If you have driven along James Ruse Drive you will have gone passed Lake Parramatta, probably without realising that there’s a beautiful bush oasis right there! It’s the perfect place to escape city life for a while – cooling off and soaking up nature – any of year.
If you and your kids like being out in nature, enjoy a little bushwalk, playing on equipment in a bush setting and some gorgeous views, then Lake Parramatta Reserve is definitely a must visit!
You can also swim there and hire boats to explore the lake (including rowboats, pedal boats, canoes and stand up boards). And on rare, special occasions, after a LOT of rain, you may even be treated to a gorgeous waterfall over the dam wall (video above).
On entering the reserve, you’ll see the lake on your left and there’s a cafe on your right. The swimming spot is a little further along, to the left of the roundabout. And to the right of the round about, at the top of the hill, you’ll find the playground and additional (free) parking.
Below is more information on the six things to do at Lake Parramatta Reserve.
| Swimming | Playground | Bushwalks | Cafe | Boats | Picnic Facilities |
1Swimming in the Lake
How lucky are we to have a gorgeous natural swimming spot in our backyard!
It’s been over five years since swimming re-opened at Lake Parramatta.
And it’s definitely a unique and gorgeous place to cool off. The water is clear and refreshing and you are surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature.
Lifeguards are on duty 9am to 6pm every weekend from late October until April. And everyday during school holidays during that period. You can swim when they are not on duty, but swim only in the designated swimming area (marked by buoys) and observe safe swimming practices. It’s recommended that you DO NOT swim for 3 days after heavy rain.
Over the last few years, Council has carried out work before each swimming season to improve the experience for swimmers. This has included:
- Sandstone steps and concrete landings all the way to the swimming area
- Pebbles installed within the swimming area
- Public viewing platform accessible for prams and wheelchairs
- Additional picnic shelters and BBQs installed
Keep in mind that entry to the water is rocky/pebbly and a bit slippery. We STRONGLY recommend wearing water shoes and going in slowly. Sadly, there’s no longer a small shallow area for little kids to splash in – it was filled in with pebbles in October 2020… but usually finds it way back as the pebbles wash away.
You also need to be aware that while there are NO sharks or crocodiles in Lake Parramatta (like we regularly get asked!), there are Eel-Tailed Catfish. These seemingly harmless looking native fish are great at protecting their nest and will ram into and/ or slash people (well feet/ legs) with their barbed fins when they end up too close! We’ve had a few friends injured and hear it happening to other people each summer. Through our advocacy, City of Parramatta Council has now installed signage about the Eel-Tailed Catfish.
The good news is that there are some simple things you can do to avoid crossing paths with a protective Eel-Tailed Catfish (which really is only a few weeks of the year) and leave Lake Parramatta without any painful cuts! The resident Eel-Tail Catfish nest in the left side of the swimming area amongst the pebbles so we recommend sticking to the right side. It’s also best to wear water shoes and keep your feet up near the surface – the Eel-Tail Catfish is a bottom swimmer.
In terms of seating near the water, there’s a terraced area amongst the trees and on rocks. There’s some natural shade in the early morning and afternoon. Plus, there are a few picnic shelters, near the new viewing platform, overlooking the swimming area.
We particularly like going on a weekday, mostly after school when it’s not busy. But keep in mind that it can get very busy on weekends! You’ll be able to tell by how hard it is to find a parking spot…
The small to medium sized playground is well suited for kids 1.5-5yrs. It has a slide, swings, balance beam, liberty swing, pretend shops, stone sculptures and an range of interactive vertical play boards with steering wheels, xylophone, abacus and noughts and crosses.
The playground is located at the top of the reserve, opposite the toilet block and near the overflow parking. In late 2016, a fenced was installed as a barrier between the playground and road.
There are 3 bushwalks you can do by the lake. All 3 walks can be accessed by going straight at the round about to the end of the road. Or walking down the stone stairs to the left of the playground.
But we also really enjoy starting the Lake Circuit walk from behind the ‘dam’ wall by walking around the front of the lake past the boat hire. The full walk is too long for little ones but we just walk in a bit and then turn around.
The track surface on all the walks is uneven and there are some stone stairs or a creek crossing. But we’ve seen parents happily pushing bubs in prams along the fire trail.
We have walked the She Oak bushwalk a number times with preschoolers and toddlers and everyone always really loves it. There is a great spot to stop for a picnic about a 1/4 of the way in along the lake.
For all the years we’ve been enjoying Lake Parramatta, it is only in January 2021 that we finally had lunch at the Lake Cafe.
The cafe is a simple set up, with nice views over the lake.
The milkshakes are massive/ great value and my kids enjoyed their large serving of chips. The babycino is pricey at $3 but it’s a mug of froth and milk with two marshmallows so my Mr 7 was very happy!
They’ve also got gelato, cakes and cold drinks, which are great on a hot day!
5Boats on the Lake
In September 2016, Parramatta Rowboats starting operating on the Lake. You can hire rowboats, pedal boats, canoes, kayaks and stand up boards from 10am to 5pm on weekends, public holidays and during school holidays.
All boats can be hired for an hour and most for 2hrs, 4hrs or all day as well. Pedal boats are ideal for the family, as they can hold 2 adults and 2 children and no experience is needed. They can just be hired for an hour and prices start from $35.
The toilet block is opposite the playground and there are a number of picnic shelters and BBQs down from the toilets. Plus, more BBQs and picnic shelters down near the swimming area. All BBQs and picnic shelters are free to use on a first come first serve basis.
There’s also grassed areas from the toilets down to the water where you can spread out a rug under a tree and enjoy a picnic lunch.
If you want to see some ducks, head to the part of the lake opposite the cafe where there is a little jetty and some seats to soak in this tranquil spot from.
The gate on Lackey/ Bourke Street is open from 6:30am to 5:30pm outside of day light saving. And then stays open til 7:30pm during day light saving.
Finding Lake Parramatta Reserve
The Reserve is located right by James Ruse Drive and entry is at the intersection of Bourke and Lackey Streets in North Parramatta.