Darling Harbour is one of the main tourist destinations in the city centre of Sydney that is also home to a large entertainment and pedestrian precinct. Inside visitors will find a variety of attractions, and constantly changing lineup of entertainment in the form of events and celebrations. Darling Harbour is in many way the centre of celebration in Sydney, and from early in the morning, until late at night, it is a regular social hub for both locals and Sydney visitors.
Getting To Darling Harbour
- Train – Take the train and get off at Town Hall Station, and exit the station south onto Bathurst Street. Take a short, downhill walk, and you’ll find yourself in Darling Quarter.
- Bus – For buses traveling via the CBD on Elizabeth, Castlereagh, George or York Streets, get off at Market, Park, Druitt, Bathurst or Liverpool Streets.
- Light Rail – Alight at Convention or Exhibition Station to get to the Convention and Exhibition area, otherwise get off at Paddy’s Market Station for the Powerhouse Museum and Chinese Garden, or Pyrmont Bay Station for the Australian National Maritime Museum and Pyrmont Bay Park.
- Drive – There are a number of parking areas around Darling Harbour and if you’re planning to attend an attraction, many offer discounts on the day of parking.
- Ferry – Catch a ferry to Darling Harbour from Circular Quay, and get off either at King Street Wharf to be close to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium and WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, or at Pyrmont Bay Wharf to be close to the Harbourside Shopping Centre.
- Water Taxi – Take a water taxi to Darling Harbour from The Rocks, Circular Quay, The Opera House or Luna Park.
Getting Around Darling Harbour
- Walk – Although there are a lot of things to see and do in Darling Harbour, the area is actually not that big, and to really experience the atmosphere it’s a good idea to wander around on foot.
- People Mover Trains – These are a hit with kids, and great for getting around the harbour in less time, with a little bit of fun thrown in. They usually operate between 10am and 5pm and cost around AUD$5 per person.
Attractions & Activities
|IMAX – Sydney’s famous IMAX cinema is home to the world’s largest screen, and is a great escape if the sun get’s a bit much for you (or if it’s a rainy day). Screens everything from A-list blockbusters, to documentaries.|
|SEALIFE Sydney Aquarium – If you’re looking for insight into the magical world under the sea, you don’t have to go far to see it. Darling Harbour’s amazing aquarium is home to around 12,000 animals and is undersea entertainment like nothing you’ve ever seen.|
|WILDLIFE Sydney Zoo – A unique zoo by all accounts, the WILDLIFE Sydney Zoo takes visitors on an exploration through Australia’s distinctive environment without taking them out of the city. This central zoo is a great spot to meet Australian native animals, among a range of other activities.|
|Australian National Maritime Museum – There’s nowhere better to go to learn about Australia’s impressive maritime history than the Australian National Maritime Museum. As well as the great exhibits, you’ll get a chance to explore actual historical vessels, located just out in the harbour from the museum.|
|Madame Tussaud’s – If you’ve always wanted to meet a celebrity but never quite made it to Hollywood, then Sydney’s Darling Harbour is the place for you. They’ve got celebrities as waxworks, that encourage photographs and lots of up-close happy snaps.|
|Powerhouse Museum – Ever been bored in a museum? Well it won’t happen in the Powerhouse Museum where the focus isn’t just on static learning, but interactive and creative participation. Exhibits range from science to technology, and there’s even a space exploration exhibit.|
|Chinese Garden of Friendship – Get out of the city rush with just one tiny step into Darling Harbour’s Chinese Garden of Friendship. This beautiful inner city garden is a great spot to relax, and explore tradition Chinese gardening and architecture.|
|9D Action Cinemas – If you want more than a typical cinema experience, come along for a ride at 9D Action Cinemas. As well as being a 3D cinema, this attraction includes a simulator with moving seats.|
|Cockle Bay Wharf – When your belly is rumbling, there’s nowhere better for a culinary experience than the Cockle Bay Wharf. Explore the many alfresco dining options from a variety of locational cuisines.|
|Darling Quarter Playground – One of Australia’s best playgrounds, this FREE attraction includes a 21-metre flying fox and a water play area. Enough entertainment for everyone from toddlers to teens.|
|Flight Experience – Anyone can have a try at flying a commercial Boeing 737 with Flight Experience, a hands-on simulator to take participants from take-off to landing.|
|Harbourside Shopping Centre – Harbourside Shopping Centre is your one stop destination in Darling Harbour for shopping, dining and entertainment. Inside you’ll find three floors with a variety of boutique and general stores, cafes and restaurants and entertainment options.|
|Harbour Jet – If a slow tour around Sydney Harbour isn’t what you’re looking for, perhaps a 75km/h jet boat ride will do the trick. Covers all major Sydney Harbour attractions, including the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.|
|Kingpin Darling Harbour – Once Darling Harbour’s only bowling alley, this 20-lane attraction is a great spot for a night of fun, and even has a fully licensed bar.|
|M9 Laser Skirmish – Straight from the US, and in Sydney’s largest arena, M9 Laser Skirmish is great fun for all ages. Using the best in laser technology, it’s a simple attraction sure to impress.|
|Strike Bowling – Throwing out the bowling alley stereotype, Strike Bowling has private lounges, high-tech bowling alleys, karaoke, DJs and dance floors as well as gourmet food and not one, but 2 exclusive bars. If you hate bowling alleys, you’ll love Strike Bowling.|
|Sydney Showboats – Looking for dinner and a show? You’ll get both aboard the famous Sydney Showboats, where great food is combined with great entertainment.|
Deals and Savings at Visitor Center
Darling Harbour can be an expensive attraction to spend the entire day in, but there are a large number of regular and consistent deals run by partnership businesses around the harbour. You can also get various vouchers at the Visitor Center located just behind IMAX. The deals allow for certain discounts with the purchase of other services like cheap parking with aquarium tickets or discount food with an IMAX ticket.
Darling Harbour was named after a former Governor of New South Wales, Lieutenant-General Ralph Darling. It was once a part of Sydney’s commercial port, which included a Railway Goods Yard.
But, what had once been the site of NSW Railways central marshalling yards was in 1980 found to be ineffective and by the mid 80s, Darling Harbour was a derelict ruin. It wasn’t until the area was re-imagined as a bustling shopping and tourism area that Darling Harbour started to become what it is today.
Thanks to this redevelopment, the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre within Darling Harbour became a 2000 Summer Olympic Games setting, and a venue for the APEC Australia meetings in 2007.
- During the Great Depression, the eastern area of Darling Harbour became locally known as The Hungry Mile, as a reference to the many waterside workers trying to find employment along the wharves.
- Before settlement, the indigenous people of Sydney’s Darling Harbour area referred to it as Tumbalong, which means a place where seafood is found.
- After settlement, it’s unusual shape led it to be called Long Cove, but most people knew it as Cockle Bay due to the large numbers of oyster shells found on the shores.