Darling Harbour is extensive area almost completely dedicated to entertainment and tourism. It is named after Ralph Darling, the governor general for New South Wales from 1825 to 1831. For many decades the core of the working port of Sydney, Darling Harbour was developed for the Australian Bicentenary in 1988. It has a large exhibition space, a convention centre, the National Maritime Museum and aquarium.
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 a fountain.
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 neighbouring 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.
Darling Harbour is within walking distance of most points in the Sydney CBD.
From the Pitt St Mall: From the northern side, walk west down King St until you come to King St Wharf and the Darling Harbour footway. From the southern side, walk west down Market St (following the monorail track overhead) to the Pyrmont Bridge.
From Town Hall walk downhill (west). Follow the signs from Town Hall Station and the Kent St Arcade.
From Chinatown and central station walk west (downhill) past Paddy's Markets and the Entertainment Centre into south Darling Harbour/Cockle Bay.
From Pyrmont or Star City just keep the water on your left past the Maritime Museum.
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.
Catch Cityrail  to Central or Town Hall stations. From Town Hall follow the Darling Harbour signs out of the station. Walk downhill (west) for two blocks to the eastern edge of Darling Harbour. From Central walk up into Haymarket (Chinatown) and then walk west to the south end of the Darling Harbour district.
The light rail  is ideal to access the Exhibition Centre, Convention Centre, Star City Casino or the Fish Markets.
You can catch it from its starting point at Central station. or catch in on route at Capitol Square or Paddy's Markets in Haymarket.
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 will drop you the other (western) side of Harbourside, and you will have to walk back.
From the north cross the Harbour Bridge and head west onto the Western Distributor and then take the exit to Darling Harbour.
From the city, head down Market St (west), and follow the signs and exit at Darling Harbour.
From the east or south of the City, consider the Cross City Tunnel (toll applies), and follow the signs.
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.
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 $5.30. 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 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. Go to wharf 5 directly if you want the Sydney Ferries ferry.
The 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. 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 an reason to take to the harbour on a ferry, then this is the perfect excuse!
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.
The 443 bus from Circular Quay and George St goes to the Star City Casino, and the Maritime Museum lower level road. It doesn't stop at the Darling Harbour stops at the Sydney Explorer.
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 the are going, will usually be quicker than meandering around the landscaping.
Australian National Maritime Museum, 2 Murray Street (just by the western side of the Pyrmont Bridge), ☎ +61 2 9298 3777 (fax: 02 9298 3780), . Two floors of internal exhibits, outlining the maritime role in Australia's history. Houses significant full scale exhibits. Outside there are ships and submarines to explore.Free entry to core galleries; charges for the large ships and special events.. (-33.872386,151.202255)edit
Sydney Aquarium, 1-5 Wheat Rd (eastern side of Darling Harbour just to the north of the Pyrmont Bridge walkover), ☎ +61 2 9262 2300, . 9AM-8PM (last entrance at 7pm) daily. A massive aquarium. In addition to various display tanks (penguins, seals, platypus, various fish species), it has three underwater walks where visitors walk in glass corridors underneath and between the dugongs, sharks, rays and tropical fish. Consider going on a weekday evening, to avoid some of the crowds.Adults $35, child $20, various concessions and family tickets available. Save 10% online, but pay $4 booking fee. (-33.869517,151.202500)edit
Sydney Wildlife World, Aquarium Pier, ☎ +61 2 9333 9288, . 9AM-6PM daily (last ticket sales at 5PM). If you don't have time to get out to the zoo, then this offers the chance to see Australian wildlife close to the city.adult $35.. (-33.8698220,151.201306)edit
Madame Tussuads, Aquarium Pier, ☎ +61 2 9333 9240, . 9AM-8PM daily (last ticket sales at 7PM). Sydney's own version of Madame Tussauds has recently opened. It features a variety of personalities, mostly Australian such as Hugh Jackman.adult $35.. (-33.8698220,151.201306)edit
Chinese Garden of Friendship, (southern end of Darling Harbour, near the Sydney Entertainment Centre and adjacent to Chinatown), ☎ +61 2 9240 8888 (email@example.com), . 9:30AM-5PM. Modelled on the typical private gardens of the Ming Dynasty, the garden offers an insight into Chinese heritage and culture.Adults $6 children $3. (-33.877338,151.201706)edit
IMAX, 31 Wheat Road (On the water at the tip of the bay), ☎ +61 2 9281 3300, . Largest rectangular IMAX screen in the world. Plays a selection of new release IMAX movies in 3D and big screen. Check the details when you arrive so you can see the movie of your choiceedit
The Pyrmont Bridge, ☎ +61 2 9299-7541, . Opens weekends and public holidays at 10:30AM, 12PM, 1PM, 2PM and 3PM (weather permitting). The Pyrmont Bridge is an old swing bridge, that historically was a main thouroughfare into Sydney. Now it only carries pedestrians across the harbour. See the centre span swing and a tall ship leave the bay. Tours of the control cab by appointment.edit
Sky View (Ferris wheel), (just south of Tumbalong Park). whenadults $10, children $9. edit
The city skyline at night. Darling Harbour is a great place to view the city lights at night timeedit
Darling Harbour (Harbourside) Fireworks, Cockle Bay, . 8:30pm. Harbourside Fireworks are on from 8:30pm every Saturday on Cockle Bay Harbour. They last for only 15 minutes but are fun to watch especially if you have a family. A good trick is to get a balcony seat around some of the restaurants and you can see the fireworks whilst having dinner or drinks.edit
Tumbalong Park, . At first look, appears a bit like an oval, but is actually a large open space with a stage for outdoor performances. Something going on here most weekends, and a good place to lay out a picnic blanketfree. edit
Sydney Entertainment Centre, 35 Harbour Street, Darling Harbour (south of tumbalong park and the fountains), ☎ +61 2 9320 4200 (fax: 02 9281 2682), . he Entertainment Centre is one of Australia's largest indoor entertainment venues and events frequently include shows by major Australian and international acts.(-33.877804,151.202602)edit
Jump through the fountains and run up and down the spiral fountain outside the Convention center.
Strike Bowling Bar, King St Wharf, . Bowling, Karaoke, music, drinksedit
Gamble (Star City), 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, ☎ 1800 700 700 (within Australia) or +61 2 9777 9000, . Gambling, a choice of bars. Mostly inwards facing and doesn't make the most of its views of locations. Some parts are kitsch. Still offers a good choice of bars, cocktails, sports bars and food open until late. No significant access to under 18s.edit
Harbourside at Darling Harbour has a large collection of souvenirs, and other Australiana. Its open until 9PM most nights, when the rest of the City shopping usually closing around 6PM. There is also a selection of fashion, arts & crafts, and music.
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 a 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 many of the outdoor alfresco bars and eating areas overlooking the water. Sitting inside means that you won't get bothered by cigarette smoke, but you also miss the best locations.
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.
I Thai, King Street Wharf, 19 Lime Street, Sydney, ☎ +61 2 9299 8999. Upstairs and waterside seating. Basic, tasty food, and a selection of set menus for around $30-40 per head. Fully licenced, and good coffee for Thai place.Mains $25. edit
The Malaya, King Street Wharf, 39 Lime Street, Sydney, ☎ +61 2 9279-1170 (fax: +61 2 9279-2570). Large serves of spicy Malay food. Try the salt and pepper prawnsMains $25-$35. edit
On the eastern side of Darling Harbour, adjacent to the city, at the western end of Market St. South of King St Wharf.
Ice-Cube. Eat in cafe, bar, and takeaway. Fish and chips takeaway for $7.50, just eat them by the water a couple of metres away.edit
Blackbird Cafe, Balcony Level, Cockle Bay Wharf, ☎ +61 2 9283-7385 (fax: +61 2 9283-7381), . Moderately priced and popular cafe one level up at Cockle Bay Wharf.edit
Chinta Ria (Temple of Love), (First floor, Cockle Bay). Indian influence. Great food and value for the location. Casual atmosphere, with kitch chairs, incense, and a large Buddha at the entrance.mains $17. edit
Nick's Seafood Restaurant, (On the waterfront promenade, Cockle Bay), . Seafood focus, as the name suggests.mains $30-$40. edit
Lindt Chocolat Cafe, Shop 104, Cockle Bay Wharf (Near the fountain), ☎ 02 92678064, . 10AM to 7PM Mon to Wed, 10AM to 10PM Thu, 10AM to 11:30PM Fri to Sat, 10AM to 8PM Sun. The Lindt Chocolat Cafe is a concept store and cafe featuring Lindt chocolate and cakes and hot chocolates made with it. The hot chocolates are particularly indulgent, arriving with their own small jug of molten chocolate to mix in.edit
Coast. Fine dining restaurant, with modern Australian cuisine. Seats arrange to all face the view. Price tag to match.edit
On the western side of Darling Harbour, over the Pyrmont Pedestrian Bridge from the city and Cockle Bay.
Food Court, (In the centre, by the arch). Good for quick meal, offers the usual range of fast food, Indian take away, sandwiches, pies, pizza, coffee and ice-creams. Expect to pay a little more than the food courts in the city(til 9PM,)edit
Passello Restaurant, 145 Harbourside (Ground level, outside the food court under the Harbourside arch), ☎ +61 2 9281 3699, . Breakfast. Passello is an Italian restaurant that has both modern and traditional italian food. Anywhere you sit in the restaurant will give you nice views of the harbour and the city skyline. It's a nice place to go for a drink or a whole meal.edit
Zaaffran, 345 Harbourside (Upstairs in the centre of Harbourside), . open lunch and dinner. A premium Indian restaurant, upstairs in Harbourside. Great for a banquet, but not cheap.edit
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.
Cargo Bar & Lounge, King Street Wharf. With a waterside location, Cargo has become one of the most hottest locations in town. Be sure to grab a drink there at sunset for some impressive views. Caters for a diverse crowd, from younger party-goers to after-work business types, and tourists. Hard to feel out of place there.edit
James Squire Brewery, King Street Wharf, . A range of James Squire beer on tap, and a good wine selection. Vibey place, good water views from the front, and a quaint pool table and pinball machines inside (no gambling machines here). Food available. Busy most nights, but very busy Fri nights..mains $20-$30. edit
Pontoon Bar, Cockle Bay, next to the bridge, . Nice views, good on a summer afternoon or warm evening. Busy on Friday and Saturday nights. Basic Australian barbecue food, not to pricey, sausages and salad, etc. Upstairs from Pontoon is the Wallaby Bar, but there is no wildlife, just tributes to the Australian Rugby Union team all around the room. However don't expect a quiet place to watch the rugger, its is very busy location, with a young crowd, and queues Friday and Saturday nights.edit
For a more traditional pub feel try:
Pyrmont Bridge Hotel, 96 Union Street, Pyrmont (Just continue off the western side of Pyrmont Bridge and its is right in front of you), ☎ +61 2 9660 4933, . Simple, no fuss establishment, popular with the locals and hospitality workers in the area as well.edit
Slip Inn, (Just up from Darling Harbour on the edge of the CBD), ☎ +61 2 8295 9999 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: 02 8295 9949), . Very popular pub. Serves food as well, but worth making a reservation if you intend to eat there.edit
Pumphouse Tavern, (Between Tumbalong Park and the Entertainment Centre). Around 10 beers draught on tap, and around 100 available in total. Modern faux-rustic in style, attracts a young after work crowd. Generally busy, but even more before events at the Entertainment centre and after work on a Friday evening. Balcony restaurant upstairs. Pizza served in the bar area. View out onto the courtyard, good for people watching but no water views.Beer from $6 to $30 bottle, pizza around $15, mains in restaurant around $30. edit
For nightclubs try:
Home, Cockle Bay Wharf, Darling Park, +61 2 9266 0600, (fax 02 9266 0611, email mailto:email@example.com). Purpose-built "international super nightclub". Big and international with a cover charge of at least $10 to match.
Penthouse Apartment, . checkin: 2:00 pm; checkout: 10:00 am. 2 Bedroom private apartment that can house up to 6 guests. It commands views of Anzac Bridge, Glebe Point, Blackwattle Bay, and Wentworth Park, from balconies adjoining both bedrooms and the living room. Facilities include kitchen, TV and access to the shared pool in the apartment complex.edit
Carlton Crest Hotel, 169-179 Thomas St, Darling Harbour (A hort distance from the southern end of the Darling Harbour precinct). Ideally located in the theatre district, Carlton Crest has over 251 rooms, with guests having access to a rooftop bar, heated pool and acclaimed restaurant.edit
Four Points by Sheraton, 161 Sussex St, Darling Harbour, +61 2 9290 4000, (fax 02 9299 3340). Australia's largest hotel, with 630 rooms at a location on the CBD side of Darling Harbour. Darling Harbour at the door, and a short walk to the city centre.
Hotel Ibis Darling Harbour, 50 Murray Street, ☎ +61 2 9563 0888, . Economy international hotel, right on the western edge of Darling Harbour, near Harbourside$129-$169 a night.. edit
Medina Grand, Darling Harbour, . Great location, right next to King St Wharf on the city side of Darling Harbour.edit
Novotel Sydney Hotel on Darling Harbour, ☎ +61 2 9934 0000, . great views and the convenience of three modes of public transportation at your doorstep.$200-$400 a night. edit
Star City Hotel, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, ☎ +61 2 9777 9000. . Hotel located in the Star City casino complex.edit
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.
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.
Star City Casino overlooks the neighbouring Pyrmont Bay, and is only a short walk, or a couple of stops further on the light rail, from Darling Harbour. It has everything you would expect from a casino, tables, gambling machines, buffet restaurants and sports bars, as well as more than just a little kitsch.
The Powerhouse Museum is close to the Entertainment Centre, and is immediately adjacent to Darling Harbour in Ultimo. There are signs directing you there from all around the precinct. It isn't quite a science museum, and not quite a natural history museum, but its not drab or boring. There are interesting parts of Sydney's modern heritage, as well as lots of buttons to press, and plenty of how things work displays.
The Sydney Fish Markets are also close by. again just a couple of stops further on the light rail, or a 10 minute walk from Harbourside. It is a good spot for lunch, or to buy some shrimp (prawns) for the barbecue.