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.

Transport

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.

darling harbour trains

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.

History

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.

Interesting Facts

  • 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.

16 Reviews

  1. lilyardenlao
    lilyardenlao
    Philippines 75 Comments
     -  27 Apr 2018

    Worth a Walk Around

    Darling Harbor is a very nice place to simply walk around in a relaxed pace. There are lots of food shops around if you need a quick bite to eat. There’s a shopping center as well with good restaurants. Personally, this is a good place to people watch and take candid photos. Beautiful especially on bright sunny days!

  2. Leanne Emily
    Leanne Emily
    United Kingdom 24 Comments
     -  04 Mar 2018

    Fantastic attraction

    If you get a chance I would highly recommend attending the Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Darling Harbour – it is a great day out for kids, there are lots of interactive parts to the exhibition – I took a group of Indigenous children I was teaching there and they LOVED it.
    It opens ten days prior to Anzac Day (25th April) and is a FREE exhibition that follows the stories of Australia’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and nurses in the First World War.

  3. alina
    alina
    Ukraine 25 Comments
     -  08 Dec 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    In my opinion this is one of the most beautiful places in the city. Unusual panoramas. Here you can visit the aquarium, museum or just eat in one of the cafes. Very nice place for walking in any weather!

  4. infinitesundays
    infinitesundays
    Philippines 25 Comments
     -  27 Nov 2017

    Excellent

    Darling Harbour is a nice place to visit when sightseeing in Sydney. There are different restaurants, shops and attractions all conveniently located within Darling Harbour. I would recommend going at night, try out Hurricane’s for fantastic steaks, or just strolling around and admiring the view. If you go during the morning or early afternoon, I would suggest to try one of their cafes (I love Lindt cafe for sweets) and just do some people-watching.

  5. ohhheykaye
    ohhheykaye 15 Comments
     -  25 Oct 2017

    It was good

    A go-to-spot to have a picnic, get food, and party. There are also some street performances and events done in this place. I find this boring, though. Just heaps of tall buildings, artificial parks, and harbour crowded with yachts.

  6. Jen11
    Jen11
    Germany 60 Comments
     -  02 Oct 2017

    Excellent

    Darling harbour is the place to be if it comes to restaurants, bars and clubs. Its one of the busier parts of Syndey and it looks very pretty at night, when all the lights are reflecting on the water. There are firework shows on a few Saturdays a year, and the show is really nice to watch.

  7. karafox
    karafox
    United Kingdom 87 Comments
     -  17 Sep 2017

    Excellent

    Loads to do here and a very pleasant area to wonder around along side the main shopping area. It’s actually a great place to stay as there are quite a few hotels here and they are cheaper than staying around Circular Quay or the Rocks. Great place for families with Madam Tussauds, the Aquarium and many shops and cafes.

  8. Jovelyn Delos Santos
    Jovelyn Delos Santos 31 Comments
     -  30 Jun 2017

    Excellent

    One of the most beautiful part of the city. It is a nice place to walk around and soak in the Sydney vibe during the day. Make sure to stay back for an awesome view at night when the lights are all on.

  9. tabibu 16 Comments
     -  29 Jun 2017

    Excellent

    There is so much to do in Darling Harbour! I personally just enjoyed walking around and taking everything in. My friend and I had lunch there and people-watched a lot. It is quite a central spot so you can get anywhere quite quickly!

  10. chisomo1206
    chisomo1206 10 Comments
     -  11 Jun 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    What more can be said about this very wonderful – this is one of the liveliest places in Sydney
    Restaurants, clubs, shops you name it are close. At night is where this place really shines especially when there is a special event going on

  11. Javierj
    Javierj 29 Comments
     -  04 Jun 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    one of the best places in Sydney. Great variety of restaurants and activities to do around there, such as the aquarium, madame tussauds, zoo, etc. It’s great at night when you can see the city skyline from the other side of the Pyrmont Bridge.

  12. amandatanjy 19 Comments
     -  02 Jun 2017

    Excellent

    Darling Harbour looks pretty by the day, but STUNNING at night. The skyline of Darling Harbour at night is similar to that of the one you get to see in Singapore. Quite a few clubs to hit at night and also a great spot to just sit and with a friend. Would definitely recommend.

  13. Andritra 9 Comments
     -  22 Apr 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    You can’t really say that you have visited Sydney unless you have been to Darling Harbour. A photo here is a must! If you are hungry, there are plenty of food options – however, be mindful that eating with this view is a bit costly.

  14. johnkuells
    johnkuells 11 Comments
     -  15 Feb 2017

    It was good

    Darling Harbour is extremely popular and full of activities. I’d recommend the Star of the Show Ferris Wheel and the IMAX. The one downside is everything is really pricey. There are a lot of dining options but you’re better off going inland a bit and grabbing some cheaper food.

  15. Karlics
    Karlics 10 Comments
     -  12 Feb 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    Busy at night, quiet during the day. Several dining options and some night clubs, and if you’re lucky you’ll see fireworks on special occasions

  16. echo 30 Comments
     -  21 Dec 2014

    A very diverse tourist area. Plenty of museums for families with kids, lots of shops at Harbourside shopping centre for the ladies, and classy restaurants with water views for romantic couples.

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