Sydney Solstice: 6 highlights of the new winter festival

Sydney isn’t about to let the postponement of Vivid get in the way of a good winter festival. Although our two major winter events – Sydney Film Festival and Vivid Sydney – have both been rescheduled and shifted to later this year, a new two-week replacement will more than fill the need for all that kinetic energy designed to showcase (and remind us of) Sydney’s inimitable entertainment scene.

Pop ups, gigs, light shows, and happenings at over 200 bars – that’s what you can expect from Sydney Solstice, which kicks off on Tuesday 8th June and runs until 20th June. Specifically, that’s going to include everything from rowdy midnight feasts to aquarium parties designed to celebrate the fact that Sydney is still very much alive and kicking (and immensely privileged right now in this ongoing pandemic).

These are five events you need to zone in on so you can make the most of Sydney Solstice. Although do note that there is much more on (did anyone say midnight feast at Mr. Wong? Yeah they did).

Dark Matters

QT Sydney’s exceptional Parlour Cucina will be giving “black” wines their moment as part of Sydney Solstice. Anyone heading along on Thursday and Friday evenings while the festival is on (that’s 10th, 11th, 17th, and 18th June) can expect to find wines made from a famous Georgian grape called Saperavi. These grapes are known for their thick, dark skins that produce wines that near opaque in the glass, giving guests a very rare opportunity to try something a bit different for your usual bottle of Chablis this winter.

Given Australia is one of the few countries outside of Georgia that actually produce Saperavi, Parlour Cucina will source wines from Le Petit Mort winery (based along the Granite Belt in Queensland) and offering them alongside a traditional Saperavi from Kakheti Georgia.

Complemented by music from Sam Weiss, you can fork out just $29 for two glasses of Saperavi, one old-school (2016 Okros Saperavi from Kakheti, Georgia) and one new-school (2020 Le Petite Mort Qveri Saperavi from Granite Belt, Queensland) and pair that up with some dark chocolate dipped pancetta.

More info:

Sea Life Glow

Sydney’s largest aquarium will be turning it up for Sydney Solstice. And while you wouldn’t really think it, Sea Life has always been seen as a prime party destination – against instinct. This is thanks to its many differently shaped spaces and enormous size, positioning it as one of Sydney’s most unique event spaces that just so happens to also be home to some of the friendliest faces in Sydney – think giant turtles, sharks, penguins, and even a dugong.

For Sydney Solstice, Sea Life will be turning into a neon-lit nightclub for six nights. Tickets for the event are $55 each and include a drink on arrival and a sausage sizzle, plus there’ll be a bunch of pop up bars and food stalls, as well as glow-in-the-dark dancers, magicians, and a few sweet-toothed installations by Sugar Republic.

More info: here.

South Eveleigh Solstice Festival

Timing is everything, and it just so happens that Sydney Solstice aligned with the city’s newest food and drink precinct. You can be sure South Eveleigh will be making the most of this opportunity, curating its own festival-within-a-festival as this collection of heritage-listing railways sheds springs to life. The precinct has already been the talk of the town, primarily thanks to new no-waste bar Re and a new restaurant from the one and only Kylie Kwong.

Across Friday 18th and Saturday 19th June, South Eveleigh will be making their first ever public event be throwing up live art installations, live music, workshops, a free street party, and curated bites and cocktails from the hub’s several restaurants and bars.

More info: here.

Aboriginal Sky Dreaming Cruise

Departing from Darling Harbour at 6pm, and Circular Quay at 6:30pm, every night of the festival will be a special Aboriginal Sky Dreaming Cruise that’ll give a deeper insight into the country’s rich native culture. The hour-long cruise will be led by an Indigenous astronomer who will guide guests through stories of land, water, and sky.

Central to the cruise will be lessons on the emu in the sky – Garwarrgay – which is one of Australia’s most famous dark constellations and holds special meaning for Aboriginal Australians.

More info: here.

Moonlight Kayaking Experience

Sydney has long been known as one of the best kayaking spots in Australia thanks to its sunrise harbour kayaking tour. Switch that over to night time now, because Sydney Solstice has teamed up with Sydney Harbour Kayaks to offer a very special two-hour evening sea kayaking tour.

It’s not everyday this is on offer, so make the most of being able to wade through Sydney Harbour in the evening, while Darling Harbour will be opened up for the first time for kayakers. The tour will take guests past naval warships and the Sydney Maritime Museum before heading to 19th century ships James Craig, swimming over to Glebe Island Bridge, and ending up somewhere nice and sheltered for some appetisers and refreshments.

Plus, you’ll be surrounded by all the lighting installations planned for Sydney Solstice. Don’t miss it.

More info: here

Audamus – A Final Excursion in Sound and Taste

One of the coolest events of Sydney Solstice. Event curators Audamus will be offering the opportunity to party on Sydney Harbour’s historic HMAS Vampire as they take over the helipad. Sunset picnics will be complemented by live DJ sets and curated picnic baskets from some of the city’s best restaurants. Hell, even K.I.M. – one half of The Presets, mind you – will be on board to provide the beats while you lay down shapes onboard this massive Royal Australian Navy destroyer ship.

More info: here.

For all other events head to the Sydney Solstice website.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.