Spending New Year’s Eve Homeless in Sydney

This post could also be called ‘When Backpacker Spontaneity Goes Wrong’ or ‘What Girls Will Do To See Fireworks’. And it is a tale of 2 young and carefree backpackers looking to tick off one of the all-time bucketlist items – see the fireworks at Sydney Harbour on New Year’s Eve.

Not much to ask right? Well, the problem was, we lived in Brisbane. With jobs and a flat and boring things like that as part of our working holiday.

But we’re backpackers. We’re living in Australia for one year only. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, we have to go!

This was the reasoning that went on between us in the few days leading up to New Year’s Eve. And it was pretty convincing. The word ‘YOLO’ was pretty popular at this point and we used it to reason most of our poor decisions whilst travelling. But there were a few problems to consider first…

  1. We were broke.
  2. We only had a few days off work for NYE.
  3. Sydney hostels had been booked up for months and even if there were available beds, you had to book a minimum of 7 nights.

What could we do?

Well we just went anyway. No accomodation booked whatsoever.

The day before New Year’s Eve we boarded a budget greyhound bus from Brisbane to Sydney which took 18 hours in total (our first mistake) and arrived in Darling Harbour at 6am on the 31st. Well what exactly are you meant to do at 6am in Darling Harbour with a little backpack of essentials, a picnic basket and the uncontrollable drowsiness from the sleeping tablets we took on the bus…? Answer: Sleep in Starbucks.

Blankets in Starbucks

New Year's Eve Starbucks

The following 24 hours mainly involved stooping pretty low and trying to sleep in Starbucks was the FIRST LOW POINT. I tried, but as cozy as that little sofa was I just couldn’t sleep in front of early commuters getting their Americano’s and eyeing up our blankets.

We went to get breakfast, then pretty early we started making our way to a prime spot to watch the New Year’s Eve festivities. Well it’s lucky we were early because a lot of places were already filling up fast.

We ended up North of the bridge at Blue’s Point Reserve and set up on our blanket with a great view of where the fireworks would be. At this point it was midday and packed. So 12 hours to the fireworks then… Luckily this is where the picnic basket came in handy and we had plenty of snacks and drinks to see us through. As well as chatting to nearby Frenchmen. As you do.

Milson's Point, Sydney

Sydney Harbour

This is the point I realised that we really should have planned something for the evening. You know, at least tried to get tickets to something on the harbour where you have a great view of the fireworks and the celebrations without having to sit outside all day. You live, you learn.

To be fair it was fine in the day. But when the sun went down in the evening, it was pretty cold. Sure it was Summer in Sydney but it was quite a mild Summer in general and I had acclimatised to Queensland sunshine.

Syney Harbour Bridge from Milson's Point

Syney Harbour from Milson's Point

Syney Harbour Bridge from Milson's Point

We had worn joggers and hoodies down on the coach, which we intended to wear on the return journey, but had changed into dresses for the big Sydney New Year’s Eve. We were soon putting the sweats back over our dresses to keep us warm. So we looked mental, I’m sure.

Fast forward to the big celebrations and the 10 minutes of insane New Year’s Eve fireworks, the bridge lighting up, the neon lights on the boats in the harbour and the crazy atmosphere was AMAZING. Like, there’s a reason it’s on our bucketlists. I can’t imagine anywhere being as exciting for the midnight countdown. (See the video at the bottom of this post!)

Fireworks on New Year's Eve in SYdney

Sydney Harbour New Year's Eve Fireworks

But then it was 12.15am and it was all over.

And we had nowhere to go.

When we talked it through on the way down, we had decided that we would go out to a backpacker bar or a club after the fireworks and just stay out partying until it was time to go home to Brisbane. However, after the 18 hour journey on a bus, the sleeping tablets, the long walk to the place we set up camp and how cold we were from being sat outside all evening, that really wasn’t going to be an option.

We followed the crowds to the trains, which killed an hour or so. But then we really had no idea where to go.

I had an idea, but I wasn’t proud of it. And didn’t know if I really had the balls to go through with it… What if we tried to sneak into a hostel? Specifically a hostel we had stayed at before and knew our way around. So we decided to go to the Big Hostel near King’s Cross. Knowing full well it was booked up.

Everyone comes in and out of the back door at the Big Hostel, so we easily walked in. But then it was awkward. Everyone here was booked in for the minimum 7 nights so they knew outsiders when they saw them. And you know, we were carrying bags like complete newbies. So the idea to sleep on the sofa failed as we were getting seriously dodgy looks and it wouldn’t have been long before we got chucked out.

My next bright idea… Why don’t we go upstairs and hide in the toilets? At least it was inside?

Yep, I know. It’s ridiculous.

We went up to the second floor, where we had previously stayed for a couple of weeks, went into the bathrooms, went into a shower cubicle and just sat there. With the two of us wedged with our knees under our chins. LOW POINT.

We were literally like ‘What the fuck are we doing?’. And it was worse that people were continuously coming in and out of the bathrooms and talking and we had to just not say anything… Oh god I’m cringing it’s the worst.

My accomplice Kate decided we needed to get out of there, we weren’t going to sleep here.

So we wandered over to King’s Cross station. I can’t remember the reason why exactly, I think we thought we could just jump on a train, sleep on there and come back? I don’t know, we were in a weird state of mind and seriously tired.

But when we got there, we saw that there were loads of train delays and a lot of people were snoozing against the walls, waiting for their trains. A lot of them looked like the young and carefree backpacker variety like ourselves, so we thought we’d found our solution. We’ll just set up camp here, sleep for a couple hours, it’ll be fine.

Sleeping in King's Cross Station

Sleeping in King's Cross Station

I slept for an hour. And when I awoke, it was to a very different scenario. The backpackers I had spotted had left, clearly got their trains home, and we were now sleeping with the homeless. And we definitely fitted in. LOW POINT.

At this point it was about 5am and the sky was starting to lighten up. So Kate’s next big idea… Let’s go sleep in the park.

We went to Pyrmont Bay Park in Darling Harbour and as the sun was rising, it felt totally acceptable to sleep outside now. We slept for a couple of hours until I was woken up by two things – the sun beating down on my eyelids, and several strapping young guys playing 5-a-side football around us. LOW POINT.

Finally, we walked back to the city centre to catch our return journey back to Brisbane on that good ol’ 18 hour Greyhound bus.

It was an ‘eventful’ night you could say and was quite frankly an experience I would NOT like to repeat.

Morals of this story:

  • Spontaneity doesn’t always work out in your favour.
  • Plan ahead as much as possible if going to a busy event.
  • You can’t sleep in hostel bathrooms.
  • Backpackers will do anything for a story to tell their mates in the pub back home.

And the main thing I got from this experience – sleeping rough fucking sucks. When you are sleeping on train station floors with the homeless whilst the rest of Sydney is partying, it really puts things into perspective. When I returned to my house in Sydney, I had never been so thankful for a bed to sleep in and a roof over my head.

Luckily this New Year’s Eve I won’t be doing anything quite as spontaneous!

Do you have any crazy New Year’s Eve stories? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!

5 thoughts on “Spending New Year’s Eve Homeless in Sydney

  • 8th March 2016 at 12:50 pm

    What a story. Hi I´m Lisa
    I´ve been in Sydney for New Years Eve in Dez 2014 and I was sleeping in my Van outside the town but I had to get there by an hour train ride … not knowing with stop is the one i had to get off. I was so done 🙂 But it was an unbelievable adventure … walking through Sydney at midnight and being one out of million. Hey Kara I would love to meet you during travelling and maby just go on a short adventure together. But anyway 🙂 keep up writing and enjoy life, Lisa

    • Kara // Heels In My Backpack
      8th March 2016 at 1:11 pm

      Ahh it’s always an adventure though, and a great story! I’m not travelling at the moment unfortunately! Where are you in the world right now? Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • 3rd August 2016 at 4:21 am

    Hi Kara, just caught up with your blog on the new idventuretravel site & the eventful Sydney NYE trip from Brisbane. Great storey & your right the fireworks in Sydney are the best. However as a Brisbane resident I would have watched the Brissie fireworks in the warmth, but would never do the Greyhound bus to Sydney & back….that’s just pure hell.
    Enjoyed reading the rest of your site too even if it’s a bit girly for me. Adrian

  • 8th November 2016 at 8:07 pm

    lol what a story! We also completely winged it for NYE as there was no way we were booking a hostel for a million nights. I was also working in Brisbane! So we road tripped down with a a couple of friends, parked just outside Sydney and got the train in, then camped in our car afterwards. A few friends pulled all-nighters on the beach too so we were tempted to join them but we were so tired after that long day. You got a better view than us, anyway! 😉


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