The Rocks: Explore Sydney’s historic quarter
THE ROCKS IS SYDNEY’S historic old town quarter, where colonial and maritime history is preserved in every piece of hand-hewn sandstone, in the charming cobblestone streets and quaint heritage architecture. It’s where Sydney first began with the establishment of the English colony in 1788. Since then it has been home to sailors, whalers and traders.
Its colourful history was saved by a union-led protest in the 1970s which preserved this unique part of Sydney for present and future generations to explore and enjoy. Today, The Rocks is a unique destination offering early colonial architecture, historic pubs, archaeological dig sites, modern restaurants, fabulous accommodation, unique shopping, galleries and museums, markets, live entertainment, leafy parks and spectacular views of Sydney Harbour.
Take time to discover the stories behind every street corner and experience a precinct steeped in rich layers of history. To find it, take a 10-minute stroll down George Street (Sydney city’s main street) towards the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge—you can’t miss it. Alternatively, take a train or bus to Circular Quay and wander through First Fleet Park.
To make the most of your visit to this unique precinct, make sure to drop into the Sydney Visitor Centre on the corner of Playfair and Argyle streets. The friendly staff can assist you in your exploration of Sydney’s historic village.
For a truly pleasurable Sydney shopping experience, wander the cobblestone laneways of The Rocks and discover a haven of speciality stores, galleries and boutiques. Explore The Rocks Centre in the heart of the precinct for special shopping surprises. You’ll find fabulous fashion, chic accessories, fine food and sweet treats.
For those unique mementos of your visit to Sydney, or travellers’ needs such as guide books and maps, don’t miss the Sydney Visitor Centre’s huge range of retail.
Around The Rocks, you’ll find other hot shopping spots including Metcalfe Arcade, Nurses Walk, Playfair Street and Clocktower Square.
Discover the world’s leading brands in one modern and inviting setting at T Galleria by DFS on George Street. Inspired by the traveller, DFS are our trusted source for the finest in fashion and accessories, beauty and fragrances, watches and jewellery and wines and spirits, complementing every aspect of your lifestyle. Their team of knowledgeable experts are there to help you with all your shopping desires, from start to finish. Experience superior service with a personal touch at T Galleria by DFS, the traveller’s luxury department store.
Make sure you find time to experience The Rocks Markets, on every weekend from 10am to 5pm. Sydney’s favourite outdoor market expanded last year and is now bigger and better than ever.
With more than 50 cafés, pubs and restaurants to choose from you can tempt your tastebuds at a selection of Sydney’s best restaurants.
Explore The Rocks and discover some of these favourites, from Saké Restaurant & Bar, a wonderful Japanese restaurant tucked away along Argyle Street, where you can expect a blend of new-style sushi along with classic Japanese dishes, to Pony Lounge and Dining, a cutting-edge grill restaurant nestled along historic Kendall Lane. The Modern Australian menu includes wood-fired grilled meats, seafood and small plates.
Housed within a heritage cellar in the heart of The Rocks, The Cut Bar & Grill presents Sydney with a contemporary twist on a traditional concept. Inspired by New York’s super-chic steak restaurants, the menu celebrates the very finest cuts of prime Australian beef and sustainable seafood. Every dish is cooked to perfection by head chef Joseph Webb, matched with impeccable service.
For a wild night try El Camino Cantina. The Tex-mex inspired restaurant mixes big flavours, big margaritas and two restored 1957 Chevy trunks overflowing with complimentary hot chips and salsas. Flooded with neon lights and with a rock ‘n’ roll vibe, tequila and music flow ‘til the early hours.
Fish at The Rocks on Kent Street offers a superb seafood menu and inside the restaurant images of the early 20th-century fishing boats that were moored around the area set the mood.
For pure Bavarian fun in the heart of The Rocks head to Munich Brauhaus. Friendly staff serve all of your Bavarian favourites, and you can sing and dance along with the Oom Pah Pah Band’s traditional tunes.
If you want a mouthwatering cocktail then try the stylish surrounds of The Argyle. The Argyle attracts local and international DJ talents in its gallery space, creating a fantastic atmosphere and bringing a metropolitan vibe to a busy night. A warm glow is cast throughout the venue by ornate, hanging chandeliers, which complement the plush velvets of rich pink, muted chocolates and gorgeous greens, splashed across the custom-made furniture—all this combining to create the intimate feel that is The Argyle.
This blended entertainment mecca brings a distinctive style to the Sydney scene—luxurious, sexy, and intimate— day or night, it is the place to be. If you’d prefer a beer with a view, head to the Harbour View Hotel. This icon beside an icon commands pride of place beside the Sydney Harbour Bridge. With its colonial old English charm and character, The Glenmore has been a popular watering hole since 1921. Enjoy sweeping views from the rooftop. If you’re after a delicious pub lunch and refreshing drink, then head to The Glenmore.
Another old Sydney favourite is The Australian Heritage Hotel on Cumberland Street. With a great big menu, full of some Aussie inspired pizzas, why not try the kangaroo pizza? Or are you game
enough to test out the saltwater crocodile pizza? Make sure you pop by on a Wednesday night for trivia or try and win the Meat Tray Raffle on a Friday night for a bit of fun!
Don’t forget The Rocks Foodies Market that takes place every Friday lunchtime. Stop for a delicious bite to eat and have a chat with the florist who has grown fresh flowers or the baker who has made fresh bread.
There’s a fascinating mix of heritage attractions in The Rocks that bring Sydney’s history to life. Visit The Rocks Discovery Museum, a restored 1850s warehouse which is home to a unique collection of images and archaeological artefacts found in The Rocks dig sites.
Just up the road at Susannah Place Museum, you get the very rare opportunity to reconstruct domestic working-class life within The Rocks neighbourhood between 1844 and 1989 and hear stories from former tenants. The museum’s re-created 1915 corner shop is popular with visitors of all ages, with jars of lollies, straw brooms and brown paper wrapping.
If you’re looking for an entertaining way to experience the history of The Rocks, don’t miss the award-winning The Rocks Walking Tours. In the evening The Rocks Pub Walk will allow you to wind your way through the historic lanes as you visit three heritage-listed pubs, try a local brew, meet the locals and hear the colourful stories and infamous characters associated with The Rocks. The tour departs at 6.30pm from outside Harts Pub.
The Rocks is also the home of a number of galleries including Ken Done and the S.H. Ervin Gallery where you can view some beautiful Australian art. The S.H. Ervin Gallery is one of Sydney’s leading public art institutions housed in the historic National Trust Centre on Observatory Hill, The Rocks. The Gallery’s exhibition program is designed to explore the richness and diversity of Australian art, both historical and contemporary, and present it in new contexts.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), at the harbour’s edge at Circular Quay, is dedicated to exhibiting, interpreting and collecting contemporary art from across Australia and around the world. The museum received a $AUD53 million renovation in 2012 and with a continually changing program of exhibitions there’s always something new, exciting and inspiring to see at the MCA.
Enjoy panoramic city views at the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon lookout. From The Rocks, take the Argyle Stairs then the Cumberland Street stairway to access the bridge pedestrian pathway. Climb 200 steps to the very top of the Pylon, where you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the city of Sydney. Find out how the Sydney Harbour Bridge was constructed and discover the stories behind the opening celebration as you wander up, through three levels of exhibits, to the open-air lookout.
With so much to explore, The Rocks is a must-see destination on any trip to Sydney. For more information call into The Sydney Visitor Centre in The Rocks Centre, on the corner of Argyle and Playfair Streets. You’ll find friendly and knowledgeable experts on The Rocks as well as maps, brochures, tour booking facilities, gifts and mementos.
The Rocks. Photo: Property NSW.
Fish at The Rocks. Photo: Catherine Ballesty.
Right: The Rocks Markets. Photo: Alana Dimou/property NSW.