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Travel in Australia and New Zealand

Unique Sydney: the Delights of Darling Harbour
By:Richard Greaves

No visit to Sydney is complete without a visit to Darling Harbour. Not only does it offer a grand range of facilities for shopping, dining and things for the kids to do, it's also the place to go to truly experience Sydney's aquatic heritage.

Darling Harbour is conveniently located southeast of Circular Quay. You can get there on foot or by monorail but for the full experience, you should arrive by boat. After all, you're here to explore Sydney's seafaring past. You can choose a number of ferries and water taxis which dock at its piers and jetties.

First, head for the Australian National Maritime Museum at the northern edge of the Darling Harbour waterfront. The museum includes both in- and outdoor attractions including a wonderful replica of James Cook’s HMB Endeavour. You can clamber aboard the destroyer HMAS Vampire and the submarine HMAS Onslow to get a real feel for maritime life. You can also explore traditional Aboriginal craft and examine the world's fastest boat - the Spirit of Australia.

Other highlights include a Vietnamese refugee boat that survived the voyage to Australia and a pearling lugger from the north-western pearling town of Broome.

Among the display are ships' logs, hands-on exhibits, a cinema and computer games. Daily free guided tours are provided in the galleries.

The museum also features the Yots Cafe Bar offering food and local wines and a store hawking maritime books, souvenirs, games and toys.

For your next insight into aquatic Sydney, visit Sydney Aquarium. It's one of the world's largest aquariums with over 5000 varieties of local fish exhibited in their natural environments. Altogether, the aquarium houses 11000 water-related creatures including reptiles and mammals including penguins and crocodiles from Australia’s seas and inland waterways.

One unique experience here is the "walk on the ocean floor". This features underwater tunnels allowing a close up view of giant rays, gray nurse sharks and seals.

There's also a section devoted to the Great Barrier Reef with countless fish swarming around coral outcrops.

Sydney Aquarium is open 9.30am-9pm daily. The weekend can get very crowded.

Next, it's pleasant to walk along the foreshore of Cockle Bay which was the original name given to Darling Harbour by the early settlers owing to the fertile shellfish found there. It was later the port of arrival for fresh produce and timber from Parramatta and the north coast. The area later became an industrial zone with port and railway yard. After decades of prosperity, Darling Harbour declined and was revamped for the Sydney Bicentennial celebrations in 1988.

Stop for refreshments at the Cockle Wharf restaurant and cafe complex and perhaps round off your day at Darling Harbour with an evening cruise. You may see the great container shops nosing their way into port.

A visit to Darling Harbour is convenient and fun. A day out here offers wonderful glimpse of Sydney's maritime past and how important the harbour is to this city. If you're tempted to stay, you'll find a wide array of Darling Harbour hotels and guests houses to suit every mood and pocket.

Richard Greaves has over 20 years experience in the travel industry and writes for Cheaper than Hotels. Cheaper Than Hotels offers Darling Harbour hotels as Quest On Dixon Darling Harbour and Metro Apartments On Darling Harbour http://www.cheaperthanhotels.com.au/Australia/Sydney/Darling-Harbour/Metro-Apartments-On-Darling-Harbour/.

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