General Travel Tips

Sydney Skyline

Best Museums to Discover Sydney’s History

Not many people know much about the rich history of Australia. As with all places, the origins and development over the tens and hundreds of years is often forgotten or unknown. Head to one of these cool museums in Sydney and dig into the historical stories and artifacts from the past that will take you back to where it all started and show you how life in Australia has changed over time.

Museum of Sydney

Built over what was once the house of Arthur Phillip, the first governor of NSW, the Museum of Sydney provides an experience of colonial and contemporary Sydney where you can learn about people and events that shaped Sydney to what it is today.

Check out the panoramic views of Sydney projected across walls, showing what Sydney looked like from 1788 to present day. There are scale models of ships from the First Fleet and even historic films from the National Film and Sound Archive for you to watch. You can also admire the Edge of the Trees sculpture located at the museum’s forecourt.

Hyde Park Barracks Museum
The Hyde Park Barracks was designed by a convict architect for the purpose of housing male convicts and was originally built at the head of Macquarie Street in 1819. A survivor from the colonial period of Australia, Hyde Park Barracks has been through the drastic development of Sydney and Australian society.

The Hyde Park Barracks Museum is a great place to learn about what life was like for some of the convicts that lived here in the past. It is recognised on UNESCO’s World Heritage list which acknowledges the significance of this site during the time where the British Empire brought convicts to Australia.

Justice & Police Museum

The Justice & Police Museum located in Circular Quay, is another one of Sydney’s living museums. A visit to the Water Police station and courts will lead you to a historical walkthrough of crime and justice in the early days of Sydney. The historic police buildings once held infamous criminals such as bushrangers. Explore the old cells where criminals were once held, and check out the collection of criminal weapons and crime scene photos from past.

The Rocks Discovery Museum
Located in a restored sandstone warehouse dating back to the 1850s, The Rocks Discovery Museum takes you back to pre-1788 up until present day, telling the story of the area in Sydney known as The Rocks. There are four exhibitions at the museum; warrane (pre-1788), colony (1788-1820), port (1820-1900) and transformations (1900-present). Here, you can learn the history and stories of the area including the impact of European settlement and how The Rocks has become a preserved and unique part of Sydney.

Susannah Place Museum
Also located at The Rocks, the Susannah Place Museum operates on a terrace of four houses. Having been built by Irish immigrants in 1844, Susannah Place is now a living museum where admission is by guided tour only, but you’ll get to discover what it was like to live in one of Sydney’s oldest suburbs, play a tune on an early 1900s piano, and check out the recreated 1920s corner shop.

Australian Museum
Being the oldest of museums in NSW and Australia, the Australian Museum is very well-renowned for its involvement in the fields of natural history and anthropology. It hosts many exhibitions across different categories, but for Australia, there have been both permanent and temporary exhibitions including the notable ‘Trailblazers: Australia’s 50 greatest explorers’ which opened in 2015.

At the Australian Museum you can learn about surviving in Australia, the natural history of Australia, and even view the First Australian Galleries to learn about life in the past. If you’re bringing the kids along, perhaps go during the school holidays to one of the Australian Museum events in Sydney to keep them entertained!


Olivia Bourke, a writer currently living in Sydney, Australia. When she’s not working online, she loves exploring New South Wales and the greater parts of Australia, taking photos and relaxing on the beach. Olivia occasionally contributes to http://greatlost.com/

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