Step back in time with the Harris Park Heritage Trail

Parramatta is the second oldest city in Australia and its history runs deep. Now you can get to know the area's history with the Harris Park Heritage Trail, featuring two National Trust (NSW) places.

Parramatta, the traditional land of the Burramattagal people, has a rich history that spans over 60,000 years.  The area was chosen by Governor Arthur Phillip in 1788 as the colonial farming settlement. Today, Parramatta still has a rich historical heart that is both easy and fascinating to explore.

The self-guided 2.4-kilometre Harris Park Heritage Walk is an ideal way to see some of Parramatta’s most noteworthy and significant historical properties and landmarks. Head east along the river from Parramatta Wharf and follow the signposts to experience life as it was in the early days of Parramatta. Here’s what you’ll see on the way:

Experiment Farm Cottage

Walking along the lush green banks of the Paramatta River, it’s easy to see why the area became the first farming ‘food bowl’ for the new colony.

Ex-convict farmer James Ruse set up Experiment Farm in 1789, when he was tasked with proving that self-sufficiency was possible in the early colony. By 1790, Ruse had successfully farmed wheat, maize and established a kitchen garden, proving that a new settler could feed and shelter his family with relatively little assistance to get started.  As a result, Ruse was granted the 30 acres of land – the colony’s very first land grant.

Walk through the Indian-style bungalow built by Surgeon John Harris, who purchased the land from Ruse in 1793. Reflect on the stories of the early colony and Dharug dispossession and resistance, and explore the farm’s cottage gardens.

9 Ruse Street, Harris Park. Visit Experiment Farm Cottage for more information.

Experiment Farm Cottage. Image: Rick Stevens.

Hambledon Cottage

On the same historic block, down on Hassall Street, Hambledon Cottage was the second house of John Macarthur, pioneer of the early Australian wool industry and commandant of the Parramatta settlement in the 1790s.

Hambledon Cottage was built in 1824 and is a fine example of Georgian architecture. A tour of Hambledon Cottage reveals clues to its many occupants through the years, from the Macarthurs to their much-loved governess, Penelope Lucas, the State’s archdeacon, a solicitor and finally a pharmaceutical company, which donated the cottage to Parramatta City Council for safekeeping.

63 Hassall Street (cnr Gregory Place), Parramatta. Visit Hambledon Cottage for more information.

Hambledon Cottage.

Elizabeth Farm

Further to the east on the Heritage Trail, you can see the rest of Macarthur’s domain at Elizabeth Farm.

Elizabeth Farm was built in 1793 for John and Elizabeth Macarthur and their growing family. Today, it is Australia’s oldest homestead and an immersive house museum.

You can wander freely around the re-created 1830s garden, draw up a chair to a table, read family letters and newspapers, relax on shady verandas or warm up before an open fire and imagine life in the early colony.

The Tea Rooms are situated in the garden and are open on Saturday and Sunday from 10.30am to 3pm for light meals and refreshments.

70 Alice Street, Rosehill. Visit Elizabeth Farm for more information.

Elizabeth Farm. Photo © Katherine Lu for Museums of History NSW.

Old Government House

Heading back toward Parramatta Park, you’ll find UNESCO World Heritage-listed site, Old Government House. This is the oldest surviving public building in Australia and one of 11 recognised convict sites that tell the story of Australia’s forced convict migration.

Wander through the elegant Georgian house, get up close to rare colonial furniture, textiles and homewares, and hear the real stories of convicts and the first ten Governors of New South Wales. Bring a picnic to enjoy in the surrounding parklands overlooking Parramatta River.

Parramatta Park, Pitt Street Entrance, Parramatta. Visit Old Government House for more information.

Old Government House.


The Harris Park Heritage Trail starts at Queens Wharf Reserve, Parramatta. Visit Harris Park Heritage Trail for more information.

Explore the National Trust’s other historic gardens, galleries and house museums around New South Wales. 



NSW Editor


Join the Conversation

  1. I mapped each of these buildings for a first year Architecture assignment way back in the late sixties – and some time later, just lost out to James Broadbent in my bid to become the Curator of Elizabeth Farm Cottage. I’m glad to see that, especially in the case of Experiment Farm, all buildings are looking much healthier than they did back then!
    Well done, National Trust!!

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