Rain and the renewed threat of coronavirus made for a subdued New Year's Eve celebration in Newcastle.
Newcastle was the only Lower Hunter council to organise official New Year's Eve events but cancelled its harbour fireworks display over concerns about social distancing on public transport.
Port Stephens Council and Wangi Wangi RSL Club also called off their traditional waterfront fireworks shows.
Parks and beaches were virtually deserted during the day as a cool wind and overcast skies presented a fitting end to a bleak year for most.
Without a public focus for celebrations, people gathered in pubs, clubs, restaurants and homes to usher in what many hoped, but did not necessarily expect, would be a better 2021.
Carrington Bowling Club CEO Jaci Lappin said she was looking forward to spending the evening with the members who had supported the club during lockdown.
"They didn't forget us through COVID. A lot of them signed back up for five-year memberships," she said.
Ms Lappin, who works long hours at the club despite a terminal cancer diagnosis in 2019, said the Sydney outbreak was "terrifying".
"We're not letting anyone in from greater Sydney, Central Coast or Wollongong.
"We just don't want it to come up here, do we?
"I don't think next year will be much different to this one.
"I didn't think it was going away, watching what's been happening in Europe and America, though I think we've been a lot more responsible in Australia."
Stroud teenager Abbey Melmeth and boyfriend Brady Hunter hope to start travelling together to national rodeo events in January.
The couple had their first date at Newcastle Foreshore during the pandemic and were back there for a walk on Thursday before returning to celebrate in Stroud with Abbey's family.
"We haven't had any competitions this year," Abbey said. "I barrel race and Brady campdrafts. The series is supposed to go ahead in January, so next year will be the first ones we've been able to travel together with."
Elise Daniel, from West Wallsend, expected to be in bed by eight o'clock after going for a walk with month-old daughter Olivia and mother-in-law Leanne at Speers Point Park.
Leanne, who works in home care, and Elise, a school teacher, said 2020 had been "stressful".
"It certainly brought a lot of anxiety out in me," Leanne said. "I still am anxious with Sydney. We don't know what's going to happen after this New Year's Eve."
She did not expect 2021 to be the "fresh start" many had hoped for.
"If Sydney hadn't hit, I think we could have been looking forward to it. I think I'm going back to work on Monday anxious again because a lot of my clients have family from Sydney who come and visit.
"I'll be wondering where they've been."
Major events in 2021
- US presidential inauguration, January 20
- Annular solar eclipse, June 10
- UEFA Euro 2020 football championship, June 11 to July 11, across Europe
- 2020 Summer Olympics, July 23 to August 8, Tokyo
- Australian Census, August 10
- 2021 Rugby League World Cup, October 23 to November 27, England
- Total solar eclipse, December 4
- European Union to abolish daylight saving time
- General elections in Japan, Germany, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Israel (presidential), Norway
- Costa Rica to become first carbon-neutral nation