Top Things to Do at Darling Harbour

Set just a 10-minute walk from Sydney’s Central Business District, Darling Harbour brings visitors a great selection of dining options and fun activities. At Cockle Bay and King Street Wharf you can get stuck into the vibrant nightlife, where there is a collection of lively nightclubs, bars, and bistros, and elsewhere, you can explore Sydney from different perspectives, browse beautiful displays in the Chinese Garden of Friendship, and learn about the history of Sydney’s harbour-side region. It’s a fantastic spot for a night out, a walk along the harbour, or just to people watch. But Darling Harbour isn’t just about the nightlife, it’s just as buzzing during the day.

The Region’s Aboriginal History

Back before any Europeans came to Australia, the Sydney region was home to the local aboriginal community named the Cadigal people. The Darling Harbour was once known as the ‘Tumbalong’ region, which translated to ‘a place to find seafood.’ The community inhabiting the Darling Harbour region, which was in fact known as ‘Tumbalong’, which translates to ‘a place to find seafood’. After the European invasion of the area, the European Smallpox disease spread through the local people and wiped out the entire Cadigal community from existence.

Becoming the Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour was not its initial name after being known as Tumbalong, as it was first changed to ‘Cockle Bay’. However, the name was changed in 1826 to honour Ralph Darling, the New South Wales Governor at the time. The section grew in popularity and infrastructure over the years, with a railway, mills, markets, and more all popping up over the years. IT is now the Sydney gateway for ferries, a hub for trade, and home to a billion-dollar complex of restaurants and shops.

Things to do in Darling Harbour

Australian National Maritime Museum

Spend a couple of hours learning all about the maritime history of Sydney at this fun and fascinating museum. Browse the numerous exhibitions that recall stories from past sailors and their adventures, read all about the pivotal navy battles and wars, and delve deep into ancient saltwater traditions, modern beach culture, and narratives of migrants travelling the seas to settle on Australian shores.

Chinese Garden of Friendship

For some peace and quiet amongst the bustle of city life, head to the Chinese Garden of Friendship. This secret garden provides a space to breathe, where you can marvel at beautiful flower arrangements and manicured lawns. But this garden is so much more than flowers and plants. It recreates the harmony of a traditional Chinese garden, complete with mesmerising waterfalls, picturesque lakes, tropical plants, and impressive pavilions that are tucked away down winding pathways. When you’ve watched the koi carp frolicking in the lakes, grab a Chinese tea and dim sum at the on-site Teahouse for the ultimate relaxing experience.

Take a Cruise

One of the best activities to do at Darling Harbour is to take a cruise along the river and explore Sydney from a different perspective. When you take to the water, you can discover landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge up close while learning more about the magnificent structures that characterise the city.

Meet the Locals

You don’t have to travel out to the bushland to meet Sydney’s most beloved animals. With both the Wildlife Sydney Zoo and Sealife Sydney Aquarium right by the Darling Harbour. Enjoy a day in the sunny zoo, by posing with a koala, feeding a kangaroo, and holding a snake! The Zoo is home to both Aussie animals and more, with tigers, elephants, and other favourites. After seeing all the animals, you can join in on the Wild Ropes activity, offering a chance for guests to be a monkey for the day and climb up the trees and swing through the canopy. There is even an overnight stay, letting you experience a safari adventure for the night, falling asleep to the sounds of roars and howls. The Sea Life Sydney Aquarium is located on the eastern part of the harbour and attracts thousands of families and sea life lovers every year with its state-of-the-art exhibits and an impressive variety of species. There are over 700 species on display at the aquarium in 14 different themed areas. Some sea life on display is Manta Rays, sharks, thousands of fish, turtles, and even penguins! Featuring a walk through the oceanarium tunnels that are surrounded by the massive aquariums. There are feeding activities, and even the chance to dive in the aquariums themselves.

Soak up the Culture

Darling Harbour is a hive of cultural activity. As well as regular festivals and events that take place there, you can also sample some of the local delicacies and international fare in the plethora of restaurants. There are plenty of bars, clubs, and cocktail haunts to hang out in, too, all of which offer spectacular views over the harbour at night, with twinkling lights and the promise of the unknown.

Sydney Entertainment Centre

The Sydney Entertainment Centre is also found in Darling Harbour. The venue welcomes international acts like Elton John to come play for packed houses. Sporting events are also played in the venue, making this place a multi-event centre. But one of the biggest draws to the Darling Harbour is the waterfront itself.

You can catch a movie at the world’s largest cinema screen; also known as Sydney’s LG IMAX Theatre. Check out the schedule for when you are visiting, with the films everchanging from newly released movies, to kid’s animated films, to even fascinating documentaries. All these films are said to be ten times better on this massive screen, with actions coming to life, and animation’s detail completely seen. With surround sound and even special effect seats, you will have thought you have fallen straight into the film itself.

Take a Ferry

Darling Harbour also serves as a stop in the Inner Ferry Harbour circuit. Taking a ferry around the surrounding harbours in Sydney is a great way to see the city from the water, and a great photo opportunity. Especially Darling Harbour. There is also an Aboriginal Centre located in the harbour that is full stories, information and history of the beginning of the Aboriginal community.

Darling Harbour is a fine example of Sydney’s vibrant personality, and is well worth a visit during your time in the city.

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