Many know Parramatta for its busy restaurants, shopping centre, and skyscrapers – it’s become Sydney’s second CBD. However, travel just over the Parramatta River and you’ll find the quiet pocket that makes up North Parramatta. While exploring this neck of the woods for one day, we discovered plenty of surprising gems.
Originally used by the Dharug people as a food bowl, North Parramatta is rich in nutrition from the river and bushland. It also remains steeped in Indigenous and Colonial history which you can learn about by starting the day at the Female Factory Precinct.
Park on Fleet Street or Greenup Drive and the moment you step out of your car, you’ll be staring in awe at the newly restored buildings from the early 1800s. You’ll read that the area is the historic site of the Parramatta Lunatic Asylum, Girls Home, Roman Catholic Orphanage, and Australia’s first Female Factory.
Today, the Memory Project remembers the precinct’s history of institutionalisation of women and children and aims to convert the area into Australia’s first Site of Conscience. Volunteers work to document the experiences of those confined in the district to better understand the time and move forward with sensitivity.
Once you’ve finished exploring the precinct, you’ll be ready for a bite to eat. Hop back in the car and head three-minutes away to The Container. The first thing you’ll notice when approaching this café is the huge glass display cabinet of freshly made wraps, pastries, gozleme, and other treats. Enjoy your meal seated in the well-designed indoor space, or under the strikingly red shade cloths outside. You’ll have a great view of Doyle Ground, where the kids can run around while you finish a coffee or two.
Next, hop in the car and drive ten-minutes to Lake Parramatta. With over 70 hectares of bushland to explore, you’ll easily spend the rest of the day here.
There are picnic and BBQ areas, so it’s well worth packing supplies to last you the afternoon. You can also order food and drink from the café. Once you’ve relaxed, take a stroll on one of the three walking tracks: the She-Oak track (1.5km return), the Banksia track (2.4km return), or the Lake Circuit (4.2km). While you walk, keep an eye out for evidence of the traditional owners including shelter caves, hand-stencils and midden deposits.
After your bushwalk, you’ll be ready for a swim. Conveniently, Lake Parramatta has a fully patrolled swimming area for you and the kids to cool down in. It’s open from October until the end of the summer season. Parramatta Rowboats also operates on the Lake, so you can hire a pedalboat, kayak, or rowboat to explore more of the Lake.