Sydney’s historic district, known as The Rocks, is smack in the middle of town and a perfect place to eat, drink and step into a bit of Australian nostalgia. The Rocks was established in 1788 and was once a slum considered the local drinking district for sailors.
Now, however, the beautifully re-envisioned area is a desirable pocket with heritage-listed buildings — structures in these parts were constructed out of the abundant sandstone, giving The Rocks its name — and a view of Sydney Harbour.
Here are a few of our highlights from the area:
The Australian Hotel
The Australian Hotel is a pub that has been in operation for almost 200 years. This heritage-listed building, locally known as The Aussie, is a favorite watering hole that offers a selection of Australian beers and wines along with fantastic bar snacks.
Sit up at the Edwardian style-bar or outside in the sun with a cold brew and a kangaroo pizza with bush herbs — it’s pretty amazing.
Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney
The Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney is a little piece of luxury in The Rocks, providing all the modern comforts you could ask for. The Shangri-La is home to CHI, The Spa, in case you want to pop in for a massage.
A classic, yet exotic Asian sanctuary, CHI also delivers exclusive Australian treatments with botanical products made from local ingredients and traditional healing techniques.
After your service, try some of Australia’s contemporary fine dining at Altitude Restaurant on Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney’s 36th floor. Here you’ll nosh on chef Ricardo Ferreira’s produce-driven dishes while enjoying a heaping side of Sydney’s skyline vistas.
Susannah Place Museum
For a quick history fix, head to the Susannah Place Museum on Gloucester Street, composed of a block of furnished terrace houses built during Sydney’s early years. The houses are mostly in their original condition and are a sobering reminder of a life without indoor plumbing and electricity.
After your tour, check out the museum’s perfectly reconstructed 1920s-era corner shop selling old-fashioned sweets, household items and traditional gifts. Admission is by guided tour only at $12 per adult. The last tour is at 4 p.m. daily.
In the painstakingly restored Treasury Building of 1851 is the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended InterContinental Sydney. Just up the road from The Rocks, between the customs house and botanical gardens, this hotel’s palatial 19th-century interior can be appreciated in the opulent restaurants (117 Dining, Café Opera) and meeting spaces (Treasury Room is particularly breathtaking).
While the building itself is a piece of history, the rooms and suites are chic and modern. After a long day of sightseeing around The Rocks, there’s nothing like falling into bed in the Governor Suite, a 1,130-square-foot gem composed of a luxurious bed, a stunning view of the harbor and a grand marble bathroom complete with a private spa bath.
The Rocks Markets
The Rocks has a variety of galleries and boutiques worth exploring any day of the week, but things really come to life on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays when The Rocks Markets open for business. Original artworks, handmade leather goods and exotic street food are all for sale and enjoyed by both locals and visitors alike.
Be sure to get an early start, as the market stalls close by 5 p.m.