Home Travel BlogAustralia Travel Blog Colonial grandeur at Elizabeth Bay House, Sydney

Colonial grandeur at Elizabeth Bay House, Sydney

by Silke Elzner

Build between 1835 and 1839 for the Colonal Secretay of New South Wales, Alexander Macleay, Elizabeth Bay House today stands tall and proud amid the apartment blocks and houses of Elizabeth Bay in Sydney. It is today open to the public, lovingly restored and re-furnished with antiques to show the house’s state at a time when Mr Macleay, this wife and six daughters lived here.


I love stately homes. I love Downton Abbey. And now, finding myself in this marvellous example of colonial architecture, I cannot adequately express my joy at viewing the exquisitely decorated rooms of this house that was once home to three generations of the Macleay family.

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On the ground floor there are the formal dining room and the drawing room, both to receive and entertain visitors. The breakfast room with its set table and soft furnishing appears homely and welcoming – the place for the family to enjoy the views of the garden and to maybe play a game of chess. The library shows specimens of Mr Macleay’s insect collection.

Centerpiece of Elizabeth Bay House is the dome elliptical saloon with its fine staircase, considered the best work in all colonial Australia.

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Upstairs there are the morning room which must have been popular with the ladies back in the day, as well as the master bedroom with its plush four-poster bed and one nursery. The house’s tall French doors open partially to a balcony, letting in the bright Australian sunlight and offering prime views across Sydney Harbour.

Elizabeth Bay House, managed by Sydney Living Museums is a great experience if you would like to learn more about the ways of the gentry back in colonial times, but also if you would like to see an excellent example of upstairs-downstairs house design. The cellar have also been opened and can be visited as part of the museum. Here you will also find a short, 18-minute film. Free tours are available too.

Elizabeth Bay House, 7 Onslow Avenue, Elizabeth Bay. http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/elizabeth-bay-house, adult admission $8