WALK­ING WON­DER­LAND

WHICH­EVER WAY YOUR FEET TAKE YOU THERE’S AL­WAYS SOME­THING MARVEL­LOUS TO SEE, EAT OR DO AT DAR­LING HAR­BOUR

Central and North Burnett Times - - TRAVEL - WORDS: PHIL HAWKES

Stand­ing at the edge of Syd­ney’s Dar­ling Har­bour with eyes half closed, it’s hard to imag­ine how this scene would have looked thou­sands of years ago. To­day the views are marred by mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture, wharves, boats and build­ings, while its walk­ways are hounded by hun­dreds of hol­i­day mak­ers and white col­lar work­ers.

Mem­bers of the Wan­gal and Gadi­gal clans of the Eora Na­tion once fished in the abun­dant wa­ters of the har­bour, trad­ing and meet­ing in small groups. They called it Tum­ba­long, or “a place where seafood is found”, which is still ap­pro­pri­ate to­day, es­pe­cially if you in­clude the fa­mous Syd­ney Fish Mar­ket in nearby Black­wat­tle Bay.

There’s a strong mar­itime theme that runs through this busy water­way now called Dar­ling Har­bour. In colo­nial times it was known as Long Cove and Cockle Bay. It was New South Wales Gov­er­nor Ralph Dar­ling in 1826 who in­sisted the name be changed to his, per­haps a missed op­por­tu­nity to re­vert to the Abo­rig­i­nal name as a ges­ture of good­will. Thank­fully times have changed and to­day there is a ded­i­cated five-hectare precinct called Tum­ba­long Park.

The whole area is a walk­ing won­der­land stretch­ing over three dis­tinct western, south­ern and eastern precincts. You can whiz your way around or cruise com­fort­ably over a cou­ple of days, if you have the time, to de­light in the culi­nary and cul­tural at­trac­tions.

WEST

The dom­i­nant fea­ture on the west side of the har­bour is the Aus­tralian Na­tional Mar­itime Mu­seum, an im­pres­sive space on land and on wa­ter, where more than 10 his­toric ships in­clud­ing de­stroyer HMAS Vam­pire and sub­ma­rine HMAS Onslow lie at rest and are open to the public. The main fea­ture is a stun­ning replica of Cap­tain Cook’s Bark En­deav­our, launched to much fan­fare in 1994 and now berthed at the mu­seum when not on ex­pe­di­tions around the Aus­tralian coast.

In­side the mu­seum, there are so many ex­hibits you could spend a whole day brows­ing the story of the First Aus­tralians, the dis­cov­ery of the con­ti­nent by Dutch, French and Bri­tish ex­plor­ers, the be­gin­nings of set­tle­ment and var­i­ous land­marks that have led us to to­day. An im­por­tant ex­hibit also fea­tures the role of the Royal Navy in its de­fence of the na­tion.

The Har­bour­side Shop­ping Cen­tre is your fast pass to fun with its bowl­ing al­ley, laser skir­mish and jet flight sim­u­la­tor. There are also the in­evitable tourist shops, of course.

More up-mar­ket is the Star Casino and En­ter­tain­ment Com­plex with op­por­tu­ni­ties for you to splash cash in more ways than one, from bars and spas to ex­clu­sive events and big brand bou­tiques.

Not to be missed be­fore its re­lo­ca­tion to Par­ra­matta next year is the Mu­seum of Ap­plied Arts and Science (Pow­er­house) with fas­ci­nat­ing interactiv­e ex­hibits and tem­po­rary pre­sen­ta­tions such as the Apollo 11 ex­hi­bi­tion in June.

SOUTH

A short walk around the In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion and Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre brings you to the south side, a recre­ational area where you’ll find the leg­endary Paddy’s Mar­ket, the Chi­nese Gar­den of Friend­ship in Chi­na­town and a thriv­ing foodie scene around a re­cent ad­di­tion, Dar­ling Square (don’t miss the marvel­lous gelato shop). A good place to noo­dle around while rest­ing the legs.

EAST

Apart from the pa­rade of restau­rants at Cockle Bay Wharf and Tum­ba­long Park, the main at­trac­tion on this side is the SEA LIFE Syd­ney Aquar­ium where you’ll find the largest va­ri­ety of sharks in Aus­tralia on dis­play … 13 species in all. For thrillseek­ers, there’s now Shark Dive Xtreme where you can ex­pe­ri­ence these apex preda­tors up close. No cage, just you, your in­struc­tors and some in­cred­i­ble sets of jaws. You’ll meet grey nurse sharks, Port Jack­son sharks, wobbe­gongs, sea tur­tles, huge st­ingrays, and hun­dreds more amaz­ing sea crea­tures. Best of all, Shark Dive Xtreme re­quires no pre­vi­ous div­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

To com­plete your walk around the east side, there’s also Madam Tus­saud’s and Syd­ney Wildlife World as part of the Sea Life Aquar­ium com­plex.

WHERE TO STAY

There are many ac­com­mo­da­tion choices, but two favourites are Ovolo 1888, which is close to the Mar­itime Mu­seum, and Vibe Dar­ling Har­bour, a short walk from Chi­na­town and the Aquar­ium.

Ovolo 1888 is a quirky bou­tique-style ho­tel with just 90 rooms and a buzzy bar and restau­rant, Mis­ter Percy, pop­u­lar for its so­cial hours from 4.30pm to 6.30pm (free if you book a room di­rect). Chef Luca cooks up a treat with share plates, Ital­ian-ish mains and house-made pasta. There’s a great list of cock­tails, craft beers and wines by the glass.

Newly opened VIBE Dar­ling Har­bour is close to trans­port at Town Hall and of­fers great ser­vice with rea­son­able rates for a prime lo­ca­tion. There’s a hip rooftop pool and bar where you can hang out.

Sus­sex Store is a ground floor restau­rant with a small but in­ter­est­ing menu mix – an oa­sis in the midst of Asian-dom­i­nated eater­ies all around.

EN­COUN­TERS 2020

The Mar­itime Mu­seum’s ma­jor project for the year is called En­coun­ters 2020. This is a 14-month pro­gram mark­ing 250 years since Cap­tain James Cook sailed the En­deav­our along the east coast of Aus­tralia in 1770. En­coun­ters 2020 will in­clude a range of ac­tiv­i­ties – ex­hi­bi­tions, film and dig­i­tal ed­u­ca­tional re­sources and a voy­age by the En­deav­our replica around the coast of Aus­tralia, look­ing at Aus­tralia’s ear­li­est Euro­pean his­tory from dual per­spec­tives: from the ship and from the shore.

MORE: Visit sea.mu­seum

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