Sydney/Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour is a leisure and entertainment precinct, in central Sydney. It extends to Pyrmont and Ultimo, and contains The Star and Pyrmont Bay, including Harris St.

Understand

Darling Harbour at dawn on a cloudy day

Darling Harbour is an extensive area almost completely dedicated to entertainment and tourism. For many decades acting as the core of the working port of Sydney, Darling Harbour was developed for the Australian Bicentenary in 1988. It has the National Maritime Museum, Sydney Aquarium, Wildlife World, and a Madame Tussauds museum.

Normally home to Sydney's largest exhibitions and conferences, the convention centre is currently under large scale redevelopment, due to complete in late 2016. A temporary exhibition space is located at Glebe Island, as well as permanent facilities at Sydney Olympic Park.

Darling Harbour is a small inlet, ringed by attractions and pedestrian boardwalks facing the water. The Pyrmont Bridge is a wide pedestrian-only swing bridge that crosses the inlet, linking the two sides and forming a loop walk around the area. The area has fantastic water views, ice-cream, playgrounds, parks, fountains and often free attractions on weekends.

There is nowhere to swim, but if it is hot, feel free to run child-like under the many fountains in the area.

During the day, the area attracts visitors, city workers, and exhibition and convention attendees, getting busy on summer weekends and school holidays. On weeknights it has a particular vibe, with popular restaurants by the water, and people just out strolling around. On Friday and Saturday nights, the place is populated by club goers and can be quite crowded.

The Pyrmont Bridge forms a historic centrepiece to the area, but don't expect any other history to discover - outside of the museums that is. The redevelopment of the area has swept away all that used to be. However, the suburbs of Pyrmont and Ultimo, just 200 metres or so from the waters edge have many of the original pubs and terraces that were previously inhabited by the dockers and warehouse workers during previous life of the area.

Get in

Walk

Darling Harbour is within walking distance of most points in the Sydney CBD.

There are a number of access methods to Darling Harbour that have steps, but a level alternative route is signposted, or an alternative lift is provided. The Darling Harbour access at the west of Market Street has level access with a lift at the eastern end of Pyrmont Bridge providing access to the bridge and water level.

By train

Catch a Sydney Trains to Central or Town Hall stations. From Town Hall, follow the signs to Darling Harbour out of the station, exiting via Town Hall Square. Walk downhill (west) for two blocks to the eastern edge of Darling Harbour. From Central walk down into Haymarket (Chinatown), and then walk west to the southern end of the Darling Harbour district.

By light rail

Light rail stop at the Fish Market

The Light Rail is the ideal way to access Harbourside, The Star Casino or the Fish Market. You may board from its starting point at Central station or catch it en-route at Capitol Square or Paddy's Markets in Haymarket. It runs 24/7 between Central Station and The Star, other stations have services every 10-15 minutes between 6AM and 11PM (midnight on Fri/Sat).

If you are going to Cockle Bay, the aquarium, or King St Wharf on the eastern side of Darling Harbour from the City, the light rail will take you further away from where you want to be. It only serves the western side of Darling Harbour, and you will have to walk back to access Cockle Bay or Aquarium.

There is level access at all light rail stations.

By car

Darling Harbour is accessible by car:

Like the City, parking in Darling Harbour is expensive but a number of parking stations are available. Expect to pay up to $30 for a day of parking. Some cheaper parking options are around near the Ultimo end of Darling Harbour, for around $15. It's often worth booking ahead online.

By ferry

If you are travelling from Circular Quay you have an option of the Sydney Ferries, the government owned standard green ferries, or the Matilda Rocket ferries.

Sydney Ferries depart Circular Quay wharf 5. They accept Multi tickets, or a single ticket will cost $5.80. They stop at Darling Harbour King St Wharf 3 on the eastern side, and at Pyrmont Bay Wharf at the very northern tip on the western side, past the Maritime Museum. Ferries depart approximately every twenty minutes, and run from 6:45AM to 10PM M-F, and 8AM to 10:15PM on weekends and public holidays.

Matilda Rocket departs from the Harbour Master's Steps on the west (left) of Circular Quay. They arrive just by the Aquarium very close to the Pyrmont Bridge, at a different wharf to the Sydney Ferries. They charge $5.70 for a single ticket and issue their own tickets. They don't accept the Multi (but do issue their own day passes, just for their ferries). The frequency varies, depending on demand. They run at least every hour from 10AM until 5PM.

The entrance to Darling Harbour wharf

The ferry trip takes 25 minutes or so, as the route isn't that direct by water. The ferries all need to pass under the Harbour Bridge to get to Darling Harbour. The white ticket booth at Circular Quay is selling tickets for the Matilda Rocket. Proceed to Wharf 5 directly if you wish to board a Sydney Ferries service.

The Parramatta River Ferries arrive and depart about every hour at Darling Harbour King St Wharf 3, heading upriver towards Sydney Olympic Park and Parramatta.

Again, if your interest in getting in is purely utilitarian, it may be quicker to walk, or take a train or bus service. To get from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour by ferry can easily take 50 minutes if you just miss a ferry. By comparison it is only around 30-40 minutes to walk there. However if you need a reason to take to the Harbour on a ferry service, then this is the perfect excuse!

By bus

The 389 bus from Bondi and Town Hall does a whole loop around the entire Pyrmont and Ultimo area, going to the Star City Casino, and the Maritime Museum lower level road. The bus runs every 10-15 minutes from around 6AM until midnight.

If you have a Sydney Explorer pass, the red Sydney Explorer buses have several stops around Darling Harbour, stopping on the roadside of the Maritime Museum, and at the transport interchange between Harbourside and the Convention Centre, and by the side of IMAX.

By bike

Pyrmont Bridge, the centrepiece of Darling Harbour, is a shared pedestrian and cycle space. Separated cycleways lead east into the city and Kent St cycleway, west to Union Square and Anzac Bridge, and south along Darling Drive towards Central and Ultimo. Cycling around Darling Harbour itself is tolerated in the quieter times of the morning, but crowds make it all but impossible at the busier times of day.

Get around

Motorised train

The area is designed for walking. It is generally flat, car-free in most parts, with footways connecting to the Casino and to the Powerhouse Museum. There are directional signs to the major sights scattered around and maps available at the tourist information.

There is a little motorised train that does a loop around precinct, useful for tired little (or big) legs. At $4.50 for adults and $3.50 for children one-way, this makes it one of the most expensive one-way trips for children anywhere in Sydney, so it's best to think of it as a ride rather than a form of transport. It does go all the way from the far side of Tumbalong Park to the Aquarium, so it can save some walking, but is slow and won't save much time compared to walking, if any.

If you are right at the southern end of Darling Harbour by the Entertainment Centre or the Powerhouse Museum, then it might be worthwhile getting the light rail if you are going right to the Northern end at the casino.

Around the water's edge and the surrounding parkland, the terrain is flat and accessible to wheelchairs and prams. There are lifts to access Harbourside, King St Wharf, and Cockle Bay Wharf. Darling Harbour is a newer area and accessibility has been considered in its design.

There are lots of fountains at the southern end of Darling Harbour, and you will have to walk around them. If you notice people taking an apparently long route, and can see a quicker way to cut across Tumbalong Park, you will find that you have to join the main pathway to go around the fountains. If time is of the essence, then following signs and people who look like they know where they are going, will usually be quicker than meandering around the landscaping.

See

Darling Harbour is a great place to take in the city lights at night time, as you walk through the district or sit by the bay.

Attractions

Pyrmont bridge walkway

Museums

Australian National Maritime Museum

Events

Do

Harbour cruises

Depart from the King St Wharf on the eastern side of Darling Harbour, or from Circular Quay in the City There all types to choose from.

Buy

Eat

There are lots of places to eat at Darling Harbour. It is literally lined with restaurants, alfresco cafes, bars, and take-aways, and is a great place to go in an evening for dinner overlooking the water and the city skyline. On popular days there are concession stalls selling ice-creams, drinks etc. all over the place, again, at higher prices than you would expect to pay elsewhere.

Generally no need to book a restaurant on a weeknight, as it is always possible to get a table somewhere by just strolling around the harbour, picking something that appeals.

Those with an aversion to second hand cigarette smoke, should note that smoking is generally permitted at some of the outdoor alfresco bars overlooking the water. Sitting inside means that you won't get bothered by cigarette smoke, but you also miss the best locations. Smoking laws now mean you can't smoke in eating areas, so sitting in areas that serve food eliminates this issue.

King St Wharf

King St Wharf is a newer development on the eastern side of Darling Harbour, adjacent to the city at the western end of King St, north of the aquarium.

Cockle Bay

On the eastern side of Darling Harbour, adjacent to the city, at the western end of Market St. South of King St Wharf.

Harbourside

On the western side of Darling Harbour, over the Pyrmont Pedestrian Bridge from the city and Cockle Bay.

The Darling Harbour provides a lovely and relaxed venue for eating out. There are also some very good Thai, Malaysian and Indian restaurants providing very good food at reasonable prices in Darling Harbour.

Pyrmont

Kangaroo fillet at Little Snail

Drink

For a modern styled bar, with plenty of space, facing the promenade to the water, try:

For a more traditional pub feel, try:

For nightclubs try:

Sleep

Moderate

All the pubs in Pyrmont have accommodation, varying in quality, offering a real alternative style from the normal city accommodation.

Stay safe

There is a police station and first aid station at the tip of the harbour. The area is quite well patrolled, and generally busy, and it is a comfortable area to walk in the daytime and into the evening.

Late on a Friday or Saturday night there is drunken behaviour. After 10PM or so on a weeknight the area can get quiet, if there are no events on that night.

There is no fence around the harbour, and the water is deep. Watch young children don't fall in. Ladders are located at regular intervals, and life rings are scattered around as well.

Cope

Toilets are located under the Pyrmont Bridge on the eastern side, next to first aid, in Harbourside and Cockle Bay Wharf, and next to the curtain fountain at the southern end precinct. They are available at several other locations as well. Baby change facilities are available there too.

Connect

There are coin operated internet access terminals on the ground floor of Harbourside. There are public phones distributed about the precinct.

If you are attending a convention, ask the conference organisers about Wi-Fi access in the convention centre.

There is a McDonald's restaurant in Harbourside, with a free Wi-Fi hotspot that covers a section of the food hall. Really easy to use without buying any food there.

Go next

The rest of the city is just at your eastern doorstep, but if you have made it this far west, why not keep going to Sydney's Inner West. Still plenty of restaurants and cafes, with a more inner-city residential feel.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, February 18, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.