The Rocks – Sydney’s Cultural Precinct

by Rosemarie John on October 21, 2014

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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…

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Built in 1839, Campbell’s Stores is a superb example of mid-nineteenth century warehouse buildings

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George Cribb’s well at the The Big Dig

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The first tenant of house No 64 was James Munro, who was a ginger beer maker and lived there in 1845

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans October 23, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Such a helpful guide! Unfortunately I didn’t get to visit The Rocks neighborhood when I was in Sydney years ago, but I’ll definitely bookmark this post for when I plan my return visit. And Le Pain Quotidien looks like it definitely provides for a cool dining experience!
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Rosemarie John October 24, 2014 at 1:07 am

Oh yes Dana, The Rocks is the best place to experience Sydney… it brings a lot of character to the city that is famous for its white sails of the Opera House. The lanes and by-lanes are the best to explore as it has a lot of interesting stories! Our guide did a fantastic job transporting us back in time! They even have a Ghost Tour which I am yet to experience. 🙂

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Angie @ GnomeAngel.com October 27, 2014 at 3:14 am

You’ve made Sydney look so lovely. The view from the YHA is just magically. Perfect day to be near the water. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
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Muza-chan October 27, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Interesting….
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Fairlie October 28, 2014 at 11:40 pm

I love the Rocks. There’s just so many layers of history there. And Le Pain Quotidien? My fave place to eat breakfast!
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Caroline November 16, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Sydney is one of the world’s great cities … and even in winter, it’s quite a delightful place to be weatherwise!
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Lesley Peterson November 18, 2014 at 7:12 pm

Very handsome architecture, Rosemarie, especially silhouetted against such a brilliant blue sky. I just love the restoration and repurposing of old industrial architecture. What an asset to Sydney–would love to visit!
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