One late Friday afternoon, my friend Hayden who was still on vacation, agreed to meet up with me at the Chinese Garden of Friendship to take some photos. Unfortunately, it was already closed when we got there so we decided to just walk to Darling Harbour, take some snapshots there, people-watch, and drink beer at the waterside. Darling Harbour is one of the most popular leisure and entertainment hubs in Sydney with over a million visitors each year. It is a short distance from Sydney China Town, a short walk from Central Business District (CBD), and accessible by tram, monorail, ferry and water taxi.
On the way to the harbour, I told Hayden, who is a local Sydneysider, I would probably go to Darling Harbour if it was my first time in Australia, had one day in Sydney and had to choose one place. I just thought Darling Harbour offers a wide range of things to see and do that are in close proximity to each other. It lets you experience a bit of everything Australia has to offer in one place.
There is a museum showcasing naval warfare history (National Maritime Museum), museum of Australian culture and history (Power House Museum), wildlife encounter with the Australian fauna (Sydney Wildlife World), the chance to see Australian’s largest collection of aquatic life (Sydney Aquarium) and a one of kind movie experience at its IMAX Theater- the country’s largest cinema screen. There is also a casino nearby and diverse choices of restaurants and retail stores for those with money burning a hole in their pockets, and a serene sanctuary for those who wanted some quiet moments at the Chinese Garden of Friendship.
A street performer entertaining the tourists at Darling Harbour.
This is probably where I would also take my young nephews and nieces and my mom if they come for a visit. I reckon the walking and hopping on and off different modes of public transport that is required to see some of the sights around Sydney aren’t such a good idea for them, especially if the one guiding them is also a tourist and terrible at directions. Hayden’s choice was the Royal Botanic Gardens which is understandable because this parkland is a place of natural beauty and it offers a picturesque view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. It would also be nice to see wildlife in a natural habitat like Taronga Zoo and dine in one of the city’s local’s favorite restaurants. But I guess it’s the combination of all the sights and attractions found on the area that makes this harbour a darling for me.
My first visit to Darling Harbour
As we approach the west side of the harbour, we joined the crowd in watching a busker perform before heading to the waterside to find our spot. (A busker is a street performer that gives free shows common around touristy places in the city). Hayden and his cousin Pete bought a six-pack of beer from a convenience store and brought it at the harbour. We got the same view as the harbour’s pubs and restaurants without the expensive drinks. We passed the time taking snapshots of some skater boys trying to break their bones and getting entertained by a precocious little boy who was more than willing to show off his scooter tricks. After a while, my boyfriend Charles who just came from work joined us at the harbour. We originally planned to have dinner at the popular Mamak’s restaurant but we reckoned it was too late to spend our time queuing just to get in.
Some scenes at the harbour
One of the skater boys giving the crowd an entertaining show.
Little Paul proudly showing some of his scooter tricks.
(Photo credit: Hayden B.)
From Darling Harbour, all I remember was a tequila shot at the Shelbourne Hotel, (blame it to the sudden downpour which forced us to have a drink here while waiting for the rain to subside), music and beer at a pub in Woolloomolooo and a lot of walking. I was already starving but I did not give in to the temptation of hot chips because I was saving my appetite for a big dinner. We didn’t walk this far for nothing. This restaurant must be something of Mamak’s caliber, I thought. So after the last drop of beer was downed, I finally asked where we were going to eat and learned that we were going to eat at Harry’s. Getting no reaction from me, Hayden said, “You don’t know Harry’s? You haven’t been out in Sydney unless you had eaten here, it’s a Sydney institution.”
Before I knew it I had come face to face with a humble pie cart with wheels off the street of Woolloomooloo. Apparently, Harry’s Café de Wheels, is the mecca of late night meals and the last stop for late night Sydney dining. From its early beginning in 1938, it has served countless sailors, cab drivers, late night party animals and pie-loving gourmands till the wee hours of the morning as well as some celebrities like Elton John, Frank Sinatra and Colonel Sanders.
Harry’s famous tiger pie and chili dog
Charles and I got the famous tiger pie which is topped with mashed potatoes, mushy peas, and glossy gravy served with a fork sticking out of the pie and a chili dog sandwich. It wasn’t the best gourmet experience I’ve had but I sure enjoyed sitting near the wharf overlooking the city nightscape while digging in on hot pie with chunky peppery meat and chili dogs. I guess after this night, I could say I had been out in Sydney at last.
Dining over the wharf with Charles, Pete and Hayden
DOING THE DARLING
Some Sights and Attraction around Darling Harbour
The Sydney Monorail
This iconic monorail circles Darling Harbour from stations in the heart of the city. It offers beautiful views of Sydney and Darling Harbour while linking hotels with restaurants, shops, and some popular Sydney’s attractions.
The Sydney Aquarium boasts the world’s largest collection of all-Australian aquatic life featuring a number of habitats, 60 tanks and three oceanariums. It lies on the eastern edge of Darling Harbour close to the heart of the city. Sydney Aquarium is open from 9am to 10pm every day.
Sydney Wildlife World
Sydney Wildlife World is one of the world’s largest animal encounters under one roof that offers a glimpse of the unique and interesting Australian fauna. It features interactive world-class displays of all-Aussie animals.
National Maritime Museum
National Maritime Museum showcases the amazing world of underwater warfare aboard a submarine. It gives the visitors a chance to climb aboard a replica of Captain Cook’s ship HMB Endeavour and to explore the last of the big gun destroyers and discover the histories and stories of the seas
Power House Museum
The Power House Museum is Australia’s largest museum that offers a comprehensive insight of the rich history and culture of the country.
The Chinese Garden of Friendship is a scaled-down version of a typical private garden from Shang Dynasty. A walk through its pathways leads to pagoda-style pavilions and artfully designed landscapes that feature waterfalls, mountains, lakes and forest. It is open daily from 9:30am – 5:30pm
LG IMAX Theater Sydney
Catch the latest 2D and 3D blockbusters as well as documentaries and feature films on the World’s Largest Cinema Screen. IMAX has something for all ages and interests. Films change regularly and session times are listed online: www.imax.com.au
(Now, since I have more than one day in Sydney, I have not been to any of these sights although I had been to Darling Harbour thrice. There are still so many sights and events including the Sydney Festival, which runs for a month that are free for everyone. But, eventually I will tick them off one by one from my list )