Where are The Rocks in Sydney?

Where are The Rocks in Sydney?

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 09/09/2022

Reading time: 4 mins

If you make your way north from Sydney’s city centre, towards the harbour and bustling Circular Quay, directly to the left you will find the historic suburb called The Rocks.

Hugely significant in Australia’s modern history, the rocky peninsula – yep, this is where the name ‘The Rocks’ comes from – was the final landing spot of the First Fleet in January 1788, led by Captain Arthur Phillip. Whilst the land was already occupied by Australia’s indigenous people, The Rocks became the site of European colonisation in Australia.

The military leaders, settlers and convicts who arrived on the 11 ships of the First Fleet from Britain and Europe formed a settlement at The Rocks, building a military camp, a bakehouse and a hospital, and turning the area into Australia’s first commercial wharf.

It is one of the few places in Australia where you can see the many aspects of national history, starting with the rich indigenous history, the arrival of the first settlers and all the way through to today. Though The Rocks is small in area, there is plenty to do here, and history buffs will be sure to find out some new information along the way and enjoy visiting in the heritage listed sandstone buildings.

The Rocks is a great place to cover on any trip to Sydney, and a city tour is a fantastic way to get a history lesson along the way.

An interesting tidbit on the early division of the land; what is Circular Quay today was once the base of government, political and administrative services in Australia’s early settlement days, while The Rocks was home to the convicts and sailors – because of this The Rocks was a poor, rowdy and chaotic area some 230 years ago, vastly different to the modern hub you will find there today.

What to see at The Rocks in Sydney

If Australian history is your thing, you’re in the right place.

  • The Rocks Discovery Museum

    The Rocks Discovery Museum is a great visit for the whole family – it is an audio, visual and interactive experience that covers off the development of The Rocks to how it stands today and takes you back to the times before Australia’s colonisation. Entry is free.

  • Cadmands Cottage

    The Cadmands Cottage is an original sandstone home from the early 1800’s – some say it is the oldest house still standing in Australia.

  • Dawes Point Battery Reserve

    The Dawes Point Battery Reserve is on the narrowest point of Sydney Harbour, and only a 10-minute walk from The Rocks. Under the Sydney Harbour Bridge – it’s a great spot to view all of Sydney Cove and take some snaps. Famous for being the first military defence in NSW.

There are cafes and boutique shops along the main street, and for when you work up an appetite, you have some institutions to try;

The Fortune of War is one of Australia’s oldest pubs, while The Glenmore boasts a rooftop with enviable views of the harbour. If you are interested in fine dining – but at a fraction of the cost – William Blue Dining is a renowned training restaurant providing mouth-watering cuisine.

If you’re just wanting a nice drink to wind down after a day of learning about the development of Sydney, head down the stairs at The Doss House for a whiskey in the underground bar.

Everything in The Rocks can be explored on foot, and while you’re there you will have uninterrupted views of Sydney’s harbour and of course one of Australia’s most famous landmarks – the Sydney Harbour Bridge. From The Rocks you can continue to Circular Quay, the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Sydney Opera House.

Weekend fun at The Rocks

Visiting The Rocks on the weekend will keep you busy, as this is when the suburb comes to life and locals flock to the area. Live music and the sound of chatter fill the streets, and markets are held all day on Saturday and Sunday. Take a stroll through the 200+ stalls and try gourmet street food or pick up some gifts for friends and family back home.

During the summer months you can enjoy free outdoor movie screenings or join in for a morning yoga session in The Park.

The Rocks is one of Australia’s most important places in historical terms, and whilst this history is littered with harsh and harrowing truths, it is an important and fascinating area to uncover on your next Sydney visit.

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.

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