The European history of New South Wales, and indeed Australia, will always be traced back to the site of the first British settlement at Sydney Cove (now Circular Quay). That said, it wasn’t long until the industrial and maritime hub of the Colony, and the new city of Sydney, moved around the corner, as it were, to the adjacent Darling Harbour, or Long Cove/Cockle Bay as it was called until 1826 when the not so modest State Governor, Darling, renamed it after himself.
With the introduction of containerisation and other new cargo handling technologies, port activities moved to Botany Bay and other places and by the 1980s Darling Harbour began its transformation to the harbour-side tourist and recreation destination it is today.
A short walk from the CBD and itself the location of numerous hotels, Darling Harbour and its immediate neighbourhood hosts a multitude of cafes and restaurants ranging from food court to top end quality (all slightly more expensive than in less touristy areas), bars, nightclubs and shops. The majority of the shops are heavily tourist focused and located in the Harbourside Shopping Centre which also boasts a jet flight simulator if that be your thing.
Darling Harbour and its immediate vicinity is also home to many of Sydney’s top tourist attractions including:
Australian National Maritime Museum
Chinese Gardens of Friendship
Sealife Sydney Aquarium
Wildlife Sydney Zoo
The Star (casino, theatre and entertainment complex).
Outside the attractions listed above and many more (which have varying opening hours), Darling Harbour is a great place to come for a stroll, albeit it rather crowded especially at night-time. It regularly hosts live music, buskers, light shows (it is one of the venues for Vivid Sydney), fireworks and other cultural events. You can easily, and should, spend a full evening here having something to eat/drink and just strolling around taking in the atmosphere.
If it all gets to exciting for you and you must leave immediately, numerous harbour cruises, showboats, dinner cruises, jet boats and water taxis depart from here as do Sydney Ferries, which has two stops in the Darling Harbour area.