Vivid Sydney is a big hit in Sydney every year celebrating the festival of lights, music and ideas over 23 spectacular days from late May to early June every year. The event spans across the entire city but the real drawcard for many are the light projections that illuminate the city’s most famous landmarks.

Sydney Harbour is a colourful sight to see on any night of the year but it explodes into a kaleidoscope of colour during Vivid. Unsurprisingly, the festivities draw a huge crowd which can make moving around the city to see all the precincts a tricky and time consuming task but this year we joined Captain Cook Cruises on their 60 minute Vivid Lights Cruise and after spending an evening on the harbour we can safely say there is no better way to experience VIVID.

How to get there:

By Bus: Public transport buses travelling through the CBD will drop you off at either Market, Park, Druitt, Bathurst or Liverpool Streets. It is then approximately a 5-10 minute to King Street Wharf.

By Ferry: The closest ferry stop to King Street Wharf is Barangaroo Wharf. From here it is a 3 minute walk to the Captain Cook Cruises departure point.

By Car: There are a number of parking spots around Darling Harbour though with road closures for the festival we recommend that you catch public transport or else find yourself stuck in traffic and paying a high price for parking.

By Train: Take the train to Town Hall Station and exit onto Bathurst Street leading you directly to the Darling Quarter. Head straight to King Street Wharf.


  • 60 minute evening cruise on Sydney Harbour
  • Unique vantage point to view Vivid Sydney
  • Licensed bar on board
  • Indoor and outdoor viewing areas

What you’ll do

Arrive and check in Captain Cook Cruises office at King Street Wharf

With our Experience Oz voucher in hand, my partner and I caught the public bus to King Street Wharf to meet Captain Cook Cruises for the 5.45pm cruise. In fact, we were so excited that we arrived an hour early and killed some time at one of the nearby restaurants having a cheeky happy hour drink before the cruise. The departure point from King Street Wharf, Darling Harbour is very convenient spot because you can enjoy a dinner before or after your VIVID lights cruise.

Boarding Time

As we arrived at King Street Wharf, we checked in at the Captain Cook Cruises office and join the queue that was beginning to grow. The time passed by very quickly with plenty of activity taking place on the harbour and the promenade to keep us entertained while we waited for the boat to arrive. As the massive vessel docked we plotted where we would sit for the best vantage point to see the lights.

The lower deck is enclosed with tables and chair alongside large windows and adjacent to the bar and best of all this level is heated. However, we chose the upper deck so that we could move around and get the best views and photographs… and we were not disappointed.

Luna Park

As we made our way out of the wharf into the harbour Luna Park begins to emerge from the darkness. The art deco style amusement park is a beautiful sight to see all year round but during VIVID the park bursts into an explosion of colour and compliments the lights festival.

Each year Luna Park participate in the festival with a grand projection onto Coney Island. This year the theme is ‘Spirit of Fun’ celebrating the history of the amusement park. We are told that there are street performers dressed in LED costumes performing along the promenade and rides such as the Ferris Wheel and Volare ride offer a unique vantage point to enjoy the VIVID lights. The photos don’t really do it justice.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

As the clock strikes six, we arrive at the Sydney Harbour Bridge in time for the VIVID lights display to start for the evening. Standing tall as the centrepiece of the city that joins the North and the South, the bridge is lit up like a rainbow.

We had the best possible view from the top deck but soon everyone’s attention turns to the Sydney Opera House.

Circular Quay

The boat pulls into Circular Quay slowly and the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ echo around the boat. The white sails of the Sydney Opera House are a modern architectural marvel and during Vivid they make the perfect canvas for the outdoor light spectacular.

This year was a mesmerising show featuring costumed dancers that hypnotically move and fuse into flower forms in a synchronised show by Andrew Thomas Huang called ‘Austral Flora Bloom’.

While here we dock for a few minutes to also take in the projections on the Museum of Contemporary Art that mixes Latin cultural motifs with pop culture references designed by Claudia Nicholson.

In addition, the city skyscrapers and hotels that dot the harbour have joined in with their own colourful light display that showcases Australia’s beloved city in a symphony of colour.

Evening Cruise back to Darling Harbour

As we leave Circular Quay, the 60 minute cruise slowly makes its way back to Darling Harbour passing under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Luna Park giving us one final look at the iconic landmarks.

What’s Included:

  • 60 minute Sydney Harbour Cruise
  • View the VIVID Lights Shows

Our Recommendations

Vivid Sydney is one of the most anticipated events of the year so it is not surprising that it can get extremely busy in the city. By joining a cruise with Captain Cook Cruises you can see all the Vivid lights precincts easily on a relaxing harbour cruise.

We both thoroughly enjoyed just being on the water for the evening let alone the chance to see the VIVID festival light up our favourite city landmarks. Having heard how busy the city can get during Vivid we had assumed our cruise would be the same. However, it was a pleasant surprise to find that there was ample room on the modern vessel for everyone to move around the two levels of the boat. There was a licensed bar on board and when it started to get a little cold we found a cosy spot indoors.

The 60 minute cruise was just the right amount of time and you’d be hard pressed to find another cruise that is better value for money than this one. The whole night was seamless from the public buses that dropped us right near King Street Wharf to check-in and boarding. We thought it was worth every cent to avoid the crowds, have a relaxing night on the harbour and see all of the vivid light precincts from a different perspective on the water.

For more information about all our Vivid Cruising including this one click through to our Sydney Experiences Page. 

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