Development has destroyed much of the city's history including that of the first inhabitants.There continues to be examples of rock art and engravings located in the protected Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.Roads, bridges, wharves, and public buildings were constructed using convict labour and come 1822 the town had banks, markets, and well-established thoroughfares.

The principal language groups were Darug, Guringai, and Dharawal.

The earliest Europeans to visit the area noted that the indigenous people were conducting activities such as camping and fishing, using trees for bark and food, collecting shells, and cooking fish.

Maps from this time show no prison buildings; the punishment for convicts was transportation rather than incarceration, but serious offences were penalised by flogging and hanging.

Some mounted violent resistance to the British settlers. Macquarie did make the most of less than ideal circumstances.

Between 17 about 4,300 convicts were landed at Sydney.

The colony was not founded on the principles of freedom and prosperity.

Captain Philip led the First Fleet of 11 ships and about 850 convicts into Botany Bay on 18 January 1788, though deemed the location unsuitable due to poor soil and a lack of fresh water.

He travelled a short way further north and arrived at Port Jackson on 26 January 1788.

Its natural features include Sydney Harbour, the Royal National Park, and the Royal Botanic Garden.