Say I wanted to be the first to celebrate the New Year: what place or places are the first to cross the into the New Year and how do I get there? I think I remember this may be some South Pacific island or in Australia but not sure.
You can see this in the Wikipedia list or on any map with the International Date Line. The first place to see a new day is the Line Islands, more precisely the part that belongs to Kiribati (formerly known as the Gilbert Islands). The Line Islands are in the UTC+14 timezone, and the rest of the country is in UTC+13. This has been the case since 1995; before that, the country straddled the date line. The Line Islands saw some first-to-new-millennium tourism in 2000.
Since today, 31 December 2011, there is another territory in the UTC+14 timezone: Tokelau, a dependency of New Zealand. Together with the independent country of Samoa (UTC+13), Tokelau skipped 2011-12-30 to move from the western hemisphere to the eastern hemisphere, in order to match weekdays with the other countries in Oceania.
There is one more country at UTC+13: Tonga. Most other Pacific nations are in UTC+10 to UTC+12.
And if you want to be the last to cross the line, there are formally a few places at UTC-12, but they are uninhabited US Minor Outlying Islands. In UTC-11 are more US Minor Outlying Islands, American Samoa and the New Zealand dependency of Niue (as long as it doesn't follow Tokelau's example).
timeanddate.com has a countdown page to New Years