Darling Harbour History

Darling Harbour history is linked to Sydney history. It grew and changed with the city to become one of the major tourist attractions in Australia.

Before 1988, Darling Harbour was a neglected former industrial site with empty warehouses.

But it had seen better days during the manufacturing era of the 19th century and well into the mid 20th century.

Darling Harbour - An Overview of its Timeline

Darling Harbour was the place where the original inhabitants of Sydney, the Cadigal people went to find seafood. They called the place Tumbalong. And seafood was so abundant that its shores were full of shell middens.

This is why early settlers named this area Cockle Bay. They collected shells remnants and burnt them to produce shell-lime used in construction projects of the new colony.

The area developed quickly. Vessels with produce sailed on the Parramatta river to Cockle Bay to bring food for the nearby Sydney Markets.

ultimo sydney old warehouse

In the meantime the name changed to Darling Harbour and more wharves spread along the shore, including the world's first full iron wharf.

A new era was beginning.

Its industrial past is still visible in the grim, red brick, massive buildings of the neighbouring Ultimo and Pyrmont.

The industrial glory of Darling Harbour included busy warehouses, rail, docks and an international shipping terminal.

And the Pyrmont Bridge.

Darling Harbour History - Pyrmont Bridge

Pyrmont Bridge was a major transport link between Sydney and its suburbs. It is still in use today but with a very different purpose.

darling harbour monorail sydney

It is now open only for pedestrians, cyclists and, up to 30 June 2013, the monorail track was suspended above the bridge. Both monorail and track are now gone.

If you wonder why Pyrmont Bridge has a tall cabin in the middle and large gates on both sides of the cabin, it's because it opens and swings to allow taller ships to pass under. An operator monitors the traffic and closes access to pedestrians.

sydney pyrmont bridge

The bridge dates back to 1902 and is the world's oldest surviving electrically operated swingspan bridge. At that time it was one of the wonders of engineering. Originally it drew its power from Ultimo's Powerhouse, today's Powerhouse Museum.

Shipping declined slowly and was replaced by road and rail. During the 1970s, Darling Harbour lost its appeal to businesses of the time and became an empty, dusted place in the middle of the city.

Not for long though. It is now one of the major tourist attractions in Australia. Visit it and see how much it changed.





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