The countdown to celebrate a bygone 2018 and welcome what lies ahead is officially on and festivities in Australia’s largest cities are expected once again to impress attendees as well as viewers around the globe.

When it comes to Melbourne’s spectacular fireworks show, everybody knows that a view of the skyline from one of the four live sites – King’s Domain, Treasury Gardens, Docklands and Flagstaff Gardens – is second to none.

Yet, the mere fact that this is far from secret is exactly what makes many regret their decision to head to the CBD on the night. In other words… good luck finding a spot and getting back home!

It thus comes as no surprise that suburban vantage points appear to be gaining ground.

This year’s display is promised to exceed expectations with 14 tonnes of fireworks launched from 22 city rooftops and spread over a 7km radius, while the midnight show comes with a 10 minute soundtrack by Indigenous rapper Adam Briggs.

“This is probably one of the biggest … nowhere else in the world do they do this, where we cover 7.5km of city.

“Anywhere you can see the city skyline, you’ve got the best view of it,” said display manager Rusty Johnson.

Around 350,000 people are expected to congregate in Melbourne’s CBD tonight, and while not a small crowd the number is significantly lower than the usual half a million revellers squeezed in the hotspots in past years.

In fact, Melbourne City Council says the estimated drop comes as part of a strategy to disperse crowds across other key areas.

Police presence nonetheless will be 30 times bigger than the norm, with security, worth $3.4 million, accounting for the biggest expense of the night.

This includes uniform and plain clothes officers, specialist squads, dog units and critical incident response teams.

So, where can you go if you want to avoid the CBD but still enjoy the public countdown party?

Dandenong’s Harmony Square and Footscray Park are among local areas offering plenty of entertainment, with music, food stalls and early fireworks shows at 9.30 pm, while Fitzroy’s Edinburgh Gardens are a perfect fit for the whole family, with dog shows and movie screenings starting late afternoon.

Stepping away from inner-city suburbs, Mordialloc’s Peter Scullin Reserve or Melton’s Tabcorp Park provide good alternatives with family rides, races and fireworks displays.

Popular locations for great fireworks views include: Yarra Boulevard in Kew, Ruckers Hill in Northcote, Green Point in Brighton Beach, Williamstown’s The Strand, Mount Dandenong, Albert Park and Point Ormond in Elwood.

To facilitate a quicker and safer return home for partygoers, public transport will be free on all trams, trains, V/Line services and buses between 6pm New Year’s Eve until 6am New Year’s Day.

Meanwhile, Sydney is set to build on its reputation for one of the world’s biggest fireworks show.

Thanks to new technology deployed, this year’s display over Harbour Bridge will feature two new colours, lime and peach, as well as a projection of images of the country’s Indigenous heritage onto the bridge pylons.

Paying tribute to the celebration theme “The pulse of Sydney”, pulsating fireworks in red, orange, green and lemon colours will bright up the summer sky.

There will also be a “Calling Country” segment for the first time, following the family fireworks show scheduled to start at 9pm.

With thousands expected to flood the areas surrounding the harbour, extra bus and train services will run until the early hours of Tuesday, but commuters will have to use the Wynyard, Town Hall or Martin Place stations to get to the harbour foreshore between 5pm and 12am, as trains will not be stopping at Circular Quay during those times.

Expect several road closures to be in place, with bus services using alternative routes into and out of the city, and have in mind that ferries will stop operating from 8pm until 12:54am.

Now, for those lucky enough to have managed a Greek holiday escape and joining New Year’s Eve festivities in the capital, the city of Athens promises a memorable party.

The downtown venue for this year’s celebrations will be the iconic Thissio instead of the Constitution Square as was previously the case.

“We bid farewell to 2018 and welcome the New Year in Thisio with a special audiovisual extravaganza which will transform Athens into a city of, all-time favorites angels while enlightening not only the sky but our hearts as well,” the municipality of the city of Athens said in an announcement.

Actor Vassilis Haralambopoulos will be hosting the event and will welcome on stage Mayor George Kaminis to address attendees before the final countdown to 2019.

Before that, audiences will enjoy an evening full of entertainment with the municipal brass band, stilt-walkers, circus entertainers, a unique dance performance titled “Angels in the City” and a live performance by singer and director Christina Maxouri.

In the first hours of 2019, party vibes will be kept alive by singer Katerina Kouka and composer Themis Karamouratidis, presenting a mixed repertoire of Greek music classics joined by a five musicians’ band.

Needless to say, the highlight of the night for those joining the Athenian NYE party will be… welcoming 2019 with the Parthenon as a backdrop!