In the 1830s, the Customs House site was part of the garden of First Government House. It was surrounded by mangroves and mudflats, which have slowly been reclaimed.
That’s why you’ll notice small lanes and odd shaped blocks of land around Customs House.
After the quay was built and the tidal flats reclaimed, Aboriginal people, European settlers, convicts, soldiers, whalers and sailors walked these streets.
When the port was busy Customs House was crowded and noisy. Surrounded by public houses, shipyards, wool stores and shipping companies, Customs House was at the heart of commercial Sydney.
As the warehouses and wool stores made way for expressways and skyscrapers, Sydney’s commercial reliance on the waterfront faded. But among today’s city streets, traces of those early days can still be found.
Take to the streets and discover our stories.
Free self-guided walking tours
Collect our walking tour brochures at the Customs House Information Desk.
Each brochure introduces you to a different area of Sydney and its fascinating history. Tours take approximately 1-2 hours and feature a map with numbered points of interest, detours and museum stops along the way.
Download the Sydney Culture Walks app for your smart phone to access these walks and learn the stories behind our city’s most loved public artworks and historical points of interest. It’s the ideal companion for discovering Sydney on foot.
Immerse yourself in the engrossing world of fact and fiction as artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller lead you on a free twilight video walk through The Rocks.
Between dusk and 9.00 pm Monday to Saturday, The City of Forking Paths takes you on a fictional journey through the real streets of The Rocks. Using a mobile device, you’ll be guided by Janet’s voice as you leave Customs House and discover fictional scenarios and incidents along the way. Familiar streets become a backdrop for an unfolding narrative of memory, displacement and desire.
Duration: 1 hour
We encourage you to borrow a pre-loaded iPod from Customs House to experience this immersive artwork.