It was a bright sunny day in Sydney. A bead of sweat ran down my neck as the heat warmed my skin. I had arrived from Canberra – the cold capital of Australia just 30 minutes ago snuggly wrapped in warm clothes. As I got out of the taxi, I started to remove my cardigan. Silhouetted against the bright sunlight were dark maroon Anglo Dutch gables sharply pointing into the bright blue sky. I was in The Rocks, Sydney’s cultural precinct spangled with stylish bars, fine restaurants, cosy hotels and curious places to shop.
But it wasn’t always so trendy. It was once home to Australia’s first European settlers in the 1800s. Some were convicts, some were sailors, some were soldiers, and some were traders. What was once a slum became a place of opportunity and with trade and development in the early 20th century, the town’s landscape grew. The Rocks’ colourful past was being brought to life by Sophie, our sweet, friendly and knowledgeable guide during our walking tour.
Those cobblestone streets carrying sandstone buildings could tell you interesting tales for anyone willing to listen. The site of Sydney’s first hospital and the Palladian water gate design of the old police station beckoned softly for attention. The well at George Cribb’s house hid dark naughty secrets. The external brick walls of Susannah Place carried the dreams of simple working class folk. I was intrigued by my surroundings and any place with so much history makes my imagination run wild.
Today, the old buildings which were once either warehouses, factories or people’s homes are modern and stylish businesses attracting over 13 million people a year. The fresh harbour air and the breath-taking landscape framed by the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House make the location of The Rocks an amalgamation of the old and new.
The best way to immerse yourself in the history and heritage of The Rocks is to stay within its precinct and take on a walking tour!
Click on the arrows to get an idea…
Built in 1839, Campbell’s Stores is a superb example of mid-nineteenth century warehouse buildings
George Cribb’s well at the The Big Dig
The first tenant of house No 64 was James Munro, who was a ginger beer maker and lived there in 1845