January 26, 1788. The first British settlers arrive in Australia, on the western side of Circular Quay in Sydney. They arrive at an area now known as ‘The Rocks’.
Much has changed here since that day over 200 years ago. Long populated by convicts and prostitutes, beginning in the early 19th century the cobblestone streets evolved into a quaint historical shopping and dining area.
The 1970s saw the rapid development of the area as a tourist attraction, similar to many such projects in major cities around the world. In the hustle and bustle of modern life, there arose a desire to see how the world used to live. (At least, a romanticized version.) That opportunity is available in abundance at The Rocks. These city blocks, adjacent to the Sydney Opera House, house dozens of things to see and do.
Cadman Cottage is the oldest house in Sydney, built in 1816. Sited on George Street, the main street running through The Rocks, it now houses the National Park Information Centre.
The cottage isn’t the only piece of interesting architecture in the area, however. There are several. The Old Police Station, Bond Store, Coachhouse and Puppet Cottage, and many more are found along streets only providing a leisurely walk from one to the next.
Also in the neighborhood is the Art Deco building housing the Museum of Contemporary Art, along with the 19th century Sydney Observatory, not far from the Sydney Dance Company and the Sydney Theatre.
Garrison Church is in The Rocks area. Built in 1840 for the soldiers to attend church, it is still in use today. There’s also a historical and military museum housed inside.
And to ensure you have something to ask forgiveness for, spend some time at the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel. Built in 1836, it brews beer on the premises, as it has since 1841 when it was opened as a hotel.
Susannah Place, from 58-64 Gloucester Street, is also worth a visit for history buffs. Visitors will get a first-hand look at how middle-class families lived in the mid-1800s by wandering through these houses. Incorporated in the set of buildings is a re-created store from 1915.
Continue the historical tour by stepping into the Sydney Visitors Centre, inside the old Sailors’ Home, built in 1864. It was once a sanctuary where poor sailors could get a bed and a meal for little or nothing.
After all that walking you’re going to want a good meal. The only difficulty in solving that problem in The Rocks is there are so many choices.
Budgets encompass everything from Pancakes on the Rocks to Rockpool. At Rockpool, diners can get fine seafood from the Australian Gourmet Traveler Restaurant of the Year. But at a steep price. Pancakes at the Pancakes on the Rocks are only a few dollars. For those who want a fine lunch, check out the Löwenbräu Keller, an authentic Bavarian restaurant located in what was once a cellar.
Once you’re refreshed, head out for some shopping. The Rocks Market at the far northern end of George Street is open every weekend. There are over 150 canopied covered stalls filled with jewelry, arts and crafts, and dozens of more items to take home.
Come back often because you won’t be able to do it all in one day.