The Ultimate Self-Guided Vivid Sydney Walking Tour – From Central Station to Circular Quay
There really is nothing quite like Vivid Sydney. This event lights up the city of Sydney and the Sydney Harbour in the most outstanding of colours and bright, neon hues. Running during winter, from Friday 26 May 2023 to Saturday 17 June 2023, this year’s unmissable festival is going to be brilliant! While there are so many different events within Vivid to check out, one of the best things to do is a self-guided Light Walk through some of the coolest light installations.
Below, we’ve put together a self-guided Vivid Sydney walking tour, taking you from Central Station to Circular Quay. Enjoy!
Vivid Sydney Light Walk – Self Guided Tour Instructions
Starting at Wake Up! Sydney, look out towards Central Station from Pitt Street. The western facade of Central Station (the side that directly faces Wake Up!) and the Clock Tower, will be lit up with vivid colours and transportive artwork. Walk to The Goods Line by walking right onto Quay Street, then left onto Thomas Street.
THE GOODS LINE
Turn right onto The Goods Line, and along this walkway there will be many light projections, installations and music events as part of Vivid Sydney. Keep your eyes out for:
- Fluxit – a digital bonfire built from 400 silver bamboo sticks that will warm up the Sydney winter. LED tubes glow with orange embers at random as the light flickers and fire runs through the bamboo
- Voiture 21 – dreamy landscapes flicker by, projected on the walls of the abandoned tunnel at the end of The Goods Line. Expect footage that includes Sydney and the Blue Mountains – allowing you to daydream where your next destination might be.
- Waterlight Graffiti – your very own Etch-A-Sketch – Vivid style! Splash water onto a moisture-responsive LED board. Your creation will shine bright for minutes, before it fades to make way for a new ‘layer’ of graffiti.
- Kinetic Perspective – Deceptively simple, but this light installation of spinning circles will play with your perspective.
- Live DJs – Some of Sydney’s coolest and upcoming DJs will be spinning tracks every night of the festival from 6pm – 10:30pm. There will be funk, soul, Latin, indie, house, electro, disco, rock, Americana, K-Pop, Bollywood, electronica, afrobeat, RnB, salsa, hip hop and much more!
When you reach the end of The Goods Line, turn right onto Steam Mill Lane, which will take you to Darling Square and Darling Quarter.
DARLING SQUARE & DARLING QUARTER
The first thing you’ll notice is Aloft, set up at what we Sydney-siders refer to as ‘The Birds Nest’ building (you’ll understand once you’re there!). Giant neon bird animations will flap their wings across the circular building. Continue walking up the Boulevard, to Tumbalong Park. This is your Vivid Sydney go-to spot for free music. There will be 12 nights in a row of live music, including artists like Yothu Yindi and a festival by Australia’s epic radio station, Triple J. Jump on the rainbow-illuminated swing set at Spectrum of Happiness – instant happiness!
Continue walking along the path towards the water’s edge at Darling Harbour. Turn right, for the start of your Darling Harbour foreshore walk. While you’re here, you might like to buy tickets to Future Art Is Vivid – a digital art party like no other, and one that features in our list of 16 Vivid Sydney Experiences Not To Miss! Otherwise, keep walking and look out for:
- Elemental is an 80 metre (260 foot) light installation of water shooters, flames and pyro technics. Mixed with jaw-dropping effects and an original soundtrack.
- Harbour Life – stunning imagery of Australia’s underwater world (including 200-year-old turtles!) and First Nations knowledge, projected onto the Australian National Maritime Museum’s HMAS Vampire.
As you walk north towards Barangaroo, you’ll stroll through King Street Wharf. Look out for Bloomlight – 4-metre streetlights that light up and open more the closer you get.
You’ll know you’ve reached Barangaroo once you see lights galore! What Vivid Sydney light shows should you see once you’re in Barangaroo? Here are our suggestions:
- Gaze into the water and see Lillies – giant, inflatable versions of the beautiful flower. Keep an eye out for Fish Are Jumping – quick streaks of light jumping out of the water, like a school of fish.
- Walk through The Tunnel – an open hallway made of space-age structures and 8,000+ LEDs. This is a totally unique, intense light experience.
- Before you start to wrap around Barangaroo, you’ll soak in Australia’s mesmerising coral reefs, with a hypnotising light installation of 3D-mapping at What Lies Beneath.
- Walk inside the doors of Vivid House – an immersive 360° experience, taking you through hyper-real journeys across Australia. (PS. We recommended Vivid House in our list of 16 Must-See Vivid Sydney Experiences).
Outside Vivid House is the Vivid Fire Kitchen – where you can refuel by the fire pit with food from some of Sydney’s eateries.
Continue walking towards Stargazer Lawn. You’ll pass a wall of wooden tree discs before reaching the biggest installation in Vivid Sydney history (at 588 square metres!) – The Last Ocean. This is your chance to step onto Antarctica’s icy wonderland without harming it.
Continue walking through the installations in Barangaroo Reserve, before wrapping around into Walsh Bay.
You’ve made it to the Piers at Walsh Bay. Be inspired by a water fountain (only that it doesn’t feature a drop of water!) at Spirograph on Piers 8/9. See giant origami cranes flying high on the breezeway at Piers 4/5. Keep walking along Hickson Road to Piers 3/4 and Piers 1/2 for even more installations.
THE ROCKS & CIRCULAR QUAY
Wrap around to The Rocks and enter Circular Quay. You’ve made it the heart of Vivid Sydney’s light show! This is your place to be! Pick a spot to sit or stand, and simply cast your eyes out across Sydney Harbour – it is a colourful spectacle like no other. The ferries and boats will light up in unison with the city’s skyscrapers, as well as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. There is no shortage of things to look at here, but some of our suggestions include:
- Dandelion – take in the giant sight at Hickson Road Reserve from a distance (or walk all the way into its centre for a sensory experience).
- Walk past the Museum of Contemporary Art to see its facade totally transformed
- Go to First Fleet Park for a star explosion at Supernova
- At the eastern end of Circular Quay, walk between the cool twisting lights of Sonder
What is Vivid Sydney?
- Vivid Sydney is an insanely cool festival that happens every year. It celebrates creativity, innovation and technology, through huge light installations, music performances, public talks, and much more. Essentially, it’s a time that totally transforms Sydney for 23 days and nights and is one of the best times of the year to visit the city! In 2023, Vivid Sydney will run in winter from Friday 26 May to Saturday 17 June.
How long will this Self Guided Light Walk Tour take me?
- We suggest at least 2 hours for this Vivid Sydney Self Guided Light Walk.
Can I start the walk at Circular Quay and finish at Central Station?
- Of course. You can also do this Light Walk in reverse, beginning at Circular Quay and ending at Central Station. This is a good idea if you want to end the night with an electric night and Vivid-themed cocktail at Side Bar!
Is there a quicker way to get to Circular Quay from Central Station?
- You can catch the train or tram directly from Central to Circular Quay. The train will take you 10 minutes, and the tram will take you 15 minutes.
Is there a shorter light walk? Can I just do part of the Self Guided Walk?
- You can split this walk up, so that you don’t have to do it all in one go. For example, you could just do:
- Central Station to Darling Harbour
- Barangaroo to Circular Quay
Can I eat along the Vivid Sydney Light Walk?
- There are heaps of eateries along the walk. Darling Square, King Street Wharf, Barangaroo, The Rocks and Circular Quay all have plenty of restaurants and food stalls. There is also the ‘Vivid Fire Kitchen’ outside Vivid House in Barangaroo. There you can refuel by the fire pit with food from some of Sydney’s best eateries.
Are there guided walking tours I can join?
- Watch this space! ? At Wake Up! Sydney, we will have special edition guided walking tours during Vivid for our hostel guests.
How do I get back to Central Station from Circular Quay?
- From Circular Quay, you can take the train or tram back to Central Station. Both the train and tram run at regular intervals, and will take you around 10 minutes (train) or 15 minutes (tram).
Can I enter the Royal Botanic Gardens?
- There are more Vivid Sydney lights to see in the Royal Botanic Gardens, but you’ll need to purchase a ticket to access this area. Tickets are from $30.
Is the Light Walk free?
- It is totally free to do this self-guided light walk, and all of the light installations detailed below are free for you to enjoy! There are also heaps more paid events you might like to check out. See our 16 Must-See Vivid Sydney Experiences for some more ideas, or check out the Vivid Sydney website.
Where is the best place to stay during Vivid Sydney?
- Call us biased, but Wake Up! Sydney Central is an ideal place to stay during the festival. Our award-winning hotel is located directly opposite Central Station, which means you’ll have lights literally outside your door, as well as being in the best spot for public transport to see so many of the Vivid events. Even better, we will be running special edition Vivid events for our guests, including guided light-walk tours, Vivid night parties, a vivid-themed pub crawl, and more!