Aim This investigation explored the hypothesis that in obesity an inflammatory response in the kidney contributed to a renal nerve‐dependent blunting of the baroreflex regulation of renal sympathetic nerve activity. Methods Rats received a normal (12% kcal) or high‐fat (45% kcal) diet for 8 weeks plus daily injections of vehicle (0.9% NaCl i.p) or tacrolimus (0.25 mg kg−1 day−1 i.p) from weeks 3–8. Following anaesthesia, left renal sympathetic nerve activity was recorded, baroreflex gain curves were generated, by infusing phenylephrine and sodium nitroprusside, and cardiopulmonary baroreceptors challenged by infusing a saline load. Results The high‐fat diet elevated weight gain and adiposity index by 89 and 129% (both, P < 0.001). Mean blood pressure (132 ± 4 vs 103 ± 5 mmHg), fractional noradrenaline excretion and creatinine clearance (5.64 ± 0.55 vs 3.32 ± 0.35 mL min−1 kg−1) were 28, 77 and 69% higher (all P < 0.05), but urine flow and fractional sodium excretions were 42 and 72% (both P < 0.001) lower compared to normal rats. Plasma and renal TNF‐α and IL‐6 concentrations were fourfold to fivefold (P < 0.001) and 22 and 20% higher (both, P < 0.05), in obese rats but normalized following tacrolimus. In obese rats, baroreflex sensitivity was reduced by 80% (P < 0.05) but restored by renal denervation or tacrolimus. Volume expansion reduced renal sympathetic nerve activity by 54% (P < 0.001) in normal and obese rats subjected to renal denervation and tacrolimus, but not in obese rats with an intact renal innervation. Conclusion Obesity induced a renal inflammation and pointed to this being both the origin of autonomic dysregulation and a potential focus for targeted therapy.