As I was walking through The Rocks markets, I was drawn to a costumed man ringing a bell and reciting a portion of convict Australian history. The Rocks Walking Tour was about to start and I just couldn’t resist the thrill of stepping outside the growing smell of bratwurst and music from buskers, into a time that was both frightening and exciting.
My group consisted of only 3 Poms and an American, a considerably smaller crowd compared to the sold out 10:30 tour. Led by the colourful history enthusiast Brian, our journey started off with a walk down Sydney’s narrowest street – Suez Canal. Having lived in Australia for over 15 years and walking past the Canal countless times, I must admit that I never noticed it before which just shows the importance of even locals taking a walk in their own backyards on occasion.
After finding out how Suez Canal got its name, we were led to the oldest street in Sydney – George Street. Brian showed us his collection of photographs that range from George Street being over grown with trees to the windy road becoming apparent, as it is still today. Brian describes to us its opium dens and lonely soldiers as well as the governors that changed Sydney from a convict’s prison to a prospering port.
Our next stop is Sydney’s shortest street where Brian tells us of the fight that Sydneysiders but up against building developers to keep their heritage alive. With a quick loop around the market and a slip into what looks like a shop door, we are transported into an open gallery of what a Sydney house would have looked like before family members took showers using fresh tubs of water (more on that story on the tour). The quiet Foundation Park is a display of iron chairs and house frames that we were able to lean against whilst Brian explained to us how the Bubonic plague affected Sydney and changed it for the better.
The tour ends with Brian telling us about the gangs of Sydney and their local hideouts on Argyle Street where now stands a popular Sydney bar, The Argyle. Seeing people in suits and ties, drinking beer next to the barbeque, eases us back into contemporary Sydney life as Brian leaves us on the cobbled street contemplating about those who walked these streets before.
Cost: $25 for 1.5hrs
Tours are everyday at 10:30am and 1:30pm and can be booked at Shop 4a – Clocktower Square Corner Argyle & Harrington Streets, The Rocks