On the doorstep of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and immediately adjacent to Circular Quay lies The Rocks, a historic neighborhood of charismatic sandstone architecture and cobblestone streets. It was established as Australia's first European settlement in 1788 and is today packed with fascinating museums, boutique shops and iconic pubs, making it worthy of an entire day’s exploration.
Admire one of the colony’s original buildings at Cadman’s Cottage that dates to 1816 or tour the terrace houses of the Susannah Place Museum that were built in 1844 by Irish immigrants. You can peer inside the restored 19th-century cells and charge room of the Justice and Police Museum or visit the heritage-listed Sydney Observatory to experience the southern night sky and learn more about the history of space flight in their 3D theater. Also, don’t miss a visit to the Dawes Point Battery, which lies next to the southern pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and was the first fortification to be built in New South Wales.
If you’re visiting on the weekend, then be sure to visit The Rocks Market where unique Australian souvenirs and handicrafts are for sale. The Rocks Foodie Market also takes place on Fridays, with everything from artisan bread to cured meats and locally-made preserves showcased.
If you want to enjoy a drink in historic surrounds, head to the Lord Nelson or the Fortune of War, as well as The Australian Heritage Hotel, which dates to 1824. It boasts around 100 different Australian craft beers to select from, together with local wines and gourmet pizzas. Or head upstairs to the rooftop of the Glenmore Hotel that was established in 1921 and features stunning views of the harbor.
Many of The Rocks’ historic buildings are believed to be haunted, including the Hero of Waterloo pub where the ghost of Anne Kirkman (who was murdered by her publican husband) is said to roam. Join a dedicated ghost tour around the neighborhood to learn more about these tales, many of which are intertwined with Sydney’s early history.
Art lovers will find no shortage of inspiration in The Rocks with plenty of galleries to explore, including one dedicated to the celebrated Australian artist, Ken Done. The neighborhood also backs onto the Museum of Contemporary Art that showcases an impressive collection of Australian works, including those by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.