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Parramatta Travel Guide

Parramatta: History, location and things to do

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When the First Fleet Arrived at Sydney Cove, their food stores were limited and certainly insufficient for the settlers and convicts who had just arrived. The newcomers experienced difficulty farming the sandy soil in the unfamiliar climate, so Governor Arthur Philip surveyed the land along the Parramatta River to farm and settle because the freshwater made the area more inhabitable, and the soil was less sandy there, which made it easier to farm. Parramatta, which is located on the banks of the Parramatta River about 23 kilometres west of Sydney’s CBD, was founded in 1788. It is considered Australia’s oldest inland European settlement.

Governor Philip granted a parcel of land to James Ruse so that he could develop Experiment Farm. Here, Ruse grew grain while nearby, another settler focused on wool at his plot of land, which he named Elizabeth Farm. Although Sydney quickly surpassed Parramatta in size and importance, it could never have flourished without the success and support of this small farming district.

Although it was originally named Rose Hill, the suburb’s name was later changed to Parramatta, which is similar to Burramatta, the name that was given to the area by the original Aboriginal inhabitants. Governor Philip chose to build his home here, and Governor Macquarie replaced it with a more elaborate home, which survives to this day. Old Government House is now a museum, a historic site and is considered the oldest surviving public building in Australia.

Government House is not the only important historic site in Parramatta. Many of these sites date back to the 1700s and 1800s and include protected parklands, churches, museums and monuments. Most of these sites are open to visitors. These sites offer exhibitions, art, cultural, visitor information, educational activities, historical artefacts, oral histories, interactive programs, videos and other programs under one roof and trace the history of Parramatta from the days of the Aboriginal inhabitants to the first European settlers to modern inhabitants.

After the two world wars, development exploded. The suburb today has one of the largest CBDs in the country and is considered the economic capital of Greater Western Sydney. Parramatta is home to the New South Wales police headquarters and has extensive public transportation systems to help its residents move in and around the area.

Visitors to Parramatta are often attracted to the waterfront where they can explore the visitor’s centre or enjoy water sports. Some of Sydney’s best restaurants are located in Parramatta, and although The Rocks is known as Sydney’s oldest district, Parramatta has more heritage-listed buildings, including many of the country’s oldest colonial buildings, which are open and waiting to be explored.

Top Parramatta destinations include Elizabeth Farm, the oldest homestead in the country, and Experiment Farm Cottage, which has survived since the beginning of Parramatta and Governor Philip’s desire to create a sustainable settlement. Old Government House is no longer a retreat for Sydney’s governors but is instead a museum designed to take you back in time. Expansive parks, world-class theatres, eclectic shopping, vibrant clubs, nature walks, bicycle trails, galleries, cultural expositions and camping are all also popular here.

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