Darling Harbour is extensive area almost completely dedicated to entertainment and tourism. 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.
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.
By light rail
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. Walk, or take the monorail instead.
There is level access at all light rail stations.
Catch the Sydney Monorail  near Town Hall station and get off at Darling Park, Convention, Harbourside or Powerhouse Museum. Services are frequent and the cost of a single trip ($4.80) is probably less than a taxi fare for one person. Think of it as ride more than a utilitarian form of transport. Family day-passes cost $23.00.
There are lifts to all monorail stations, and access to the monorail is completely flat with a very small gap between the car and the platform.
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.
Sydney Ferries depart Circular Quay wharf 5. They accept Travelpass and Daytripper tickets, or a single ticket will cost $5.20. They stop at the Aquarium wharf on the eastern side of the bay, and at Pyrmont Bay Wharf at the very northern tip on the western side, past the Maritime Museaum. Ferries depart approximately every half an hour, and run from 6:45am to 10pm Mon-Fri, 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 s single ticket and issue their own tickets. They don't accept the Travelpass and Daytripper (but do issue their own, just for their ferry). 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 Ferry.
Ferries arrive and depart about every hour to and from Parramatta at Pier 3 at King St Wharf. Even though these ferries continue on directly to Circular Quay (and get there quicker than the standard ferry) you are not allowed to catch them between Darling Harbour and Circular Quay.
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 buaes stop at Darling Harbour, by the side of IMAX.
The 443 bus from Circular Quay and George St goes to the Star City Casino, stopping by Harbourside on the way.
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 same much time over 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.
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.
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
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.
On the eastern side of Darling Harbour, adjacent to the city, at the western end of Market St. South of King St Wharf.
On the western side of Darling Harbour, over the Pyrmont Pedestrian Bridge from the city and Cockle Bay.
For a modern styled bat, with plenty of space, facing the promenade to the water, try:
For nightclubs try:
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 is overlooking neighbouring Pyrmont Bay, only a short walk, or a couple of stops further on the lighr 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.
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 you conference organisers about Wi-Fi access in the convention centre.
There is a McDonalds 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.