular skating displays from ice dancers and try winter warming classics from some of Sydney’s best food outlets.  

3pm: Be enchanted by Harbour Garden (8–20 June 2021) 

We promise you’ve never seen anything like this before: throughout Sydney Solstice, the Australian National Maritime Museum will be transformed by a giant inflatable installation. Colourful and immersive, this is pure joy for the senses, inspired by the harbour’s sea life and the museum’s stunning waterfront location. Behind the installation are two of Sydney’s most dynamic studios, Goldberg Aberline Studio and Studio A. Work your way through a series of inflatables of all sizes, spotting spectacular ocean creatures as you go. Fun and free, this is a great way to pass a couple of hours, particularly if you have kids in tow. 

6pm: Take a unique Aboriginal Sky Dreaming Cruise (9–20 June 2021 from Wednesday to Sunday of each week) 

Image courtesy of Captain Cook Cruises and James Horan

Float away on an Aboriginal Dreamtime adventure on this cruise by Fanatsea Cruising and Tribal Warrior. Listen to stories of land, water and sky passed down by generations as an Aboriginal astronomer guides you through this night-time experience. Departing Darling Harbour (and Circular Quay), this hour-long cruise reveals how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples developed a number of practical ways to observe the sun, moon and stars to inform navigation and calendars, and predict weather. Marvel at rich history that spans 65,000 years and learn about Gugurmin (the emu in the sky), one of Australia’s most famous dark constellations.  

7.30pm: Watch the sky light up at the LuminoSydney fireworks display (10-13 and 17-19 June 2021) 

Image courtesy of Darling Harbour

From Thursday to Sunday of the first week and Thursday of the second week at 7.30pm and 9pm during Sydney Solstice, the sky above Sydney Harbour will come alive with a spectacular firework show. Presented by Foti Fireworks, this modern celebration of light and energy combines lighting, pyrotechnics and special effects for a truly unforgettable experience. Stick around afterwards to discover some of the city’s best food and drinks across Darling Harbour’s array of dining outlets. 

Day 3: Inner-city precincts  

12pm: Join the street party at Five Ways Festival in Paddington (19 June 2021) 

Image courtesy of Destination New South Wales (Eat Thai)

With an array of music, food, arts and shopping, everyone can find their version of fun at Paddington’s Five Ways Festival. The area’s finest chefs and bartenders are on hand to provide the libations, while local artists and creators get busy making wares onsite and offering them for sale. Bop to the beat of live musicians during the day and watch as DJs take over towards the evening. Browse local retailers for one-of-a-kind Paddington fashion, try street food and handcrafted cocktails from the likes of Tequila Mockingbird, Eat Thai and Mr T’s, and keep your eyes peeled for the art and light activation that will add an extra dimension to this unique event. 

3pm: Take a breather at Phew-Ture in Darlinghurst (8–20 June 2021) 

Bitter Phew has long been a welcome reprieve from the bustle of Oxford Street, enticing city dwellers with its 12 rotating taps of craft beer. For Sydney Solstice, the bar is inviting you to sample some of the city’s finest beer, wine and food as you embrace the colourful world of Indigenous and local ingredients via a series of lunches, dinners and meet-the-maker-style sessions. Try exciting new flavours and meet the experts, with workshops co-hosted by Gabriel Gutnik of Ziggy’s Wild Foods, and lunch and dinner sessions with Wild Provisions’ Caitlin Koether. 

6pm: Listen to the sweet sounds of the Polyphony Choir in Surry Hills (19 June 2021)  

The parish hall of St Peters Church in Surry Hills sets the stage for a choral performance with a twist by the award-winning Polyphony Choir. Immerse yourself in an evening of gothic-inspired songs from the likes of Nick Cave, The Cure and Massive Attack during this unique show. With more than 15 years’ experience, this is a choir that sets out to surprise, mixing up classical music with contemporary tracks by artists like Lorde and Radiohead. The choir has some pretty impressive collaborations under its belt, including Heather Shannon of The Jezabels and Marcus Whale. Trust us when we say this is unlike any other community choir show you’ve experienced. 

To view the full program, visit the Sydney Solstice website. 

For more unmissable Sydney moments and inspiration for things to see and do, visit Sydney.com

Now’s the time to Holiday Here This Year and Love Sydney Like You Mean It. 

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