Sydney Government House (Sydney, Australia)

Although I consider myself to be a true Sydney local, Sydney Government House is a place that I had not heard of before last year. Upon discovering that the House is nestled in the Royal Botanic Gardens, my first notion was that it was the castle-like building that was visible from within the gardens. Turns out I was wrong; I was actually thinking of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music building, which houses the University of Sydney Conservatorium of Music and the Conservatorium High School.

Sydney Government House is situated on Gadigal land in the northwest end of the Royal Botanic Gardens but is actually very difficult to notice from within the public area of the gardens. The grounds of the House are quite extensive and, due to being a still functioning government building, are divided from the rest of the Botanic Gardens by tall fencing. This, combined with the leafy arbour-like vegetation in its grounds, makes it difficult to happen upon the House unless you already know it is there.

Photo of Sydney Government House and garden

Despite all this camouflage, Sydney Government House is accessible to the public as long as you know where to look. Heading over from Martin Place station, the entrance to the House's grounds is about an 8 minute walk north on Macquarie Street. Adjacent to the Conservatorium Building is the gated entry to the Royal Botanic Gardens. This is where you will find the driveway leading up to Government House.

At the entry to the House's gates all visitors, myself included, are required to report to the guardhouse to sign in and check in any bags (water bottles are allowed and there is a water bubbler within the grounds, so you can stay hydrated). Rules are quite strict at Government House, which still functions as the seat of the Governor of New South Wales who is appointed by the Queen on advice of the state's premier. Entry to the property is by free guided tour only, with tours departing every half an hour between 10am and 4pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. No bookings required!

Photo of Sydney Government House and driveway

Upon approach to the House, the architecture of the building is quite striking. Built between 1837 and 1847 in the Gothic Revival architectural style, the sandstone turrets and battlements of the house are noticeably regal against the foliage of the grounds. The land that the House sits on was designated by Governor Phillip in 1792 for use of the Crown and as common lands for the colonists of Sydney under the immensely damaging principle of terra nullius, land belonging to no one, which disregarded tens of thousands of years of Gadigal custodianship of land.

Over time the grounds of Sydney Government House has reduced in size, although there is still a sizeable chunk of land surrounding the property. Upon entry to the House, visitors are immediately greeted by a high-ceilinged entrance hall complete with wooden staircase and coats of arms on the upper walls. Your volunteer tour guide will take you through the elaborately decorated high art inner, outer and main halls, study, dining room, anteroom, drawing room and ballroom, while delving into snippets of history from Sydney's colonial past. Unfortunately, photography is not permitted inside, so until you take the time to visit you'll have to take my word for it that the interiors of the House are decidedly ornate.

All up the tour takes about 45 minutes and ends at the external verandah room where visitors are welcome to take a restful break in the cool sandstone while enjoying the view out over the grounds.

Photo of verandah of Sydney Government House
Photo of grounds of Sydney Government House 

All in all, I found a visit to Sydney Government House a nice way to spend a sunny summer afternoon in Sydney. After the end of your tour you can explore the grounds of the building, and then continue your stroll through the picturesque Royal Botanic Gardens.

For each post I am planning to show where on the timescale of humanity it is situated. Over time I intend to have a mix of posts covering different areas of Sydney, around Australia and the world. The timeline at the bottom of each post should give a good idea of where in our history that particular site or artefact is located. I look forward to sharing this with you!

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  1. Beautiful photos! This is actually quite a nice spot, and so unknown :)


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