Monday, 18 April 2016

# 18 - Darling Harbour

I'm not completely certain where Darling Harbour is.  Or, more specifically, I'm not really sure where it isn't.  That may seem like a strange thing for someone to say when they are starting to write a review for Darling Harbour.  Just to clarify, it's not that we were blindfolded and taken there in the back of a truck.  Nor is it because we were so drunk that we can't remember how we got there or back.  Well, that may have happened on occasion, but not every time.

All I mean is that Darling Harbour is an area.  I'm not sure where its exact boundaries begin and end. I've always considered Darling Harbour to be the full area from King Street Wharf, down to the IMAX cinema, and then back down the other side, all the way to Pyrmont Bay Wharf.  I'd probably also include the area one or two streets back from here as Darling Harbour as well.  Whether that's technically right or wrong, that's what this review will be based on.

Fireworks.  Oooh
Now that we've (sort of) established where Darling Harbour is, I should probably say something about what we thought about it as a 'thing to do'.  Well, I suggest that if you dislike fun, then you steer well clear of Darling Harbour.

I would say that Darling Harbour is cheap and cheerful, except that most of the places in Darling Harbour are not cheap.  There is a large selection of shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, the aforementioned IMAX cinema and assorted tourist attractions.  The IMAX was the biggest screen in the world, although in this ever changing world, that could have changed by the time you read this.  Darling Harbour is also the departing point for both commuter ferries and a wide variety of boat tours.

In addition to all of these wonderful things, Darling Harbour also has a free fireworks display most Saturdays.  Most free things tend to be a bit of a letdown, but the Darling Harbour fireworks are actually one of the better fireworks displays you are likely to see.  They are large, well co-ordinated, and last for a surprisingly long time.  Well, surprise is subjective I suppose.  I've never timed it, but we guess somewhere between 5 and 15 minutes of good quality fireworks fun.

And in addition to this, they generally have some kind of additional seasonal events on.  These range from laser shows and dancing fountains, to ferris wheels (well, just one ferris wheel actually), to a giant octopus, to a bunch of floating Santas.  It's really just a hive of activity.

That's something you don't see every day
As mentioned before, while there are certainly a few classy restaurants around Darling Harbour, most of the establishments are more 'tourist oriented'.  For example, there is a Hard Rock Cafe, a Margaritaville and a Pancakes on the Rocks.  I love these kind of places, and judging by the crowds, so do plenty of others.  I appreciate they aren't everyone's cup of tea though.  There is a nice Lindt Chocolate Cafe for chocolate fans on the Cockle Bay Wharf side.

Although it is beautiful on a sunny day, in my view it is really an ideal place for a rainy day.  In addition to all the bars and cafes, it has three of the main indoor tourist attractions in Sydney in the Sea Life Aquarium, Madame Tussauds and the Wildlife Sydney Zoo.  These are literally within a couple of hundred metres of each other, and can be done in one day, depending on how carried away you get taking photos with waxwork celebrities.  In addition, it has the huge Australian National Maritime Museum on the opposite side.

The Darling Harbour Christmas tree.  Feels like it is missing something...
Amidst all this positive talk, there must be some downsides?  Well, at the moment, there is a lot of construction going on.  The noise isn't too intrusive, but it does spoil the look of the area.  I think this is due to last until at least 2017, but maybe someone can add a comment to confirm.  It also can and does get insanely busy.  Don't be surprised to find your gentle stroll along King Street Wharf to be blocked by a sea of sunburned teenage tourists, dressed like they only brought one suitcase and had to share the clothes between all 40 of them, queuing up for a boat playing loud party music.

What I would take from this is that Darling Harbour is not generally a place for a quiet romantic stroll, although it does have its moments.  However, if you're looking for a place to keep yourself and possibly your younger travel companions fed, watered and entertained, then you can do a lot worse than Darling Harbour.  It's particularly good as a rainy day option, with all the indoor activities on offer.

What's your view?  Is Darling Harbour a tacky, noisy tourist trap, or is it the perfect place for an action packed day and a fun filled night?  As always, please use the comments to leave any thoughts or questions.

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