Darling Harbour

10 Things To Do in Darling Harbour (2024)

Nestled at the heart of Sydney, Darling Harbour has a vibrant set of attractions and experiences that captivate locals and visitors alike. This bustling waterfront precinct is a haven for entertainment, culture, and leisure, offering many activities to suit every taste. As you navigate the lively waterfront, you will discover various possibilities seamlessly blending modern marvels with the city’s rich heritage. Whether you are a solo traveller seeking adventure or someone looking to unwind with family and friends, Darling Harbour unfolds a dynamic list of “must-do” experiences that promise to make your visit memorable.

Darling Harbour is a popular rendezvous spot among the locals, following closely behind Circular Quay in terms of fame. The captivating ambience of this picturesque waterfront makes it a beloved choice for spending leisurely evenings during the weekends. Here’s an interesting tidbit about me – I resided in an apartment adjacent to Darling Harbour for over a year.

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10 things to do in Darling Harbour
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Where is Darling Harbour?

Darling Harbour, aptly named, is a harbour nestled in Sydney City. It’s not just a waterway; it’s a vibrant hub where you can indulge in fine dining, savour local events and attractions, and relish quality time surrounded by beautiful gardens. Renowned for its lively recreational and pedestrian precinct, Darling Harbour stands out as a unique destination. Interestingly, it carries the name of Lieutenant General Ralph Darling, the governor of New South Wales.

Fun fact: Did you know Darling Harbour was once called Long Cove?

How to Get to Darling Harbour?

Various transportation options seamlessly connect to Darling Harbour.

  • By Bus – The Market Street bus stop is the closest point to Darling Harbour, just a few meters away.
  • By Train – Depending on your location in Sydney, Town Hall, Wynyard, and Central train stations are the nearest. Optimal access is often achieved by alighting at Town Hall and taking a pleasant walk to Darling Harbour.
  • By Ferry – Enjoy a scenic ferry ride from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour.
  • By Light Rail – The frequent light rail services between Central Train Station and Darling Harbour offer convenient stops at the Powerhouse Museum, Chinese Garden of Friendship, and Pyrmont.
  • Refer to the Transport for New South Wales (NSW) website for the latest transportation details.

For a nice, relaxed city walk, try the Darling Harbour to Wynyard walk.

If you prefer driving, ample parking options, including the convenient Wilson Parking, await within a few hundred meters of Darling Harbour.

Where to Stay in Darling Harbour?

Darling Harbour boasts a selection of luxurious 5-star hotels that promise a blend of opulence and comfort. Here are some top-notch options for your stay:

  1. Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour:
    • Enjoy breathtaking views of the harbour and city skyline.
    • Elegant rooms, a rooftop pool, and fine dining options.
  2. The Darling at The Star:
    • A chic and sophisticated hotel within The Star complex.
    • Lavish rooms, a spa, and several dining choices.
  3. Hyatt Regency Sydney:
    • Contemporary design and panoramic views of Darling Harbour.
    • Upscale amenities, including a rooftop bar and fitness centre.
  4. PARKROYAL Darling Harbour:
    • Central location with easy access to major attractions.
    • Stylish rooms, a rooftop pool, and diverse dining options.
  5. The Woolstore 1888 by Ovolo:
    • Boutique luxury with a historic touch.
    • Unique, art-inspired rooms and a vibrant atmosphere.

10 Things To Do in Darling Harbour

Visit the Australian National Maritime Museum

The Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) is a unique federal museum in Sydney, gracing the city since its inauguration in 1991 with the architectural prowess of Philip Cox. Comprising seven main galleries and featuring three museum ships, ANMM delves into exploring Australia and the intricate connections between Aborigines and the water. This museum has earned a special place on my list, as I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in its exhibits.

  • Cost: AUD 25/27 per adult (online ticket).

Stay tuned for various engaging events and exhibitions at ANMM.

Australian Maritime Museum Sydney

Explore the Submarine

Within the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM), the HMAS Onslow is a tangible piece of history—a genuine submarine open for exploration. Despite its operational readiness, the submarine bid farewell to active service in 1999. Commissioned during the Cold War, HMAS Onslow played a vital role in tracking Soviet submarines. The opportunity to delve into this unique experience is truly extraordinary.

  • Cost: Included as part of the ANMM ticket.
Maritime museum Sydney

Spend an Evening at Cockle Bay Wharf

Alive with the vibrant energy of diners, Cockle Bay Wharf emerges as a delightful destination for an evening sojourn. A diverse array of restaurants lines the waterfront, catering to every palate, from Italian delights to authentic Australian flavours. The renowned Lindt Cafe graces the scene, offering a perfect spot to savour iced coffee or indulge in delectable chocolates. Cockle Bay Wharf is a haven for culinary enthusiasts seeking a memorable dining experience.

Update! Unfortunately, Lindt Cafe at Cockle Bay Wharf is closed.

Cockle bay wharf Darling harbour

Ride the Ferris Wheel

Immerse yourself in the enchanting vistas of Darling Harbour, especially during the evening, from the heights of the Ferris wheel. Towering at 35 meters, this Ferris wheel offers a 360-degree panorama of the harbour that will leave you breathless.

  • Cost: AUD 10 per adult.
Darling Harbour Sydney

Visit the Chinese Garden of Friendship

The Chinese Garden of Friendship is a serene oasis amid the bustling city of Sydney, offering a picturesque retreat to admire wildlife and meticulously landscaped gardens. This heritage-listed gem is designed in the style of classic private gardens from the Ming Dynasty, providing a captivating glimpse into ancient aesthetics. Spend a leisurely hour exploring the enchanting variety of plants and ponds.

  • Cost: AUD 8 per adult.
  • Payment can be made with either cash or credit/debit cards.
  • Tip: Don’t miss the chance to indulge in the refreshing tea offerings!

The garden was officially inaugurated on 17 January 1988.

Chinese Garden of friendship

Grove at Night

Darling Harbour boasts a plethora of vibrant pubs and bars, beckoning you to dance the night away in their lively ambience. My favourites lining the harbour are Bungalow 8 and the Watershed Hotel. Check out the Nightlife in Sydney for further insights into Sydney’s nightlife scene.

Be a Tourist

There are some of the touristy things to do in Darling Harbour. These are the things that have to be covered while at Darling Harbour.

  • SEA Life Sydney Aquarium – A public aquarium teeming with diverse aquatic life, housing approximately 700 species of sea creatures.
    • Dive into the exhilarating Shark Dive Xtreme, previously held in Manly and now relocated to SEA Life Sydney Aquarium, offering an incredible adventure for thrill-seekers.
    • Cost: AUD 38.40 per adult (online ticket).
  • Madame Tussauds – A wax museum under Merlin Entertainments, standing as the 13th Madame Tussauds to grace the world.
    • Cost: AUD 38.80 per adult (online ticket).
  • Wildlife Zoo – A wildlife park showcasing Australia’s unique fauna, including kangaroos and koalas, through 10 captivating exhibits.
    • Cost: AUD 36.80 per adult (online ticket).

For an optimal experience, consider a combination ticket at approximately AUD 67 per adult (online ticket), granting access to all the mentioned tourist attractions.

Darling Harbour touristy

Shop at Harbourside Shopping Centre

The expansive Harbourside Shopping Centre stands as the premier shopping destination in Darling Harbour. Boasting many shops and restaurants, it is also the exclusive location of Sydney’s sole Hard Rock Cafe. Indulge in a few hours of retail therapy, perusing the shops and treating yourself to fashionable attire or memorable souvenirs. Moreover, the shopping centre features a 9D motion cinema and a Kingpin bowling alley, offering additional entertainment options for a well-rounded experience.

Watch a Movie

Mov’in Boat offers a unique floating movie experience in Darling Harbour, providing an exceptional way to enjoy a film in the open air.

  • Cost: The cost varies based on the boat type and the selected movie.

Make sure to bring your blanket, as Sydney nights tend to get a bit chilly.

Movie in a boat Darling harbour

Dine at Darling Square

Darling Square boasts a diverse range of restaurants offering a variety of cuisines, making it an excellent dining destination. Whether you’re a vegetarian or a meat enthusiast, the lively atmosphere and extensive menu options cater to all tastes. I highly recommend dining at this vibrant locale, where you can unwind with friends while enjoying refreshing cocktails.

If you find yourself in Sydney during the winter season, explore my post on things to do in Sydney during winter. It’s a comprehensive guide to discovering this beautiful city’s exciting activities and experiences during the colder months.

Is Darling Harbour Safe for Solo Female Travellers?

Sydney, including Darling Harbour, is considered highly safe for solo female travellers based on my personal experiences. I have encountered no issues or problems during my visits to Darling Harbour. However, caution is advisable, particularly during nighttime, as with any other city.

ICC Darling harbour

Closing Notes

Darling Harbour offers a myriad of activities beyond those mentioned earlier. In addition to the previously listed attractions, I highly recommend exploring the International Convention Centre (ICC) Sydney. This harbour is a special place as one of my favourite things to do in Sydney. I encourage everyone to allocate at least a day or two to savour the experiences offered in this captivating waterfront area.

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10 Things To Do in Darling Harbour (2024)
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    PIN for later reference – 10 things to do in Darling Harbour

    10 things to do in Darling Harbour
    PIN for later reference – 10 things to do in Darling Harbour