The Rocks, Sydney – an alternative walking tour

An alternative walking tour of Sydney’s historic Rocks neighbourhood.

The Rocks, Sydney – an alternative walking tour

The Rocks, Sydney – an alternative walking tour

Join us on an alternative walking tour of Sydney’s historic Rocks – Tallawoladah district.

With the intimacy and access of a small group (8 or less), we’ll see where the harsh convict settlement of New South Wales was established in 1788. The Rocks was known to Australia’s First People as Tallawoladah and this is where Australia’s long history of invasion and dispossession began. Some of the best preserved remnants of colonial Sydney are found here, right by the harbour and in the shadow of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is where some of the fiercest battles to preserve Sydney’s built heritage have occurred.

(Daily 9.30am – 12PM with breaks – $65 incl. GST and coffee / soft drink). Tours operate with a minimum 2 people.

Sydney Harbour Bridge cuts through The Rocks alternative walking tour
Sydney Harbour Bridge cuts through The Rocks © Mark Bowyer
The Rocks – an alternative walking tour – highlights
We’ll discover –

* Where Sydney’s prison without walls was founded in 1788, and the hungry brutal years of the early colony. Who were the convicts?
* Early contact between the invaders and First Nations clans of the area.
* The whalers, gold-seekers and waterside workers who settled here as the settler economy boomed.
* Australia’s first Chinatown “Little Canton” developed here during the 1850s Gold Rush.
* Sydney’s contested architectural heritage. Since the 1970s, The Rocks has been at the centre of skirmishes between developers, locals and heritage advocates. A working class area of wharfies, whalers and public housing, has gentrified, and is now home to some of Sydney’s most expensive real estate.

Check out our other downtown Sydney history walk; Sydney – tales of the city

You can check our Rusty Compass independent travel guide to Sydney here.

Cannon on Sydney Harbour – remote colonial Sydney was fearful of invasion from the beginning © Mark Bowyer 


Australia’s understanding of history is changing. Stories that weren’t told just two or three decades ago are now central to the narrative of our cities and our country. History is always contentious and its perspectives are always evolving. It’s supposed to be that way. In Australia, the most important shift is in addressing the long silence around the dispossession of our First Peoples. Our walks focus on Sydney during and after colonisation. We hope to convey some of the complexity of a fresh alternative look at our history that acknowledges and is respectful of the Australia’s First Peoples. 


Old Compass Travel tour leaders are experts in the places they work. They bring depth to our walks well beyond the talking points of the itinerary. They’ll have an interest in history and contemporary affairs, architecture and economics – big stories. They’ll also be able to help you make the most of your Sydney and Australia travels.


You’re a curious, active traveller (over 12 years of age) interested in exploring the stories of Sydney on foot. You’ll have an interest in history and getting a better understanding of the city, its past and present. You’ll need to be mobile – but we move at a casual speed. Expect to be on your feet for 90 minutes with breaks. Sydney can be hot in summer and cold in winter. Most of the tour is conducted along shaded paths. We operate in most weather conditions – there are plenty of nice spots to take shelter if we need to. The tour is an excellent introduction to all things Sydney – even for locals.

Sydney sandstone - The Rocks
Sydney sandstone – The Rocks



The tour commences at 9.30AM and concludes at 11.30AM – 12PM. We enjoy a coffee and a chat in a lovely Rocks location (there are many).

Cost $65 per person incl. 10% GST and a coffee (or soft drink). Tours operate with a minimum 2 people. If we don’t have two travellers for a scheduled departure, the cost for a single will be $120 incl. 10% GST.


Expert guide, drink, presentation. Small group (max 8) experience.


There are no entrance fees.


Comfortable walking shoes, hat, sunscreen, water bottle and warmth in winter, umbrella and raincoat when conditions require.

Rock terraces, Sydney ©Mark Bowyer
Rock terraces, Sydney ©Mark Bowyer


You can put your own tour group together. We can also tailor a walk to your interests. Special discounts apply to private tours of more than 5. We also run specialised walks for High Schools and Universities.

For special bookings, contact us at

[email protected].


We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the Country on which we walk on this tour, the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture.


The tour is available to anyone over 12 years of age with average fitness and mobility (ask us about family walks and walks for the less mobile). We walk around 4000 steps over 1.5 hours. There are some hills and stairs.

We operate in most weather conditions. If we cancel due to weather or another externality, we will provide an alternate tour date or a full refund.  One date change can be made up to 24 hours prior to the tour without penalty. There are no refunds for cancellations within 48 hours of travel.

Tour Brief

  • Price: $65AUD pp incl. 10% GST
  • Walking tour – 2.5 hour approx.
  • Call us on +61426638642 or email [email protected]
  • Operates daily from The Rocks @ 9.30AM
  • Includes: Expert Sydney guide, presentation, coffee stop (coffee or soft drink).

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