08 Jun 2021

The 8 best things to do (that aren’t walking) in the Chinese Garden of Friendship

There are few better places in Sydney for a peaceful stroll than the Chinese Garden of Friendship. But did you know there’s so much else to do here besides taking a walk?
The 8 best things to do (that aren’t walking) in the Chinese Garden of Friendship

In 1986, landscape architects from Sydney’s sister city, Guangzhou, designed the Chinese Garden of Friendship to be a place of serene beauty in the middle of one of the world’s most exciting cities - Sydney.

Years later, Darling Harbour’s Chinese garden of Friendship still has the shimmering koi ponds and glittering waterfalls. It’s still the best place to go for a peaceful stroll in the middle of a busy day, but today, there’s so much more to do here than just walking.

Check out our guide to the best things to do in Sydney’s Chinese Garden of Friendship that aren’t walking - from yum cha feasts, to art exhibitions and even weddings!

See the Chinese Garden of Friendship in a new light

This winter the gardens are transforming into a luminescent wonderland thanks to an exciting new experience - Nature Illuminated: Life of the Seasons. Theatrical lighting will glow over the entire garden with different lighting in four sections to represent each of the seasons.

Interactive forest sprites will be flit throughout the scene, while an augmented reality treasure hunt will give visitors a reason to explore every inch of fluorescent flora and fauna. Find all the special plants and animals and win!

Themed cocktails will be served at the bar and 90-minute dining experiences are available for booking - while a string quartet serenades guests playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. If you’d like to experience this winter wonderland join the waitlist to make sure you don’t miss out!

See more on daily tours*

If you want to delve deeper into the intriguing stories behind the Chinese Garden of Friendship, there’s no better way than one of three guided tours, free with the price of entry to the gardens.

Take your pick from a selection of three different daily tours and uncover the secrets of the garden with your expert guide:

  • Chinese Garden Discovery Tour: learn the history, landscape and culture heritage of the garden. 
  • Plants in a Living Landscape Tour: explore the seasonal plants of the garden and find out why certain specimens were chosen.
  • Rocks in a Living Landscape Tour: discover the significance of rocks in the garden, including Chinese symbolism, stories and legends.

Enquire with the front desk on arrival to attend a tour or fill out the group booking form.


Meet the locals with fish feeding

Wandering what’s on in Sydney today? Every day at 11:30am, the Chinese Garden’s magnificent koi fish are fed from the Lenient Jade Pavillion. Help attract these colourful living jewels by clapping loudly then watch as dozens of koi break the glassy surface of the pond to gulp in their daily feed.

While you’re here, look out for the other locals who often make an appearance, including adorable ducklings and giant water dragons.

Experience art and history in serene surrounds

For lovers of art and history, there are few better Sydney events than the regular exhibits inside the Chinese Garden of Friendship in Darling Harbour. The garden hosts a wide range of exhibits with a stunning backdrop of water, sculpture and lush plant life.

Check the Chinese Garden of Friendship home page at darlingharbour.com to see what’s on at Sydney’s favourite garden.

Bring the kids for intrepid adventures

A visit to the Chinese Gardens of Friendship is guaranteed fun for the little ones, with a rotating calendar of activities and adventures to enjoy.

For example, over Chinese Lunar New Year, the gardens are challenging little ones to find the 12 animals of the lunar calendar hidden around the garden.

Taste Sydney’s best Yum Cha

If you work up an appetite enjoying all the serenity, you won’t have to go far to try Sydney’s tastiest Chinese cuisine. The Gardens By Lotus is tucked away inside the Chinese Garden of Friendship in an open heritage-style Chinese building with picturesque views over the garden.

During the day, it’s a traditional Chinese teahouse with a modern twist - but at night they serve fiery Sichuan cuisine and yum cha.

Hold functions at the Chinese Gardens of Friendship

The Chinese Garden of Friendship is available to hire for unique, elegant functions - from weddings and birthdays to cultural events. The sheltered pavilions, reflective pools and lush gardens make for a romantic and beautiful venue, whatever your event may be.

They also make an intriguing location for filming or photography projects - find out more about hosting a function or filming at the gardens.

Take a seat and enjoy the view

When you’re having a busy, hard day, enjoying a little peace and beauty is the perfect way to press the reset button and restore a feeling of calm.

There’s no better place to do that than the Chinese Gardens of Friendship where you’ll find countless hideaways under covered pavilions and near bends in the ponds. Here, hidden from the noise of the city, you can relax and enjoy the sights of rushing waterfalls, graceful bridges and serene gardens.

*The availability of tours will be assessed on a daily basis and be limited to a maximum of 5 visitors. They may run at a reduced frequency while COVID-19 restrictions are in place.