Festivities on the fringes

This year, a friend and I rang in 2013 with a tour of Abu Dhabi's outer islands.

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Never again. That was the full-throated cry I gave my mum last year when we finally found a cab to take us home after the Coldplay concert on New Year's Eve 2011.

I didn't know why we took the cab, really. We had already walked more than 5 kilometres and I was halfway home. At least the time allowed me to brood over how I would spend next New Year's Eve.

The answer was simple: away from the Corniche.

I needed some space. No car horns, traffic jams and especially no kids with fake eyewear.

This year, a friend and I rang in 2013 with a tour of Abu Dhabi's outer islands.

Our first stop was Yas Island: a mellower affair this year, what with the main club - Cipriani by Allure - being indefinitely closed for refurbishment.

The colour and festivities were more focused, instead, on dinner plates, with all the restaurants on the island's hotels launching their own special New Year's Eve menus.

The Yas Viceroy's Kazu restaurant was no exception. The Japanese gourmet eatery launched a seven-course menu of fine Japanese cuisine, with a few contemporary twists. Highlights included the lobster salad with spicy yuzu dressing and the tang-tastic seared otoro, with black sesame onion salsa.

Considering the status of the evening, the smiles and lively chatter was a sure signal that the food was going down well, but nevertheless, the chef Idfan Idrus walked around the restaurant regularly.

"I am always checking," he said. "People come here to celebrate so the food must make them feel full but not so heavy that they feel like falling asleep before midnight."

The next stop was to Saadiyat Island, where the Monte Carlo Beach Club held its second New Year's Eve celebration.

It was definitely a step up from last year's slightly muted affair, which, to be fair, was a tough gig with the St Regis yet to open.

With the famed house DJ Kiko Navarro behind the decks, the club offered a more intimate surrounding, perfect for small groups to celebrate the turn of the year.

With the Corniche hogging the New Year's Eve headlines, it is understandable to assume it would be the only place with fireworks.

However, other venues carried fire power of their own, such as Saadiyaat's St Regis and the Shangri-La at Qaryat Al Beri; the latter being our final stop of the evening.

In what was a well-coordinated effort, after their special meals, revellers were ushered to the infinity pool at the hotel for the countdown. Once midnight struck, a well-designed five minute fireworks display was launched from the hotel's private beach.

Sharing the fireworks, without the hefty price tag, were the many families who gathered on the terrace at The Souk. Some smiles indicated they knew what they were doing: they had arrived 15 minutes before, were guaranteed a first class standing position for the countdown and went home swiftly after.

And for us? No traffic jams this time around: the roads leading back to the island were empty, yet full of promise for the year ahead.