Sydney/The Rocks

The Rocks as seen from the Opera House

The Rocks is sandstone buildings, history, laneways, culture and Australiana by day, and a busy pub scene by night. It is the historical precinct of central Sydney immediately to the north of the City centre on the western side of Sydney Cove. The Rocks is very different in character and atmosphere from the neighbouring commercial and retail centre of Sydney. Last but not least, it is the southern terminus of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Get in

Soldier monument in the Rocks district

To get to The Rocks, you have to get to the City Centre first. From there you can walk north along George St, or along Harrington St from Wynyard, or along the western shore of Circular Quay and Sydney Cove (keep the water on your right).

The closest train station is Circular Quay, but Wynyard is only a little further away, and saves a change of train if you are coming from the North Shore, or the west.

Bus routes routes 431, 433 and 339 stop at various locations within The Rocks, but just about all other City buses stop at Circular Quay or Wynyard, which is only a short walk away.

Sydney Explorer sightseeing buses — which depart every 18 minutes throughout the day from Circular Quay — stop at the Sydney Visitor Centre and Campbell's Cove / Dawes Point in the Rocks.

The Rocks isn't signposted as a destination on city roads if you are driving. Follow the signs to City North, and then just drive north along George St. Some of the streets are closed for the markets, and for pedestrian safety on Friday and Saturday nights. There is parking in The Rocks area, but expect to pay in excess of $50 a day to park there on a weekday, the prices are just as expensive as the heart of the city. There are usually all day deals to be had on a weekend and in the evening.

There are no ferry wharfs in the district, the closest is at Circular Quay.

Get around

The Rocks is best explored by foot. The area by the harbour and George St is flat and accessible. Away from the harbour there are a maze of steep laneways and streets. There are extremely limited parking in The Rocks.


Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is an unmissable landmark of Sydney. It is fondly known as the "Coat Hanger" and is visible from many parts of the Rocks, and elsewhere in the City Centre. It isn't the longest bridge or hold any other records for size. However the sheer scale of the structure right in the centre of Australia's largest city is unrivalled. For example, it takes 10 years and 30,000 litres of paint to paint the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and when they finish they have to start again at the other end.

There are many ways to see or experience the bridge. If you cross from the Rocks to North Sydney have a walk around Luna Park and a go on the Ferris wheel before returning. If you are on a fitness regime, a walk over the bridge and a swim at North Sydney Olympic pool by the harbour is a perfect start to the day.

Bradfield Highway with walkway (left) and cycleway (right), looking south
Walkway to the entrance to the Southeast Bridge Pylon
Two groups of bridge climbers, as seen from Pylon Lookout
cruise ship sailing under the Harbour Bridge

Historical sites

Museums and galleries


For the things you can do on the Harbour Bridge - see the See section above.


The Sydney Theatre Company (STC) is based in the Rocks. They have a season of shows at both the Wharf Theatre and the Sydney Theatre, which are across the road from each other. The company has a mix of local and international dramatic productions.

Between times, there are often some other shows on at the theatres. You never quite know what you are going to get at an STC production. A story that falls flat, or a production to remember. The production values are high, but you certainly won't be seeing the latest production of Wicked, or the Lion King there. Try the theatres in the City Centre or at Star City for that.



The Rocks is a great place to shop for Australiana. Many shops selling Aboriginal art and crafts, Australian designed clothing, line the streets and arcades. Likely more expensive then less touristed areas.


There is a choice of restaurants and bars, and you will read good and bad reviews of most of them. The rule seems to be that you can expect to pay a premium to eat at The Rocks. They all tend to get very busy at times, and have high staff turnover, so your experiences will vary. It is difficult to go dismally wrong choosing a nice restaurant for a night out in the Rocks. On the other hand, deciding that 11pm on a Friday night is a good time for a pizza at Zia Pinas is unlikely to be a rewarding experience, either for the food, ambience, service or value for money.

There are a few restaurants which cater almost exclusively to the tourist crowds Many of these fill by the coach load, and are otherwise quiet. These places are usually apparent by the menu or the style, and are usually easily avoided if you aren't after that experience. Most restaurants in The Rocks draw a mix of locals and visitors.

Nowhere in the district is far from a restaurant or cafe, but there are a couple of distinct restaurant precincts. Campbells Cove is a small waterfront precinct, between the International Passenger Terminal and the Park Hyatt, usually recognised by the one or two tall ships at the wharf there. It is a pretty spot, with boardwalks and sandstone. There are a few fancy restaurants surrounding the precinct including the Italian Village and the Imperial Peking. At International Passenger Terminal there are a strip of restaurants and bars, including the famous seafood restaurant Doyles, and the fine dining Pier.

Just about every pub in The Rocks will serve some sort of food, usually for only a subset of their opening hours. For pubs like the Lord Nelson and the Australian, food is a speciality.


There aren't many cheap or takeaway options to choose from. If you are there during the markets, there are usually a few reasonable cheap options from the market stalls. Otherwise, there is a Subway, and little fast food cluster in Playfair St, if you need to feed the kids quickly and cheaply.




The Rocks pubs get busy most nights. It is a popular night spot for tourists and locals alike. You can walk along George St from Circular Quay and pass several popular pubs that attract a crowd. Late at night, especially on Friday and Saturday night that strip (starting from Jacksons at the Quay and streching as far as the Observer Hotel) can have a vibe, or be rowdy, depending on your point of view. Away from George St the mood is quieter.


The Rocks is not really the prime backpacker area of Sydney. It has some of the premier low-rise accommodation in Sydney, some in historic buildings, and others with unbeatable harbour views.



Hotels on Circular Quay are listed under City Centre.

Stay safe

The Rocks is a busy area, with late trading, and a comfortable feeling. Late at night, the concentration of pubs can inevitably lead to some alcohol fuelled violence. The area is well patrolled by police, but some fights do occur in the pubs and on the streets. Use common sense when interacting with drunk people, and you will just be a spectator.

The Rocks police station is on the corner of Argle and George, just opposite the Argyle Hotel. It is one of the major central Sydney police stations, and is easily accessible at all hours of the day.


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 06, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.