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Top Things to do in Darling Harbour

Sydney’s Darling Harbour is a mecca for entertainment and waterfront dining in the city centre. The precinct is alive with activity and plays host to Sydney’s top attractions including the SEA LIFE Aquarium, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and the Australian National Maritime Museum. Arrive at Darling Harbour by foot or on a harbour cruise docking at the doorstep of the entertainment quarter. From gourmet food, boutique shops, wildlife experiences and chance encounters with your favourite Hollywood superstars - Darling Harbour is a place you won’t want to miss out on when visiting Sydney.

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Top Things to do at Darling Harbour, Sydney, NSW

by Experience Oz Staff
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Sydney’s Darling Harbour is a popular tourist precinct, and it’s not hard to see why.

Featuring a number of great family-friendly attractions, dining options and adult-friendly bars, you’re sure to find something to suit everyone at Darling Harbour.

Here we list 10 things to do that should be topping the list for all visitors to Sydney.

1. Sydney Harbour Cruise

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Location: Darling Harbour

King Street Wharf is a popular departure point for the day and night cruises around the iconic Sydney Harbour. You can embark on a sightseeing cruise, hop on hop off ferry around the region, lunch cruise, sunset cruise or dinner cruise.

An exciting and relaxing way to explore the beautiful Sydney region, these cruises and ferries are perfect for families, couples and groups looking to explore both harbours.

There are a number of cruises available departing at various times throughout the week. See our full list of cruises that depart Darling Harbour to find the option best suited to you and your upcoming holiday to the gorgeous city of Sydney.

2. WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo

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Location: 1-5 Wheat Road, Darling Harbour

The chance to feed a kangaroo in the heart of Sydney sounds like a joke, however, at WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, you can do exactly that. Located next to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, the zoo offers visitors the chance to get up close to their favourite Aussie animals.

You can enter the kangaroo and wallaby sanctuary and pat and feed these adorable creatures.

Other animals in the zoo include a range of venomous snakes, lizards, a cheeky wombat, and of course, koalas.

You can also enjoy a koala breakfast experience which will let you explore the park without the crowds and snap a photo next to one of their cuddly marsupials.

3. Darling Harbour Carousel

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Location: Tumbalong Park

The Carousel is a historic Darling Harbour attraction, and a fun activity suitable for a range of ages. In operation since 1892, the carousel is working in fine form and is still powered by a steam engine. Said to be the second oldest working carousel in Australia, it is believed that only a few of its kind are still around today.

The carousel is open to the public on weekends during the year and on a daily basis during peak school holiday periods to accommodate the large crowds.

A great way to spend some time in the Darling Harbour area, a ride on this historic Sydney attraction is a great activity for the whole family.

4. SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium

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Location: 1-5 wheat Road, Darling Harbour

Explore the best of the marine world with a visit to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium. A favourite attraction for the young ones and the young at heart, SEA LIFE Sydney proves you’re never too old to enjoy an aquarium.

Offering an educational and entertaining experience, you can wander around the displays watching the animals interact with each other while also learning about the various species and ecosystems from the information plaques.

The highlight of the aquarium is the large tunnel where you can walk through the tank while sharks, rays and fish swim overhead. This provides some incredible photo opportunities and is usually a hit with the curious and excited kids.

As you walk through the aquarium you’ll see penguins, dugongs, sharks and various tropical fish species. To sweeten the deal, you can combine your entry to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium with some of its neighbouring attractions including WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, Madame Tussauds Sydney and/or Sydney Tower Eye.

5. Madame Tussauds Sydney

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Location: 1-5 Wheat Road, Darling Harbour

A world famous attraction, Madame Tussauds’ Sydney leg showcases all of your favourite sporting stars, musicians, world leaders, actors and movie and television characters. Allowing visitors to get up close to some of their favourite national and international stars, you can’t resist the urge to snap a selfie with Justin Bieber, Barack Obama or Leonardo DiCaprio.

A popular attraction located on the Darling Harbour waterfront, Madame Tussauds Sydney is a great experience for all ages to enjoy.

Featuring faces that visitors from all generations will recognise you can get hands-on with the exhibits as well with the chance to be a drummer behind legendary Aussie frontman Michael Hutchence, don the red cape and climb onto the bike with ET, sit on the couch with Oprah or get kitted up in your khaki and stand alongside famous wildlife warrior Steve Irwin.

As you wander around the museum, you can easily lose a few hours and a few gigabytes of memory on your phone.

6. Dine at Cockle Bay Wharf

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Location: 201 Sussex St, Sydney

Cockle Bay Wharf on Darling Harbour is a mecca for all things food. If you’re looking to dine for breakfast, lunch, dinner or anything in between, you’ll be sure to find a suitable establishment along Cockle Bay Wharf.

Come the weekend you’ll often find crowds flocking to some of the local hotspots for a drink or bite to eat. A number of eateries offer weekday deals, so go for a wander along the wharf to browse the various options before choosing your favourite menu.

Some of the standout venues include Adria Bar Restaurant, Blackbird Cafe, Hunter & Barrel and I’m Angus Steakhouse. Be sure to make a reservation as these are some of the most popular dining options in the city and are often filled with locals and tourists soaking up the enjoyable atmosphere.

7. Chinese Garden of Friendship

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Location: Pier St, Darling Harbour

Take the time to wander around the Chinese Garden of Friendship and admire the serenity of the luscious gardens in the heart of one of Australia’s busiest cities. Showcasing a distinct Asian gardening and curation style with a mix of exotic plants, water features and walkways, the Chinese Garden of Friendship oozes calmness and relaxation.

With koi ponds, bridges and overhanging willow trees, you’ll soon forget you’re standing in Australia’s largest city. Visitors to the gardens can enjoy a guided tour of the grounds free of charge conducted by the garden’s friendly and knowledgeable volunteers.

There aren’t many peaceful and tranquil places in Sydney where you can simply sit back, relax, and empty your mind.

8. Australian National Maritime Museum

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Location: 2 Murray St, Sydney

An ideal destination for lovers of all things nautical, the Australian National Maritime Museum is a great, relatively cheap attraction suitable for all ages. Offering fun and interactive exhibits educating and informing visitors on Australia’s rich maritime history, visitors regularly depart the museum with new knowledge.

Home to historic artefacts hands-on exhibits, you can easily lose a few hours in the museum exploring and reading everything it has to offer. The museum also offers visitors the chance to climb aboard and explore some of the famous vessels that dock in Darling Harbour.

A great attraction for the youngsters, the Mini Mariners Play Zone and Kids on Deck area are ideal for children of all ages. If you’re after a great day out, whether you have a fascination for all things water or not, the Australian National Maritime Museum is the attraction you’ve been searching for!

9. Darling Quarter Playground

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Location: 1-25 Harbour St, Sydney

A great attraction for the kids, the Darling Quarter Playground isn’t your average play area. Located in the bustling Darling Quarter precinct on Darling Harbour, the playground features a 21-metre flying fox, water play area and climbing net.

You can keep the young ones entertained for hours while the grown-ups enjoy a coffee or bite to eat from one of the various cafés or restaurants or the takeaway kiosk next to the playground.

The best part about the playground is that is completely free and can be accessed all day every day. Making for the perfect break from touring the region and buying tickets for local attractions, Darling Quarter Playground is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

Don’t let the crowds deter you, even though it is quite popular there is enough space and equipment for everyone.

10. Harbourside Shopping Centre

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Location: 231/2-10 Darling Dr, Sydney

If you’re looking to buy a new outfit or browse the latest trends, head to Harbourside Shopping Centre. Located on the waterfront, Harbourside houses a number of well-known brands including Cotton On, Giordano, Glue Store, Valleygirl, Tarocash and YD.

Servicing the shopping needs of men, women and children, the whole family is sure to pick up a bargain or some of the latest fashions. The location of the centre is prime and is easily accessible by foot from the city by walking over Pyrmont Bridge.