The first thing you may notice about the less famous of the two Harbours in Sydney MAY be that it is seriously lacking in the same iconic structures as the ones in its rival, however it easily makes up for this with its myriad things to do. Darling Harbour is an entertainment mecca for tourists, set out like one gigantic outdoor multiplex. Harbourside shopping centre to the west (with the Maritime Museum just next door) stocks some of Australia’s biggest names AND all your favourite souvenirs – fuzzy kangaroo balls included. Yes, really. A HUGE green and play area for children and big kids alike lies in the south, where you can also find the Visitor Information Centre, while the focal point – the biggest IMAX cinema in the WORLD – sits in the centre (at $32 per adult ticket, it may appear expensive but that screen really is worthy of the hype). A few dozen restaurants, cafes and bars make up what’s left of the space, and, of course, I shouldn’t forget to mention the usual tourist favourites: Madame Tussaud’s, Sealife and Wildlife Centres, which are conveniently situated together at the end of Cockle Bay Wharf.
You can NEVER be bored in Darling Harbour, and the promise of a beautiful view along with all of this (and fireworks every Saturday) make it a place you should keep on your list for visiting.
Train: Alight at Town Hall or Wynyard; the Harbour is just a ten-minute walk west from either.
Bus: Take any bus into the City, and hop off at Event Cinemas in George St. Simply take the left at Bathurst Street, and Darling Harbour is just a five minute walk away.
For the utmost in luxury and decadence, your ONLY choice should be The Darling; “Sydney’s most lovingly detailed hotel” (TripAdvisor) was named one of only sixty best new hotels in the entire WORLD by Conde Nast Traveller magazine. With each room kit out with Molton Brown toiletries and Egyptian cotton linens, you are more than guaranteed to have a fantastic night’s sleep here. Otherwise, consider the ParkRoyal Darling Harbour for something a little cheaper, yet with unbeatable location and reliable comfort.
Be sure to visit the Harbour on a Saturday night – especially with children – as they display a free firework display every week (rain or shine!) at 9pm. Visiting Sydney between December and March? Darling Harbour run a schedule of free outdoor movies on the green during summer evenings… Arrive early if you want a seat in one of their deck chairs though!
Australia has a booming chocolate cafe culture, and Lindt Chocolate Cafe is no exception – serving up indulgent treats made by the Swiss gourmet chocolatiers until 10pm each night. Order the Chocolate Dome to share, or the Belgian Berry Waffles with Chocolate Ice Cream. Not hungry? Their Signature Hot Chocolates are divine; a mixture of the milk and dark will brighten up the rainiest of days. The cafe is also a retail store, so pick up some Peanut Butter flavoured Lindor on the way out – they’re truly incredible. Try to avoid at weekends though, as it gets VERY busy and you may wait up to an hour just for desserts.
Just next door, Nick’s Seafood is THE plaice (ahem) for fish dishes. A beautiful, sophisticated restaurant on the edge of Cockle Bay Wharf, Nick’s is great food on the lower end of the scale and, with a gorgeous view (especially at night) and attentive staff, you really can’t go wrong.
For nightlife, the Pontoon Bar and Tokio Hotel are popular choices, but I’d pick Adria to start your evening (live music from 5-7pm on Fridays and Saturdays adds a chilled vibe), or venture a little further along to King’s Wharf for Bungalow 8 – an amazing tiki inspired bar.
I may be a little biased, because I work in this area of the city, but I love Darling Harbour. I think one or two days here are more than enough, though – in spite of the many, many things there are to do, it can get incredibly busy with locals and tourists – and there are still plenty more parts of the city to explore! One thing I would suggest, however, is to hail a water taxi from here to one of Sydney’s beautiful islands, or surrounding bays, for the afternoon, before returning to Darling Harbour in time for those magical 9pm Saturday fireworks. Something so magnificent – and free! – really needn’t be missed.
TTFN, next week I’ll be featuring the first suburb I moved into upon arriving in Sydney: Chinatown! Dumplings galore, Chinese New Year and the lowdown on where to find the most amazing cream puffs, amongst others: stay tuned!