Ferry Ride to Parramatta

It’s been many years since we rode the ferry to Parramatta. Alex has never done the journey. An unexpected cancellation gave us the opportunity to explore the water route to Sydney’s inland centre.

The Parramatta River flows into Sydney Harbour. We catch train from Padstow to Circular Quay, where we are greeted by the Radiance of the Seas, a huge cruise liner imposing itself over the much smaller ferries. 

The ferries to Parramatta are somewhat infrequent, so we wander around the Rocks while we wait for the next boat. 
Eventually we head down to the wharf to board our boat, a Captain Cook catamaran pressed into service as a ferry. We cross the gangplank and head up the stairs to the unsheltered roof.

The ferry reverses out from its berth, the swivels around. As we pass the Radiance of the Sea, dwarfed by its immense size, we recall our only liner experience, the Viking Line ferry between Stockholm and Helsinki from January this year. And that was a pretty awesome experience, but I still don’t feel the need to cruise.

The fear is seasickness, and as we left the shelter of Circular Quay for the main channel under the bridge the up and down motion became greater and both B and I felt a little queasy. We are not people of the water.

Under the massive iron structure of the Harbour Bridge, then around past the old wharves to the new development of Barangaroo, the casino skyscraper still under construction. Then we continue on, criss-crossing the river and threading our way past islands and peninsulas. The coast is lined with multimillion dollar homes, rowing clubs and boat sheds. Tiny beaches and baths, kids swimming, adults fishing.

The factories and docks that once sat by the shores have been replaced by banks of expensive apartments, their clean modern lines disguising the area’s dirty, but far more interesting, past. But further upriver, past Meadowbank, we begin to see mangrove trees clinging to the edges, their roots rising out of the mud to breathe.

At times I feel almost like we are in the tropics, cruising the estuary of the Klang on the way to Pulua Ketam in Malaysia.

Overhead roar the big jets heading northwards as they take off from Sydney Airport to the south. They call me on an adventure into the hot clear skies and I suffer the simultaneous duality of dream and nightmare of wanting to go whilst fearing the anxiety of the journey.

No such anxieties here, just the drone of the engine, pitch changing as we stop at each jetty before continuing on.

After Rydalmere the river narrows and we are ushered downstairs and the aerial mast is lowered to fit under the bridges. Though the view is now through dirty shaded windows, there is some relief from being out of the hot sun.

The final stretch is a slow crawl past mangroves and crumbling factory retaining walls until at last we reach Parramatta, the weir separating the salt waters of our journey and the fresh water ahead preventing any further travel.

It’s a long time since I’ve been to Parramatta. Alex has a thing for pho right now and dragged us past a couple of Malaysian places, his laksa fetish replaced by a different type of soup noodle dish, until, desperately hungry, we reached Pho Pasteur.

It certainly smelled and looked like a proper Australian Vietnamese restaurant and it was good to sate our hunger before exploring the end-of-year sales at the nearby Westfield shopping mall.

Google’s suggestion for the fastest way back to Padstow was the M92 bus. Sadly it wasn’t a double decker, but the route took us past some different areas. Some were familiar and reminded us how much faster it would have been driving directly to Parramatta. Others offered a different perspective. Especially interesting was passing the Rookwood Necropolis, some graves poking up through wild bush, indicating how long people have been buried there.

Best of all was not having to worry about navigating the unfamiliar roads. The joy of quiet public transport is being able to just sit and watch the world pass by outside.

I wouldn’t recommend the Parramatta ferry as a fast way of travelling between there and the city. But it certainly offers a different perspective to the tourist.