History of Sydney

Sydney is Australia's oldest European settlement, and has a rich and fascinating history. Aboriginal people have lived in the Sydney area for at least 50,000 years.  Known collectively as the Eora people which means ‘here’ or ‘from this place’, there are 29 clan groups in the Sydney metropolitan area.

In 1770 the HMS Endeavour moored at what is now Botany Bay, and eight years later British settlement began, with the city being given its current name after British home secretary Lord Sydney. A range of museums, tours and experiences offer the opportunity to learn about the city’s past.

The heritage-listed Lilyvale Cottage in The Rocks, Sydney

Aboriginal History

Join a Rocks Aboriginal Dreaming Tour to find out about the Aboriginal people's spiritual and cultural connection to Sydney Harbour. Visit Clark Island with Tribal Warrior Harbour Cruises and learn traditional fishing methods and food gathering techniques from an Aboriginal guide.

The Eora First People exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum features a changing program of exhibitions on indigenous maritime history and culture from Australia and beyond, and The Rocks Discovery Museum houses a unique collection archaeological artefacts, from both pre and post European settlement.

Discover more about Aboriginal culture in Sydney.

Aboriginal tour guide Margret Campbell of Dreamtime Southern X in The Rocks, Sydney.

Colonial History

The Rocks Walking Tours provide insight into European settlement in the area. A guide will take you along hidden alleyways and cobbled lanes, whilst telling stories of The Rocks colonial history from the First Fleet of 1788, through the plague of 1900 and up to present day.

Many of Sydney’s finest colonial buildings were constructed during the time of Governor Lachlan Macquarie (1810-1821). In the Macquarie Street historic precinct, you can walk past Hyde Park Barracks (reopening early 2020), Parliament House, the Mint, Sydney Hospital and St James’ Church.

Parliament House in Sydney City,Sydney

From Circular Quay you can catch the ferry to World Heritage-listed Cockatoo Island, a former convict prison on an island in Sydney Harbour. In Parramatta, visit Australia’s oldest public building, Old Government House, and walk along the convict-built Old Great North Road in Wisemans Ferry.

Find out more about Sydney's history and heritage at the State Library of New South Wales in Macquarie Street in the city centre, or visit the Powerhouse Museum to discover an incredible collection of more than 500,000 landmark objects spanning popular science, technology, arts and music.

Explore These Historical Attractions in Sydney

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