The Rocks

A mecca for tourists and locals, The Rocks is a great place to go for a beer or many. 

Before we settled in for the afternoon over a beer, Mr S and I did a walk around. Normally we tromp along the same street to one of our favourite pubs. 

This time we took a different path, not the Main Street filled with taxis and tourists. So join us as we look at The residential Rocks. That which won’t be the same much longer. And to new development. That which is owned by the wealthy for money making. 

This building below is iconic. Perhaps not what you’d expect in our old town section. Every time I take the train into the city I notice it. I don’t think I like it – it tends to polarise people. The fact that it is public housing in a prime location doesn’t help. But under our current government, it probably won’t be for long. 

Anyway, this weekend was the first time I actually walked passed it at street level. 

Actually I don’t like it. I don’t like the cement, unfinished, dirty, inelegant blockishness of it. What do you think?

I much prefer the pub up the road. The Australian. That serves Bavarian style beer. Mmm?!?


I like the verandahs over the footpath. I felt so exposed in London without verandahs. Though they do stop you seeing beyond ground level of buildings. 

Under the bridge and seeing the bridge climbers disappearing into one of the pilons. I have no desire to climb the bridge at all. 


Now we’ve hit the section over which there has been much controversy lately. Large areas of long-term public housing residents are being evicted so the government can sell the prime real estate on the city and on the harbour to their mates. Oops, sorry. To the highest bidder. To build more housing, don’t you know. Wonder what they’ll do when there’s nothing left to sell off. 

Say good bye to the houses for the common folk. 


How about this street? Look up to the Observatory.  

And down to the bridge. 

This end terrace house along the way is gorgeous. Think it’s another one to be sold off. 

There’s something about staircases and archways that makes me want to see what’s there. Nothing much as it turns out. Housing commission flats. The staircase is made of metal and is very step. Would have proven nasty for a few after a thirsty evening. 

And here’s our destination. The newly reopened Palisade Hotel. The tallest building in Sydney when it opened, allegedly. 

Never used to be this crowded at this end of the Rocks. Most people didn’t go past The Lord Nelson. 

The Palisade is dwarfed by the now-decommissioned Harbour Master’s Control Tower. No longer needed now we’re not a working harbour but a harbour of leisure craft. 


Below is the Palisade from the back. What is all that glass!?! I’ve been up the top on the roof for parties. Once I did suffer vertigo as not only is the building steep and the wall low, the pub is perched on a cliff top. I fear that extra glass level will engulf the old homes as they are gentrified, being small housing for the poor, the wealthy will want extra levels in their trendy homes by the harbour. 


Behind the Pallidade is the recently opened new development. Barangaroo. Once a working harbour, now being developed into casinos, restaurants and apartments. 

I do like the floor numbers along the building. It’s going to be massive. 

To appease the masses, give them a park. Only opened a week or so ago. And the masses certainly were there. Nice views across the harbour. But he park is smaller than I thought it would be. And too ordered, cleaned, tame. What they want to do with the rest of The Rocks. Turn it into a theme park, not reality. 

But I’ve found my place. 

This little cottage, opposite the park, in the shade of the Harbour Master’s Tower, will do me nicely. Probably a nice view of the bridge from the back porch. 

And it’s on a quiet little cul de sac. With another little cottage next to it. Around the corner from the Palisade. 

And then some more terraces. 



 The view of this facade, hiding an exhaust chimney, from my seat in the pub kept calling my eye. 

I’ve always liked this corner shop. Not that I’ve ever bought anything there. I just like the deep verandahs upstairs and the residential area upstairs. Zoom in on the hole in the verandah in the upstairs corner to see what I mean. That and the dark red bricks. I could just imagine living there in the middle of last century. 

We left the Palisade as the sun was setting. On the way to the train station we stopped at another pub. Cause that’s what you do in the Rocks. 

10 thoughts on “The Rocks

  1. Gosh – none of those photos are how I remember the Rocks! I don’t remember the Commission flats at all. I’m starting to wonder if I have my areas of Sydney all mixed up now. Or more likely, I have the ‘Tourist Version’ photos – the Rocks Market, the Rocks Museum etc. I want to dig my photos out now and compare.

    I’ve read so much about the history of the Rocks that I cannot believe they are pulling down the Terraces. That is vandalism of history.

    The book I have here at home (one of the few books to stay despite my recurring book culls) is ‘The Rocks: Life in Early Sydney’ by Grace Karskens. It is heavy on historical footnoting/detail which makes is a commitment to read, but it’s an amazing account of just how wild and hard life was in The Rocks during the early years.

    • Most people stick to George Street so miss the housing commision terraces. They won’t pull down the terraces but I can see them being gentrified and prettied up, losing the sense of connection that the Rocks had to the workers of the wharves.

  2. Wait, Sydney is not a “working” harbour? I didn’t know that. Thanks for the interesting non-tourist tour. I am surprised it was not all gentrified long ago. One of the great crimes of our city is that it pulled down an African Nova Scotian community on the harbour front and replaced it with an incinerator and a container shipping pier. The area fell into disuse and later became a dog park. It made the former residents and their descendents burn with shame over what was done with their confiscated land. Some minor reparations were made. It is too bad cities world-wide can’t learn from each other.

  3. I really like that first stacked block building. That sort of thing was not built for very long in most of the world.
    All that you would have to do is to dump a few gallons of bleach on the roof of each tower, and it would get the mildew stains out of the concrete, and freshen them up a little. 🙂
    It is a shame about everything getting ripped down.

    • They’re not ripping them down. Thank heavens. The area is heritage. But they are kicking out the long term residents. Some argue that the old buildings are too expensive for the govt housing to maintain. Others add that in private hands the area will be neater. But I hink it will end up looking fake and touristy. Like the main street. The Rocks was always for the poorer and the workers, a living place with a bit of an edge. Not a neat, gussied up place with hanging twee flower baskets.

  4. Thanks for the tour – this is an area of Sydney I’ve never heard of. I can understand how the Palisade could cause vertigo. I lived in an apartment on the 16th floor for a year and we had a half wall of glass in the living room and another in the bedroom. They always made me a bit nervous so I wouldn’t stand too close!

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