No trip to Sydney, Australia,
would be complete without a visit to the inner city suburb of Ultimo. Ultimo
has a rich history and unique cultural flavour that has been transformed and
redefined throughout the years. Visitors can enjoy the upscale modern amenities
of this suburb that still carries traces of its past as a rough industrial
By the time it was officially incorporated in 1842, Ultimo had already
experienced 40 years of history as a country seat, small business area and
prominent industrial complex. Located on the southern edge of the Pyrmont
peninsula, Ultimo’s borders include Blackwattle Bay to the west and Darling
Harbour to the east. The suburb’s proximity to the coastline stimulated its
eventual incarnation as a thriving industrial area. Today, Ultimo's waterfront
has been gentrified and developed for recreational purposes and a more upscale
lifestyle. Its once-decayed industrial area has been transformed into quaint
shopping boutiques and fashionable housing.
Ultimo was born when 34 acres of land was granted to a surgeon named John
Harris in 1803. Though the area was ripe for development, Harris envisioned his
property as a county seat, and commercial development would not begin for
another 30 years. By 1831, buildings began to crop up. One of the remaining
buildings, the Stonemason Arms, which was built in 1833, still stands at 135
Industrial development included such industries as slaughterhouses, rental
properties and quarrying operations. Ultimo’s industrial period lasted well
into the late 1900s and resulted in a poor quality of life for its residents.
The opening of the Pyrmont Bridge created severe traffic congestion, and
resident action groups began to fight what appeared to be plans to turn Ultimo
into nothing more than a freeway interchange.
This could have been the death knell for the suburb, but there was light on the
horizon. Sydney Technical College, which was established in 1892, grew into the
University of Technology, Sydney. Sydney Technical College put Ultimo on the
map as a cultural area. The other light was a railroad terminus heading into
Darling Harbour. The terminus project failed, but Ultimo continued to thrive.
The college expanded, the freeway plans were thwarted and Ultimo finally began
to come into its own.
A day in Ultimo is best spent enjoying the sharp contrasts between Ultimo’s
industrial history and its modernization. Its landscape hearkens to its past,
but renovations now welcome visitors and speak of a vastly improved quality of
life. Old pubs and commercial properties are now chic restaurants, stylish
nightspots and comfortable residences.
A visit to the nearby pedestrian-friendly Darling Harbour is popular activity
that can allow visitors to appreciate Ultimo’s transformation into a thriving
recreational and business complex. Darling Harbour features eclectic dining and
shopping options and plenty of entertainment venues. Attractions include The
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Aquarium, Madam Tussauds and the Aboriginal Centre.
There are also public recreational amenities in both Darling Harbour and
Ultimo, including playgrounds and walking paths for sightseeing, exercise and
fun. Opportunities to explore are readily available in Ultimo’s business
district. The CBD offers visitors the opportunity to peruse and shop local
businesses. Former industrial buildings offer spacious, trendy living spaces
for students and professionals.