Retford Park Gardens are open Thursday through Sunday every week, house access by guided tour only on Saturdays and Sundays.
Ngununggula, Southern Highlands Regional Gallery, is open every day. Access via 2 Art Gallery Lane, Bowral.
History of Retford Park
James Fairfax AC always believed that Retford Park should be preserved for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations, particularly those of the local district.
On 19 April 2016 in fulfilment of his ambition, Mr Fairfax gifted his historic Retford Park home to the National Trust of Australia (NSW). It was in August 2017 that the National Trust officially took control of the property.
Retford Park is a place of great heritage significance; its European history extends back to grants of land promised to Edward Riley senior by Governor Macquarie in 1821.
The house was built in 1887 by Samuel Hordern (1849-1909) merchant and stockbreeder, and his wife Jane nee Booth. The house at Retford Park (designed by Albert Bond) is set on a low rise, a grand rendered brick Italianate style residence. It was in 1964 that James Fairfax bought the property and started to turn it from an agricultural property to a gentleman’s residence.
Having been in the caring hands of Mr Fairfax for over 50 years, the garden is a delight to wander through.
What you will see when you visit
As you venture up the driveway, the grand Victorian Italianate homestead appears from a towering arboretum of a magnificent collection of evergreen and deciduous trees, some very rare and unique.
Surrounding the eastern side of the homestead is a patchwork of hedged gardens showcasing everything from a detailed knot garden, exquisite swimming pool and pavilion, sculptures demanding centre stage.
A self-led art and nature trail is available for children and families to help discover highlights of the beautiful gardens, developed especially for Retford Park by Southern Tablelands Arts.
Ngununggula, Southern Highlands Regional Gallery
The first regional art gallery in the Southern Highlands opened at Retford Park in October 2021. Ngununggula, meaning ‘belonging’ in the traditional language of the Gundungurra First Nations people, is located in the former Dairy and Veterinary Clinic at Retford Park and has been sustainably repurposed for the new state-of-the-art gallery.
Ngununggula has a separate entry on Art Gallery Lane, near the corner of Rowland Road and Jonathan Street in East Bowral. Please note that due to the road being new, Art Gallery Lane does not yet appear on Google maps.
For more information about Ngununggula including opening times, visit the Ngununggula website.
How to book your tickets
Retford Park House Tours have previously sold out, if you wish to guarantee a spot on a tour, book via Eventbrite.
Retford Park offers its visitors two experiences they can enjoy:
- Garden Visit: Leave yourself plenty of time to explore the vast arboretum and formal gardens. View the flowers on display, such as peonies, arum lilies, dogwood, clematis, rhododendrons, flowering cherries, camellias and tulips. Take a picnic and enjoy a stroll around the pool pavilion.
- Tour of the House & Garden Visit: Be guided through the former residence of James Fairfax AC and see the fascinating collection of furniture, art and textiles on display then enjoy exploring the gardens at your leisure. Due to overwhelming popularity, there are limited tickets to view the Retford Park house and garden.
To purchase a ticket you must agree to our Terms and Conditions of Entry.
If you have booked a house tour, please allow at least 15 minutes to get from the entrance gates to the main house. Latecomers risk missing the tour.
Car parking is available on site.
- Head up Merrigang Street from Bong Bong Street, the main street in Bowral.
- Follow to the end of Merrigang and turn right at the ‘T’ intersection.
- Watch for the Retford Park white gate, the second driveway on the left.
For more on the life of James Oswald Fairfax AC and the history of Retford Park, visit the James Fairfax Foundation website.
How to keep up to date with what’s on
(Photo: Meg Nurse)
The gardens of Retford Park are managed sustainably.