Parramatta Park is a huge breath of fresh air in the middle of the built-up city of Parramatta, and is one of the earliest public parks in the world. You have an idea you are in for something special when you drive through the main entrance which is next to the imposing, red Tudor George Street Gatehouse.
The park has 260 acres of open green parkland and has lots to offer. The well marked walking and cycling tracks are always busy and are packed with fitness enthusiasts and families of cyclists every weekend. The open land is very popular with dog owners and there are BBQ areas, picnic spots, play areas and lots of big shady trees where you can settle with the Sunday papers.
If picnics are not your thing there are three eateries to choose from so you can be sure to find something tasty, whatever time of day. The Gatehouse Tea Room serves an excellent high tea and the Parramatta Park Café serves breakfast all day and has a good range of light lunches. If you fancy something more formal you can book a table inside or out at the renowned restaurant, Lachlan’s Old Government House, which is a popular location for weddings.
There is also history, and lots of it. The Georgian building of Old Government House is right opposite Lachlan’s and is immaculately restored inside and out. The building has been managed by the National Trust since 1970. Old Government House and the parkland is one of 11 historic places that, combined, make up the Australian Convict Sites UNESCO World Heritage site. The site was added to the list in 2010.
Other Sydney sites are Old Great North Road, Hyde Park Barracks and Cockatoo Island. Hundreds of smaller places are dotted all over Australia, but these 11 are recognised as being the most historically significant.
Old Government House played a major role in early colonial settlement and served as a rural residence for 10 governors of the colony, who wanted a place to relax when the din and bustle of Sydney became too much.
Captain Arthur Phillip, the first Governor of New South Wales, built the first temporary structure on the site with canvas and timber he had brought with him from England in 1787-88. A second, more robust structure was built in 1790 but by 1799 this had fallen into disrepair like the first one. The early governors liked the prestige of having a country residence and Governor Arthur Phillip had another two houses out of town — one in Windsor overlooking the river, and one in Port Macquarie.

In 1799, the second governor, Governor John Hunter, cleared what was left of the 1790 cottage and built a whole new structure. Governor Lachlan Macquarie followed Governor Hunter, and he and Mrs Macquarie added dramatically to the building both structurally and internally. In 1818 Old Government House was the Macquaries’ main residence.
Today it is an elegant and spacious mansion, and when you step through the front door you are transported back in time with the elegant period décor and colonial furniture. The house has the finest collection of furniture from that period and the majority is from the National Trust.
We are extremely lucky that a house of such standing is right on our doorstep and open to the public. As well as giving us a glimpse into the life of Australia’s early governors the building is also used for special events throughout the year. The trust organises ghost tours, costume exhibitions such as “Love Desire & Riches: The Fashion of Wedding Dresses”, and children’s plays in which children write the script as well as act.
The land on which Old Government House is built was originally inhabited by the Dharug people, who called themselves the Burramatta. “Burra” means eel and “matta” means creek, and it is important this rich Aboriginal heritage is remembered.
The Western Sydney Aboriginal Landcare Group and other management groups have rehabilitated parts of the park with plants and raw materials that depict a small slice of habitation prior to the early colonial settlers. The project is called the Burramatta Aboriginal Landscape Trail. The land care group also has input into the management of the park and any relevant projects. ☐

Other Australian sites that form the UNESCO Heritage listing: