Paramatta – Sydney’s Second City

(pic - Story) Parramatta - Title

In the past the only time I have actually seen Parramatta was either out of the window of a bus, or the railway station while I was sitting on a train. Okay, a suburb with a name like Parramatta may not sound like a suburb that everybody is suddenly going to want to rush to visit, but I can assure you that it is more than just an boring out of the way part of Sydney. In fact Parramatta was the second site that the Europeans settled upon coming to Australia, and was also the location of the king’s governor’s mansion residence for quite some time.

Anyway, on my last trip to Sydney, when I had decided to stay there for an entire week, this was one of the things that I wanted to rectify (if only to have a few more places marked on my own private version of Google Maps. There are a couple of ways to get to Parramatta – actually you can get their quite a few ways, but I will discount walking, jogging, dancing, hitch-hiking, or committing some felony so you are taken there in a police car, and will only mention two (because in all honesty catching a bus simply does not count, and while you could drive, that actually takes effort). So, there is the quick, and boring, route which is by train, and there is the slower, and somewhat more interesting route, which is by ferry.

Well, that is a video of one of the River Cats (the ferries that head up and down Parramatta River) leaving the Drummoyne Ferry Wharf. Actually I’m not sure if there is actually any difference between the Rivercats or the Supercats (which just traverse the harbour) though it may have something to do with the hull, but as far as I could see they looked exactly the same, it’s just that they had different names.

Anyway, before I go on, here is a map of Parramatta (or more precisely the city centre, but you can always zoom out to get a bigger picture):

Trip Up the River

I’ve already written a post on my trek around Drumonye, Balmain, and Cockatoo Island, so I have already mentioned the parts of the harbour up until that point, however it is at Cocktoo Island where the harbour ferries terminate and the Rivercat then starts to stop at all Wharfs. Mind you, it is pretty slow going, especially when you hit the narrow section of the river, so if you really do want to take the ferry you do need to give yourself at least a couple of hours (and the journey is certainly worth it).

Actually, Google Maps seems to indicate that everything to the west of Sydney Harbour Bridge is the Parramatta River, however when I was cruising around there I felt it was just a less visited section of the harbour. It is not until you pass under the Gladesvile Bridge that I believe you actually enter the main part of the river. However it still doesn’t feel like you are on the river because it is still pretty wide, and there are still an awful lot of yachts moored in the mooring areas.

Mind you taking photos of the shore from the middle of a large stretch of water seems to just produce water, sky, and a narrow strip of land in the middle that can be really difficult to make out. Anyway these photos where of a bay that is referred to as Hen & Chicken Bay, which I sort of thought was a bit of an unusual name for a body of water, but then again there are so many coves and inlets along this stretch of water that people’s imagination probably started to get a little strained.

Though you then come to a place called Kissing Point. Sounds romantic? Well, it didn’t look all that romantic, unless of course you were staying in one of the foreshore houses, or out on one of the boats in the harbour, but then that could be quite romantic anywhere along the harbour (though I have to admit that standing in Bradfeild Park at night looking over at the city is probably a much more romantic experience than Kissing Point – unless you’re on your own of course, I’m not sure if it is possible to have a romantic experience on one’s own, but who knows – I guess it depends upon one’s definition of romantic).

Just before you hit the river proper (and after you pass under a road and a railway bridge) you arrive at a wharf called Sydney Olympic Park. While it is sort of cool that you could catch a ferry to the Olympic Games (or any events being held at the Olympic Park since if you’ve come to Sydney for the Olympic games then, unfortunately, you’re sixteen years too late) it is still a bit of a trek to actually get there – though I suspect that there are buses that will take you the rest of the way. However, what I did notice were the number of highrise apartments going up – it seems as if everybody is attempting to cash in on the Sydney Property Boom.

After this part, as I mentioned, we then enter the river proper, where the Rivercat slows down to a complete crawl. I guess it has a lot to do with it not being just narrow, but also having some tight bends. Mind you, when you enter this section you do see signs indicating that you can only travel 10 knots down here, so I guess that is what 10 knots really felt like.

Along this section of rivers there are a couple of parks, but it is mostly lined with mangrove trees. This is probably a good thing because the Shell Oil Refinery is also located along this stretch of the river. Mind you, it does make me wonder how they actually get the oil all the way up here since I can’t envisage an oil tanker cruising through the harbour these days (and I have a feeling that oil tankers don’t even enter Sydney Harbour), let alone being able to fit under a bridge. On this stretch we did end up passing a Rivercat heading in the opposite direction, as well as a small police launch.

So, after a two hour cruise up the Parramatta River (which I have to admit was well worth it) I finally arrived at the Parramatta Wharf, which in some ways felt like a bit of an anti-climax. Still, I had finally arrived at Parramatta so I guess it was time to start exploring. Mind you, the length of time it takes to get from Parramatta to Sydney by ferry suggests that people probably don’t do this as their daily commute – there is an express train from the railway station. Yet it seems that enough people actually go on this boat to warrant them to continue to run an hourly service.

Well, now that I had arrived in Parramatta it was time to make my way to my first destination – Parramatta Park (you thought I was going to say the pub, weren’t you – there is more to life than just going to the pub, though I’m sure there are some out there who would disagree with me). So I decided to make my way along the river bank and locate what is supposed to be a really cool entrance.

I have to admit that it seems as if Parramatta is undergoing some renovations, namely because there was construction going on everywhere, and parts of it was occurring on the riverbank. The river itself wasn’t all that much to look at – brown and slimy water gurgling its way down towards the harbour, though parts of the river walk had been done up a bit. However, after dodging some cyclists (those guys seem to annoy everybody – they haven’t just declared war against motorists, they’ve declared war against pedestrians as well) I finally found myself outside the front gates of Parramatta Park.

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A Walk in the Park

I have to admit that my favourite part of the park was actually the gate, which I believe is called the Tudor Gate. I discovered it when I was pouring over Google Maps, though for some reason the marker has now disappeared (so I couldn’t upload any photos of it). However, I did intentionally make my way to the park so that I could see, and enter, this gate.

(pic - Story) Parramatta - Park Gate

and here is another view from the other side:

(pic - Story) Parramatta - Park Gate Behind

Anyway, after spending some time admiring the beauty of this gate, it was time to head into the park. I have to admit that the park is absolutely huge, and even has the river running through the middle (or at least on one edge. Actually, they also have a railway line running through the middle (though I didn’t get to look on the otherside). Anyway, as well as trees, and grass, you can also find large open spaces for ball games, a swimming centre, and a rugby stadium (though I’m sure the stadium is not actually part of the park). However, in the middle of the park, or not quite, but near enough, you find a mansion.

This is actually the old Governor’s Mansion, and they have tea rooms as well as exhibition spaces. You can also go on a tour of the mansion, though I simply wanted to have a look around. Unfortunately, due to the time it actually took for me to get to Parramatta I wasn’t able to have a look inside, even though they offered to give me a personalised tour. However I do intend on coming back some time to check it out more thoroughly.

I then made my way across the park, and noticed that there was another old cottage, which used to be the gatehouse but has since been transformed into another set of tea rooms (I believe the entire park used to be the grounds of the manor) however due to time I simply continued walking across the park. There were some interesting things to be seen though, such as some old gravestones, and a stone gazebo (but then don’t you find gazebos in most old parks) however it was probably the hordes of cockies that caught my attention.

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I then made my way down along Railway Parade, which, obviously, runs alongside the railway. Since this is a major railway line running through Sydney there were quite a few trains heading along here, which meant that I managed to get a video of at least one:

The main reason I was making my way down here was because I was heading towards the Westgarth Railway Station, not so much to catch a train, but rather to visit the pub on the otherside of the road. Mind you, the pub wasn’t all that impressive, however since I am determined to visit, and catalogue (and even have a beer at) as many pubs as possible, not just in Australia, but around the world, then this was just another one to mark off my list. In fact, now that I’ve been here I don’t actually have to go back, especially since I already know what it is like.

So, after visiting the pub I then headed up Hawkesbury Road, which runs past a university (the University of Western Sydney), quite a large hospital complex (the Westmead Hospital), and even a major bus terminal (which is not all that far from a major bus terminal at Parramatta Station). However the reason I was making my way up here was because there was a place, located at the edge of the park, and at the back of the hospital, that I wanted to check out – the Wisteria Gardens.

So, while I cannot give you an expert opinion behind the Wisteria Gardens, I can tell you that they are actually really, really nice. In fact I suspect that they are a part of the hospital, where patients can spend some time in a place that is peaceful and quiet, though with the number of people that seemed to have been wandering around here, especially since it was a really nice day, I would probably have to say that there wasn’t that much peace and quiet. However, there weren’t any hooligans or louts hanging around so I guess that is a bonus. Anyway, telling you about the gardens probably doesn’t actually do all that much, and it is probably much better for me to show you some photographs.

North Parramatta

So, after spending some time wandering around the spring flowers in bloom (perfect time for me to come here by the way) I re-entered the park, and made my way across a footbridge over the Parramatta River to where the Eels’ Stadium was. Not having any interest in the rugby I decided to make my way towards my next destination – the Tollgate Hotel in North Parramatta. However I noticed an old wall on top of an embankment, so being my adventurous self, I climbed the embankment and had a look around. Well there was nothing much to see there.

Actually I didn’t walk all the way up to North Parramatta, I caught the bus, but I have to admit that there wasn’t anything all that fantastic about the Toll Gate Hotel (except for maybe the name) – that seemed like a waste of time, but at least it’s another pub I don’t have to visit again. So, I made my way back, and I noticed that in the backstreets there looked like a prison wall. I’m still not sure what it actually is, especially since it isn’t actually labelled on Google Maps (and all you can see on the street view at the gates – which are very prisonlike – is a small sign where you can barely make out ‘department of correctional services’). I didn’t actually go down the road to have a closer look, however here is a photo taken from the satellite view:

(pic - Story) Parramatta - Satellite View
Maybe it’s one of those secret CIA Prisons.

However, after visiting the pub I ended up walking back, namely because all the buses that passed me were either ‘not in service’ or school buses. This was fortunate because it meant that I could go and check out the old Parramatta Cemetery. Okay, I know that it’s probably not one of those activities that one goes and does all that often, but sometimes I do like walking around them looking at the gravestones, and the age at which the people died, or when that died. Mind you, I still remember when I made the mistake of taking a girl for a walk through one, but then again she didn’t seem to be all that creped out at the time.

Well, after walking around the cemetery for a bit it was time to head back to Parramatta, and fortunately it wasn’t long for the bus to arrive. However it did take quite a while for it to get to the railway station. This wasn’t going to be the end of my trip though. I did go for a quick walk into the shopping centre, but didn’t spend much time here because I wanted to go and check out some of the other pubs, which I did. My favourites would have to be the Commercial Hotel opposite the railway station, and the Albion Hotel, near the Wharf. That did take a bit off time, especially since I ended up back tracking across the river where I saw another pub I didn’t know about (and also discovered a place called the Blue House, which was a second hand book/coffee shop, which I believe has unfortunately closed down). My final trek was back down Church Street, which happens to be a major cafe strip, where I grabbed some dinner, and then went home.

Creative Commons License


Paramatta – Sydney’s Second City by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

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