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Elizabeth Bay House

Last Updated: June 24, 2024 Sydney
Tripadvisor Rating 4.5/5
5 46
Google Rating 4.7/5
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avatar By Sam Baldwin

Want to have a day filled with the history of colonial Sydney? Visit Elizabeth Bay House to see the design of the most extraordinary house of that time.

7 Onslow Ave, Elizabeth Bay NSW 2011, Australia

What?

Elizabeth Bay House originally belonged to Alexander Macleay – the second most popular public official after the governor in colonial Sydney. The house is a prime representative of the colonial era in Australia.

It was called the “finest house in the colony” at the time. Currently, it is open to the public on Sundays and Mondays. So if you are a history freak and want to know about ancient Australia, Elizabeth Bay House must be one of your next stops.

It is built with unique architecture and was formerly well-known for its lush and captivating gardens. Its rooms, furnishings, and staircase will keep you in awe of the house.

inside view of Elizabeth Bay House with staircase Source: https://www.modernwedding.com.au/wp-content/uploads/business-listing-images/447/wedding-venues-sydney-elizabethbay.jpg

The Story

In 1815, Governor Macquarie (1810–21) declared Elizabeth Bay as a fishing site for the native people of the place around Sydney Harbour. When Sir Thomas Brisbane became governor in 1821, he constructed an asylum there.

Alexander Macleay was presented the 22 acres of the Bay by Governor Darling in 1826 when he accepted the position of NSW Colonial Secretary. He was formerly a public server and entomologist, but after his retirement in 1817, he had minimal means to support a large family.

Though his place at Elizabeth Bay sparked many controversies, people learned that Macleay was the most suitable person for the property when he started renovating it.

He grew a lavish garden with every kind of fruit and vegetable on a land with little to no greenery. Thanks to him, the streets and area became suitable for an advanced and civilized man.

Macleay designed the house himself. After him, his children also took a keen interest in the furnishings.

The property faced Sydney Harbor with stunning views of the water. It also had a beautiful pond, enchanting flower garden, lattice vinery, and amazing botanical wonders. The spectacular gardens, which best reflected Macleay’s preferences and ambitions, ultimately drove him to disaster during the 1840s economic depression.

Elizabeth Bay House is a famous Sydney residence with a legendary Sydney tale of property and positional passion that went beyond resources and was undone by shifting economic conditions.

Did you know?

Spectators in front of Elizabeth Bay House at the 17 September 1927 sale of the remaining 3 acres of the Elizabeth Bay estate Source: https://first.mhnsw.au/images_linked/34456/EB92_17.jpg

What is Elizabeth Bay House Famous For?

The Elizabeth Bay House is famous for its design, gardens, and architecture. It depicts the riches and ruins of colonial Sydney, and you can behold history right in front of your eyes.

How To Get There?

You can get to the Elizabeth Bay House by public transport, i.e., bus or train. It is situated at a distance of 4.5 km east of Sydney CBD.

You can get to Greenknowe Avenue by taking the 311 bus, and Elizabeth Bay House is a short walk from there.

The bus travels via Darlinghurst, Kings Cross, Elizabeth Bay, and Woolloomooloo on its journey from Railway Square to City-Millers Point.

The Eastern Suburbs/Illawarra line’s Kings Cross railway station is 21 minutes away. You should visit Transport Infoline or dial 131500 for the current schedules.

garden in front of Elizabeth Bay House Source: https://m.experiencesydneyaustralia.com/images/sendbinary.asp?width=1280&path=imagesDB/wysiwyg/Elizabeth-Bay-House1.jpg

Nearest Parking and Cost

The nearest parking to this site is the King’s Cross Car Park at Ward Ave. It is 500 km away from the house but safe and secure. As for cycles, there is no safe parking spot nearby.

view of the entrance and staircase from 2nd level of Elizabeth Bay House with incoming visitors Source: https://dynamic-media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-o/0b/f0/58/b4/the-main-staircase.jpg?w=600&h=-1&s=1

Nearby Attractions – Make A Day Of It!

Here are some of the best nearby places you can visit:

You cannot visit Sydney without seeing the iconic opera house. It is a world-renowned venue for performing arts and another architectural marvel.

Another of Syndey’s most famous monuments. The engineering feat is nicknamed the “coathanger” due to its unique steel arch design.

Top 5 Closest Hidden Gems – Recommended By Adventure Clues

Destination Distance
Paddington Reservoir Gardens 2.8 km
Royal Botanic Garden Sydney 3.6 km
Forgotten Songs, Sydney 4.0 km
Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden 6.6 km
Badu Mangroves 19.8 km

Your Hidden Gems Itinerary

  1. Start your day at Elizabeth Bay House.
  2. Then head to Paddington Reservoir Gardens: Begin your day with a blend of historical architecture and greenery, ideal for a relaxing mid-morning.
  3. Next, visit Royal Botanic Garden Sydney: Explore and have a peaceful stroll through these historic and diverse gardens.
  4. Then proceed to Forgotten Songs, Sydney: Reflect on this artistic tribute to Sydney’s lost bird species in an urban setting.
  5. Explore Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden: Connect in this hidden garden, a perfect spot for quiet contemplation.
  6. Finally, end your day at Badu Mangroves: Conclude your day with the tranquility of nature in these significant wetlands.

These destinations near Elizabeth Bay House offer a journey through serene gardens, historical sites, and thought-provoking art, capturing the essence of Sydney’s quieter, yet enriching, side.

Best Eateries Around

Here are some fantastic restaurants near Elizabeth Bay House:

If you are in the mood for authentic Spanish food, visit this eatery. They have a wide range of contemporary and delicious Spanish food for good value for money.

For anything Italian, Bar Grazie is the perfect place. It is at 21 Elizabeth Bay Rd, Elizabeth Bay NSW 2011, Australia and is famous for its delicious food, fast service, and relaxed vibe.

Entry Price

There is no entry fee to Elizabeth Bay House. You may go there between 10 am to 4 pm on a Sunday or Monday. You might need to book your tickets before visiting it, so do it before going there. 

Final Thoughts

Elizabeth Bay House, once known as the “finest house in the colony,” provides an immersive experience into Australia’s colonial history, showcasing the ambitions and societal dynamics of early Sydney through its architecture, lush gardens, and intriguing historical narratives.

Ready to learn history but without being bored? Try Sydney Scavenger Hunts by Adventure Clues to delve into Australia’s rich history while having fun.

FAQs

Know more about the rich history of the Elizabeth Bay House and other details that have made this historic mansion a landmark in Sydney.

What is the history of the Elizabeth Bay House?

The Elizabeth Bay House is a key piece of Australia’s colonial history. Envisioned by Alexander Macleay, a prominent figure known as the Colonial Secretary, construction began in 1835 and was overseen by esteemed architect, John Verge. Often referred to as the ‘Finest House in the Colony’, the mansion showcases grandeur and the elegance of early Sydney society and holds a significant place in the historical narrative of Australia.

Who was Alexander Macleay?

Alexander Macleay was a noted botanist and politician in NSW (New South Wales). Serving as the Colonial Secretary, his vision and ambition led to the commissioning of the grand Elizabeth Bay House. This historical figure played a significant role in shaping the early colonial society and governance in Sydney’s past.

What was the role of John Verge in the construction?

John Verge is considered one of the most distinguished architects of the early 19th century in Australia. He was commissioned by Alexander Macleay to design and supervise the construction of the Elizabeth Bay House between 1835 and 1839. His contribution made it a superb example of Australian Colonial Architecture.

What is notable about the Interior of the Elizabeth Bay House?

The interior of the Elizabeth Bay House is famous for its exquisite furnishings and the magnificent elliptical staircase. It also houses the historic ‘Maid’s Room’ and ‘Drawing Room’. Visitors today can admire the delicate structures, and the grandeur that earned it the title of the ‘The Finest House’ in the Colony.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Bay_House#History

https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/elizabeth-bay-house/visit

https://mgnsw.org.au/organisations/elizabeth-bay-house/

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