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  1. Afghan Royal restaurant Campbelltown
    Photograph: Supplied/Campbelltown City Council
  2. Man smiling in front of a painting.
    Photograph: Supplied/Campbelltown Arts Centre
  3. Supplied - Campbelltown Arts Centre
    Photograph: Supplied
  4. Aboriginal tour guide in national park
    Photograph: Supplied/Campbelltown City Council
  5. Supplied - Jingga Water Hole at Dharawal
    Photograph: Supplied
  6. Indigenous guide in Dharawal National Park
    Photograph: Supplied

A local's guide to Campbelltown

There's something for everyone in this diverse, welcoming city filled with hidden gems just waiting to be explored

Written by
Louise Gong
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The diverse, sprawling Campbelltown is an area of multitudes. Located 53 kilometres from the Sydney CBD, Campbelltown sits on the land of the Dharawal nation. Overlooked for far too long in favour of its shinier and fractionally-closer-to-Sydney cousin Liverpool, or dismissed as merely a gateway to the Southern Highlands, Campbelltown is a city that’s coming into its own. 

The competing influences and rich history of the town are on full display. From the town’s preserved colonial architecture marking the start of Campbelltown as it is known today, to the waves of migration and intercity movement that shaped the area through the 20th century, Campbelltown today is a melting pot in the truest sense. 

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EAT DRINK COFFEE THINGS TO DO SHOPPING

What’s Campbelltown known for?

Campbelltown isn’t known for just one feature. Campbelltown today is home to one of Sydney’s largest urban populations of First Nations people, migrant communities, a vibrant arts and culture scene, and an absolutely unparalleled assortment of natural landscapes. It’s also an educational hub of South West Sydney, with a major TAFE campus and a key Western Sydney University campus. 

Why do the locals love it?

Shefali Pall has lived and worked in Campbelltown for 17 years and is the head of marketing at local cafe Alkalizer.  Pall shouts out the “beautiful food joints” and “obviously, our nature reserves”, which she considers as the area's “untapped gems”.

“But the most special thing about Campbelltown is its people and the community spirit,” says Pall. It’s something she identifies as being a fundamental part of the “DNA” of Campbelltown, and that which she is yet to experience anywhere else. “Because of that strength, people are ready to embrace new things, people are ready to welcome new ideas and experiment."

How do I get to Campbelltown?

Getting to Campbelltown is easier – and faster – than you might think. Take the T8 line train from Central. It’s a direct service that comes every 15 minutes and will drop you off at Campbelltown in just shy of an hour. If you’d rather take the car, the roughly 50 kilometres out to Campbelltown is only a 45-minute drive via the M5 and 31, although depending on when you go, traffic might slow you down.   

What’s nearby?

Nearby suburbs Leumeah, Minto and Ingleburn have sizeable Bengali, Indian, Filipino and Polynesian communities. It might surprise you, but dotted in all directions surrounding Campbelltown are local wineries and orchards. Head west and you’ll find yourself in the other hub of the South West, Camden-Narellan, while directly south is Wedderburn, the gateway suburb to the Georges River. 

Map of Campbelltown

If you only do one thing…

Have an arts and culture day out at the Campbelltown Arts Centre. Prepare yourself for the day ahead with a sit down coffee at the Centre’s cafe, then mosey on in to the gallery to enjoy the meticulously curated exhibition(s). Once you’re done inside, luxuriate in the oasis of the grounds of the Centre. And then finally, if you have time to spare, why not book a half day in the on-site ceramics studio and fire your Campbelltown-inspired creation in the Centre’s kiln.

Eat
Photograph: Supplied/Grozik Polish Deli

Eat

Sydney might have a world-leading food scene, but comforting Polynesian food can be hard to find. Thankfully, Mama’s Polynesian Soul Food in Minto is a megastore (it has two kitchens) dedicated to remedying just that. The menu changes regularly, depending on what’s in season, but there’s always an assortment of housemade donuts to fall back on if what you’re after is no longer on the menu. Then, zip up north to Ingleburn for an authentic boodle fight, a Filipino culinary experience where cutlery is forgone in favour of your hands, at Pinoy Grill N Chill.

For a snack on which everyone has an opinion, Suma Katti, who grew up in the Campbelltown area, swears that the hot chips at Kings Charcoal Chicken might just be the best in the world. Striking the perfect balance between “a bit soft, but a bit crispy, the flavour [of King’s chips] runs right through the chip rather than just being [plain] mashed potato on the inside.” You might even want to hold the chicken salt, because they’re that good on their own. Of course, if you prefer your chicken brand named, you might want to head to the local outlet of western suburbs fave El Jannah

It wouldn’t be fair to mention King’s without shouting out the other king of Campbelltown: King Kebab House. In addition to dishing out reliably hearty kebabs, it’s also home to one of Sydney’s best halal snack packs – the very best if you’re willing to take the word of former Australian senator Sam Dastayari who famously raved about King Kebab House’s HSPs in parliament, giving them a 10 out of 10. 

Picnic time? Oregano Leaf Bakery and Yasmin Bakery jostle for most beloved when it comes to local Lebanese bakeries. Both bakeries are made-to-order, while Yasmin’s offers a must-try yoghurt topped pizza. Otherwise, pick up some goodies from Grosik Polish Deli, where you'll feel briefly whisked away to the charms of Krakow with an unrivalled selection of cold cuts, kielbasa, traditional cakes and breads and other dry goods.

For a meal you’ll want to sit down and savour, Afghan Royal Restaurant is the best (and only) place in the South West to tuck into real Afghan cuisine. If you’re new to the cuisine, make sure you order Afghanistan’s national dish: the Kabuli palaw, a sumptuous rice dish with caramelised carrots, sultanas and your choice of accompanying meat. If you're looking to suit a completely different palate, nip over to neighbouring Ingleburn for handcrafted American-style burgers at Suzie Dukes, where the silky soft milk buns are made fresh daily and ingredients are locally-sourced where possible. Here, more is more. 

It’s a universally acknowledged truth that everyone has different Indian cuisine preferences, so let your tastebuds compare local favourites Spice of Life and Aalishaan Indian Cuisine

There's always room for dessert, and if not, we suggest finding room for some from The Scoop Artisan Gelato. With over 41 flavours at any given time – each one made from scratch in-store using local ingredients where possible – the only question is how many scoops you’ll settle on. Or for desserts paired with something unexpected, settle in at Mazag, Campbelltown’s dedicated shisha spot. 

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Drink
Photograph: Supplied/The Beer Shed

Drink

Whilst Campbelltown isn’t renowned for its small bar scene, the LGA has truly been bitten by the craft beer bug. Duck over to neighbouring Leumeah to knock back a cold one at craft microbrewery the Beer Shed Brewing Co. They mix up the menu every week, cooking up new recipes for experimental brews. Or head on south to Ambarvale where 68,000 litres are brewed up each year by the Ambarvale Brewing Co.

Hotel chain Rydges sneaks in with a surprise craft beer offering too. The venue’s brewery, OTIS Brewing Co, boasts five on-site brewed beers, three of which are award-winning and all are available on tap.

If wine is more your tipple of choice, sitting just outside the official boundary line of Campbelltown City Council is Gledswood Homestead and Winery. Sample the estate’s wines at their cellar door – the building where the cellar door is located was built by convicts in the early 1800s and will take you way back in time.

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Coffee
Photograph: Supplied/Alkalizer

Coffee

Stop by Alkalizer for coffee with a difference. As any inner-city latte sipper will tell you, coffee falls firmly in the acidic category of beverage, but Alkalizer makes their coffee with an in-house blend and alkaline water so that the end brew sits at a pH of about six – a full one to two levels more basic than coffee’s usual pH of four or five. 

For a brew with an artistic backdrop, head to Seta’s Cafe – the cafe’s prominent mural is by Australian artist Le Grizz. Meanwhile, tucked inside Campbelltown Mall is Dahlia’s Cafe where the coffee is taken very seriously and the beans are house-roasted. If you prefer serenity with your caffeination, stop by Arts Centre Cafe (located inside Campbelltown Arts Centre) where, if you’re lucky, you can nab one of the outside tables overlooking the centre’s Japanese garden.

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Things to Do
Photograph: Supplied

Things to Do

Established in 2005, Campbelltown Arts Centre is a multidisciplinary arts institution with a formal gallery space indoors and a sculpture garden outside. The gallery space often shows exhibitions concurrently and the broader artistic program spans dance, music, live art, performance and other emerging practices. Meanwhile, the sculpture garden is home to a number of works by renowned artists – and it's got free entry. The Centre also houses an immaculate Japanese garden complete with koi, donated by Campbelltown’s Japanese sister city, Koshigaya. 

If a small garden doesn’t quite cut it for you, try the larger gardens at the Australian Botanic Garden. Or, really up the nature stakes at Dharawal National Park, Campbelltown’s stunning backyard. Contained within the sprawling reserve are a number of sites significant to the national park’s traditional owners, the Dharawal nation, and you can book a guided tour with an Aboriginal Discovery Ranger to learn about the park’s history and gain local knowledge. You’ll also find unspoiled waters, trails for both walking and biking, and a diverse range of wildlife worth keeping an eye out for. Pall loves the Minerva Pool walking track – although be mindful that the pool is a sacred site for the Dharawal people, and only women and children should enter the water. If you’re hankering for a swimming hole, why not celebrate completing the Jingga walking track with a dip in the freshwater pool that awaits.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a truly local guide to Campbelltown without a shout out to Dumaresq Street Cinema. Housed in a nondescript brick building, it’s one of those 'if you know, you know' spots. Famed for its $7.50 movie tickets (every session, everyday) and $2 choc tops, the locals don’t even have the names Hoyts or Event in their vocabulary.

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Shopping
Photograph: Creative Commons

Shopping

Campbelltown’s diversity doesn’t just mean a lot of dining options – if you’re feeling inspired to cook up a storm at home, you’ll want to hit up a local grocer for a big shop. Pinoy Stop will have you covered when it comes to Filipino essentials. Pick up some ube or ube powder and get ahead of the culinary curve – this staple ingredient is seeing its star rise and is perfect for desserts or as a jam. 

Food World Supermarket is a failsafe when it comes to Indian ingredients, and it proudly announces out front that it carries Fijian, Pakistani, Mauritian, African and Island foods, too. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the choices, the store also has a delicious selection of Indian sweets. Go for a sweet, milky barfi and thank us later. 

Local grocers Luang Prabang and That Luang are there for all your Laotian and Thai and Cambodian and Chinese cooking needs, respectively. Expect to find an unrivalled range of sauces and pastes on densely stocked shelves.

For some good old fashioned retail therapy, Macarthur Square is Campbelltown’s alternative to a Westfield. Expect to find all the usual suspects. And for something for your four-legged friend, be sure to check out Rogue Royalty’s range of luxury pet food and doggo bling. Everything is ethically sourced and designed with longevity in mind. 

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Mark your calendar
Photograph: Supplied/Campbelltown Council

Mark your calendar

Keep an eye out for the return of the Macarthur Night Markets, which transforms Mawson Park in the centre of Campbelltown into a vibey al fresco dining experience. The markets typically are held on the first and third Fridays of every month with live performances and boutique stalls alongside an unparalleled range of street eats. 

Finally, experience Campbelltown’s thriving community spirit and local traditions at the annual Festival of Fisher’s Ghost. Typically held in November, the event is named for local celebrity ghost, Frederick Fisher, in a tale dating back to Campbelltown’s colonial past.

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