Sydney History Walk at the Rocks

Harbour Foreshore Walk | Peek into Sydney History

Exploring Sydney and discovering its history has become a new obsession for me. Sydney as a city has so many things to see and do and one such thing is the Harbour Foreshore walk that starts at the Circular Quay and finished at the Darling Harbour. There are so many hidden gems that only the locals know. The other two walks that I highly suggest doing in The Rocks and Circular Quay are:

  1. Part 1 of Colony History Walk – Customs House to The Big Dig.
  2. Part 2 of Colony History Walk – The Australian Heritage Hotel to Dawes Point.

For all the things to do in Central Business District (CBD), refer Sydney CBD section on my blog.

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Sydney History Walk at the Rocks
Old vs. New – The below section is the old sandstone and the above section is the new concrete

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Harbour Foreshore Walking route

The walk starts at the Customs House in Circular Quay and ends at the Darling Harbour. It takes around 1.5 to 2 hours to complete this walk at a leisure pace. Note: The walk is mostly flat.

  • Starting point: Customs House.
  • Finishing point: Darling Harbour.
  • Total distance: 4.5 kilometres.
  • Total time taken: 1.5 to 2 hours.
  • Grade: Easy.
  • Path: Customs House — Bulletin Place — Science House — Susannah Place — The Big Dig — Observatory Hill — The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel — Argyle Bar — Barangaroo — Darling Harbour.

Points of Interest

Stop 1 – Customs House

Customs House in the Circular Quay is a heritage listed museum. Opened in the year 1845, Customs House now hosts a library and a restaurant. The building once served as a head office of the New South Wales (NSW) operations for Department of Trade and Customs until the year 1988. The building is of the Victorian Georgian style architecture and is built on the land of traditional Indigenous owners, the Eora people.

Definitely dine at Cafe Sydney. The food and the view of the Sydney Opera House are absolutely amazing, especially at nights.

The closest train station to the Customs House is Circular Quay train station. The Sydney city line goes to Circular Quay from Central train station. For up-to-date and recent information on the public transportation is found on the Transport for NSW website. Note: The fare for transport can be paid either using credit/debit cards or Opal transport card. Paying by Opal attracts a discounted fare rates.

Sydney History Walk at the Rocks - Customs House

Stop 2 – Bulletin Place

The Bulletin Place is the place where the first newspapers were printed in Sydney. It is named after JF Archibalds weekly publications. The JF Archibalds weekly publications were founded in the year 1880.

Sydney History Walk at the Rocks - First newspaper

Stop 3 – Science House

Built in 1931, Science House is a heritage listed building. The building was opened as a co-operative venture between three major scientific organisations in NSW. It was built to share facilities and operate as a centralised headquarters. It was occupied by various scientific organisations.

Sydney History Walk at the Rocks - Science House

Stop 4 – Susannah Place

Susannah Place is a living museum and a heritage listed former grocery store and worker’s cottages in the Rocks. It is a terrace of four houses built by the Irish immigrants in the year 1844.

Unfortunately, one cannot go in as it is closed until further notice.

Stop 5 – The Big Dig

The Big Dig is a heritage listed archaeological site located on the Cumberland street. It reveals what homes and lanes were in old Sydney. These were foundations of the places built by early settlers in Australia.

Ensure to check out the Big Dig Archaeological Education Centre.

Stop 6 – Observatory Hill

Providing spectacular views of the Sydney Harbour bridge, Observatory Park Hill is an amazing place in the Sydney Central Business District (CBD). The park’s history dates back to 1796 and it was used as the site of the first windmill in the colony. It is also known as Windmill Hill and Fort Philip and Flagstaff Hill. The park hosts a number of historical buildings and the most prominent one is the Sydney Observatory, that was built in 1858.

  • Entry into the Observatory Hill Park and Sydney Observatory is FREE.

Observatory Hill Park is a popular lookout and photography spot among the wedding photographers.

Sydney History Walk at the Rocks - Observatory Hill

Stop 7 – The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel

The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel is home to Australia’s oldest pub brewery and also Sydney’s oldest continually licensed hotel. The hotel was established in 1841 and is recognised around the World for its beers. It is a three storey sandstone building in the Old Colonial Regency style. The hotel claimed it liquor licence one year before Sydney was proclaimed as a city.

The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel is known for its good variety of craft beers. So beer lovers take a note!

Lord Nelson Hotel -Colony History Walk - The Australian Hotel to Dawes Point

Stop 8 – Argyle Bar

The Argyle Bar at the Millers Point is a licenced bar. They serve cocktails and are open from Friday to Sunday.

Sydney History Walk at the Rocks - Argyle Bar

Stop 9 – Barangaroo

Barangaroo Reserve is a waterfront park with walking and cycling trails. It is famous among the locals for pretty lookouts, picnic spots and exercise. Barangaroo is named after a powerful woman who lived in the area during the time of early colonial settlement. She was and is a key figure in the Aboriginal culture and community.

Sydney History Walk at the Rocks - Barangaroo

Along the way, we had an opportunity to see the construction of the Barangaroo train station, which will be marked down in the history.

Sydney History Walk at the Rocks - Barangaroo train station construction

Last stop – Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour is a harbour in Sydney CBD. It is a very lively place in Sydney where Sydneysiders flock to every weekend. Darling Harbour is famous for its restaurants and cafes along the harbour. For top things to do in Darling Harbour, refer my post 10 things to do in Darling Harbour.

The closest train station for Darling Harbour is Town Hall train station. There are frequent trains that travel between Sydney city train stations and Town Hall is one of them. For more information on public transport, refer the Transport for New South Wales (NSW) website.

Darling Harbour

Safety for Solo female travelers

Sydney is one of the safest cities I have traveled in. I have never faced too many issues while traveling within the city. However, like any other city be cautious and know your surroundings especially at nights.

Sydney Barangaroo

Closing Notes

I highly suggest doing this self guided and slow paced walk in The Rocks. This provides a sneak peek into Sydney’s history with some breathtaking views of the Harbour. I enjoyed all the sights that I visited along the way and just seeing the difference between what Sydney was and what it is today.

Sydney History Walk at the Rocks - Old vs New
Old vs. New – The old building is on the left and the new on the right

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11 comments

  1. I loved reading about this walk and I am sorry I didn’t know about it before I went to Sydney. It’s so good to find out about the hidden gems in a city by doing a walking tour as not all the places are ever mentioned in the regular guide books.

  2. I haven’t been to Sydney yet, so your information comes in very handy for when I’ll be able to visit it. Exploring Sydney’s history definitely gives you a new perspective on the city, so it’s very useful. So many beautiful places to see here! The Customs House looks really impressive.

  3. You keep coming up with these amazing walks around Sydney which takes in so much history and its going to have to be another one added to the list. One thing I don’t like, but I know its just not in Sydney, but in other cities around the world, putting new building material on top of the old (the brick work). The annoys me however it is also a good way to compare the old with the new. Maybe I just like attention to detail. 😀 Great to note that there is a bar along the way, I love an Aussie bar now and again and after an educational walk, a beer is much needed. 🙂

  4. Yet another interesting blog on Sydney history by Raksha, thanks so much for bringing this up. When I am in Sydney, I am surely going to include all these amazing walks in my itinerary. I haven’t been there yet, so these are all going to my list, thanks again.

  5. What an interesting itinerary. I liked that it is themed and focused on a solely area in Sydney. Harbour Forshore Walk is great for a exploration day and the architecture of the buildings feature a nice mix between classical and modern trends. The observatory is a must, no doubt about that !

  6. I love that walks similar to this one are so easy, accessible and interesting in Australia. I did the Coogee to Bondi when I was there, but I wish I knew about the Harbour Foreshore walk too! Love the Barangaroo train station especially.

  7. I think I would enjoy this walk. Would love to check out the pub and brewery hotel. I believe by the time Australia is open for visitors, all of the places that are closed now will be open too. And Darling Harbor would be the perfect ending to the walk.

  8. This reminds me of my walk in the Fort Area in Mumbai. Everything is so lively around this harbour too. I ilike to keep sometime for walks when I travel. I hope I get to Sydney one day to experience this in real life.

  9. Raksha, I am so fond of your articles on Sydney. It is like doing a virtual travel to the place! I can understand the obsession of exploring the city. I had the same while exploring the nooks and corners of Kolkata and still have it. I love to explore the heritage of the city. Just when I come to know of some historic place that I haven’t yet visited, I simply do not give it a rest. Believe me, there are still so many I havent seen, even after living here for so long. I am sure Sydney is like that as well. A History walk definitely helps you know the place much better. The views from the Darling Harbour is just lovely.

  10. I’m a !ocal and I think your blog is excellent. Just a polite old editor’s tip re the heading on the harbour walk: it’s ‘peek’ not ‘peak’.Good luck 😉.

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