The Rocks precinct is an important historical hub in Sydney's city centre, and one that is popular with domestic and international guests. The Rocks is known as Sydney's first village, and the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, the governing body that look after the area, are keen to bring this intimate, community feel back to the precinct.
Think of The Rocks as being "made by many hands". Once a gathering place for the local Aboriginal population, it was also Australia's first retail and business settlement developed by the European settlers. Evidence of its convict history are literally carved in the buildings and paved in the streets, and a visitor could spend a day simply immersing themselves in the history of the area alone.
There are numerous ways a visitor could spend their time in The Rocks, below are two examples, plus three places to stay, regardless of your budget.
INTERESTING THINGS TO SEE AND DO
FOUNDATION PARK Many Sydneysiders visit The Rocks and head straight to The Argyle, Pony Dining, Guylian Café or any other great dining venues, but many have not seen Foundation Park. It's one of the country's oldest housing ruins, and is free for the public to view. Better yet, it will seem like such a hidden gem because the area is unmarked, and you are more than likely to stumble across it.
Old remains of houses dating back from the late 1800s are all that stand here, and there are replicas of the type of furniture available back then. Naturally, due to the cramped conditions of the time, the houses were built quite close to each other, and each household ay have held father, mother and probably over 5 kids.
Because of these conditions, an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague in the early 1900s was hard to contain.
Let you footsteps lead you to the heart of The Rocks", the tour company explain, and it certainly is one of the best ways to really get into the nooks and crannies of this old village – because there are many! The Rocks Walking Tours' trained local guides will let you in on the secrets of the precinct, guiding you through the area's hidden alleyways and lanes, as well as taking you to see breathtaking views of the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and more.
Don't worry about your fitness level, tours are run at an easy pace. If you or anyone in your group have any special needs on your tour, let your guide know so he or she can assist you along the way.
Walking through streets steeped in history
It's a two-kilometre walk, but remember that this is a tour of the area, and you will therefore be stopping and taking in the sights, so there are plenty of stops and time for questions. If you or your group need to bring a wheelchair or pram, let your guide know at the time of booking so they can modify the route, as some areas may include flights of stairs.
Tours depart daily at 10:30am and 1:30pm from their offices in The Rocks precinct (naturally), and prices start from $25 for a single adult. You can also organise tours for groups or educational programs. Tours are conducted in English and interpreters are welcome to join.
Good golly, well isn't this youth hostel just a cut above the rest!
Backpackers, reformed or otherwise, hear the word "hostel" and immediately think of the crusty beds they stayed in whilst travelling the world. Here's where the Sydney Harbour YHA differs from the others. Awarded the Hostelling International Comfort Award as the highest comfort rated hostel in the world in 2010 by Hostelling International, it is also located near some of the best tourist attractions in Sydney; 50 metres from the start of the Harbour Bridge walk, 400 metres from the Sydney Ferry Terminal and Circular Quay station and is also situated 500 metres from where the First Fleet of Europeans landed in 1788.
The reception area of the Sydney Harbour YHA
Think that's all this hostel has in terms of historical significance? Think again! There are archaeological remains of old houses on site that date back to 1795, and it's currently the largest archaeological urban development to be completed in the country. It's no wonder it was commended for Innovation at the 2011 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
Sydney Harbour YHA is still the site of many unearthed artifacts
Aside from the historical aspect, the Sydney Harbour YHA, part of the world's largest budget accommodation network, has 106 rooms, including private double or twin rooms, family rooms and multi-share rooms with 4-6 beds. The comfort factor also lies in the fact that each room features an en suite bathroom, which means no more running down the hallway from the shared bathroom!
A double room at the Sydney Harbour YHA
Whilst it does cater for youth travellers, the Sydney Harbour YHA has no age limit in terms of clients, so it's perfect for the budget-savvy traveller. Rates start from $47 per person, per night.
Ah, the Holiday Inn. More than just a well-known chain of hotels, this Holiday Inn boasts historical and modern architecture, a location that can't be beat and one of the most amazing rooftop pools in the Sydney. In other words, taking a lap in the pool will prove to be useless when you're distracted by the awesome view of Sydney Harbour!
There are 176 rooms to choose from, each with air conditioning, access to in-house movies, hair dryers, ironing facilities and all-hours room service. Views from any hotel room with either be of the stunning Sydney Harbour or the beautiful historic streets of The Rocks quarter. Take advantage of the high speed internet access in your room and plan your time in Sydney, or simply get the advice of the friendly hotel staff on the best the city has to offer.
Inside the Holiday Inn, The Rocks
And, if you're in town with your family and want to have a date night, there are also babysitting services so you can enjoy the city without bringing the kids.
The Holiday Inn Sydney is also a Green Engage hotel, meaning it is measured on its day-to-day environmental impact, based on energy, water and waste usage, to ensure it is run for optimal sustainability. By staying at this hotel, you're travelling as an environmentally responsible guest.
The rooftop pool at The Holiday Inn, The Rocks. The view may slow down your swim somewhat
Designed with both the business guest and the leisure traveller in mind, The Harbour Rocks Hotel is an intimate 4.5 star, 59 room boutique hotel in a heritage-listed building, built in 1887. It was built by 12 convict carpenters, and is beautifully designed to capture the historical elements of its surroundings whilst still making it accessible for the modern guest.
Choose from 5 room types, from the Heritage Room to the Harbour View Suite, Each room's shape are different, due to the historical layout of the building, making your stay more memorable. Rooms offer LED TVs, high speed Internet access and 24 hour reception and room service.
A room at the boutique Harbour Rocks Hotel
There are two dining options; Scarlett, the new 40-seat fine dining restaurant which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Eric's Bar, a gorgeous space for you and your travelling companions to enjoy a cocktail, glass of wine or even a coffee. There are also private dining areas and in-room dining. You can also simply enjoy the beautiful courtyard area and people-watch the crowd go by on the cobblestoned streets below.
Beautifully designed interior of the Harbour Rocks Hotel
Visit The Rocks precinct for a real taste of Sydney's first village, a place for the modern visitor, that has retained its Old World Charm.