Darling Harbour is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Sydney, with plenty to see, do, eat and enjoy! If you are hoping to dine in one of Sydney’s best restaurants, this is the place to visit for fine cuisine with an international flair. Darling Harbour Restaurants, cafe's, bars and clubs make this area a popular meeting place for friends and families.
As it is one of the most visited tourist spots in Sydney, those hoping to see Darling Harbour in a day will have a jam packed schedule! Also known as a commercial hub of Sydney, the area offers some of the best shopping in Sydney. However, if retail therapy isn’t your thing, there are plenty more to experience in the area, including the Imax theatre, wildlife park, museums, gardens or why not try one of the Sydney Cruises from Darling Harbour. A favourite destination for entertainment and leisure, Darling Harbour is one of the greatest Sydney attractions and is a great spot to visit for the whole family.
History of Darling harbour
The history of the Darling Harbour tells a tale of its transformation from derelict docklands, to a sparkling tourism hub winning multiple tourism and industry awards. Before European settlement, the Cadigal people inhabited the area and called it ‘Tumbalong’, meaning the place where seafood is caught. In 1788, European settlers noticed the unusual length of the harbour and called it ‘Long Cove’. It was finally renamed in 1826 in honour of Sydney’s Governor of the time, Ralph Darling.
Initially, the area was developed from a bustling market wharf to a major industrial precinct. By the 1970s, Darling Harbour existed as an area for warehouses and made little use of its waterfront address. Ripe for redevelopment, the 1984 NSW Government decided to ‘return it to the people of Sydney after 150 years of industrial use.’ It was finally reopened in 1988 with over $1.5 billion of public and private investments preparing it for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Today the harbour stretches from Paddy's market in the south, all the way to The Maritime Museum in the north.It is home to some of Sydney’s best attractions, including the Imax theatre, Wildlife World, Powerhouse Museum and the Aquarium. It is also a central hub for New Year’s Eve celebrations, festivals and a sample of Sydney’s international flavour with restaurants from a diverse selection of the world.
Places of interest in Darling Harbour
When it first opened in 1902, the Pyrmont Bridge was a mechanical wonder, with the largest swing span in the world and one of the first to be powered by electricity. Closed to road traffic in the1980s, it was later reopened as a pedestrian bridge and now carries the monorail between Darling Harbour and Sydney’s CBD. The monorail rests on a pivot that allows it to continue to operate even when the bridge is open.
Cockle Bay Wharf is part of Darling Harbour and houses many of Sydney’s premium offices, including the IBM Tower, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Rabobank Tower and a 3000m garden. It is also home to an array of restaurants, bars, cafes, takeaways and event venues – a delicious sample of multicultural, cosmopolitan Sydney. Cockle Bay also boasts a dynamic nightlife, with a strip of clubs providing the final bang to your evening.
The Star Sydney Casino & Hotel
Formerly Star City Casino, this is the second largest Casino in Australia and overlooks Darling Harbour. Housing the Lyric Theatre with a 2000 seat capacity along with 8 bars, 7 restaurants, hundreds of hotel rooms and serviced apartments, some privately owned. The casino has 2 gaming floors to keep travellers and locals entertained with traditional games like Poker, Blackjack, mini bacarat, Carribian stud, Roulette, Craps, Pontoon, Pai Gow and Sic Bo. This is well worth a visit when your staying in Sydney and the Garden buffet is well known for its all you can eat prawn buffet
Wild Life Sydney
Wild Life Sydney is situated in Darling Harbour bringing Australian animals right to the CBD doorstep. Perfect for visitors with limited time and confound to the city, this centre offers visitors a glimpse into the animal, bird life, reptiles and insects found in the Australian bush, swamp, forest and desert. Many of the animals are camouflaged in their cages so it may be difficult to spot them in their natural surrounds. Also, don’t be surprised to see wildlife rangers strolling the grounds with snakes or reptiles wrapped around them. It's from 9am - 5pm open every day of the year.
We recommend buying your tickets online to save up to 50% off the walk in price!
Imax Theatre Sydney
Imax Theatre Sydney is situated in Darling Harbour and is a major draw card to both locals and tourist frequenting the region. With crystal clear images ten times the traditional cinema quality, the viewers will find themselves getting sucked into a world where pictures are so real you want to reach out and touch them. The cinema also has 2D movies, but for the 3D experience, you can expect to pay around $10 extra. But we think it is well worth it, just save some money and bring your own snacks!
Sydney Aquarium is a must visit for families with children, or for those big kids who are still young at heart! The aquarium is an underwater adventure, touring through Australia’s rich and diverse aquatic and marine life. Located just a short stroll from Sydney CBD, there are over 12 000 animals including sharks, manta rays, eels, platypus, fairy penguins and crocodiles. The newest attraction to the aquarium is the dugong pool, with two new dugongs to encourage locals and tourists to take a part in preventing their tragic extinction. For those that are more daring, why don’t you jump in a glass bottom boat and feed the sharks! Sydney Aquarium's opening hours are 9am-8pm every day of the year, except for Christmas Day and New Years Eve where they close at 6pm. Sydney Aquarium is right next to Wild Life Sydney animal adbenture attraction and you can save on entry to both with their mega-value combination pass.
Once again we recommend to buy online to save up to 50% off the walk in price.
With a large percentage of Sydney populated by Chinese immigrants, Chinatown is definitely worth a visit for its colourful Asian culture, shopping and cuisine. The area is heavily decorated as a major showcase piece of Australian-Chinese culture, with oriental architecture, street lanterns and archways. Bounded by George Street in the East and Darling Harbour in the West, Chinatown occupies an extensive area of Sydney’s CBD. The eateries serve authentic Asian dishes all day and sometimes until 4am in the morning. While the ambiance of these food halls has little on other Sydney restaurants, the quality and reasonable prices leave visitors little to complain about. Market City is a large shopping complex at the southern side of Chinatown with a wide variety of boutique shops to scour and bag a bargain. There is a cinema and restaurants too but the main attraction is the Haymarket downstairs called Paddy's Markets, a large produce and flea market that is open from Wed - Sun from 9am to 5pm.
Take the monorail for a bird’s eye view of the city, travelling from the city to Chinatown, the Spanish Quarter, George Street and right over the shopping heart of the City. After this, the monorail winds its way past the historic Queen Victoria Building (QVB) and to the main hub for entertainment and dining in Darling Harbour. The monorail stops at all of Sydney’s major attractions and is a perfect way of transport to ensure you see all that Sydney has to offer. It is open 364 days a year (every day except Christmas) from 7am to 10pm Monday to Saturday, and 8am to 10pm Sunday. Adults - $4.90 and children 5 years and under ride free.
Located in central Darling Harbour, Tumbalong Park has become a popular Sydney Venue for major Sydney events like Australia Day and New Year’s Eve celebrations. The 5 hectare parkland flourishes in Australian foliage with fountains as an urban stream. There is a large performance space with a covered stage and it has served as a key venue for concerts, festivals and a year long list of activities and events in Darling Harbour.
How to get from Sydney CBD to Darling Harbour
The easiest way to get to Darling Harbour from the CBD is by foot and is just a short 10 minute walk from the Sydney CBD.
A great option and definitely the most scenic route to Darling Harbour is to take a ferry from Circular Quay for around $5.30 for a single. If you want to splash out or if you have a group then you can also get a water taxi for a more VIP experience.
The Sydney Monorail is also an interesting way to journey, while enjoying a breath taking view. The monorail leaves from the city at the corner of Pitt and Market Street and will drop you directly at Darling Harbour.
By train, head towards the Town Hall station and upon arrival, turn right in Druitt Street, walk straight for two blocks, turn right into Sussex Street then walk one more block to Market Street, go left and cross the pedestrian bridge.
For parking at Darling Harbour there are two carparks located on Darling Drive in Haymarket.
Photo credits: State Recoerds NSW (Photo 1), Jeffrey Drewitz, Destination NSW (Photo 2), Lennyk410@Flikr (Photo 3), Hamilton Lund; Destination NSW (Photo 4), LWY@Flikr (Photo 5), Robert Paul Young@Flikr (Photo 7), Nigel Howe@Flikr (Photo 8)