The Rocks represents one of the most historic neighborhoods in all of Australia. Nestled between Sydney Harbour Bridge and Millers Point, the area is a medley of classic buildings and old pubs. Once notorious for its gangs and crime, the district has risen and risen since the end of the 19th century to become one of the best-known tourist attractions in town. Today, it’s a hub for nightlife, coffee culture, souvenir shopping, Sydney heritage and more.
The Rocks is sandwiched between the pretty harbourside walks of Circular Quay and the Bradfield Highway that runs over the iconic Harbour Bridge. That means visitors can expect some top sightseeing opportunities. Many opt to cycle the harbour front or hit the Bridge Pylon, others simply settle for a picnic in the green areas that line the waterside. Thanks to its long history of more than 250 years, the district is also home to attractions like the Arts Exchange, Argyle Cut and Cadman’s Cottage – one of the oldest buildings in all of Sydney. There’s also the remains of the Dawes Point Battery to see, first built in the late 1700s to protect the colony and harbour from attack by sea. The Museum of Contemporary Art is the most popular institution in the area. Showcasing some of Australia’s most cutting-edge modern artists, it comes surrounded by the pretty lawns and paths of First Fleet Park. The Rocks is also famed for its wealth of restaurants and coffee shops. There’s everything from hearty Italian pizzerias to panoramic bars to enjoy, not to mention the Fortune of War and Lord Nelson pubs – both vying for the title of Australia’s oldest.
With its downtown location, The Rocks is very easy to reach. Walkers can get here over the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the north, while ferries arriving at Circular Quay provide perhaps the best access. Local trains and buses go along George Street. There’s paid parking at several locations throughout The Rocks, and public bike racks aplenty.
Once considered a slum, The Rocks started life as conglomeration of wattle and daub homes on the edge of Sydney Cove. In the first decades of the 20th century, the area underwent a huge redevelopment. This gave rise to the current red-brick builds and Victorian architecture seen today. More recently came Sydney’s bohemian crowd, bringing cool coffee shops and eateries in their wake.