Inner City Areas: Sydney Cove and The Rocks | Central | Southern | Darling Harbour

Circular Quay

Sydney Cove was named by Gov. Arthur Phillip in honour of Lord Sydney, Secretary of State for the Home Department, who had chosen him for the task of establishing a penal settlement in New South Wales. Lord Sydney never visited the cove or the city that would later be named after him. The wharves built around the three sides of the cove are known as Circular Quay. It was originally known as Semi Circular Quay as the original wharves lining the cove were semi-circular. Over the years the name was shortened by popular use to Circular Quay and the cove was given corners to make maximum use of its wharves.

In years gone by, Circular Quay was the focal centre of maritime activity on Sydney Harbour. It was here that the tall ships of the 19th century unloaded their cargoes, that thousands of migrants - convict and free - got their first sight of Australia, and from here that many troops went off to war. Today, its maritime activity centres around pleasure craft and ferries, trains and buses taking residents and tourists to a variety of locations around the harbour. Circular Quay is graced by the presence of cruise liners particularly during the southern hemisphere's peak cruising season (September to April).

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  • Writers Walk

    Set into the pavement at regular intervals around Sydney Cove are a series of circular plaques which honour writers past and present. Many are Australians, others, like Charles Darwin and Mark Twain, are well known overseas writers who in their lives had a connection with Australia.

    AMP Building

    Built as the head office of the AMP insurance company and opened in 1962, for a while it was Sydney's tallest building. A rooftop lookout proved a popular tourist attraction until a similar lookout on the higher Australia Square building opened five years later sadly precipitated its closure.

    Tank Stream

    The Tank Stream, which flowed into the harbour from around Hyde Park alongside Pitt Street, was Sydney's first water supply. Alfred Street was created in 1845 when the swamps at the head of the Tank Stream were drained and a seawall built. The Bon Accord footbridge was built in 1847 where the Ship Inn now stands.

    Customs House

    Located on land reclaimed from the harbour in the 1850s near where Tank Stream entered Sydney Cove, Customs House (1885) stands on the site of the first jetty built by the pioneer colonists in 1788. One of its most spectacular features is the 1:500 scale model of the Sydney's CBD embedded under the glass of the ground floor.

    Tank Stream Fountains

    A series of fountains recalling man's past dependence on this stream as the colony's first source of water, and the colony's links with the life around it. The fountains depict a variety of flora and fauna which used to be found on the Tank Stream's banks. Sculptor: Stephen Walker.

    Museum of Sydney

    Situated on the site of the colony of New South Wales' first government house a block back from Circular Quay, this fascinating museum brings alive the history of the city of Sydney and the steps it went through to become the world city it is today. Location: Bridge Street, Sydney

    Police and Justice Museum

    Step into the dark side of Sydney s past with a visit to a historic police and court building (1856-1886) that once imposed authority on Sydney s unruly waterfront. Explore the building's atmospheric interior heavy blocks of sandstone, spiked gates and the corridor of cells.

    Circular Quay Railway Station

    Built above the Circular Quay ferry wharves, Circular Quay Station must have one of the best views of any city railway station in the world. When you alight from a train travelling in an easterly direction, before you is the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House in one single panoramic view.

    Cahill Walk

    This walkway across the front of Circular Quay above the railway station is in fact the footpath of the Cahill Expressway. It commences in The Rocks, and offers commanding views of the Sydney Cove. The walkway can be accessed from The Rocks and by a lift on Circular Quay.

    Circular Quay Seawall

    Work commenced in 1841, first on the eastern side and later on the western and southern sides (1854) after reclamation of the mudflats. It was the last major public work to utilise convict labour. The wall was cut from rock quarried on Cockatoo Island. It remains intact today.

    The Ship Inn

    Erected in 1905 directly over the mouth of The Tank Stream on what used to be mudflats, the hotel was built on Blackbutt piles driven into the mud to a depth of 30 metres. The Ship Inn is believed to have been built over the hulk of the schooner, Governor Bligh, which was built on the Hawkesbury River.

    Paragon Hotel Building

    Built in the 1850s, tne Paragon Hotel is one of the few surviving examples of Sydney's 19th century waterfront hotels. Opened as Watson's Hotel, it was designed by Edmund Blacket. It is an early example of Victorian Italianate architecture.

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