Are you planning a Sydney weekend staycation? We will share with you how to have an affordable Sydney Staycation in the Rocks that won’t blow your budget from the best affordable accommodation, free museums to visit, things to do in Sydney The Rocks, some of the best pubs that offer the best of local cuisine and more.
As Sydneysiders, we have visited the Rocks hundreds of times over the years and each time we visit we experience something new and exciting. The Rocks never disappoint whether you are a regular visitor or a first-timer. So grab your comfortable walking shoes and walk the Rocks with us. The Rocks is home to some of the best Australian landmarks.
What is a staycation? A staycation is where you holiday in your own city, state or country.
A staycation can be a family staycation, a summer staycation or a winter staycation, a romantic staycation to celebrate a special event and it can be for a weekend or even longer.
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Where is the Rocks – Sydney
Map of the Rocks Sydney
When you visit Sydney one of the most popular areas to stay in and wander around is the Rocks. The Rocks lie at the northern end of George Street.
Short History of the Rocks
The Rocks was the landing area in 1788 when the first Europeans sailed into the harbour to start a new settlement in Australia.
A fleet of 11 ships left Portsmouth Harbour in the UK in 1787 under the captaincy of Governor Arthur Phillip. The 11 ships carried 789 convicts, 247 marines and administrators.
The Rocks was named after the rocky outcrop on the western side of Sydney Cove where convicts had set up the first camp. The Marines set up their headquarters near where Grosvenor Street is today and the administrators where Bridge Street is today.
The area was already inhabited by the Aboriginal people named the Cadigal. Their land reached from Darling Harbour to South Head. The Cadigal people have been in this area for years. Some of the archaeological sites in the Sydney area date back to over 15,000 years ago and archaeologists believe it could be even older.
Where To Stay on Your Affordable Sydney Staycation at the Rocks
For an affordable Sydney weekend getaway, we can recommend staying at the Sydney Harbour YHA.Book here for your stay at the Sydney Harbour YHA
Latest Guest Review: “Absolutely fabulous location, close to public transport ferries, trains, light rail & buses. We had a room with an ensuite with a perfect view of the opera house. And the rooftop view is sensational.”
You can’t beat the location of the Sydney Harbour YHA only minutes from Argyle Street, one of the main streets of the Rocks. Their rooftop views are spectacular spanning the Rocks, Circular Quay, Sydney Harbour, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.
Whatever style of room you choose you will be very comfortable. Breakfast is available for a small charge. There are kitchen facilities for those who wish to self-cater. The staff are extremely helpful and will be able to guide you on what tours are operating.
Check out the archaeological dig at the entrance to the YHA and the artefacts uncovered in the reception/dining area. When you visit the Discovery Museum some of the artefacts from the dig are exhibited there.
Address: 110 Cumberland Street, Sydney
- Private double rooms with ensuite
- Family rooms
- Co-living rooms
- Group accommodation from 10 – 110
- Free fast WiFi throughout
- Kitchen facilities
- Tour Desk
- Rooftop dining with BBQ
10 Free Things To Do In The Rocks
- Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art
- Visit the Discovery Museum
- Visit the Rocks Weekend Market
- Get lost down the alleyways, Nurses Walk and more hidden gems
- Head to Campbell Street to walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge
- View Cadmans Cottage from the outside
- Have a picnic at the First Fleet Park
- Head to the end of Atherden Street to find the statue of Biggles the Dog whose owner lived in the Rocks in the 1980s and 90s.
- See the Big Dig Archaeology site at the Sydney Harbour YHA
- View the sunset from Observatory Hill
How do I get to the Rocks Sydney?
Coming in from Sydney Airport:
Take the train from Sydney Airport to Wynard Station
Sydney Domestic Terminal to Wynard: Adult $19.40 Child $15.40
How do you pay for the Airport Train? You can purchase the Sydney Opal Card at the Airport Station (there is a minimum balance required, check before you purchase), tap on and off with your credit card or purchase a single ticket at the Airport Ticket Office.
A private transfer from the Airport to the Sydney Harbour YHA.
Uber is cheaper than a Taxi. Prices start from around $37 per journey.
A taxi from the Sydney Domestic Terminal to Sydney Harbour YHA – prices start from $60
Sydney CBD Weekend Parking
There are 2 parking stations close by:
- Wilson Parking Quay West
- Wilson Parking Clocktower
Ferry from Manly
If you are coming from the Northern Beaches the best way to get to the Rocks is via the Manly Ferry. The journey takes 30 minutes and leaves on the hour and half hour arriving at Wharf 3. There is the Manly Fast Ferry as an option which takes half the time.
Where can I take a Ferry in Sydney? Why not take the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly which departs from Wharf 3, takes 30 minutes and it departs on the hour and half hour.
You can also take the ferry to Taronga Park Zoo from Circular Quay, or book a tour that includes your entrance ticket to the zoo, the rocket ferry and a ride on the Sky Safari on arrival.Read our article here on Why You Should Visit Manly on a Sunday
Great Ideas for a Staycation at the Rocks
What places to visit in Sydney on a weekend? You can either spend all your time discovering the Rocks area or adding on Darling Harbour and Chinatown. If you have more than 2 days we would recommend a visit to the famous Bondi Beach.
Top Things To Do in the Rocks
Visit the Rocks Centre
Address: Argyle Street and Playfair Street
Visit the Rocks Information Centre for maps and suggestions on what to see and do and visit a range of speciality shops within the Rocks Centre.
Opening hours: 7 days from 09.30 am to 5. 30 pm (closed Good Friday and Christmas Day)
Visit the Rocks Weekend Markets
The Rocks Market in Sydney are on every weekend between 10 am and 5 pm.
You can shop for locally made goods, enjoy some tasty treats from the artisan stallholders.
Visit the Bars in the Rocks
Visit the Pubs in the Rocks on a Pub Tour. Whilst learning about the history of the Rocks and the Pubs you can enjoy a drink in 4 of the oldest pubs in the Rocks.
Take a Walking Tour of the Rocks
Enjoy a 90-minute guided walk around the Rocks whilst learning about the early settlement of Sydney. Wander the hidden back lanes and alleyways and discover courtyards and more.
Enjoy a Sydney Convicts, History and Rocks Tour – 2.5 hours
Retrace the lives of the prisoners, soldiers, and sailors who once washed ashore on this ancient land. Visit the Argyle Stores and Customs House as well as cobblestoned streets and hidden alleyways.
Enjoy A Sunday Morning Yoga Class in the Park
Located by Circular Quay is the First Fleet Park where Yoga in the Park happens from 09.30 am. Bookings are not required by numbers are limited.
Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art is highly recommended whether it is raining or not in Sydney. The entrance is via George Street and is free. Check out their special exhibitions.
When we visited the MCA the Linda Lee Exhibition “Moon in a Dew Drop” was on. It was one of the best exhibitions we have seen. Linda Lee is an Australian Chinese artist best known for her work with molten bronze.
MCA Cafe is very popular. You cannot book but be prepared to wait especially over the weekend. The prices are very reasonable for the varied menu.
Opening Hours: 7 days from 10 am to 5 pm. Wednesdays 10 am to 9 pm.
Plan to spend at least 2 – 3 hours depending on the latest exhibitions.
Visit The Discovery Museum
Housed in old sandstone warehouse the Discovery Museum is just off Argyle Street beside the Rocks Centre. Listen to various stories on the top floor, discover the history of the Rocks and see many artefacts found in archaeological digs around the Rocks. Plan to spend at least an hour here.
Entrance is free
Opening Hours: Open 7 days from 10 am to 5 pm (closed Good Friday and Christmas Day)
Hop on Hop off Bus – The Big Bus
Two routes, 1 ticket, 33 stops which include the Rocks over 1 or 2 days.Looking for more things to do in Sydney? Read here
Cadmans Cottage – Historical Site in the Rocks
Cadmans Cottage was built in 1816 in sandstone and is one of a few Sydney buildings that remain from the first 30 years of the first settlement. It used to be located beside the harbour but was moved to make way for the construction of Circular Quay. Over the years it has been headquarters for water transport, sailors home and a water police station.
Free guided tours of the grounds and bottom level of the house are available. They run on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month from 9.45 am to 10.15 am, excluding public holidays.
Address: 110 George Street Sydney
Where To Eat and Drink in the Rocks Sydney
The Rocks Restaurants
You will be spoilt for choice for restaurants in the Rocks in Sydney. From Mexican, steakhouses, Italian fare, Seafood, Asian, German, Middle Eastern and more. There are over 40 restaurants, cafes and bars to enjoy.
Australian Heritage Hotel:
Address: 100 Cumberland Street, The Rocks (just down from the Sydney Harbour YHA)
Kitchen Trading Hours: 1130 – 2200
The 1914 Australian Heritage Hotel is the longest-running licensed pub in the Rocks. They have on offer over 130 of the best Australian craft beers. Want to try kangaroo, emu or crocodile? The Australian Heritage Hotel offers gourmet kangaroo, emu or crocodile pizzas, salad bowls, burgers and excellent pub food.
German Lager Beer – Scharer’s that is brewed in Rouse Hill in Sydney. They used to brew Scharers at the Hotel. Bird in the Hand Sauvignon Blanc from Adelaide Hills in South Australia.
Buddha Bowl – quinoa, sweet potato, roast peppers, avocado, tomato, cucumber, iceberg lettuce, hummus and seeds
Bacon Cheeseburger – beef patty, bacon, American cheese, pickles, fried onions and sauce
For more information on the Australian Heritage Hotel click here
The Glenmore Hotel
Address: 96 Cumberland Street The Rocks
Our visit to the Glenmore Hotel coincided with Valentine’s Day. We were fortunate to be given the best table in the house in the Rooftop Bar with breathtaking views over Sydney Harbour and the Opera House.
The 1921 Glenmore Hotel offers outdoor dining on the Rooftop and the Public Bar on the ground level. For a cocktail or two head to the middle level and enjoy your drink in the 1920s Hollywood Bar. There are also private dining rooms available.
A glass of Moet Chandon
4 Pines Refreshing Ale
Pan-roasted Barramundi fillet, crushed potatoes, tomato, basil, capers and olive salsa
Green pea and asparagus gnocchi with capers and herbs
For more information on the Glenmore Hotel click here.
The Tap Rooms
Address: 39 – 43 Argyle Street The Rocks
Opening Hours: Monday and Tuesday closed
Wednesday and Thursday – 12 pm to 10 pm
Friday and Saturday – 12 pm to Midnight
Sunday – 12 pm to 10 pm
The Tap Rooms are a joint venture between the Endeavour Brewing Company and Applejack Hospitality which have 6 venues and 2 cafes in and around Sydney. In 2019 Applejack won the Australian Operator of the year under the helm of owners Hamish Watts and Ben Carroll.
The 600-litre brewhouse on the ground floor of the Tap Room brews some of the best beers in the Rocks.
Tasting Paddles are available – a choice of beers for $15.
The Tap Room offers NSW wines poured from a keg, bottled beer, wine and cocktails.
Not only famous for their beers the Tap Room also offers a delicious food menu to enjoy. They specialise in house-smoked meats which include grain-fed black Angus beef brisket, wild kangaroo and pork sausage, smoked paprika rubbed free-range chicken, burgers and salads.
If you are after something lighter we can highly recommend the smoked chicken wings with a herb dip and a very tasty flatbread with harissa eggplant, yoghurt, pine nuts and parsley.
Beer: We enjoyed the Rockstar Pale Ale, light-bodied fruity ale with hints of grapefruit and passionfruit and the Raging Bull Lager.
You can dine alfresco or inside, it is a perfect venue for lunch or dinner.
For more information on their speciality beers and menus click here.
The Doss House
An underground whiskey bar in the Rocks? Yep! Not only do they offer the largest menu of whiskey we have seen they offer Guinness, spirits, wines and cocktails as well. The bar has a past, like all buildings in the Rocks. The 1840s building has been a doctors surgery and a boarding house, and has housed opium dealers and bootmakers as well.
For more information on the Doss House and their different dining areas and menus click here.
More Restaurants/Cafes in the Rocks
The Tea Cosy
Address: 7 Atherden Street The Rocks
Opening Hours: Wednesday to Friday 10 am to 4 pm
Saturday and Sunday from 08.30 am to 4.30 pm
Famous for their scones and Devonshire teas.
Caminetto Italian Restaurant
Address: 13-17 Playfair Street The Rocks
Monday – Thursday 11.30 am to 8.00 pm
Friday 11.30am to 9.30 pm
Saturday 9.00 am to 9.30 pm
Sunday 9.00 am to 8.30 pm
Relax in their courtyard and enjoy the best of Italian cuisine.
Special Events in the Rocks
Chinese New Year Lunar Markets at the Rocks
One of the special events held yearly at the Rocks is the Chinese New Year Lunar Markets. You can enjoy dining alfresco at many of the Food Trucks down Playfair Street.
Visit the Gateway Building at Circular Quay at specified times to enjoy one of the lion dances performing to chase away the evil spirits and to give good luck for the new year.
FAQ’s: Visiting the Rocks – Sydney
Why are the Rocks in Sydney called the Rocks?
When the first fleet arrived the area where the convicts were settled were to the west of Sydney Cove. This area was a rocky outcrop.
What can you do around the Rocks if it is raining?
The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Discovery Museum is perfect to visit on a rainy day around the Rocks.
Can you visit the Rocks on the Hop on Hop off Bus?
Yes, the Big Bus covers the Rocks Area and all the major tourist areas of Sydney including Bondi Beach.
What are things to do on a Sunday in the Rocks?
On Sundays, we would recommend starting off with breakfast at The Tea Cosy. Then wander through The Rocks Sydney weekend markets, a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Discover Museum and then head to one of the pubs in the rocks for a late lunch or early dinner.
Do the Sydney Weekend Cruises depart from Circular Quay?
As Circular Quay is beside the Rocks area you can take a Sydney Harbour cruise for lunch or morning or afternoon tea.
Flight Deals to Sydney
Find the cheapest flights with Skyscanner who then directs you to the airline’s website with no extra fees to pay.
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For the best Staycation affordable accommodation in Sydney, you can’t beat staying at the Sydney Harbour YHA. If you are planning a staycation in Sydney, give the YHA a go, you won’t be disappointed.
With free entrance to the MCA and the Discovery Museum, wandering around the back streets, dining out and shopping at the Rocks Markets your Sydney Staycation will be memorable one.
We were gifted 2 nights accommodation at the Sydney Harbour YHA for winning a competition that they were running. Our opinions are always our own.