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George Street Sydney

Australia's First Street

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Sydney's George Street is the oldest street in Australia. It started out as a track from the site of Captain Arthur Phillip's settlement at what is now The Rocks, leading southward into the area of today's Central train station.

It became colonial Sydney's main street, taking the name of High St as was the English custom at the time.

The current generation of Sydneysiders, as well as visitors to Sydney, may be forgiven if they think George St, as this thoroughfare is now known, was named to honor King George VI of England, father of the current monarch, Elizabeth II.

Since there is also a major thoroughfare parallel to George St that is named Elizabeth St, it is easy to believe that Elizabeth St honors Elizabeth II who is, as well, Queen of Australia.

No, no.

George St was actually named by then New South Wales Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1810 to honor George III (1738-1820), the reigning English monarch of the time.

As for Elizabeth St, this wasn't named for an English queen but for Governor Macquarie's wife, Elizabeth Henrietta Macquarie (1778-1835).

But back to George St.

George St, which starts in the city's south at the intersection of Harris St, continues west as Broadway and eventually Parramatta Rd which is part of the Great Western Highway. Towards the city, it heads a short distance to Railway Square — so named because Sydney's major rail, bus and tram interchange, Central Station, is right there — and then north through the city all the way to The Rocks.

Central Station

Central Station © Larry Rivera, licensed to About.com, Inc
Central Station © Larry Rivera, licensed to About.com, Inc

At Central, by which shortened name Central Station is popularly known, you can catch city trains to the suburbs, country trains to cities and towns in New South Wales and other states and territories, including the long-distance transcontinental Indian Pacific to Perth with connections in Adelaide on the Ghan to Darwin.

The tram, on Sydney's light rail system, originates at Central and takes in Chinatown, Darling Harbour, The Star gaming complex at Pyrmont Bay and Sydney Fish Markets in Pyrmont on its route to the inner west suburbs of Rozelle and Lilyfield.

Bus stops are located at Central Square and along Eddy Ave off Pitt St and on Chalmers St on the eastern side of Central.

Haymarket and Chinatown

Chinatown's Dixon St © Tourism New South Wales
Chinatown's Dixon St © Tourism New South Wales

Off George St, west through Hay St, enter Sydney's Haymarket area and Chinatown. The markets are a popular place for bargain-hunters and the restaurants in the vicinity of the Dixon St pedestrian mall offer a variety of fare for Chinese food lovers.

If you walk east on Campbell St, Sydney's Capitol Theatre, home to stage musicals through the years, is a short distance away.

Close by, heading north along George St, is the Event cinema complex where you might want to catch one of the latest movies in town.

Sydney Town Hall

Sydney  Town Hall © Larry Rivera, licensed to About.com, Inc
Sydney Town Hall © Larry Rivera, licensed to About.com, Inc

This is the home of local government of the City of Sydney which comprises the Sydney central business district and the surrounding inner city suburbs. The whole of the Sydney metropolitan area does not fall within the jurisdiction of the City of Sydney local government.

The city local government is headed by a Lord Mayor, a rather masculine term, who is at present a woman, Clover Moore, the first woman to be elected Lord Mayor of Sydney. Lord Mayor Moore is concurrently a member of the New South Wales Parliament representing the State seat of Sydney.

Aside from the council chambers and council offices, Sydney Town Hall is also often used as a venue for concerts, balls, exhibitions and other events.

Its main steps fronting George St are a familiar meeting place.

Queen Victoria Building

Queen Victoria Building © Larry Rivera, licensed to About.com, Inc
Queen Victoria Building © Larry Rivera, licensed to About.com, Inc

This 1898 building, threatened with demolition in the late 1950s, was renovated and restored to its former Romanesque architectural grandeur.

The building is a monument to long-reigning English Queen Victoria (1819-1901) who reigned as monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from June 20, 1837.

The Queen Victoria Building is today a complex of shops and a number of eateries easily accessible from Town Hall train station and central Sydney itself, and by buses traveling through George St.

Martin Place

Martin Place, arguably Sydney's best known pedestrian mall, lies between George St and Macquarie St in the heart of the city's business district.

A well-known feature of Martin Place is the cenotaph honoring the Anzacs of World War I which is the traditional site of Sydney's Anzac Day dawn ceremonies.

Martin Place is also a venue for festivals and other special events.

The nearest train stations are at Wynyard with a George St entrance and at the eastern end of Martin Place itself.

Martin Place is a popular meeting place for both city workers and visitors, particularly at lunchtime on working weekdays.

Circular Quay

Circular Quay © Larry Rivera, licensed to About.com, Inc
Circular Quay © Larry Rivera, licensed to About.com, Inc

Close to the northern end of George St are the ferry jetties, train station and bus stops at Circular Quay, a convenient starting point for visits to Sydney Opera House, Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, The Rocks and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

On either side of Circular Quay, particularly on the way to the Opera House in the east and at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in the west, are a number of fine restaurants.

The Rocks

George St at The Rocks © Sally Mayman | Tourism New South Wales
George St at The Rocks © Sally Mayman | Tourism New South Wales

Where else but The Rocks, birthplace of modern Australia, to complete an exploration of George St which ends beneath the southern end of Sydney Harbour Bridge?

This is where it all began in 1788 with the arrival of the First Fleet and the start of the European settlement at Sydney Cove by Admiral Arthur Phillip (1738-1814), head of the First Fleet and first governor of New South Wales.

Here began what is now Sydney's George Street.

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