Plan the Perfect Parramatta Getaway
Looking for a getaway close to home that offers fine food, plenty of history and a chance to explore the great outdoors? Only 30 minutes from the Sydney CBD, a weekend in Parramatta delivers all this and more.
We recently spent a two days as guests of SKYE Suites in Parramatta and discovered a lot had changed over the last few years in Australia’s second oldest city and it has plenty to offer visitors.
Whether you are a local planning a short staycation or a visitor wanting to see more than just the city centre, a two-day trip is perfect for discovering some of the best things to do in Western Sydney. Read on and see how we filled 48 hours exploring, eating and drinking and why we think Parramatta is a brilliant spot for a short break.
The Dharug People are the traditional owners of the land around Parramatta and have occupied the area for 60,000 years.
Where to stay for your Parramatta Getaway
Our base in Parramatta for our two-day getaway was the stylish SKYE Suites which offer spacious studios, one and two-bedroom apartments.
Our accommodation was perfectly positioned. We were pleasantly surprised to find that after we parked on arrival; we didn’t need our car until we headed home. SKYE Suites are located in the centre of the Parramatta CBD, just 300m from Westfield Shopping Centre and Parramatta Square, and only a few minutes’ walk to Parramatta’s Eat Street, Parramatta Park, Parramatta River and the train station.
The apartment had a comfortable living room with a dining table and sofa and a separate office. The office made it easy to slip in a little work in the evenings and would suit those on a a working holiday or who, like me, can’t afford to totally disconnect from their inbox on their weekend away. The kitchen is well equipped (we particularly enjoyed the Nespresso machine) with everything you need to self cater, although with all the great food on your doorstep you certainly don’t need to. There is even a laundry!
The bedroom had a Sleeping Duck mattress, and TV with a STAYCast system so you can stream your own content. It opened onto an enclosed balcony. Though you couldn’t ever stop me from travelling, I always find it a little hard to leave my perfect (and ridiculously-priced) mattress at home. Thankfully, the Sleeping Duck was actually really comfortable.
If you book directly, you are rewarded with a free mini bar!
The 72 room property had great facilities too, including a well-equipped gym, 25m infinity pool and a heated spa for cooler days.
There is no onsite dining at SKYE Suites (not that you’d need it) but you can find a wonderful bar – Nick and Nora’s Cocktail Bar – on Level 26. Also, just outside the ground floor, The Shed cafe provides a great breakfast.
Now let’s get started on how we filled our two days….
Explore the Outdoors
From the Parramatta River to the park and nearby Lake Parramatta there is plenty of nature to discover in Sydney’s second city. I highly recommend including a bit of exercise in your two days and embrace the peace carved out just steps from the city. If your stay is anything like ours was, you’ll need it to feel better about all the food you want to enjoy.
We took the 4.2km Lake Circuit and started just after 7am. It was a lovely, if brisk way to begin our day in a Sydney winter.
If this appeals to you, I’d also recommend checking out these activities:
- Choose one of the three walking tracks at Lake Parramatta like we did, there is over 70 hectares of bushland to traverse here.
- Explore the lake by renting a rowboat, kayak or paddle boat.
- Between October and the end of summer you can take a swim in the patrolled area at Lake Parramatta.
- Join the locals on a jog or cycle along the 3.2km loop around Parramatta Park
- Book a guided e-bike tours or rent a bike and make the most of the many cycling paths in Parramatta.
- Or just take a stroll through Parramatta Park, aka the People’s Park, to check out the historic monuments, adventure playgrounds and the beautiful Rumsey Rose Garden (best in spring).
The Parramatta River Path is a great route for cyclists with a track going from the Ryde Bridge to the park and even Lake Parramatta.
Learn about our Colonial History
Next up for us was a history lesson with a tour of the sites in Parramatta Park.
If historic sites are your thing, or you want to learn more about the history of the country, there is much to see in Parramatta. As the second colonial settlement in Australia, the city retains many historic sites.
If you have to choose just one site to catch up on some history, don’t skip Old Government House, which is one of 11 UNESCO listed Convict Sites. To do so, simply make your way to Parramatta Park and take a tour, including a walk past the Old Dairy site.
If you get the chance to book a tour of the Old Dairy Precinct, I highly recommend it. Dairy Cottage (1798) is one of the earliest residences in Australia and the only surviving 18th Century convict-built cottage. The property, which was occupied until just a few decades ago, has been maintained rather than restored and is a fascinating glimpse into the past.
History lovers might also want to add one of these activities:
- Join a National Trust tour of Old Government House
- Visit the Philip V Ruddock Heritage Centre underneath SKYE Suites where during construction they discovered footings from an 1840s convict hut and period cottage, as well as cellar ruins from the Wheatsheaf Hotel (later renamed the Shepard Inn), one of the earliest remnants of an Australian hotel.
- Take a self-guided tour of Rosehill
- Female Orphan School at Western Sydney University
- Other historic properties include Elizabeth Farm, Experiment Farm Cottage, St John’s and St Patrick’s Cathedrals
Learn more about the traditional owners of this land
The Traditional Owners of this land are the Burramattagal people, a clan of the Dharug Nation. There are several ways you can learn more about the history of the Burramattagal on your visit. We managed to fit in the first two on our weekend visit.
You could choose from:
- The Arrunga Bardo Aboriginal Bush Food Garden at Lake Parramatta – The Arrunga Bardo Garden has information panels that explain the uses of the plants helping you discover which plants are used for food, medicine, weaving or hunting.
- Baludarri Wetlands and the walkway along the Parramatta River features artwork (by Jamie Eastwood) of Parramatta’s history from an Aboriginal perspective.
- Burramatta Aboriginal Landscape Trail in Parramatta Park – a self-guided walk that follows the river in the park.
- Warami Mittigar Aboriginal Cultural Walk – If you time your dates right the Burramatta Elders conduct walking tours through Parramatta Park – you can see the current tour schedule here.
Enjoy a show at the Parramatta Riverside Theatre
The best venue in Sydney’s West for theatre and dance performances, the Riverside Theatre hosts everything from Shakespeare and the Nutcracker to musical theatre and comedy. Book some tickets and make a weekend of it.
Not far away in Rooty Hill is the 2000 seat Sydney Coliseum.
Cheer along your team at CommBank Stadium
CommBank Stadium- this 30,000 seat stadium is the home of the Parramatta Eels NRL team and the Western Sydney Wanderers soccer club. This is a great spot to get your Aussie sport fix, especially if you are visiting from overseas.
Want more ideas? Check out our list of 25 fun things to do in Parramatta
Eat yourself silly in Parramatta
There is a huge range of great dining on offer and it is one of the chief reasons to make the trip west.
Parramatta’s Dining Precincts
- Eat Street is well loved and even on a cool Wednesday evening when we visit, it is jam-packed.
- Westfield Precinct – opposite the station you will find plenty of Asian options including Chef’s Gallery, PappaRich, Buddha Boy and ThaiRiffic
- Parramatta Square is the latest addition next to the train station. We had no time to fit in a stop here but there are some great options included LILYMU and CicciaBella Trattoria.
- Parramatta Riverside – Popular late night dining with Holy Basil, Alex and Co, Bayvista, Sahara by the River
- Discover Parramatta Food Markets – If you happen to here on a Wednesday, check out the Farmers Market with fresh local produce and food trucks Centenary Square, Church St, Parramatta from 7.30 to 2pm
Where we ate on our getaway
First, a confession, we ate way more than we should have in two days, but it was research so the calories don’t count right?
Breakfast was a quick coffee and vegemite toast from Bourke Street Bakery as we wandered around the Farmers Market.
Brunch at Chefs Gallery
For lunch we sampled the new menu at Chefs gallery in the Westfield precinct. Delicious pork and prawn wontons in their own special sauce, crispy lamb cumin roti, and decadent lobster tail noodles rounded out our choices.
Be sure to take your friends to help you get through a good sample of the 50 sharing dishes on the menu here.
Dinner at Nick and Nora
When we checked in at SKYE Suites, the staff recommended timing our arrival for drinks tonight with the blue hour when the sunset towards the Blue Mountains adds even more magic to the view.
Nick & Nora’s is an art déco style champagne and cocktail bar from the owners of one of our favourite wine bars in Sydney, Eau De Vie in Darlinghurst.
Sitting 26 floors above the city streets, the view is just as good on the inside. We chose their Feed Me menu which includes 9 savoury bites, 1 dessert and 2 cocktails of your choice. It was such a fabulous way to end our day, with just the right amount of food, and every bite was perfect.
We loved the lobster taco and pork belly but ate them too quickly to photograph. The two sushimi dishes were so pretty we stopped long enough to take a snap.
While we were here, we discovered they offer several masterclasses (from $75), that along with teaching you lots of tricks, include 3 drinks! We will be back to try one of those but if you are planning your visit enquire about booking one during your stay.
We started our second day with a hearty breakfast at The Shed which is in the same building right outside the hotel foyer. Along with great coffee there are plenty of options including all the Sydney breakfast favourites.
Discover Sydney’s Little India
The last meal of our stay had us taking a short walk from Parramatta along Wigram Street to Harris Park. This is centre of Sydney’s “Little India”. From the aroma of fresh spices, to the colourful saris and jewellery on display, a visit here will transport you to Mumbai. With over 20 restaurants and take away eateries you will probably struggle to choose just one place to eat.
With went with Chatkazz, a popular spot by the look of the jam packed dining room at 1.30pm. Chatkazz offer Indian street food. From a quick bite to a feast, this vegetarian Indian restaurant will soon make carnivores forget there is no meat on the menu. We ordered some of the house favourites and it was all good. The dosa’s particularly so.
Explore further afield
Parramatta makes a great base for exploring more of Western Sydney and it’s half way between the CBD and the Blue Mountains – just the right distance for a day trip!
Other nearby attractions include:
- Sydney Olympic and Bicentennial park
- Raging Waters at Prospect
- Rosehill Racecourse
Getting to Parramatta
Ferry: The Ferry leaves Circular Quay headed to Parramatta hourly between 8am and 6pm daily. Check timetables before you set out as the weather can change things a little. The journey takes about 45-75 minutes.
Train: Jump on an express train from Sydney to Parramatta and you will be there in
So is Parramatta worth visiting? Absolutely, there are more than enough things to do here to keep you busy for a week, but even a weekend in Parramatta is a long enough to get a taste of what the capital of Western Sydney offers.
Our stay at SKYE Suites was hosted in exchange for our honest review of the property.