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Sydney, NSW, Australia

Teenager's Guide to Darling Harbour and Ultimo

They won't be bored if you let them loose on Sydney's attractions

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 2.5 miles / 4.0 km
Duration: Full day
Family Friendly
Overview: Families with teenagers in tow may think that Sydney has no more than the picturesque photo opportunity of a "stodgy" Sydney Opera House or a ferry ride to excite their adolescent offspring. This tour showcases a variety of places for hours of fun commencing in Darling Harbour and then winding around the waterfront and eventually heading to Ultimo on the southwest fringe of Sydney's Central Business District.

Tips: The Sydney Visitor Center is next door to the IMAX theater at Palm Grove. Have a browse, pick up free maps and guides--some of which include discount coupons to attractions and restaurants. The Sydney Visitor Center provides bookings for tours, attractions and accommodations, free. There's also information, souvenirs and multilingual staff here to assist you.
Toll free (Australia only) 1800-067-676

Points of Interest


IMAX Theater

We start our walk at the IMAX Theater in Darling Harbour. For those joining up from the city, we suggest coming to Darling Harbour via Druitt Street. There is a ramp that leads directly to the IMAX. While on foot, observe the distinctive black-and-yellow checkerboard appearance of the IMAX building. Alternatively, catch a ferry from Circular Quay and get off at the Aquarium Wharf in Darling Harbour and then proceed in a southerly direction, bypassing the Sydney Aquarium to join our starting point.

The Cadigal people called Darling Harbour "Tumbalong," meaning a place where seafood is found. After 1788, white settlers renamed the area "Cockle Bay" after the quantity of shell refuse left behind by generations of the original inhabitants.

During the 19th century, the location was used as a working port to ferry produce from Parramatta and the north coast and to transport timber. It gradually grew to become Australia's busiest seaport. After World War II, the port declined in its operations due to the establishment of Port Botany. By the 1970s Darling Harbour was derelict. In 1988, during Australia's bicentennial belebrations, it was reopened in all its glory by Queen Elizabeth.

IMAX Theater provides the world's largest IMAX screen (eight stories high). So why not obtain boasting rights by watching a 3-D movie here?
31 Wheat Rd., Darling Harbour
Phone: (02) 9281 3300
Hours: 9:45am (or 15 minutes before the first screening if later) - fifteen minutes after the commencement of the last listed screening (varies)
Other Resources
IMAX Sydney

Cockle Bay Wharf

Now head north and walk 30 to 50 meters or so and you will arrive at Cockle Bay Wharf. On your left is the marina where you can catch water taxis to the Opera House, Circular Quay, Luna Park, The Rocks or even Taronga Park Zoo. Please note that water taxis, although faster and convenient, are more expensive then city ferries.

On your right, note the modern architecture of the alfresco restaurants that all offer stunning waterfront views. Teenagers would enjoy two places here, namely, the Lindt Chocolate Cafe (for the obvious reason) or for something completely atmospheric, try Chinta Ria on the rooftop. This restaurant features a giant smiling Buddha and hawker-style food reminscent of Singapore. It is very colorful and the food is great.


Darling Harbour: Sydney Aquarium

Let's continue with a visit to the Sydney Aquarium. Walk under the Pyrmont Bridge to get to this POI. There are a number of huge catamarans docked in front of the building.

Before entering the Sydney Aquarium think about whether the building reminds you of a giant wave or not.

The Sydney Aquarium is distinguished by its emphasis upon Australian marine life and habitats. Exhibits explore Australia's huge coastline and climatically diverse river systems.

Highlights include:
* Two underwater, see-through tunnels where sharks and giant rays glide above visitors
* An open ocean oceanarium containing rather scary-looking gray nurse sharks
* The Mermaid Lagoon where cool dugongs (sea cows), named Pig and Wuru play
* An Australian platypus--a semi-aquatic monotreme that looks a bit like a duck. Did you know that it uses electro-receptors in its rubbery bill to find food on the bottom of freshwater streams, lakes and ponds?
* Tropical fish and coral from the UNESCO Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef

For specific activities, such as the shark feeding, daily talks, guided tours or the glass-bottomed boat adventure exhibit, check the schedule in the entrance foyer.

Tip: If combined with Wildlife Sydney (which is immediately next door), families can obtain a wonderful overview of Australia's native species (including a giant saltwater crocodile, Rex, and Australia's cuddly koala). Particularly recommended if you don't have time to visit Taronga Zoo.

Address: Aquarium Pier, Darling Harbour, Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: 61 2 8251 7800
Hours: 9am -8pm
Admission: Adult $35, Child $18
Other Resources
Sydney Aquarium

Pyrmont Bridge

Now retrace your steps and head about 50 meters back toward our next POI, which is clearly visible. As you walk take note of the escalator under the bridge, adjacent to the sandstone public amenities. Ascend the escalator to access the bridge, which is closed to traffic. The historical swingspan bridge was saved from demolition and now carries the monorail and pedestrians to the opposite side of the harbor. The bridge was one of the first electrically powered swingspan bridges and is the only survivor of its kind in the world. Walk to its center to locate the control tower and the bridge's separation points.
Bridge openings
10:30am, noon, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm
Saturdays, Sundays and most public holidays (weather permitting). The bridge also opens at other times as required for shipping.

Australian National Maritime Museum

If you would like to explore Australia's maritime history, the social history of the Eora First People, the tall ship known as the James Craig, the HMAS Vampire destroyer or even the HMAS Onslow submarine, walk to the end of the bridge and turn to your right to visit our next POI.

Its collection centers around five display themes: discovery, passengers, commerce, leisure, the Navy and U.S.- Australian maritime links.

The museum's store sells model ships, boxed brass sextants and nautical toys.

Entry is free to the museum's core exhibitions, special temporary exhibitions, Wharf 7 Maritime Heritage Center, North Wharf and marina (to view small vessels), and Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse.
Address: 2 Murray St. Darling Harbour
Phone: 61 2 9298 3777
Daily 9:30am-5pm (6pm in January)
Closed Dec. 25

Harbourside Shopping Centre: Teenager Attractions

By now everybody is probably either famished or wanting to unleash some energy. Walk in a southerly direction for about 30 meters to where you see a monorail station. Enter the northern end of the Harbourside Shopping Centre by descending the stairs under the monorail track.

The first shop to see is the British Lolly Shop. As we walk through the center note the many restaurants offering waterfront views and the Sydney skyline as a backdrop. One of the best restaurants here is Zaafran Fine Indian but you may prefer Dragon Boat, which offers yum cha and seafood, or a more family oriented place such as Pancakes on the Rocks (on level one). Alternatively, there is a less expensive food court option.

Near the building's distinctive glass atrium ascend the escalator to the level three attractions, namely Flight Experience (a flight simulation experience that is expensive), M9 Laser Skirmish and Kingpin Bowling. The latter two are in the same complex (both are open daily from 10am to late).

Internet kiosks, ATMs and public toilets are located within the shopping center.
2-10 Darling Dr. Darling Harbour


Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour

Now we leave the Harbourside Shopping Centre from its southern end with Cockle Bay on our left and head southward toward our next POI. On our right will be the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Center.

Tumbalong Park contains a vast arrangement of ornate water features, native and exotic shrubs, and a central grassed amphitheater that hosts festivals. A children's playground featuring a 19th century carousel and various adventure play and climbing apparatus is always popular with families.

If you wish, have a picnic here.

Chinese Garden of Friendship

Once you arrive at the oval shaped-ampitheater, the Chinese Garden of Friendship will be on your left.

The garden was designed and built by Chinese landscape architects and gardeners, and is governed by the Taoist principles of yin-yang.

This is a beautiful and tranquil place to visit. It offers the following intriguing features:

* Rare Chinese granite foo-dogs (Chinese lions) guarding the entrance. Why not take a photo?

* An amazing dragon wall and gorgeous Oriental pavilions overlooking a meticulously landscaped garden and lake

* A traditional teahouse that serves Chinese tea, dumplings, pastries and steamed buns and other non-Chinese light meals and drinks

For families there is an opportunity here to dress up in Chinese imperial costumes.

The Chinese Garden of Friendship is open daily from 9.30am to 5pm excluding Good Friday and Christmas Day.
The Chinese Garden of Friendship is located at the southern end of Darling Harbour, near the Sydney Entertainment Center and is adjacent to Chinatown.

Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre (optional)

Now it's time to leave Darling Harbour and head toward Ultimo. This area was relatively rural until the 1890s when the railway yards were built on the western side of Darling Harbour and the city's first coal-fired power stations were built on the site of the Powerhouse Museum, our final POI for today.

These days Ultimo retains a grungy inner-city atmosphere. If you wish to explore further, this area features the Sydney radio and television studios of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC)on Harris Street and farther afield, the the main campus of the University of Technology.

For the time being continue walking southward from the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Before we reach the Sydney Entertainment Centre, we veer right before the Entertainment Carpark and take the ramp, under Harbour Street, up to Harris Street and Ultimo. The Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre is on our right hand side.

The center was named after Australia's "thorpedo" and five time Gold medalist Olympian, Ian Thorpe. Recently Thorpe came out of retirement and is currently back in training for the 2012 Olympics in London.
Address: 456 Harris St., corner of William Henry Street, Ultimo

Monday to Friday 6am to 9pm
Fitness center 6am to 10pm
Saturday, Sunday and public holidays 6am to 8pm
Closed Dec. 25 and Good Friday

Powerhouse Museum

Immediately opposite the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre is the Powerhouse Museum, which opened in 1988. It was built on the site of the old tramway's powerhouse and was derelict after trams were discontinued in 1961.

The museum is the largest in Australia and also its most popular. The Powerhouse exhibits historical, science, space, arts, music, transport and design collections. It is particularly suitable for families due to its innovative and interactive displays. Free Wi-Fi is available in the museum's cafes.

Use the pedestrian covered footbridge on the Macarthur Street side (left) to walk to Paddy's Market, Haymarket. This is an approximate 10-15 minute walk, 700 meters.
Address: 500 Harris St., Ultimo
Phone: (+61 2) 9217 0111

Daily: 10am-5pm
School holidays: 9:30am-5pm
Closed: Dec. 25 (Christmas Day)

Adult $10
Child (4-15) $5
Children under 4 free
Other Resources
Powerhouse Museum
Pictures in this guide taken by: kozik, sydneycalm

Teenager's Guide to Darling Harbour and Ultimo Map

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About the Author

2 guides
view sydneycalm's profile
I am based in Sydney, Australia. I enjoy walks around my city which is blessed with a gorgeous harbor...

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