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City of Sydney's 'Colony' History Walk - Part 2 (The Rocks)

Home > Sydney > Outdoor | Misc | Fun Things To Do | Free | Tours
by Vanessa M (subscribe)
I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Published June 6th 2015
If you've completed the first part of the City of Sydney's Colony History Walk, you will be ready to pick up this section in The Rocks (find a PDF of the instructions here). The other section included a lot of old buildings and ended with the churches of Church Hill, while this part sees you enter The Rocks along Harrington Street.

Past the Cahill Expressway there are some stairs up to Cumberland Place. This was once the heart of residential Sydney and is the location of one of the first points-of-interest on this tour; the Susannah Place Museum, which is on the corner where the stairs meet Gloucester Street.

I've walked past this museum before but didn't know it was an attraction until I completed this walk. Unfortunately, it wasn't open for me (admission is only by guided tours at 2.00pm, 3.00pm and 4.00pm) but it offers a great way to understand what life was like in the nineteenth century.

susannah place museum, the rocks museum, the rocks attractions, the rocks history
If you think Susannah Place Museum doesn't look like much, it may be because it's just a series of houses. From the 1840s that is. There are even authentic interiors.


Opposite the museum, at Sydney Harbour YHA, are the results of a large archaeological dig which began in the early 1990's, which revealed buildings and over half a million artefacts. Some of the find are freely accessible to the the public at The Big Dig (the tour arrives at the site at the back entrance, but there are stairs that allow access).

the big dig, big dig the rocks, sydney harbour yha, the rocks archaeological dig
The exteriors of the hostel have been designed to resemble buildings that once stood here


The next stop on the tour is the Australian Hotel, beside the hostel, which is a typical twentieth century hotel. At this point, if you follow the real tour, you will head over to Millers Point for a while before returning to The Rocks, but for the purposes of my articles, I'm going to continue with the section in The Rocks, which you can pick up just down the road, where Lower Fort Street meets George Street (just beside the end of Cumberland Street).

It's near the intersection of these two roads that you will find an old public urinal, another example of a point-of-interest of this walk that I had been past before but never noticed (the tour will have you looking at The Rocks in a whole new way). At the beginning of last century, there would have been a lot of these cast iron urinals in Sydney, but this one is the only one left now.

urinal the rocks, historic cast iron urinal, the rocks walking tour
The cast iron urinal on George Street


Dawes Point Park is the next stop, which everyone should visit at least once. The detour takes you to the top of the harbourside park, which isn't as scenic as down at the water level (there's lots of fencing and storage, which down near the water it's all green and there great views of harbour). Consider saving this place for a picnic later.

Back on George Street, just after Hickson Road, is the Mariners Church (also known as The Rawson Institute for Seamen, which it became after). The building was constructed by an interdenominational group for the spiritual well-being of seamen.

mariners church the rocks, mariners church, rawson institute for seaman sydney
The Rawson Institute for Seamen


The Colony History Walk officially ends at The Rocks Discovery Museum, but leaves you with suggestions for other sites to look at in The Rocks. Most of these are up Argyle Street, such as the Argyle Cut, which is essentially a huge hole cut in the rock that provides access between Millers Point and The Rocks. It was begun by convicts in 1843 but finished by council labour in 1859.

argyle cut, argyle cut sydney, sydney colony history walk, sydney history walk, the rocks sights
You can see the Argyle Cut up on Cumberland Street too, near the Australian Hotel


The whole history walk takes 1-2 hours and, as mentioned, also includes explorations of Circular Quay and Millers Point. If you're just interested in this area, you might want to also look at the Nurse's Walk or the Sydney Writers Walk. Other self-guided walks in neighbouring areas include Walsh Bay Sculpture Walk and the Sydney Sculpture Walk.

For more walking tours by the City of Sydney, head here. There are quite a few to choose from, including the hidden laneways tour, but the 'Colony' walk is one of the main ones. As a result, you can also get it in Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
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Why? Learn about the early years of The Rocks as you visit the area's historic sites
When: Any day
Where: The Rocks
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Interesting about the urinal. It resembles the ancient Roman ones in Italy.
They were called Vespasians, pity they didn't have them for the ladies!
Great article.
by Di Verse (score: 1|68) 1410 days ago
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