Darling Harbour is the large bay to the western side of Sydney CBD. It is nowadays a hugely popular tourist destination and undoubtedly has many attractions, although I do have a soft spot for the old Darling Harbour that was more of a working harbour.
It was built in 1938 in Scotland and was sufficiently large and powerful to sail all the way to Sydney under its own steam in the last weeks before the outbreak of World War 2. In the Suez Canal it threatened to cause an international incident as German diplomats became suspicious of the unusual nature of the ship with its windows boarded up for the long sea voyage. They thought it was a spy ship, or maybe carrying military supplies.
The South Steyne was a favorite of Sydney siders, so when steam engines became economically unviable compared to diesel in the 1960's there were public protests at plans to retire the ship. When a fire broke out there were strong suspicions that the fire was too convenient to have been a true accident. Despite the suspicions, however, the fire was used as an excuse to retire the old girl.
When I was living on the South Steyne it was apparent to me that the fire damage was minor, damaging a central stairway, but fairly easy to repair and certainly not endangering the ships safety and so probably should never have been used as a reason to decommision the ship.
The South Steyne was eventually refurbished and now serves in Darling Harbour as a floating restaurant, and is a beautiful place to have a drink, and to look around and relive happy memories.
Darling Harbour is also home to the Imax Theatre, Sydney Aquarium, the Maritime Museum, and my favorite - the Chinese Gardens. I am not so keen on the restaurants and other bars there, they are a little too crowded and 'touristy' for my liking.