This is, by far, is my most favourite attraction in Sydney. For a brief moment, you could almost be convinced you are in the middle of the Chinese countryside, that is, until you look up and see the high-rise buildings in the background.
To seek out this little gem, head to the south end of Darling Harbour. Surrounded by high walls, you can walk amongst nature, hear the flowing water from the lakes and appreciate the pavilions and statues. The gardens were designed by Chinese gardeners and architects using the Feng Shui philosophy. While walking around, I promise you will feel a lovely sense of calm.
Framed by tall wooden doors, you enter through the Hall of Clear Shade and into the Courtyard of Welcoming Fragrance, where they have a display of bonsai trees. Surrounding the carp-filled lakes are beautiful lotus flowers, weeping willow trees and exquisite statues and pavilions for you to enjoy or escape the sun on a hot day.
The gardens opened in 1988 and represented Sydney's friendship with its sister city Guangzhou in China. Through the magnificent Dragon Wall, you can see a gift from the region, depicting a blue dragon representing New South Wales and a brown dragon for Guangdong. The two dragons are playing with a pearl said to represent the pearl of friendship. In Chinese culture, flying dragons symbolise majesty and perfection.
If you follow the Zig-Zag Bridge over to Tortoise Rock and around the beautiful paths to the top of the hill, you will reach The Gurr (Clear View Pavilion), giving you one of the best vantage points in the gardens to take in the magnificent views. Be sure also to check out The Water Pavilion of Lotus Fragrance for incredible views.
If you are looking for a more authentic experience, consider renting some traditional Chinese outfits, as I did myself when I first visited here. They were so beautiful that I didn't want to take mine off! You can float through the gardens in your costume and get some cracking photos.
If you are in need of refreshments, be sure to visit the Pavilion Tea Gardens, a traditional tea house where you can absorb your surroundings. It really is not a bad spot to sit and chill.
Oh, and make sure you keep a lookout for the large lizards that live in the gardens. Don't nearly stand on one of them, like I almost did, which would be a shame as they are too cute!