Oh my, how stunningly gorgeous are the Wistaria Gardens! And full of history. Definitely one of the best kept local secrets! They are such a beautiful spot for a family picnic, soaking up the sun and spring in all its beauty! Plus, a lovely place to grab some great family photos.
While your eyes will be draw up to the flowering wisteria and cherry blossoms, when you look down you will see the empty garden beds that sadly Western Sydney Health didn’t plant again this year. Disappointingly Wistaria Gardens are still in limbo while they wait to be transferred from Western Sydney Health to Parramatta Park Trust – its been two years now!
We are urging the NSW Government to finally transfer the gardens to Parramatta Park ensure they are not just preserved for the community to continue to enjoy, but become a thriving community oasis. In the meantime, there are still many beautiful spring trees to enjoy in the gardens.
I heard about the gardens as part of the (past) annual Wistaria Fete/ Festival. But truly had no idea how beautiful they were until we visited for the first time in 2017. It was so lovely to hear by little boys constantly saying ‘oh wow!’ and ‘mum, mum look at all the beautiful blossoms’. We ended up visiting a few times in the spring of 2017. And have visited every year since – my photos just don’t do it justice!
When writing the ParraParents Top 20 Spring Playgrounds and Parks list, I was reminded of how the City of Parramatta doesn’t have a garden park, like Auburn Botanic Gardens, Fagan Park or Nurragingy Reserve. Little did I know we have the gorgeous Wistaria Gardens. While not currently a public park, they are open to the public and you can enter year round from Parramatta Park. Now I want to make sure as many families as possible know so they can be enjoyed by more locals.
And we were SUPER EXCITED that the NSW Government decided in September 2017 to transfer Wistaria Gardens to Parramatta Park Trust. Read more in this Parramatta Sun article. Just very disappointed that it still hasn’t happened. And in the meantime, the gardens suffer from neglect.
The Wistaria Gardens are dissected by the Domain Creek, and Parramatta River runs along one side.
What I loved about Wistaria Gardens was the variety of flowers and range of colours of the blossoms. And unlike Auburn Botanic Garden, where you have to admire most of the blossoms from a bit of a distance, you can get up close to the flowers in the Wistaria Gardens. Perfect for curious little ones!
Plus it was lovely to see so many families gathering for picnics on the open, grassed areas (though I didn’t get photos).
Getting to Wistaria Gardens
Wistaria Gardens are located on the grounds of Cumberland Hospital in Westmead. They back onto the top end of Parramatta Park. The gardens are at the intersection of Domain Creek and Parramatta River.
The Google Map below shows the location of the gardens, along with the entry point from Parramatta Park and places of interest nearby.
You can park your car in between the Picnic Ground and the Old Orchard, along the road within Parramatta Park. It is then a short walk to the entrance for the gardens. Below is the map of Parramatta Park and you can see the Wistaria Gardens at A6.
Remember, the Wistaria Gardens are currently on hospital grounds and are there primarily for the enjoyment of patients.
Places of Interest Nearby
From within the Wistaria Gardens, you can access the Governor Phillip Walk through a gate near the bridge. The walk is open from 6am to 6pm and 8pm during daylight saving. The walk follows the Parramatta River up to the head of the river.
About a 600m walk away from the gardens, back in Parramatta Park, is the Domain Creek playground.
Further around Parramatta Park, is The Grounds Keeper Cafe and Pavilion Flat playground.
A Brief History of the Wistaria Gardens*
The area was originally part of the 500 acres set aside by Governor Arthur Phillip in 1788 as the Governor’s Domain. In the mid-1850s, the government decided to sell off a large proportion of the Domain. By then it had grown to some 2000 acres and they kept 200 acres for the recreation of the people of Parramatta. This became Parramatta Park. A smaller acreage was also granted to the Roman Catholic Orphanage. This was later given to the ‘Parramatta Lunatic Asylum’. And became the land on which the Wistaria Gardens were later developed.
The man largely responsible for the construction of the Gardens, and the house within, was Dr William Cotter Williamson. Dr Williamson had an interest in botany and horticulture. While the Asylum’s Assistant Medical Officer in the 1880’s, he influenced the plantings on the northern campus of the Asylum grounds. When Dr Williamson became the Medical Superintendent (1900 to 1921), he convinced the Department of Mental Hospitals of a need for a new official residence. The Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon designed the new residence and construction began in 1906. Once completed, Dr Williamson named the house “Glengarriff”, after a favourite and picturesque part of Ireland.
The Gardens won the admiration of visitors to the adjacent Parramatta Park. They would gather at the fences to see inside. Bowing to public interest, the Medical Superintendent, Dr Prior, opened the Gardens to the public in 1929 for a small entry fee. In 1930, Dr Prior allowed the sale of raffia, needlework and toys made by the patients in a small area of lawn within the gardens. The Wistaria Fete was born and has continued to this day every September. The funds raised go towards patient amenities.
The Wistaria Gardens have been slightly reduced in area since 1907. But continue to occupy about 2.5 hectares of land. Plans to demolish Glengarriff and about half of the garden area in the late 1980’s saw a community backlash. This ultimately saved the site, with the National Trust listing the gardens in 1994.
*Abridged version of the history of the Wistaria Gardens available on the Wistaria Gardens Since 1906 Facebook page.