The rolling foothills that connect New South Wales’ Blue Mountains with the Southern Highlands, the Macarthur region is the ultimate blend of regional relaxation and urban convenience. Comprised of the Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly Shires, the area forms a link between the city of Sydney and regional New South Wales.
While most of the population is centred in and around the satellite city of Campbelltown, the region is largely devoted to the more rural expanse of the Wollondilly Shire, an area mostly made up of National Parks and water catchment areas.
So how did Macarthur come to be? And what does it offers its residents and visitors today? Let’s have a closer look at this beautiful part of the world.
A brief history of Macarthur
The human history of the Macarthur region began with the Tharawal people. Rock engravings, cave paintings and ancient tools have been found throughout the area, giving insight into Macarthur’s pre-colonial past. The Tharawal lands covered an area that stretched from the foothills of the Blue Mountains, out to Botany Bay, and south to Shoalhaven. The language survives to this day, albeit in an ever-diminishing way.
1788 brought European convicts and settlers to Australia, although the settlement of the Macarthur region was, in a way, an accident. Shortly after the first fleet arrived and settled at Sydney Cove, the colonists’ entire herd of cattle – two bulls and four cows – escaped from their paddock and were lost. In 1795 the cattle were found in the Macarthur region, having exploded into a herd of 61. Noting the health of the animals, the area was named ‘Cowpastures’, and was quickly set aside for cattle rearing purposes. But while healthy, the liberated herd proved to be untameable, and the animals were subsequently destroyed.
The ‘Cowpastures’ venture having failed, the region was then named after Elizabeth and John Macarthur, the first Europeans to settle there. Having been granted land that is now occupied by the Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly Shires, John and Elizabeth set about pioneering the Australian wool industry, using the generous amount of space to rear Merino sheep. Their sons later introduced viticulture to Australia in the early 1800s.
From these humble beginnings, the Macarthur region has developed into a semi-urban, semi-rural melting pot, bursting with history and home to many notable Australians.
Attractions and notable sites
Macarthur is a hugely popular tourist destination, offering Sydneysiders an incredibly convenient rural getaway, and offering history lovers an exciting look into Australia’s colonial past. A few of the most notable Macarthur sites and attractions include:
- Camden Park Estate (Camden) – Completed in 1834, this was John and Elizabeth Macarthur’s principle residence, and is still occupied by their descendants.
- Australian Botanic Garden (Mount Annan) – Australia’s largest botanic garden, this beautifully maintained area is home to a wealth of local flora and fauna.
- Wirrimbirra Sanctuary (Bargo) – Opened in 1960, the Wirrimbirra sanctuary is intended to protect an area where Europeans first encountered koalas, wombats and the lyrebird.
- Mushroom Tunnel (Picton) – One of Australia’s first train tunnels, the Mushroom tunnel was built in 1867. Now out of service, it has since become a ghost-hunting hotspot.
- Campbelltown City Arts Centre (Campbelltown) – A deeply respected arts institution, the CCAC houses a stunning array of art, including historical, contemporary and indigenous.
But in reality, this short list doesn’t even scratch the surface of what the Macarthur region offers. It’s an incredibly diverse part of Australia, and one that has played an integral part in our young country’s story.
No matter your likes, dislikes, hobbies or interests, the Macarthur region truly has something for everyone.