Sydney Aquarium, Darling Harbour – Sydney’s Best Animal Encounters

Why do we love Sydney Aquarium so much?

Is it because my children have always had a really thrilling time there?

Is it because I did a lot of scuba diving before the children came along and the Aquarium give me a chance to get down (almost) underwater?

Is it because all humans have a fascination for sharks and a soft spot for dugongs?

Who knows?  But who needs one reason anyway?

For us the Aquarium has always been well worth the pretty steep entry price as a holiday treat for children and the parents too.

Jamie tunnel shark

Sydney Aquarium

Aquarium Pier

Darling Harbour 2000

Phone: 9262 2300


Open: Daily 9am–10pm, except Christmas Day and Boxing Day closes 6pm.

Sydney Aquarium is huge. Its many tanks and aquariums teem with the marine life of Australia, starting with a family of platypus and ending with a wonderful huge picture window view of Great Barrier Reef life.

Shark model

Australia has an exceptionally diverse range of sea life, from the chilly waters of the Southern Oceans to the tropical delights of the Great Barrier Reef, and it is collected here in its colourful glory.

The aquarium has a multitude of small aquariums showing individual types of aquatic animals. Exhibits explain the Murray-Darling river system with tanks of freshwater fish. There are big, wriggly eels, mangrove exhibits, giant barramundi and huge groupers: fish typical of the Great Australian Bight and fish from the Antarctic.

Dugong 2

There is an area where you can stand above the tanks and look down into the water.  The dugongs are in this exhibit and it’s a thrill to see them swimming around from above.  There is also a touch pool for the children.

The truly vast Sydney Harbour Oceanarium tank has an underwater perspex tunnel through which visitors walk. Boats can be seen floating above, plus lots of turtles and about a billion other fish typical of the harbour.

The other underwater tunnel is through the equally enormous Open Ocean oceanarium. Here is found one of the largest collections of sharks in the world, all sharply toothed and very visible as they glide overhead. There are also enormous rays, which children find appealing. Both of these tanks may frighten more impressionable youngsters, especially the darker parts.

Last is the delightful Great Barrier Reef exhibit. Wall tanks show individual fish and animals (the jellyfish are a big hit) and then the big oceanarium which visitors walk around and over. Walking among the reef life and being surrounded by so many iridescent, beautiful fish is a delight.


Cafe: There is a large cafe with indoor and outdoor seating areas. Hot meals of all sorts are available, including children’s portions.

Baby change/toilet: Two baby change rooms beside the toilets at the beginning of the walk and near the cafe

Strollers: The aquarium is very stroller-friendly with almost all areas being completely accessible.


Shop: Yes, with all manner of aquatic items for sale

Dad’s report: The aquarium is wonderful, a really magical place for children, but it is a major tourist attraction in the centre of Sydney so it can be incredibly crowded. I would always advise visiting at the quietest times possible.

Extra: Close by in Darling Harbour are:  Tumbalong Park playground, (see page 133), the Imax Theatre (see page 293), the Powerhouse Museum (see page 218), and the Maritime Museum (see page 216). See Darling Harbour in the suburb index (page 317).

manta ray

Map reference: Gregory’s C A6, Sydway 25 G18, UBD 3 C3

Parking: Entertainment Secure Parking is an easy walk away, entrance off Darling Drive

Nearest station: Darling Park on the Monorail

Nearest ferry: Darling Harbour Wharf is directly beside the aquarium

Bus stop nearby: Stop 21 on the Sydney Red Explorer

Iona by Lego whale tail
WS picture window
Shark picture window

Do your children love animal encounters?  What is their favourite in Sydney?

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