The end of the year is approaching and revellers all over the world are looking to kick off 2024 with a bang, and there’s no louder bang than the sound of fireworks soaring into the sky. These kaleidoscopic displays are done differently all around the world, and Max Schmidt, chief adventurer at CamperDays, Europe’s leading camper tour operator, has curated a guide to the most extravagant displays.
Max says: “Firework displays are a New Year’s Eve tradition, a time of celebration and to reflect on the year behind us as well as ponder what might lie ahead. Truly, what better way to mark the new year than with a magical, multicoloured light show?
“With over 100,000* ticket holders, each paying £20, set to cram in along the Thames to see the fireworks – not to mention the additional bodies trying their luck at unofficial viewing spots – why not try opting for a New Year’s Eve abroad?
“One of the best ways to enjoy a firework display is undoubtedly from the comfort of a campervan. Not only does it allow you to stay cosy and warm, you can drive high up into the hilltops enabling you to avoid the crowds, giving you a great vantage point for securing the best, most intimate views.”
Below, Max shares some of his top spots to see the beautiful firework displays around the world.
Edinburgh Hogmanay, Scotland
Hogmanay, the Scots word for the last day of the old year, is one of the world’s most famous New Year celebrations, attended by hundreds and thousands of people around the world. The firing of the cannon at Edinburgh Castle at the stroke of midnight kicks off the celebration, followed by a vibrant fireworks display.
General admission to the Hogmanay Street Party (29 December – 1 December) is £28.50. A Bunk Campers Nomad, sleeping up to two adults and two children, can be picked up for those dates from Edinburgh for just £427, roughly £26 per person per night.
Pitch up at Edinburgh Caravan and Motorhome Club, just a short bus or car journey from Edinburgh Castle, or try and nab a parking spot early at prime viewing spots on Ferry Road, Corstorphine Hill, and North Bridge to see the lights for free.
Niagara Falls, Canada
Canada’s New Year’s Eve celebration is a great one for those looking to tie in a fireworks show with an outdoors adventure. Niagara Falls New Year’s Eve has a variety of special programmes at Niagara Parks to ring in the new year.
In addition to the breathtaking fireworks displays over the American and Canadian Horseshoe Falls, there is also the opportunity to experience a sensory light and sound show at the remarkable Niagara Parks Power Station, allowing the audience the chance to walk through the historic space and explore the transformation of water into hydropower – trust us, far more interesting than it sounds.
A Cruise America C-25 can be picked up from Bolton, Ontario, and just an hour-and-a-half drive from Niagara Falls, meaning new year’s revellers can incorporate a road trip into their end-of-year celebrations.
For a week over New Year’s Eve, the C-25 sleeps up to four adults and a child for just £352, roughly £10 per person per night. Considering it’s one of the major high seasons for tourism, Cruise America and its vehicles are very good-value options and boast great amenities such as sanitary facilities, proper beds, and functioning kitchenettes.
Sydney Harbour, Australia
Sydney New Year’s Eve is a highly-regarded event, not just in Australia but around the world, with the city affectionately known as the New Year’s Eve capital of the world. Fireworks are launched from barges in Port Jackson, creating a jubilant halo above iconic landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
With a comprehensive running order kicking off at 7:30pm until midnight, Sydney New Year’s Eve appeals to a range of travellers, such as families who might prefer to celebrate early in the evening, to young people and students who may want to build up the excitement before a night on the town.
This is also a fascinating show of the coexistence of peoples in the nation, and travellers from far and wide will have the chance to witness Tribal Warrior Association performing a Smoking Ceremony, a ritual of purification and unity of smouldering native plants on authentic sailing vessels, or listen to the Elders from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council welcome visitors to Gadigal land.
A Jucy Crib Plus for four adults can be picked up from Sydney for two weeks over New Year’s Eve for £1,902, or roughly £33 per person per night. There are a number of campervan sites near Sydney Harbour National Park where you can enjoy good vantage points of the fireworks, but the full list of official vantage points for the event can be found on the event’s official website.
While December is the coldest month of the year, Porto still enjoys a mild climate of around ten degrees so it’s a great spot for seeing crowd-free firework displays.
Porto’s end-of-year firework displays are some of the best in Europe, and they’re launched over the Douro River and can be seen from all over the city.
Parking Dantas in the Porto District is a great place to park that’s in walking distance to the River Douro and Ponte Luís I, where the fireworks are ignited. While perhaps not the most picturesque, it’s cheap at around €22 (£19) per night and means road trippers can mosey down to the embankment to see the lights.
A roadsurfer Surfer Suite sleeping up to four adults can be picked up in Porto 29 December 2023 – 2 January 2024 for £189, around £12 per person per night.
Japanese New Year, various towns and cities
The Japanese New Year (正月, shōgatsu) is the most important public holiday in Japan – even bigger than Christmas – meaning a trip to Japan during this time is one of the best opportunities to witness cultural spectacles and rich traditions.
While fireworks aren’t typical for the Japanese New Year – apart from at the Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise or Tokyo Disney – the Sagichō Fire Festival, also called the Dondoyaki (左義長), is an event that takes place in many villages and towns on 14 or 15 January. It’s customary to burn all of the New Year’s decorations and pray for good fortune and is a tradition that dates back to the thirteenth century. The Dōsojin Fire Festival in Nozawaonsen and the Sagichō Fire Festival on the coast of Oiso, Kanagawa are particularly special.
Instead, if you’re happy to travel for fireworks later in the year, Japan is known for its centuries old tradition of pyrotechnic displays on the last Saturday in July, over the Sumida river near Asakusa, Tokyo. Close to a million celebrants come to gawk at the newest and most innovative firework displays in the country each year.
With a campervan in tow, it might be worth pitching up at Wakasu Camping Ground and opting for some handy binoculars to get a better glimpse at the fireworks. This way, road trippers can avoid the crowds and save some pennies on festival tickets.