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The Rocks

Established shortly after Sydney's formation and now in the shadow of the harbour bridge, this neighbourhood has character in spades - and the city's oldest pubs.

TravelCurious Tip

If you’re in Sydney over the weekend, be sure to head to the Rocks Market – it combines stylish handmade crafts with more traditional souvenirs. Well worth a look!

Centrally located between the Central Business District and the harbour, and immediately adjacent to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, The Rocks has become one of the most popular neighborhoods for visitors to Sydney. Walking around its cobbled streets today, taking in its elegant combination of funky bars, quirky market stalls and sleek restaurants, it seems hard to believe that for much of its history it was little more than a crime-ridden slum.


Vice City

The Rocks has been occupied for almost as long as Sydney has existed. In its early days most of the buildings were built of rough local sandstone, which is how the area got its name. Unfortunately, the Rocks quickly developed a reputation for prostitution, gambling and debauchery. In many ways it was no different from any other port-city of the era, but as far as the British public were concerned, it was entirely populated by sailors, convicts and their descendants, which made the place all the more unsavoury. Most of the 20th century was equally troubled, with an outbreak of bubonic plague and government plans for widespread housing demolition.


The Rocks Revived

Fortunately, proposals for destruction became plans for revitalisation, and The Rocks is now an affluent, bustling part of town. You can sip a cold pint from the city’s oldest surviving pubs while enjoying a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or take a leisurely stroll among the numerous old-fashioned souvenir and craft shops. For those looking to discover more of the area’s colourful history, there is a much-loved self-guided tour, or you can wait outside the historic Cadman’s Cottage every evening at 6pm for a free walking tour.


Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Sydney
Sydney Opera House
One of the most iconic buildings of the modern era, designed by Jorn Utzon and opened in 1973.
Port Jackson
This natural inlet was the first site of European colonisation in Australia.
Circular Quay
The main departure point for most of Sydney's ferries; see if you can spot the man with the didgeridoo.
Harbour Cruise
Getting out on the water is the best way to see Sydney in all its glory.
The Rocks Discovery Museum
A museum charting the history of The Rocks from pre-European times to the modern day.
Cadmans Cottage
Sydney's oldest surviving residential building, one of the last remaining of the original colony.

Related Tours

The Rocks: Convicts and Rebellion
Hidden to some degree under the shadow of the Harbour Bridge, The Rocks neighbourhood is as old as Sydney itself.  Although gentrified these days, The Rocks retains the old architecture, historic pubs and mazy streets of its turbulent and fascinating past.

History of Convicts and Rebellion

You will start your tour at The Rocks Discovery Museum which chronicles the remarkable history of the area all the way from pre-European times to the modern day.  This will serve as a light overview for the tour to come, moving from the British landing in 1788, to the convict struggles in the 19th century, to the transformations that have shaped The Rocks we see today.

The chief of these changes is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which looms over the historic Rocks as a constant reminder of modernisation.  Your guide will walk you and talk you through the ins and outs of this world-famous bridge that was at the cutting-edge of architectural design when it opened in 1932.

Pubs and Eateries

With its rough, working-class, convict roots, it is no surprise that the oldest, most-atmospheric pubs can be found in The Rocks.  Your guide will take you past three of the oldest: Fortune of War, the Lord Nelson Brewery and the Hero of Waterloo, and there’ll certainly be time to have a quick taste.  On their sandstone facades, be sure to look closely for the fine etchings made by generations of convicts.

Finally, you will be taken through more alleyways to Cadman’s Cottage, one of the oldest and best preserved buildings in Sydney.
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