Elizabeth Macarthur was one of the more fascinating and unusual characters in early Australian history. With her husband, John, she gave the Australian wool industry a kickstart, running their large merino farm while John was away in England.
The lovely sandstone building surrounded by gardens is now a museum run by the Historic Houses Trust. Visitors are encouraged to wander the rooms, touch the furniture, try the featherbeds and generally behave as if they are guests of the family.
Alice St; (02) 9635 9488; open 9.30am–4pm Fri–Sun.
Not far from Elizabeth Farm is the charming Hambledon Cottage, built for a Miss Penelope Lucas, governess of the Macarthur children.
Small but elegant, it has been restored and furnished in a style that reflects the early reign of Queen Victoria. It is surrounded by trees said to have been planted by John Macarthur himself.
63 Hassall St; (02) 9635 6924; open 11am–3.30pm, Thurs–Sun.
The quickest way to get to Parramatta is probably by train, but the most pleasant and relaxing way to travel is by RiverCat.
The area was discovered not long after the arrival of the First Fleet, and Arthur Phillip immediately recognised its farming potential. The colony’s first private farm was established here in November 1788, making this suburb almost as old as Sydney itself. With places of historical interest around every corner and the lively commercial atmosphere of a busy regional centre, Parramatta is a fascinating spot to visit.
Once you arrive in Parramatta, your first stop should be the Parramatta Heritage Centre. Located alongside the Parramatta River, the centre presents a number of exhibitions highlighting the experiences of those who helped to shape this part of Sydney.
346A Church St; (02) 8839 3311; open 9am–5pm daily.
The nearby Riverside Walk takes on a whole new meaning when you follow the 800-metre painted path. A combination of paintings, interpretive plaques and native gardens help to reveal the history of this area and its inhabitants, all from the perspective of the Aboriginal people. The walk culminates in a moving soundscape of music and spoken words – it is an experience that should not be missed.
Nearby in the sweeping grounds of Parramatta Regional Park, Old Government House stands as one of the oldest public buildings in Australia. Built between 1799 and 1818, chiefly by Governors Hunter and Macquarie, it is very much Macquarie’s house.
It has been restored to reflect the life and times of the Macquarie family, and includes a fine collection of their own furniture. Guided tours are available and a ghost tour runs on the third Friday of each month; bookings essential.
(02) 9635 8149; open 10am–4pm Tues–Fri, 10.30am–4pm Sat–Sun.
A visit to Parramatta would not be complete without visiting the Experiment Farm Cottage. Built in 1798 and named because it was built on the site of Australia’s first private farm, the cottage is now run by the National Trust.
It features lovely gardens as well as an excellent collection of 1830s furniture. If you are fortunate, your visit may coincide with one of the National Trust exhibitions that are held there from time to time.
Ruse St; (02) 9635 5655; open 10.30am–3.30pm Tues–Fri, 11am–3.30pm Sat–Sun.