When I say Down Under, I think you know I mean Australia, and not the upside down in Stranger Things, right?!
The shining port city of Sydney has come a long way from its humble colonial beginnings when the British arrived in the 18th century. Urban class goes hand in hand with suburban lifestyle, leaving more than enough opportunity in between to get outside and explore like only Australians know how. World class dining, a jaw-dropping collection of endangered species, and the signature Opera House against the beautiful backdrop of Port Jackson all make it difficult to imagine that Sydney is hardly 200 years young.
When Captain James Cook's British fleet arrived at Botany Bay in 1788 he brought with him nearly a thousand convicts from Great Britain, to establish a penal settlement. This became the small colony at The Rocks, that would eventually sprout into Sydney.
You can spend days exploring The Rocks! Activities vary and there's something for every family member. There are plenty of family friendly, historical tours and museums. For the shoppers there's The Rocks Markets, where carefully curated artisanal wares, gourmet street food and harbourside views come together upon the cobblestone streets. The foodies have plenty of restaurants to choose from. Or you could tread in the footsteps of the convicts, larrikin gangs and locals of the past with the Rocks Pub Walking Tour.
Eating Out In The Rocks
No trip to The Rocks is complete without a visit to Pancakes On The Rocks. Open since 1975, this landmark restaurant offers not only pancakes but also pizza, salad, crepes and their now famous ribs. Be prepared for a short wait during peak times. Alternatively, check Google for the busy times before you make your way there.
If you're eating out as a family I highly recommend Ribs & Burgers. It's relaxed and down to earth with great food. There's something for everyone, including lettuce wrapped burgers (one of the best I've had). And while you're there, get yourself the salted caramel milkshake!
Looking to treat yourself? Nestled in a sandstone cavern along the historical Nurses Walk is Tayim. Tayim fuses Middle Eastern cuisine with sustainable Australian produce. The menu, designed by Head Chef Ran Kimelfeld, showcases the region’s most flavoursome dishes – focusing on bold, exotic share plates.
For The Thrill Seekers
For the thrill seekers there's the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb and The Rocks ghost tour.
Opened in 1932, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a world-renowned symbol of Australia. The historic tale of construction still fascinates locals and people from all over the world. And you can climb it! The guides are incredibly knowledgeable and will share stories about the bridge with you as you walk up the 1332 steps.
I've had the privilege of doing both a day and a night climb. I highly recommend the night climb, however, I have heard that the twilight climb is the best as you get to see the sunset from the bridge.
If you prefer a more ghostly kind of thrill then you'll love The Rocks walking ghost tour. Stroll through The Rocks and get access to what lies behind locked gages, on narrow alleyways, and exclusive locations while listening to creepy tales from a guide. Learn about Australia's convict history and how that has shaped modern Australia.
Shop The Rocks
The Rocks is a great place to shop for handmade curiosities. antiques and just about anything.
A visit to Sticky is a must for some beautifully hand-crafted rock candy. It's fun to watch and it's good to eat!
If you're a lover of markets you can shop for original clothing, homewares, jewellery, gifts and fresh food under the famous canopy sails at Sydney’s best outdoor markets.
My personal favourite is the MCA store (Museum of Contemporary Art). The MCA stocks one of the best selection of art books I have seen anywhere, at good prices. It is a stationery lovers heaven. And it has loads of educational and historical toys for kids (and adults!).
And if you're a very exhausted little person, the lovely girls at Aesop may let you have a snooze on their comfy chairs while Mommy shops.
Art Lovers - Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)
"Contemporary art matters. It stimulates the imagination, creatively engages our senses and has the power to transform lives."
The MCA has taken this statement and made it their mission to showcase contemporary Australian artists in an interactive way. Far from the stuffy museums of the past, children are welcomed (provided they behave appropriately). The MCA has fun and flexible gallery tours designed for families. You can visit their website to see what's on and make bookings where necessary.
The Rocks was definitely a highlight of Sydney for us and we went back repeatedly.
Have you visited The Rocks? What was your favourite?