Built by the convicts of the First Fleet after being settled by the British as a penal colony in 1788, The Rocks is now Sydney's holiday, cultural and historical hub. With most structures hand made from bricks and sandstone, Cadmans Cottage is the oldest building in Sydney and sits opposite the main cruise ship dock at Circular Quay. Completed in 1816, it is not the Sydney Harbour National Park Information Centre.
Most of the historic buildings at The Rocks have been 'upcycled' into house shops, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, etc. The remaining terrace houses are also some of the hottest property in Sydney and are highly sought after, giving the area a reputation for exclusivity and trend setting. Throughout The Rocks you'll find plenty of pubs including the Lord Nelson and Hero of Waterloo, renowned for getting men drunk and then sending them off through underground tunnels to the nearby wharves where they would unwittingly become crewman for short-handed ships.
The Argyle Cut, known for the harsh conditions the convicts were forced into by attempting to cut through rock by hand, is home to the Garrison Church and Garrison Historical and Military Museum. Here you can find traces of the English history The Rocks are built upon including the convicts, hand tools and the soldiers sent to guard them. A great way to discover The Rocks is on a self-guided walking tour which follows a map complete with commentary provided by the Visitors Centre. Visiting significant historical sites, the tour illuminates the area's colourful and at times violent past. Guided tours are also available.
Just a short stroll from the CBD, The Rocks is home to boutique shopping, souvenirs, clothing, jewellery, art, glassware and more. All day markets are held on the weekend and there are a fantastic range of dining options including high end establishments such as the Rockpool and Bilson's. There are waterfront seafood restaurants as well as up-market Chinese, all located in a three storey stone woolstone practically on the waterfront overlooking the Opera House. There's such a diverse range of options including cafes and pubs to really make a day of it.
For the best views of Sydney, Observatory Hill offers spectacular vistas as well as an optical astronomy telescope and a museum. The park surrounding the Observatory offers panoramic views of the Harbour stretching from Darling Harbour all the way to Balmain and up to the Parramatta River. A popular holiday picnic spot, parking is scarce but the view can be enjoyed from the comfort of your car for a slow drive.