Construction of this imposing, turreted specimen of Gothic Australiana, set amid 10 hectares of lush gardens, commenced in 1805, but the house was tinkered with into the 1860s. Atmospheric, and decorated with beautiful European period pieces, the house offers visitors a rare glimpse into early Sydney colonial life, as lived by the well-to-do. The history of the Wentworths, who occupied it, is fascinating, and helpful guides give great background on them. In the grounds is a popular tearoom.

Vaucluse was occupied from 1827 to 1862 by William Charles Wentworth, his wife Sarah and their children. The son of a convict mother, Wentworth became a barrister and cowrote the first New South Wales colonial constitution. However, his democratic leanings kept him estranged from high society: he held the ‘outrageous’ view that Australian-born colonials were the equals of the English, and that political and legal rights should be extended to emancipists (freed convicts). Wentworth was also an intrepid explorer. In 1831 he was part of the first European expedition to cross the Blue Mountains. You can see his extravagant mausoleum on nearby Chapel Rd.