Go west and spend a day diving deep into Parramatta’s outdoor activities, captivating heritage relics and contemporary dining — a feel-good day out in Western Sydney for adventurers both young and old.
Sprawling parklands with a convict history, legendary landmarks from a bygone era, hidden pockets of paradise and an epic dining scene — Parramatta is full of surprises. Take the time to explore and you’ll find that Sydney’s second CBD, though just 40min from the city, is a natural wonderland; the serene Parramatta River feeding into beautiful reserves and ancient parklands. Combine this with the suburb’s colourful mix of history and diverse, award-winning eats, and after a day on these streets you’ll start to see why this beating heart of Western Sydney is such a must-see cultural playground.
Visit Elizabeth Farm, featuring the oldest surviving European building in Australia
Travel back in time to heritage-listed Old Government House
Throw down a picnic spread on the World Heritage-listed Parramatta Park
Glide along the tree-lined waters at Lake Parramatta Reserve
Try a Lebanese feast at Sahra by the River
Finish the day with a sunset cocktail on rooftop bar Nick and Nora’s
Take the path less travelled.
When it comes to getting to Parramatta from Sydney, it’s a case of choose your own adventure. It’s an easy journey by rail, road or river: take the express train from Central Station in less than 30min, spend just 40min in the car on the M2 highway, or make the ride a little more scenic with a 50min ferry trip on the Rivercat that cruises down Parramatta River from Circular Quay.
Step back in time.
Start the day travelling back to 1793 — no DeLorean needed, just take a step into Elizabeth Farm, the oldest homestead in Australia. The home of Elizabeth and John Macarthur, pioneers of the Australian wool industry, this living museum offers a tangible snapshot of early settler life: explore the original rooms of the bungalow, wander the 1830s-style garden, sit at the kitchen table and even take a sticky beak into real letters and newspapers from colonial times.
Continue your back-in-time-tour over at Old Government House, Australia's oldest surviving public service building. Built by convicts back in 1799, this World Heritage-listed Georgian house was the country residence for the first ten Governors of the colony, including Governor and Mrs Macquarie. Not sure where to start? Helpful volunteers can guide you through the historic rooms, where you can get up close to the National Trust’s colonial furniture collection, early textiles and significant homewares.
Get back to nature.
All this time travelling will work up an appetite, and you won’t need to go far to find a picturesque lunch spot. Right on the doorstep of Old Government House, Parramatta Park offers more than 80 hectares of lush World Heritage-listed parklands overlooking Parramatta River. Spread out a blanket and unpack a picnic on the historic lawns (in their former life, these grounds were used as farmland for convicts and were even once an open-air prison) and take a post-lunch wander through the gardens, playgrounds and heritage buildings.
After you’ve refuelled, find your wild side at Lake Parramatta Reserve. With more than 70 hectares of natural bushland and glistening lake, this is the perfect spot to immerse yourself in Parramatta’s natural beauty. Hire a rowboat or kayak and launch out onto the lake’s glassy waters or go for a leisurely bush bash along one of the three walking tracks that circumnavigate the lake. Keep your eyes peeled for native animals — these bushlands are a known habitat for sugar gliders, blue-tongue lizards and even echidnas.
A taste of the world.
Every daytrip requires an end-of-day feast, and with Parramatta’s renowned global dining scene, you’ve got the world right at your feet when it comes to dinnertime. For a taste of the Middle East right by the water, Sahra by the River offers contemporary Lebanese dishes inspired by the Arabic influences of Pueblo, Mexico. Try their Lebanese-style tacos, punchy herbed seafood, and traditional mezze plates.
The best way to finish an epic day out is with a view to remember. Clink your glasses at cocktail and Champagne bar Nick & Nora’s, a glamourous post-prohibition-era rooftop bar. Perched above 26 floors, you’ll get uninterrupted views of Parramatta’s city skyline, the river and even the Blue Mountains rising in the background. Let their expert mixologists shake you up an elegant tipple inspired by 1930s fictional crime-fighting duo Nick and Nora Charles. If you’re still peckish, graze on fresh oysters, decadent meat and cheese platters, and sophisticated canapes.