Sydney Darling Harbor
Sydney’s disreputable Darling Harbor docks area, long in disrepute, fell into a prolonged period of disrepair as Sydney’s role as a harbor declined. It began to change in the late 1980s courtesy of a big redevelopment plan that turned the old docks into a harborside complex that is now one of the most popular tourist and entertainment complexes in the city—especially on Saturday evenings, when it is the site of a weekly fireworks display.
The complexes, including Cockle Bay Wharf, King Street Wharf and Harborside Plaza contain the normal assortment of restaurants, shopping malls and standard tourist attractions, like a ferris wheel, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and an IMAX Theater (which is claimed to have the world’s largest screen). Oh yes, and there is a harbor there too,
Among the harbor’s most interesting sights (none of which we had a desire to visited) are:
- Australian National Maritime Museum which traces the country’s role in maritime history, from the aborigines, through Captain Cook’s voyages, its role as a destination for British convicts and eventually, immigrants from all corners of the globe, aquatic recreation and the country’s own naval history, which is highlighted with a fleet of 16 historic ships that are open to visitors.
- Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, one of the largest in the world, with recreations of and a collection of marine and freshwater aquatic life from all of the continent‘s aquatic ecosystems.
- Wild Life Sydney, with representations of terrestrial ecosystems and a collection of animals, insects and birds from all around Australia
- Convention and Exhibition Center, a large irregularly shaped building consisting of panels that are set at angles to each other, is fronted by graceful, circular double spiral water fountain that contrasts with the sharp angles of the building.
- Public gardens and art, including the Chinese Garden of Friendship and the Tidal Cascades water fountain;
- Powerhouse Museum, a nearby attraction not formally part of the Darling Harbor complex, but an old power station repurposed into an interactive science and technology museum.
Sydney’s Darling Quarter areas also has expensive open space, with parks, outdoor exercise regimens and children entertainment areas. It also abuts a number of the city’s other important tourist and entertainment areas. These areas which are discussed in subsequent blogs, include:
- Entertainment district, with concert venues and theaters;
- Star Casino complex, with its large casino, a theater, a shopping mall and a number of high-profile restaurants.
- Sydney Fish Market, which has an amazing wholesale and retail fish market and collection seafood restaurants.
- Chinatown with its restaurants, traditional shops and tourist venues, and of course, its arches and lantern-covered main street (Dixon Street) that ends at Paddy’s Market, a huge marketplace in which vendors offer almost any type of clothes and novelties that one may wish. Most interesting, however, is the Chinese Garden at the edge of the neighborhood.
Darling Harbour Restaurants
- Nick’s, a casual but good seafood restaurant on Cockles Wharf, where we had two simply prepared, but very good dishes: black mussels with white wine and cream sauce and grilled Moreton Bay bugs with garlic butter and orange fennel salad. We were not so lucky with wines by the glass. Although the list was long, we tried four wines before settling for a less than inspired 2015 Adelaide Hills, Nepenthe pinot gris.
And, although not really in Darling Harbour, but past it In Pyrmont is another restaurant that we tried in the area:
- Flying Fish, a highly regarded restaurant where we generally enjoyed the generously priced food, but were not at all impressed by the service. We enjoyed, but were less than excited by the vanilla-poached Patuna ocean trout with fennel crème and caperberries. The softshell crab handroll with avocado and tobiko was also nice, other than for the paltry amount of crab. The whole Golden trout with ginger, chili sauce and coconut rice, by contrast, was cooked perfectly and tasted very good, as long as we limited the somewhat overpowering sauce we had the dish. As for the service, it took at least 15 minutes before we were even acknowledged (and that was before the restaurant got busy) and the sommelier was terrible—guiding us, despite our prompting, to a varietal that we couldn’t imagine going with our dishes and then totally mischaracterizing the wine that he ended up serving. We, however, returned it and ended up playing it safe with a 2013 Chablis from Albert Bichot (Domaine Long-Depaguit). We also had to twice request water. Although the service did get somewhat better as the evening wore on, we had to rush to get out in two hours (to catch some 9:00 fireworks). And, at over $200, it was the most expensive meal we had in the city to date.