Parramatta River lies at the heart of our beautiful city. And it’s one of the reasons I enjoy living and playing here so much! The creeks that flow into Parramatta River form a wonderful network of bushland, with walks and nature to enjoy. And so much of the river foreshore is parkland with fun playgrounds, paths to walk and cycle on and space for picnics. Plus of course, there’s the Parramatta Rivercat to jump on and explore the river!
I’m proud to be a Riverkeeper Ambassador for the Parramatta River Catchment Group and love sharing my love of the river and how we can each help look after it with our community. For years now I’ve been leading bushwalks with families, organising litter clean ups and sharing reviews of different things families can do along the river – helping thousands of families enjoy our beautiful river more.
But the missing piece in all this is a list (and I love a good list!) of our favourite things to do on and around Parramatta River… so here it is!
Top 15 Favourite Things to Do On and Around Parramatta River
I’ve had this list in my head for a few years now and it keeps changing…. and I’m sure it still will. They are somewhat in order but each moves up and down depending on the weather and the mood we’re in!
Keep in mind, for each favourite thing I’ve listed below, there’s another few great options/ versions. So really the list is probably 5-10 times longer! For example, we love bushwalking to Balaka Falls but there are at least 10 other bushwalks we enjoy going on along creeks that feed into Parramatta River!
1Bushwalk along Hunts Creek to Balaka Falls
Balaka Falls was a little known spot in Carlingford when we first starting bushwalking there in 2016. And now it’s probably one of the most popular bushwalks around! There are a few different entry spots, including two playgrounds, of varying length, which make it a great walk for families.
But the bushwalks at Hunts Creek are definitely not our only favourites when it comes to walks along Parramatta River and the creeks that flow into it. Here are some of our others:
- Darling Mills Creek – the Orange Pye Loop Track, North Rocks/ Northmead Dam, Platypus Track and Richard Webb Cascades
- Lake Parramatta
- Pemulwuy Loop along Toongabbie Creek in Winston Hills
- Louise Sauvage Pathway along Haslams Creek in Newington
- Badu Mangrove Boardwalk at Sydney Olympic Park
- Vineyard Creek Reserve in Oatlands/ Telopea
2Swim at Lake Parramatta
There’s something so tranquil and refreshing about swimming in the fresh water of Lake Parramatta. Located in North Parramatta, and not on Parramatta River itself, the lake is formed by water from Hunts Creek and held back by a dam wall. There’s a designated swimming area, with a rocky ground and varying depths.
There are three places, in the Parramatta River itself, where you can currently swim – Cabarita Park Beach, Chiswick Baths and Dawn Fraser Baths. Plus, work is underway to open up three more swimming spots in the coming few years – at Putney Park, Bayview Park and Bedlam Bay.
There’s definitely something special about travelling around Sydney on a ferry… and with 10 stops along Parramatta River, there are plenty of adventures to be had! Cabarita is the stop we first started visiting and still our favourite. There’s a beach full of shells, playground, picnic facilities, cafe and swimming pool – yes ticks all the boxes for families with young kids.
Check out our Ferry Adventures with Kids Guide for a list of things to do at each Rivercat stop along Parramatta River.
4Splash at Putney Park
With beaut views of the river, shallow splash pools, BBQs, fun playgrounds and lots of space to spread out, it’s hard to go past Putney Park for somewhere to cool down with little ones. Stage 1 of adding a swimming area in the river here is also complete now with stairs down to the beach area.
5BBQ at Kissing Point Park
We love soaking up the river views and warm weather during daylight saving with a BBQ or picnic at Kissing Point Park… plus a number of other spots along Parramatta River. Other parks with free to use BBQs that we enjoy using are Eric Primrose Reserve near Rydalmere Wharf, Blaxland Riverside Park, Silverwater Park and Cabarita Park.
6Ride on the Putney Punt
Did you know you can ‘drive’ on Parramatta River? The Mortlake Vehicle Ferry, otherwise known as the Putney Punt, takes cars between Putney and Mortlake for free seven days a week during set times. And you can also go across as a pedestrian which is a fun experience. We enjoy riding on the Putney Punt to go to playgrounds at Mortlake and Concord, like Wangal Reserve and Bayview Park.
7Play at Wangal Reserve
In prime position on the Parramatta River is Wangal Reserve, overlooking Concord, Kissing Point and Putney. It has a fun nature based playground, which is not yet a year old. Plus a little beach area to build sand castles on, toilets and BBQs.
And you’ll be happy to know that there are 25 other playgrounds along Parramatta River to enjoy – almost all with water views.
The river isn’t nice to enjoy when there’s litter clogging up the foreshore and floating in the water. Plus, a dirty river is not a healthy habitat for local wildlife nor somewhere we want to swim!
Most rubbish that ends up in Parramatta River comes from stormwater drains – washed down from local streets with the rain. But a good deal of litter also blows in from people picnicking and enjoying time by the river.
So we can all play our part in keeping our river clean by simply putting our rubbish in the bin (or taking it home with us if the bin is full) as well as making sure the lids are closed on our red and yellow bins. You can also join a growing group of people working to make Parramatta River litter free. Plus you can show your love for your local waterways by following these five steps.
9Walk Around Glades Bay
You can walk along almost the entire foreshore on the north side of Parramatta River to Gladesville Bridge, as well as sections of the south side. And the best bit is you can walk for as long or as little as you like, plus most of the River walk is flat and paved – good for prams and scooters/ bikes. We enjoy going for a wander around Glades Bay along the boardwalk. But there are so many other sections of the river that we enjoy walking/ riding along, including
- Parramatta Escarpment Boardwalk
- Ermington Bay Nature Trail
- Parramatta Wharf to Rydalmere Wharf
- Silverwater Bridge to Sydney Olympic Park Wharf
- Kissing Point Wharf to Meadowbank Wharf
- Rhodes Park to Yaralla House in Concord
10Breakfast/ Lunch Overlooking the Water
There’s something very nice about enjoying a delicious meal overlooking the water… and the closest thing for us Western Sydneysiders is to go to one of the growing number of cafes/ restaurants along Parramatta River. Each offers different cuisine and river views…. so it’s hard to have one favourite! That being said, the views at Sydney Rowing Club in Abbotsford would have to be the best.
We’ve created a Google Map with the various river side cafes to help.
11Watch the Sunset at Rydalmere Wharf
There seems to be a spectacular sunset every other day captured on Parramatta River in my Instagram feed, with residents of Rhodes and Wentworth Point particularly good at capturing the moment.
We enjoy watching the sun setting at Rydalmere Wharf as well as from Silverwater Bridge and Blaxland Riverside Park.
12Ride Over Bennelong Bridge
Until recently, I didn’t appreciate how many bridges you can across along Parramatta River! Bennelong Bridge, between Rhodes and Wentworth Point, has been a favourite since it opened in 2016. But then we’ve just started enjoying riding over John Whitton Bridge from Meadowbank to Rhodes and walking over Rydalmere Bridge.
13Build Sandcastles at Birkenhead Point
We may not be able to just pop down the road to the beach. But there are a sprinkling of sanding ‘beach’ areas along Parramatta River – great for making sand castles. Here’s a list of our top 10 Parramatta River ‘beaches’. These spots are also lovely to visit for a picnic or to read a book (kid-free).
14Walk Through Time at Parramatta River Foreshore Reserve
Parramatta River is seeped in history! A good little introduction is to follow the Indigenous murals on the pathways in Parramatta River Foreshore Reserve as well as retrace Governor Phillip’s journey along a signposted walk.
15Spot Birds at Sydney Olympic Park
So many different types of wildlife call Parramatta River home, from Powerful Owls to Eastern Long Neck Turtles and echidnas. You can learn more about the flora and fauna that call Parramatta River home on the Our Living River website.
We like to ride from Wentworth Common around to the waterbird refuge in Bicentennial Park – and spot and learn about the different birds who call it home. I also recommend checking out the Sea Eagle Cam, particularly around June/ July when the eggs usually hatch.