The Rocks

The Rocks is the birthplace of modern Sydney. With the arrival of European settlers in 1788, it was here that the convicts first set up house and shop. Discover the area’s rich colonial history as well as its contemporary position as a thriving entertainment precinct right by the spectacular Sydney Harbour.



Things to do

The big-ticket attractions here are the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which you can walk up with BridgeClimb Sydney. If heights aren’t your thing you’ll be happy to hear the Pylon Lookout also offers fantastic views of the harbour and beyond.

Credit: BridgeClimb Sydney

BridgeClimb Sydney, Sydney Harbour

The best way to discover The Rocks is on foot as you amble along cobbled streets and follow little laneways that house everything from markets to museums and galleries. Join The Rocks Walking Tours or the I’m Free Tours, which start at 6pm outside Cadman’s Cottage and go for 1.5 hours. You can also hire bicycles and pedal around the harbour foreshore.

The Rocks Aboriginal Dreaming Tour by Dreamtime Southern X provides insights into the area’s Aboriginal history while The Rocks Discovery Museum, housed in a restored 1850s colonial sandstone warehouse, has interactive exhibits that range from pre-European settlement to modern times.

A Dreamtime Southern X tour with Margret Campbell

The Rocks Aboriginal Dreaming Tour by Dreamtime Southern X with Margret Campbell

The Rocks is a creative hub, home to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Across a labyrinth of gallery spaces, you’ll be inspired by photography, sculpture, painting and moving images from Australian artists at all stages of their careers. End your visit at the MCA Cafe on level four, popular for its sweeping views over Circular Quay.

Artisans display their creative wares at The Rocks Markets on the weekend, which boasts more than 200 stalls. There’s lots more happening in this historic quarter, see the events calendar for details.

Markets set up in The Rocks against the backdrop of the Harbour Bridge, Sydney

View of Sydney Harbour Bridge, The Rocks

Eat & drink

As the first settled area in Sydney, The Rocks is also where you’ll find the oldest pubs in town – The Fortune of War opened in 1828, Lord Nelson Brewery in 1831, The Hero of Waterloo in 1845 and Harts Pub in 1899. Discover the area’s colonial-era pubs with Dave’s Pub Tours, which will let you in on their colourful history from the rum rebellion to the six o’clock swill.

The Rocks streetscape at night

Exploring the laneways of The Rocks at night

The Rocks has many more delicious food and wine experiences. Quay is the pinnacle of fine dining, Sake does delicious Japanese, MCA Cafe and The Glenmore both dish up casual lunch with water views, La Renaissance is a must for coffee and desserts, Maybe Sammy is world-famous for its cocktails, and The Doss House is an underground whisky bar in a heritage building. 

For a comprehensive guide to eating and drinking in the rocks, click here.

The Doss House, The Rocks

The Doss House, The Rocks

Live music & nightlife

Housed in a heritage-listed building dating back to the 1820s, The Argyle houses six spaces for wining and dining, once used for port storage. The main bar spills outside into a cobblestoned courtyard, regularly packed with punters grooving to live tunes provided by DJs and bands.

The Mercantile mixes things up with everything from Friday acoustic sessions to lazy Sunday chill-out music, with perhaps a roast lunch and pint of Guinness on the side – a staple since the place opened in 1915, and best enjoyed on outside tables while people watching. Meanwhile, The Orient Hotel hosts bands every weekend in a handsome space chiselled from rock in 1844 – first used as a laundry, then as a butchery, then as a base for a shipping company. Head to the alfresco terrace for cocktails in the sun.

Mercantile live music at The Rocks in Sydney City

Mercantile live music, The Rocks

Getting there

The Rocks is a short walk north along George Street from the city centre or you can take a train, bus or ferry to Circular Quay

Plan your trip