The rocks is a vibrant part of Sydney and one that you shouldn’t miss out on when visiting the city. It has many different attractions for all ages, including art galleries and museums as well as shops, cafes, restaurants and bars to visit at night. It has something to offer visitors at any time of year and it is easy to navigate around on foot.
The Rocks is one of the oldest parts of Sydney, the area was once known as Poverty Bay; however, it could be considered one of the most expensive real estate regions in all of Australia.
In this post, I will show you some of the things to see and do in the Rocks, for old buildings and pubs to the observatory and awesome viewpoints to stop the Opera House and the Harbour bridge.
HISTORY OF THE ROCKS
The Rocks was the site of Sydney’s first European settlement, and acted as a hub for convicts, soldiers, sailors, and merchants.
The first inhabitants of The Rocks were prisoners sent in 1788 for crimes like thievery or vagrancy. Due to its location on Sydney Cove it served as Australia’s penal colony until 1850 when they were moved inland away from other settlements. From 1870 onwards The Rocks began to grow with new arrivals such as labourers who were hired to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Since the 1970’s it has developed into a tourist area, full of cobbled streets, pretty buildings, gorgeous little shops.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN THE ROCKS, SYDNEY
Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Walking over the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a bucket list item for a lot of people. Admiring the stunning harbour views from the top of the bridge is something that a lot of dream want to do one day!
Make sure to book your walk over the bridge in advanced, as a booking is required.
Stroll across the Harbour Bridge
Did you know that you can walk over the Sydney Harbour Bridge for free? Yes, if you wish to climb the arches of the bridge, you will have to take a tour to the top. But, you can also walk over the bridge for free! The pedestrian footway is only located on the eastern side of the bridge, and to the right of you is the constant flow of traffic and trains which occupy the western side.
Make sure to also stop at the Pylon Lookout for even a higher vantage point. This point is not free, but is only $15,- for some 360-degree city views, it took me 7 years to visit it, and I regret not doing it sooner.
The Pylon Lookout is an 87m-tall bridge bearing with a 200-stair climb through historical exhibits to 360-degree city views. The museum shows you lots of cool pictures of the construction of the bridge as well as quite a few interesting facts on how and what it took to build this very impressive bridge.
THE PYLON VS BRIDGE CLIMB
If you are contemplating of climbing the bridge vs the Pylon lookout then I have made a quick comparison for you. Climbing the actual bridge would be a priceless experience if you have the budget for it. If you are a budget-conscious traveller and you are unsure, then underneath is more information for you:
|Pylon Lookout||Bridge Climb|
|Price||$ 15||From $ 163|
|Duration||About 45 minutes||3.5 hours|
|Add-ons||Nope||$60 for photos|
Make the decision of climbing the bridge or going for the budget-friendlier option is completely up to you.
Step back in time to Sydney’s colonial days
The Rocks is home to such amazing heritage listed buildings, visitors can trace that history at a number of historic sites. The Rocks Discover Museum brims with artefacts and interactive exhibits, Susannah Place preserves four terrace houses built by Irish immigrants in the 1840s, and Cadman’s Cottage is considered to be Sydney’s oldest surviving residential building.
Additionally by just wandering around the neighbourhood you will see lots of amazing and historic buildings.
Hickson Road was always my favorite section of The Rocks area, with its gorgeous historic buildings and epic views. The section of Hickson Road I simply cannot miss is the roundabout. There, you’ll find an interesting sculpture that will make your heart pound and leave a smile on your face! The best way to get there is by taking Lower Fort Street at the end of The Rocks towards Hickson Road. You can then take the scenic route back along the waterfront and get a picture-postcard view of the Opera House from Hickson Road Reserve.
The Rocks Markets
Saturdays and Sundays in The Rocks are a blast, with the cobblestoned laneways filled with artisans, food stalls, and local fashion. Every weekend between 10am and 5pm, there is an event called The Rocks Market where you can find handcrafted jewellery from independent artists as well as talented artisans of all sorts. On Fridays nights there is also a small market for strictly food items like fresh produce or eggs laid by happy chickens that roam freely around the farm!
Explore Sydney Observatory
The Observatory in Sydney, Australia is a must-see for anyone who has the opportunity to visit. Home to some of the largest telescopes in Sydney, The Observatory has a comprehensive tour that provides you with an up-close look at all things celestial. There are two tours available – one during the day and another after sunset for those who want their stargazing experience lit by stars rather than street lights!
The entrance to the Sydney Observatory is on Cumberland Street. It’s just across from The Australian pub, and you can access it via a tunnel that runs right underneath the city center. When I was there for my tour of the observatory with an expert guide who shared incredible stories about what we could see in our telescopes, he also told me some trivia so cool even kids would be impressed!
- General admission is free.
- 3D space theatre $7 adult, $5 child.
- Night viewings (bookings essential) cost $15 adult, $10 child, $45 family.
If you don’t fancy a tour, the view from Observatory Hill is also one of the prettiest places in Sydney. Observatory Hill overlooking Australia’s famous Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and The Rocks. The park is often filled with people enjoying a picnic whilst enjoying the stunning city views.
Marvel at some modern masterpieces at the MCA
For the best in Australian and international art, make your way to The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). Located by Circular Quay, this museum houses over 4,000 Australian works as well as exceptional international exhibitions.
More than one million visitors come through their doors each year so you won’t be disappointed!
Go Ghost Hunting
For those who are brave enough, there is no shortage of haunted places in The Rocks. With a past involving murders and crime to mention a few curious events such as the plague which was rather ordinary for London at this time period, it’s not surprising that some people have reported strange occurrences within these walls. People often report feeling their skin crawl or hearing voices from what seems like other rooms when they know full well nobody else but themselves should be here!
There’s more than meets the eye with Sydney’s historic district-turned tourist area called “The Rocks”. There has been plenty of blood spilled on its streets over many years due to crimes committed by both locals and tourists alike!
For a full list of The Rock’s most haunted places and epic back-stories I suggest taking a guided ghost tour.
AMAZING PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK
It’s no contradiction that Sydney is one of the most expensive cities in the world, but there are always opportunities to save money if you’re willing to look. In The Rocks area alone, a variety of pubs and restaurants offer great deals on drinks with live music drawing hungry crowds inside each venue.
My favourite pubs are the Orient, Munich Brauhaus, and the Observer. You will find live music drawing the crowds in each of these and each has an outdoor areas where you can soak up the sun.
The Glenmore Hotel has fabulous views of the harbour from its rooftop bar. And the Australia Hotel’s kangaroo pizzas are said to rock the house, but if you want something a bit more flash and modern, head down to Cruise Bar along wharf at Passenger Terminal on Harbour for signature cocktails with spectacular view.
GETTING TO AND STAYING IN THE ROCKS
When you are looking for a budget accommodation in the Rocks area, it is important to know that most of your choices will be flashy resort chains and boutique hotels. This may not seem like an ideal situation if you’re traveling on a tight schedule or want some extra privacy but there’s hope! You can stay at Sydney Harbour YHA The Rocks where affordable prices await all travelers with affordable budgets.
The Sydney YHA The Rocks is also built over an archaeological dig, so there is plenty of history within its very own walls for you to explore and discover.
If you’re after an authentic Australian experience in your luxury digs, then be sure not to miss Harbour Rocks Hotel Shangri-La Hotel or Park Hyatt Sydney.
The Rocks are just a walk away from Circular Quay.
The harbor is sparkling and the views of Sydney’s iconic bridge will not disappoint as you explore this historic district nestled by water on one side, with excellent public transportation to boot!
If you’re just north of the bridge, take a nice scenic stroll and find yourself in The Rocks no time. Coming from Wynyard Station? Jump on the train or light rail to Circular Quay, or simply make your way down George Street for 10 minutes to get some fresh air!
SHOP MY PRINTS
Australia is an incredible country with a variety of flora and fauna. Whether you want to show your love for the place or spruce up your planner, check out my Etsy shop – Bondi to Basic Designs! I offer lots of amazing artworks that will remind you just how great this country truly is. From stunning cockatoos and Rainbow Lorikeets, Koalas, kangaroos… You name it!
Additional Sydney Resources
- 10 Epic places to check out the Sydney Opera House
- The ultimate Sydney bucket list
- Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
- Spit Bridge to Manly Coastal Walk
- Whale watching in Sydney’s Harbour
- mini-guide to Bondi Beach
- Sydney by night | all Must do’s and see’s
The best Sydney Travel Itineraries
PLANNING TO GO TO AUSTRALIA? THEN CHECK OUT SOME MORE TRAVEL TIPS HERE:
- Western Australia
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