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Ultimo Travel Guide

Ultimo: History, location and things to do

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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 centre.

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 Broadway.

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.

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