These days Sydney Harbour's foreshore attracts the rich and famous, including high-profile political figures. The Prime Minister has a nice little place opposite the Opera House at Kirribilli, just along the harbour from the Governor General’s Sydney digs, Admiralty House. And just behind the Opera House, alongside the Botanic Gardens is the impressive Government House… Ahhh yes, as they say in real estate terms, location, location, location! This wasn’t always the case though…
Back in the early 1800’s Sydney was a different place – the harbour was still there, of course, but without a bridge, and the population was made up largely of convict riff-raff with the conditions pretty ordinary when it came to little luxuries like sanitation… so those in power decided to build a ‘country residence’ away from the peasants and madding crowd. Today, Parramatta is the geographical heart of Sydney, back then it was a pretty long way to venture out into the country.
Governor Hunter had the first residence completed by 1799 but it was Governor and Mrs Macquarie who turned the official residence into an elegant Palladian style mansion from 1810 to 1821. The painting (right) was done before the main renovations, in 1805.
Visitors today don’t need a lot of imagination to step back in time to 1821 to soak in life in Colonial times. The house is World Heritage listed and is in Parramatta Park. It opens Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00am to 4:00pm (last entry 3:30pm). Admission is $10 adults, $4 children and $24 family.
Evening ghost tours run on the third Friday of each month and for lunch, dinners, snacks or a Devonshire tea/coffee there’s the appropriately named Lachlan’s Restaurant. Here is a link to the National Trust Old Government House page. And, of course, for all your accommodation needs, Rydges Parramatta will give you a warm welcome.