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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 24 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Mark Chipperfield

When British settlers arrived in Sydney Cove in 1788, they found that a rocky headland nearby was an excellent source of building material. The Rocks became Australia’s first slum, complete with rat-infested tenements, brothels, rowdy pubs and bond stores.

Threatened with demolition in the 20th Century, The Rocks has not only survived but prospered and is now one of Sydney’s must-do experiences – complete with charming streetscapes, a sparkling harbour, up-scale restaurants and a brace of galleries and shops and you have a winning formula.

History buffs will find three of Australia’s oldest pubs (The Lord Nelson, Fortune of War and The Australian) in this historic precinct.

 

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 8+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

The Rocks is easy to find since it lies between Circular Quay and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. If you are coming from the city centre just hop on the light rail which runs down George Street. Trains and ferries stop at Circular Quay. Avoid bringing a car since there is limited street parking here.

You can, of course, just wander around, but guided walking tours are worthwhile and recommended to unlock many of its secrets and reveal some it’s fascinating history.

For refuelling, Tayim Restaurant, hidden away down a cobbled alleyway, is an atmospheric restaurant serving delicious and inventive Middle Eastern fare. Lovers of craft beer should drop into The Lord Nelson, The Australian or Harts Pub – all of which have excellent local ales on tap, and decent grub.

When to do it

The Rocks is not a seasonal destination, but the area definitely bursts into life during the summer (December to February) months when people take advantage of long, balmy evenings and languorous weekends.

The Rocks Market takes place every Saturday and Sunday, 10am-5pm

Who to go with: organised tours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Sydney The Rocks Guided Walking Tour

Sydney

Sydney The Rocks Guided Walking Tour
Delve into the history of Sydney and British Australia on a leisurely 90-minute walking tour in The Rocks district with an expert guide. Enjoy the delights of present-day visuals as you explore The Rocks and hear the story of Sydney’s convict past as you discover shady courtyards, narrow laneways and hidden areas that even the locals do not know about. Stroll along the shoreline of Sydney Harbour with views of the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, past Cadman’s Cottage and Campbell’s Cove. Tour Highlights: • The shoreline of Sparkling Sydney Cove • Harbour views of Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge • Cadman’s Cottage, The Rocks oldest surviving cottage built in 1816 • Campbell’s Cove, offering fantastic views of Sydney Harbour • Awe inspiring Argyle Cut begun with convict labour in 1843 • Within The Rocks historic precinct, we will wander through Greenway Lane, Kendall Lane, Suez Canal, Foundation Park and much more.

Price: A35

Min age: 0

Rating 4.84 / 5 [1070 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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The Rocks Pub Walking Tour

Sydney

The Rocks Pub Walking Tour
Drink In History and explore Sydney's most historic settlement on The Rocks Pub Walk. This 2.5 hour small group historical walking tour visits four of Sydney's oldest pubs, stopping for a drink of craft beer, wine or cider in each. Discover the myths, meet the legends of Sydney's oldest pubs!

Price: A116

Min age: 18

Rating 4.91 / 5 [321 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Convicts and The Rocks: Sydney's Walking Tour Led by Historian

Sydney

Convicts and The Rocks: Sydney's Walking Tour Led by Historian
Expect fascinating history, delivered with energy and insight on a walking exploration of Sydney's colonial birthplace: The Rocks. Together your group will uncover the scallywag stories of convicts, soldiers, sailors, rum & rebellions. This tour is led by vibrant historians who share their passion for the past through great storytelling, visual imagery and extensive research. Before reaching the narrow alleyways & hidden ruins of The Rocks district, you’ll enter inside Sydney’s historical Customs House & discover the colonial relics at Macquarie Place. In The Rocks your guide will bring to life the convicts, craftsmen & cut-throats littered throughout its early history. You'll also venture below street level to discover a sandstone cellar connected to Sydney's gold-rush era. After getting lost in the area's rich history this tour finishes in the heart of The Rocks surrounded by heritage pubs, cafes, boutique shopping, art galleries & the local market on Saturdays. Welcome aboard!

Price: A52

Min age: 16

Rating 4.99 / 5 [263 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Sydney The Rocks Historical Pub Tour

Sydney

Sydney The Rocks Historical Pub Tour
Come on an all-inclusive journey to Sydney's oldest and most charismatic pubs as you wander through Australia’s oldest neighbourhood, The Rocks. With drinks and dinner all included, you will be “Edutained” by an expert, local, passionate guide as you venture into the heart of Australian pub culture, and experience first-hand how much these charming locations have shaped Aussie culture. Tours operate at 2:30pm and 6:30pm. The meal is self guided and can be enjoyed pre or post tour. Maximum group size: 15 travellers This tour starts at Harts Pub. To claim your meal (before or after the tour), present your booking confirmation to the DUTY MANAGER at the Australian Heritage Hotel (100 Cumberland St, The Rocks) to receive your meal and drink, no later than 1 hour before your tour begins. Make your way to Hart's Pub to meet your guide at 2:30pm or 6:30pm

Price: A152

Min age: 18

Rating 4.95 / 5 [174 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Taste of Sydney - Barangaroo and the Rocks

Sydney

Taste of Sydney - Barangaroo and the Rocks
Australia has the best food and views. Let us introduce you to some of the best dining in the city, and the must-see locations at Barangaroo and The Rocks, and view the iconic views from a vantage point only known to locals.  This is the ultimate Sydney experience and the perfect start to any trip for lovers of food, culture, and history. Try Sydney's newest dining delights and explore one of Sydney's oldest colonial areas (The Rocks), and Sydney's newest urban suburb (Barangaroo). Enjoy iconic sights- Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and more! This is a 3.5 hours fully guided cultural tasting tour where you will sample Australia's favourite dishes from Italy, France, and more, enhanced with Australian ingredients, as well as a cold beer in a brewery pub. All while hearing stories and history of the Rocks and Barangaroo.

Price: A157

Min age: 0

Rating 4.80 / 5 [112 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Destination guides

1

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Sydney

New South Wales, Australia

Sydney opera house at night

One of the world’s most dynamic and glamorous cities, with golden beaches, world-class eating and dining and effervescent, friendly people. Home to the eye-popping Opera House and the indescribable Sydney Bridge Climb.