The winter solstice marks the day when the South Pole is at its maximum tilt away from the sun, which this year falls on June 21. It is the longest night in the Southern Hemisphere and for centuries cultures have celebrated the occurrence with festivals, eating, drinking and dancing.
In an ode to this significant day, Sydney will come alive for the 13 days leading up to the winter solstice with over 200 events to make the city sparkle.
As part of the NSW Government’s initiative to rejuvenate the city’s nightlife, Sydney Solstice will spread out across four key precincts – the CBD, Darling Harbour, Newtown and the Oxford Street and their surrounding areas.
It’s an event like never seen before – combining the best of musicians, artists, food, drink and dance for all tastes.
South Eveleigh, one of Sydney’s newest dining and drinking precincts, will feature special menus and chef workshops from the likes of Kylie Kwong who has just opened her new restaurant, Lucky Kwong.
“It’s really important that we keep driving Sydney’s recovery and celebrate all of the beautiful things we love about this city. For me, I’m really looking forward to bringing in the cultural community of Sydney; through food and drinks, music, art and First Nations culture. I really feel that this program is a beautiful way we can all come together and collaborate through the winter-time,” said South Eveleigh ambassador Kylie Kwong.
“Sydney nightlife for me is all about those wonderful, quirky, small wine bars – and I’m loving seeing the CBD restaurants opening up. I’m loving the fact that you can wander around the laneways and neighbourhoods and engage with beautiful public art installations or be part of great talks in museums and galleries in the evening.”
To kick off Sydney Solstice, and running throughout the entire two weeks, the steps of the Sydney Opera House will be transformed with live music and poetry readings. From sundown, the eastern Bennelong sails will be decorated with this year’s reprisal of the popular Badu Gili, meaning ‘water light’ in Gadigal language, which lights up daily.
On the Darling Harbour waterfront, Harbour Garden is a unique installation inspired by Australia’s sea-life and the country’s rich maritime history.
Be enchanted by an explosion of colour as the Australian National Maritime Museum is transformed by a giant inflatable installation.
The iconic Metro Theatre in the CBD will be reopening for live music and a series of events called Pride Weekender.
“This year at Sydney Solstice we’re bringing fun and colour to the Metro Theatre,” said Albert Kruger, CEO of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. “It’s actually the grand reopening of the venue since COVID struck last year in March. We are running four events … Express Yourself, Queer Thinking, My Drag Stories and also DJ Spin Off.”
Also in the CBD, the colourful laneways of Haymarket will be taken over by the team from Wanna Dance. By day, there will be tai chi workout sessions and ballroom step-throughs. By night, one of Sydney’s best DJs will lead you through a roaming curated mix of C-Pop, K-Pop and popular dance tracks.
Karl Schlothauer, the president of the Independent Bars Association said the Night Over Light program, part of YCK Laneways, will showcase Sydney’s small bar scene.
“I love how smaller independent venues are now popping up all over the city and delivering unique offerings.
“Sydney has a great bar scene that is hidden throughout the CBD, especially between York, Clarence and Kent Streets. Whether it be, listening to live music at SILY, or getting your haircut at the Barbershop before ducking out for a gin, there’s a sense of adventure exploring the laneway precinct.
“Apart from my own venue, Stitch Bar (I may be a little biased), I love the hospitality at Maybe Sammy and you can’t go past the steaks at The Gidley or the French fare at Restaurant Hubert.”
Bustling Oxford Street and its surrounds are known for their celebration of bohemian and LGBTQI culture. There will be plenty of drag and cabaret shows, indulgent feasts and dance parties held throughout the June celebrations.
To plan your event line-up, head to sydneysolstice.com.
Four ways to Sydney Solstice
Country and Inner Western
On the June long weekend, Newtown, Enmore and Erskineville will explode into a celebration of country music as the Country and Inner Western takes over town. After dancing was put on hold for so long, what better release than tossing on a cowboy hat, popping a hand in your belt buckle and moving your hips to some country classics?
Kasey Chambers heads the line-up for the two-day festival at Sydney Park, with Tex Perkins plays Johnny Cash, All Our Exes Live in Texas and Wagons some of the other star acts. Artists will also perform in free pop-up events in venues along King Street, including the Enmore Hotel, the Midnight Special and Kelly’s On King.
When: Saturday-Sunday, June 12-13.
Price: from $65.80 per person; family and weekend passes also available.
South Eveleigh Solstice Festival
Just a stroll from Redfern Station, the rejuvenated South Eveleigh district is fast becoming one of Sydney’s hottest new places for drinking, dining and live entertainment. For Sydney Solstice, the new precinct will hold its first major public event and transform for two days into a hub of performance, art installations, live music and food and beverage experiences.
The heritage railway sheds of Locomotive Street are now rustic homes to some of Sydney’s best restaurants. To give your tastebuds a tease, think food and drink from the likes of Kylie Kwong’s new eatery, Lucky Kwong and the world’s first permanent no-waste bar, Re.
When: Friday-Saturday, June 18-19.
Price: $30 per person and includes four food selections.
Five Ways Festival
Culture and hospitality will shake hands at the Five Ways Festival as some of Oxford Street’s best chefs and bartenders curate gastronomic delights and live musicians keep the crowds warm and moving.
Local favourite venues such as Tequila Mockingbird, Vino e Cucina, Mr Ts and the Royal Hotel Paddington and plenty more will present street foods and a cocktail program that is sure to fill up the streets.
Art and light installations will add an extra dimension of magic to the event.
Local retailers will show off the best of Paddington fashion, as vintage selections and modern designer brands tempt your credit card. Five Ways really ticks all the boxes of Sydney culture, with events across music, food, arts and shopping.
When: Saturday, June 19.
Make Gin with the Master
June 12 is World Gin Day and Four Pillars Gin is celebrating in style as gin mastermind Cameron Mackenzie hosts his first-ever distillation in Sydney. Mr Mackenzie is described as “the heart and soul” of Four Pillars, spending 15 years in the wine industry before delving into the world of spirits.
The masterclass will make a batch of new Sydney Winter Gin and you’ll see the inner-workings of the distilling world. You’ll be taken through a history of Four Pillars gin, have more than your fair share of tastings and head home with a signed bottle. The event is extremely limited so book fast.
When: Saturday, June 12.
Price: Make Gin with the Masters from $250 per person. There’s also a Drink Gin with the Masters session from $85 per person.
Aboriginal Sky Dreaming Cruise
Fantasea Cruising has partnered with Tribal Warrior to launch the Aboriginal Sky Dreaming cruise. An Aboriginal astronomer will be your guide and share their stories of land, water and sky.
You’ll hear about the ways Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people observe the sun, moon and stars, and how this informs their calendars, navigation and weather predictions. The tour will have a particular focus on Gugurmin (meaning “the emu in the sky”), which is one of our most famous constellations and holds a special meaning for Indigenous Australians.
When: Wednesday-Sunday, June 9-20. Cruise departs 6pm from Darling Harbour, 6:30pm from Circular Quay.
Price: from $30/$20 per adult/child;
family from $75.
Flavours of Opera Kitchen
Harbourside market hall Opera Kitchen will host a two-day food festival with over 10 stalls offering Italian and Japanese inspired fare. Feast on cured meats and buffalo mozzarella accompanied by an Aperol spritz, or pork katsu sandwiches, poke bowls and delicious warming ramen, washed down with an Asahi beer.
There will be entertainment for the whole family as spinning DJs set the mood, and face-painting for the kids.
Your Instagram will be sure to thank you – the festival has one of Sydney’s best backdrops, the sails of the Opera House.
The Flavours of Opera Kitchen festival promises a deluxe food experience.
When: Weekend of June 19-20 from 12-5pm.
Price:$30 per person and includes four food selections.
Moonlight Sea Kayaking Experience
The team at Sydney Harbour Kayaks has put together a two-hour Sydney Solstice evening sea-kayaking tour. Paddle through the harbour at night, watching the lights of Darling Harbour and Sydney’s skyline bouncing spectacularly off the water.
You’ll start your journey in Darling Harbour before cruising by naval warships, then taking in all the glamour of Barangaroo and enjoying unique viewing points of the Anzac Bridge and Glebe Island Bridge.
Just as your arms begin to tire, you’ll break to take photos and enjoy appetisers and refreshments. Then paddle back leisurely to Darling Harbour with a stomach full of delights and a heart full of adventure.
When: Daily from June 8-20 with 5:30pm or 8pm (only available on selected dates).
Price: $155 per person (over-15s only).
Darling Harbour Winter Festival
A two-week celebration of foodie indulgence, flying fireworks, a pop-up harbourside ice rink and slide and live entertainment is coming to Darling Harbour.
The festival will spread itself across two main hubs, Tumbalong Park and the forecourt of the International Convention Centre (ICC). The park will bring the party energy, with an eclectic range of DJs playing well into the night. While the ICC forecourt will host an ice-skating rink and plenty of other attractions, with live music, skating performances, demonstrations and workshops.
The festival will have something for families, date night or drinks with friends, with Darling Harbour set to be buzzing
non-stop for the two weeks.
When: Daily from June 8-20.