Convicts and The Rocks: Sydney's Walking Tour Led by Historian

Convicts and The Rocks: Sydney's Walking Tour Led by Historian

2 hours 30 minutes Sydney, Australia

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Expect fascinating history, delivered with energy and insight on a walking exploration of Sydney's colonial birthplace: The Rocks. Together your group will uncover the scallywag stories of convicts, soldiers, sailors, rum & rebellions. This tour is led by vibrant historians who share their passion for the past through great storytelling, visual imagery and extensive research.

Before reaching the narrow alleyways & hidden ruins of The Rocks district, you’ll enter inside Sydney’s historical Customs House & discover the colonial relics at Macquarie Place.

In The Rocks your guide will bring to life the convicts, craftsmen & cut-throats littered throughout its early history. You'll also venture below street level to discover a sandstone cellar connected to Sydney's gold-rush era.

After getting lost in the area's rich history this tour finishes at an historic local Pub. This is a unique opportunity to soak in the stories you've shared over a refreshing drink with your guide and group.
This is a typical itinerary for this product

Stop At: Journey Walks, Sydney Customs House 31 Alfred St, Sydney, New South Wales 2000 Australia

Meet you guide at our Journey Walks' starting point Quay Bar — an outdoor venue with coffee and bathrooms where you can take a seat and enjoy being transported back in time as your guide introduces the age of British penal colonies and the story you are about to undertake on foot.

Duration: 10 minutes

Stop At: Sydney Customs House 31 Alfred St Circular Quay, Sydney, New South Wales 2000 Australia

Begin your journey by unraveling the elaborate sandstone facade of Sydney Customs House — the gateway for people and goods arriving by ship into Sydney through the 19th & 20th Century.
Then enter inside Customs House see a unique model of the entire city including Circular Quay and The Rocks in miniature (scale 1:500) below your feet as your guide illustrates the forming of the natural harbour and the urban settlement of Sydney.

Duration: 10 minutes

Stop At: Macquarie Place Park, Bridge Street, Sydney, New South Wales Australia

Discover the hidden and forgotten relics found in Macquarie Place including the underground Edwardian lavatory, the First Fleet anchor and the Obelisk of distances — Sydney's first public monument designed and built by convicts for the Governor of NSW.

Duration: 20 minutes

Stop At: Tank Stream Fountain, 5010 Herald Square, Sydney, New South Wales 2000 Australia

Uncover the secrets of Sydney's original fresh water source, now hidden below your feet. The Tank stream not only helped Sydney's convict colony survive but it was one of the main reasons this cove was chosen as the site of Australia's first penal settlement

Duration: 10 minutes

Stop At: The Rocks, Sydney, New South Wales 2000 Australia

In The Rocks you'll find yourself wandering though back alleys and along cobbled lanes, passing some of the oldest pubs and houses in Sydney and getting lost in the stories of convicts, sailors and street gangs who occupied and worked in the area. Your guide will lead you to hidden sandstone ruins, old slums and underground cellars turned speak easy bars. The Rocks area is full of character, quirks and surprises.

Duration: 1 hour 20 minutes

Stop At: The Argyle, 18 Argyle Street The Rocks, Sydney, New South Wales 2000 Australia

A hidden courtyard in the heart of The Rocks with an ancient sandstone storehouse once filled with barrels of spirits and tobacco that now functions as a beer garden and club.

Duration: 10 minutes


  • A local Sydney history expert as your tour guide
  • 2.5 hour walking tour covering approximately 20 historic sites and stories
  • Local recommendations and extra question time with your guide is included after the tour.
  • Tour finishes at a friendly old fashioned Pub in The Rocks for a chance to share a drink together
  • Entry/Admission - Customs House
  • Entry/Admission - Macquarie Place Park
  • Entry/Admission - The Argyle


  • Food is not included on this tour, but your tour guide will have fantastic local recommendations
  • Gratuities

Departure Point

Customs House, 31 Alfred St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Return Details

The Australian Heritage Hotel, 100 Cumberland St, The Rocks NSW 2000, Australia
  • Confirmation will be received at time of booking
  • We continue our tours in all weather conditions so please dress accordingly. Umbrella's are a good idea if wet weather seems likely.
  • Due to the layout of The Rocks, some stairs are unavoidable at certain points along the way, but majority of the route follows flat terrain.
  • Anyone requiring special assistance is kindly asked to make contact with your local operator in advance.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are advised that this tour may include the names and images of people who are now deceased.
  • Your guide is a native English speaker and will carry tour folder with A3 size images to help illustrate the area's past
  • Groups are kept small (10 person maximum) and we encourage questions and interaction.
  • Not wheelchair accessible
  • Near public transportation
  • No heart problems or other serious medical conditions
  • Most travelers can participate
  • Your guide will ensure that Covid-safe social distancing measures and a contact free policy is in place throughout the tour
  • This experience requires a minimum number of travelers. If it’s canceled because the minimum isn’t met, you’ll be offered a different date/experience or a full refund
  • This tour/activity will have a maximum of 10 travelers


13 Reviews

Total review count and overall rating based on Viator and Tripadvisor reviews

5 Stars
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Karen W March 2020

This was one of the best tours we have ever done. Our guide, April, was fantastic. She was both knowledgeable and entertaining. Whoever said history was boring has never taken a tour with April. If you only do one guided tour while you are in Sydney, this has to be the one.

Michelle N March 2020

Excellent guide, vet very knowledgeable. Easy walk. Very interesting history with beautifully maintained historical areas.

Thomas John O January 2020

Max, our guide and Historian, was awesome, interesting, so informative. The history of the Rocks encompasses the history of Australia and Max made it come alive. Don't miss this most interesting tour and schedule it early in your visit as it ties into everything else you'll see and learn, Best of luck Max with your PhD studies in History!

John C November 2019

April was a most enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide for the rocks! I would highly recommended taking the walking tour to learn about the history of Sydney and Australia. We had a great time on this tour would like to have had time to do the other tour with April, thanks to people like her that keep history alive!

Anne A December 2018

Max' s passion for the history and characters of the period when convicts where transported to Australia was very evident.

Brian S October 2018

Max is an excellent tour guide. A very interesting and informative walk. I loved the "back alleys' and the stories Max was able to tell us about Australian History. I liked the way he threw in a few questions too to keep us thinking. I have bad feet but I found there were enough stops to relax and listen, so I was able to manage this tour just fine. I hear Max has another tour up his sleeve. "Rum and Rascals". I can't wait to hear more from Max about Australia's past. Wish Max had been my history teacher!

Robert B June 2018

An informative look into the city's history. Max was a great guide - informative and polite. Open to many questions and responded with clear answers.

I highly recommend this tour.

Adelina April 2018

The walking tour was educational, gave us a glimpse into the past of Sydney's discovery by the British, the life's of the convicts and historic buildings. Conducted at a good walking pace with many stops at places you would not find if exploring on your own.
I would definitely recommend the tour to anyone wanting to learn more about the early history of The Rocks.

Matt L March 2018

This was an amazing tour. The tour guide was very passionate about the history of Sydney and was well versed in giving tours. If you are interested in the beginning history of Sydney this is the tour for you.

John M February 2018

We thoroughly enjoy history and so this walking tour was second to none for us - Max our tour guide has a wealth of international tour guiding experience and he was a really personable young man who made us feel at ease from the outset with his relaxed approach and friendly style. Max had an extremely in-depth, thorough knowledge of his subject 'Convicts and the Rocks' and he had a wealth of fascinating information that had us engaged from the outset. Max has researched this subject thoroughly and he is also a master storyteller which not only allows him to impart the facts but in a very clever way, he weaves a story that is well sequenced and logical, enabling one to commit to memory very clear, well-sequenced ideas about the development of early Sydney from the landing at Botany Bay through to the present day. There were so many moments during the couple of hours that we found ourselves as Australians with a real interest in history being delivered information that was really new to us, which gave us a much richer understanding of our early Sydney history. We highly recommend this tour to all age groups and Australians and tourists alike, as this is a fascinating way to spend a couple of hours and real value for money. At a couple of points along the tour when we stopped to focus on a place of historical significance, there were other walking tours nearby and we both related to each other, that we felt very fortunate to have selected 'Journey Walks' for our tour, as we knew from our tour experiences at that time that we had joined the best tour possible for all its aspects, including the quality of the Tour Guide Max is brilliant at what he does!, the path we traversed and the accompanying story, backed up with in-depth research and a thorough knowledge of the topic, woven by Max as we made our way around the historical precincts. We highly recommend this tour to all age groups and even feel it would be a really worthwhile excursion for both secondary and tertiary students of history. We will be seeking out another tour through 'Journey Walks' as soon as we can. We cannot recommend Max and this tour company highly enough. It was brilliant! John and Jacqueline Albury, NSW

Steven N November 2017

Max Burns took us on a walk back into the past on our small group tour of The Rocks... his knowledge of the history and his ability to communicate all of it to us in such and enjoyable manner made this tour a wonderful start to our vacation in Australia and NZ...Max made history come alive and we are so happy we were able to spend our first morning with him!!!

Peter M October 2017

A truly insightful experience that engaged our small group from start to finish! Our guide was a natural storyteller with an extensive background in Australian history and architecture. We were struck by his ability to weave Aboriginal, convict, colonial and military history into a clear and entertaining narrative through the Rocks and Circular Quay over 2 hours. Would certainly recommend this tour to both visitors and locals! I learnt so much!

John W October 2017

Having been born in Sydney, I was almost embarrassed about how little of its history I knew! Max our guide was absolutely fantastic. His knowledge and enthusiasm kept us enthralled throughout the two or more hours of the tour. My wife and I were the only Australians on the tour, but I would recommend this tour to anyone, whether your a citizen of Australia or not.

For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours in advance of the start date of the experience.

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