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North Ryde Travel Guide

North Ryde: History, location and things to do

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The city of Ryde was first inhabited by the Wallumedegal Aboriginal people. They called it Wallumattagal, which is derived from the word for snapper fish combined with matta, which means “place” or “water place”. The initial encounters between the Europeans, who arrived in 1788, and the Aboriginals were civil, but as the Europeans began to build forts and settle the areas around Sydney Harbour, the Aboriginals were pushed out of their homelands and settled closer to the river. The smallpox epidemic killed many of them, and dysentery killed many more until the population was largely dominated by the newcomers.

By 1792, several land grants had been made to ex-convicts who began to farm the land. Unfortunately, while the farms were critical to the settlers’ survival, many farmers were struggling to make a living. The environment was far different from their former home’s environment, and the land was insufficient for grazing. The government provided several large commons to the residents of the area, which helped to preserve much of the bushland and provide more grazing land.

By the middle of the 19th century, the commons were no longer being used for grazing but were instead harbouring illegal activities, such as sly grog and squatting. The land was sold and the money invested in the building of the Iron Cove and Gladesville bridges. A portion of the newly subdivided commons was set aside for recreation and now includes the Field of Mars Wildlife Reserve and Field of Mars cemetery, but the largely rural area continued to be privately farmed.

As the 20th century dawned, North Ryde became a popular weekend destination, particularly with picnickers and boaters. The site of the original Field of Mars common became the Fairyland Pleasure Grounds, which featured a resort, dance hall and various rides. As word began to circulate about North Ryde, artists began to descend on the suburb, leaving behind a visual history of the picturesque rural village. After World Wars I and II, North Ryde became more decidedly residential in character. The farms were subdivided for housing, and streets were named for the local war efforts. Commercial and industrial development spread throughout the area, and in the mid-1960s, North Ryde was chosen as the site of the future Macquarie University.

North Ryde, which is about 15 kilometres northwest of Sydney’s CBD, is home to Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and other major commercial enterprises. In spite of its growth and development, however, it retains its some of its rural feel thanks to numerous village shopping centres and plenty of open spaces. Visitors can explore playgrounds, gardens and historic cemeteries, or they can go ice skating and warm up after with coffee and bagels at one of the local coffee shops.

Although North Ryde is quite well developed today, much of its wild, natural beauty remains. The Lane Cove National Park has been established on both sides of the Lane Cove River. The park features barbecues, children’s play areas, picnicking areas, and walking and bicycle trails. Boats can be hired for rowing along the river, and the self-guided Heritage Walk features historical information about various sites throughout the park. Camping is also available.

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