Young boy looking at sharks and bannerfish in tank at in Sydney Aquarium, Darling Harbour, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. CJWH

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Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

Top choice in Darling Harbour & Pyrmont

As well as regular tanks, this impressive complex has large pools that you can walk through – safely enclosed in Perspex tunnels – as an intimidating array of sharks and rays pass overhead. Other highlights include a two-minute boat ride through a king and gentoo penguin enclosure, a dugong, disco-lit jellyfish, evolutionary throwbacks and the brilliant finale: the enormous Great Barrier Reef tank, which cycles you through different times of day in the life of coral, turtles, rare sharks and numerous fish.

The aquarium's dugong was rescued after washing up orphaned on a Queensland beach. Attempts to return it to the wild failed, so the Dugong Island enclosure was built. As sad as it is to see such a large marine mammal in captivity, it offers a fascinating and rare opportunity to get close.

Fancy jumping into the tank with those sharks? Shark Dive Xtreme gives you half an hour in there ($239 to $299 including aquarium admission, ages 14 and over). Other add-on activities include an icy penguin encounter and a glass-bottomed boat ride in the main tank.

Needless to say, kids love this place; arrive early to beat the crowds. It's cheaper to book online, and there are various combo deals with other attractions run by the same company, including the adjacent zoo and Madame Tussauds.

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