LeapZipBlog: Runaway Tours's blog: Sandstone in Sydney

Sandstone in Sydney

September 5, 2019 by Runaway Tours  

As visitors explore Sydney, Australia, they quickly notice the unique buildings found throughout the streets.  These buildings are specific to the area and share Australia’s history and culture as you explore the city.
On your private day tour in Sydney, you and your group are able to see the many different, beautiful sandstone buildings located throughout the city and learn the history of each one.


The sandstone buildings in Sydney are created from Sydney Basin Hawkesbury Sandstone which is also known as Yellow Block.  This stone is true to its name as it’s yellow, gold and orange colours remind many visitors and locals of the colours found on the beach. The stone is commonly found on the Hawkesbury River located just north of the city, so the name also bears its location.
It is said that sandstone began to be supplied from quarries in 1858 and then used in building both commercial and residential structures. 

As the sandstone has been used to create Sydney’s earlier buildings, its durability is impeccable.  Standing up to anything and everything, the buildings created in sandstone have had little decomposition or damage.  Whether the elements were from mother nature, such as rain, wind and extreme sun, or man-made such as pollution, Sydney’s sandstone has held up.

More than just Buildings

Given the durability, sandstone has had many uses throughout Australia.  Prior to being used for buildings (in 1970 and 1980), Sydney sandstone was used as a material for carvings created by Aboriginal People throughout the island.  With the stone’s light colour, sandstone was also used as a canvas for native drawings as the illustration would be easily seen and would last a long time.
The rock carvings, often made out of sandstone would have most likely followed three steps.  The first would be that the worker would have sketched an outline of the carving by scratching the rock’s surface.  After the outline was completed, they would have punctured the rock using a sharp, and harder stone or shell.  Although Sydney sandstone is durable, it is quite soft, so it would have been the ideal material to carve into.  Once the holes were created, the creator would have used that same hard, sharp objects to deepen the line between the two holes until the holes were joined creating an edge. 

This long and tedious process would have been completed many times to create the individual carvings and canvases for drawings. 

As you tour throughout Sydney and the rest of Australia, you will find local Indigenous People’s groups who will be selling their own rock carvings as tokens you can bring back home with you.

Sandstone Buildings in Sydney

There are many sandstone buildings to check out on your private day tour Sydney and here is our top list, broken down by category.
Places of Worship
        St. Mary’s Cathedral
        St. Andrew’s Cathedral
        Great Synagogue
Education Buildings
        Sydney Grammar School - Main Building
        Newington College
        University of Sydney - Original Buildings
Public Buildings
        Art Gallery of NSW
        Queen Victoria Building (QVB)
        Museum of Sydney
        Sydney Hospital
        Victoria Barracks
        Government House
        Cranbrook, Bellevue Hill
        The Abbey, Annandale
        Carthona, Darling Point
        Kenilworth, Potts Point

Interior and Exterior Use

To add additional depth and design to Sydney buildings, designers have begun using sandstone beyond the typical building bricks.  You can now find sandstone pavers, flooring and wall cladding as the colour and connection to nature allows for the beauty and durability to be brought into the house.
If you look close enough, you will also find sandstone in many other products (or as products).  The only place that sandstone has not ventured to is as a roofing material. 

Using sandstone in living environments is a great addition as the stone is thermally neutral which allows it to be placed in different temperature areas and not be greatly affected.

Expert Stonesmiths

As Sydney Sandstone is not like other stone, the skill of sandstone smiths has been passed down for generations.  As the buildings in Sydney increase in age, there is a greater need for the skills these workers have.  From regular maintenance to conservation tasks, the sandstone used in many of Sydney’s historic buildings need restoring.
Although not all repairs can be done, there are many steps towards restoration that can happen.  Sandstone smiths have the ability to slow down the deterioration of the stone, protect the building from structural problems, reduce the chance of falling stone, enhance the appearance of the building and corrections or repairs that do not affect the historic fabric of the building. 

Restoration Projects

Many projects on historic landmarks made from Sydney Sandstone in the city are undergoing not just conservation efforts, but full restoration projects.  You will see many of these projects as you discover the sandstone buildings of Sydney.  While looking at these projects, you will find the types of restoration practices. 

The first type of restoration is replacement.  By replacing the original sandstone with new sandstone, the quality and integrity of the stone is renewed.  Expert stonesmiths can replace either a single block or an entire section with new sandstone. The biggest challenge with this type of repair is finding new stone that matches, as many of the quarries that were originally used have been closed.  Each quarry has a slightly different colour and texture.
Another type of restoration is retooling the surfaces.  This is explained by removing some of the damaged material on the outside of the sandstone and exposing the lower layers of the stone.  Depending on the size of the stone, this may or may not be possible.
The final type of restoration you will see happening throughout Sydney is patching.  The art of patching allows for additional material to be added on top.  This process is often used as it is reversible.  As practices and technology are always developing, reversible processes are often selected.

Discover Sydney’s Sandstone

Why wait? Book your Sydney Sightseeing private tour with Runaway Tours Australia today and discover all of Sydney’s sandstone buildings.  Not only will you be able to explore the streets of Sydney and the culture they contain, but you will be able to see a wide variety of sandstone architecture, unique to Sydney, Australia.