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Blacktown Arts Centre 2016 June exterior supplied by BAC
Photograph: Blacktown Arts Centre

A local's guide to Blacktown

From waterparks to a medieval fair, zoos (plural) and diverse dining, Blacktown is a multicultural suburb offering a mixed bag of good times

By Emily Lloyd-Tait
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On the northwest edge of town, between a fast food complex and a string of mega hardware stores, sits the most important historical site in Blacktown. It looks like an empty paddock, with a few clumps of trees, and no signage to speak of. But in the early 1800s, this site was ground zero for Australia’s stolen generations. When Governor Macquarie set up the Native Institution in Parramatta, this was where the first recorded incidence of Aboriginal children being forcibly taken from their families took place.

In 1823, Macquarie moved the Native Institution to what is now the corner of Richmond Road and Rooty Hill Road. When the children moved, their families moved with them, though they weren’t permitted any regular contact. “They camped around the edges, and that spot became known as ‘the Blacks’ Town’ and that road that became Richmond Road was called ‘Blacks’ Town road’, and that’s how Blacktown got its name,” says Jenny Bisset, the director of Blacktown Arts Centre, who have staged a number of projects on the site. “The Darug community have a lot of knowledge about that site.”

Today, Blacktown City Council is the most populous local government area in NSW. In fact, it’s population size is greater than that of Canberra. Within this LGA the suburb of Blacktown is a dynamic mix of residents from every corner of the globe. Don’t believe us? Check out the Max Webber Library, which boasts a book from every country on the planet and has extensive collections of books and magazines in Punjabi, Urdu, Russian, Vietnamese, Filipino, Nepali, Turkish, Serbian, Tamil, Spanish, Korean and Persian.

The Westpoint is a gleaming shopping mall of highstreet brands, while below it on Main Street you have a bustling hub of specialist shops selling Turkish biscuits, Afghani street food, Sudanese groceries, halal meat, Filipino barbecue and Indian homewares.

It also boasts a Tafe campus, an aquatic centre and a very flash hospital that received a major upgrade in 2019, including a new emergency department and maternity suites, which is handy given this area is very popular with young families.

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EAT DRINK COFFEE THINGS TO DO SHOPPING

What’s Blacktown known for
Everything is bigger out west and open space is at a premium in Blacktown: wide streets, big houses, vast parks. Blacktown is a culturally and economically diverse area, with affordable land blocks, public housing and dream-making estates all making up the residential landscape. Famous locals include the Edgerton brothers (Joel and Nash) and professional soccer player Kyah Simon.

Why do the locals love it
Therese Vi, who moved here two years ago with her husband and baby son, loves Blacktown for its wide open spaces. “Blacktown is great for kids. It has huge, brand new parks; a waterpark at Blacktown Showground; and even a zoo next door in Bungarribee. It’s a cultural hot pot with a lot going on, and so are the neighbouring suburbs, which is what makes it such a nice place to live.”

How do I get to Blacktown?
The train is the fastest and cheapest way to get to Blacktown. It’s more than 30kms out from the CBD on the T1 or T5 lines, but if you get an express it’s less than a handful of stops in total. Most locals drive in the area, but if you’re commuting in from out of area the tolls can stack up, so be aware. The Busways routes 721-756 connect Blacktown to the rest of Greater Western Sydney; the 705 and 711 routes connect Blacktown to Parramatta; and the 611 gets you to Macquarie Park.

What’s nearby?
Rooty Hill RSL is a dining destination, plus they have bowling, a gym and it’s where the bigger name live acts head (Tina Arena played in 2019). Toongabbie is a destination for Tamil, Sri Lankan and Malaysian dining; and Eastern Creek Quarter is a flash new shopping centre and dining hub.

Map of Blacktown

If you only do one thing
Blacktown is home to Sydney’s OG drive-in cinema, Skyline. They play new releases and nostalgic titles (Jurassic Park, anyone?); have a 50’s style diner on site; and you get the audio through your FM radio.

Plates of food at El Jannah
Plates of food at El Jannah
Photograph: Supplied

Eat

Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant is one of Blacktown’s most famous restaurants. It’s a cosy little dining room at 115 Main Street and is popular for its injera, served with tender stewed meats or a vegetarian spread of lentils, chickpeas, spinach chopped and a delicious savoury stir-fry of cabbage, carrot and potato. Tear off pieces of the soft, spongy pancake lining the big plate and use it to scoop up a mix of flavours in each mouthful.

The sweet smell of charcoal chicken is in the air in Blacktown thanks to the busy ovens at El Jannah (44-48 Flushcombe St), where you can get your fix of bronzed chicken, pickles, garlic toum and flatbread.

Jasmine Yin, who grew up in the area knows that not everyone is familiar with Burmese cuisine, so she recommends you visit Sun's Burmese Kitchen and order the battered gourd, fried shrimp and onions, lahpet thoke (tea leaf salad), dan bouk (biryani), mohinga, the goat curry, and ohn no kaukswe, which is similar to a laksa and her favourite dish.

There is a sizeable Filipino community base in Blacktown, which means Filipino food is popular and readily available, like at Angel’s Filipino Barbeque (122 Main St) where you can get your sinigang and sisig fix, plus charcoal skewers of barbecue chicken and pork belly in a sweet, sticky soy marinade.

For all the spicy, salty, sweet and sour flavours of Laotian and Thai food, head to Green Peppercorn’s Blacktown outlet (the OG is in Fairfield) inside the Central Hotel (41-55 Main St).

If you want a taste of the deep south out west, Black Bear BBQ (11/27 Forge St) is smoking brisket, chicken, cheese sausages, and pork belly in an industrial estate. They get started early, which means you can have a barbecue breakfast with your coffee, and you can pre-order a whole smoked pork belly if that’s how you roll.

Smash your hunger with a halal snack pack at Kebab Express 14/10 Sunnyholt Rd). They have five sizes, including one supersized with schnitzel. There is also pop music blaring from the speakers onto the street (you can hear it two blocks away), so it’s pretty much a party every night of the week.

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Exterior at Royal Cricketers Arms
Exterior at Royal Cricketers Arms
Photograph: Mark Lane

Drink

Blacktown is not known for its nightlife, with most revellers hopping a train to Parramatta, or the city for drinks and dancing. But for a quaint local bevvie next door in Prospect you’ll find the Royal Cricketers Arms (385 Reservoir Rd, Prospect), a historic 140-year-old pub serving classic counter meals like giant schnitzels, pork knuckles and a pub pie.

For a drink with a view you can’t go past Cucina Locale (55 Campbell St), an Italian restaurant on the fifth floor of the Blacktown Workers Club. Come for a glass of wine, a plate of pasta and 360 degree views at this revolving restaurant with aspects from the mountains to the CBD.

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Coffee at Goodbye Horses
Coffee at Goodbye Horses
Photograph: Katje Ford

Coffee

If you find the spectre of Campos’s moss green coffee cups relieving, make your way into Westpoint’s food court where Cafe Lelunar (17 Patrick St) is serving up Inner West beans in the Outer West.

Melbourne’s beloved St Ali coffee is the bean of choice at Espresso Warriors (17 Patrick St), a kiosk café in the Westpoint Shopping Centre.

Old Boy Espresso (24 Tallawong Ave) is the more relaxed, plant-filled sister café to Paper Planes Factory Cafe in nearby Girraween, but either way, if you need something cool and sweet for those sweltering summer days, they mix iced tea with coconut syrup, fresh mint, and vanilla for a silky smooth drink that will perk you right up.

Industrial Grind (1/69 Holbeche Rd) in the Arndell Park Shopping Centre does a swift trade in classic Sydney café breakfasts (the rainbow vegan bowl is ace) and Toby’s Estate coffees. 

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Animals at Western Sydney Zoo
Animals at Western Sydney Zoo
Photograph: Supplied

Things to do

Blacktown Arts Centre (78 Flushcombe Rd) is a multi-arts institution five minutes from Blacktown station. BAC showcases the creativity of Blacktown and the surrounding region alongside national and international work, via an annual program of curated visual arts and performance.

Your car is your recliner at the Skyline Drive In Cinema (Cricketers Arms Rd), which has a ‘60s theme, complete with on-site diner and shows a mix of nostalgic hits and new releases.

Taronga might have the harbour views, but Sydney Zoo (700 Great Western Hwy, Bungarribee) is a new (as of 2015) zoo in Western Sydney that features aquatic animals, native fauna, primates, and Asiana nd African animals like zebras, giraffes, elephants, orangutans and lions.

Once a month the Village Green (62 Flushcombe Rd) is transformed into an after-hours playground for the hungry and curious as the Blacktown Night Markets gather the best local food trucks and market stalls in one place.

Keeping things closer to home, Featherdale Wildlife Park (217-229 Kildare Rd) houses the biggest collecting of native Australian wildlife, with 2000 animals housed at the expansive Doonside property. They have an enormous collection of koalas, kangaroo and wallaby enclosures, dingos, echidnas, wombats, reptiles and birds. It’s also home to endangered species like Tasmanian devils, greater bilbies, southern cassowary, quolls and the plains wanderer.

The Western Sydney Parklands are an enormous corridor of green space that stretches lengthways across Sydney from Horningsea Park in the south to Quakers Hill in the north. Within its bounds you’ll find elaborate playgrounds, picnic spots, barbecues, bushwalking tracks, sealed cycle paths, dog parks, urban farms, and a Chinese garden. There are also weekly markets at the Lizard Log playground.

Western Sydney gets a lot hotter than the coastal neighbourhoods during summer, but not only is Raging Rapids (formerly Wet ‘n’ Wild) next door in Prospect, but at the Blacktown Showground Precinct in Francis Park (Richmond Rd) there is a water play park with water troughs, a hand wheel water pump, concrete water maze and spouts and geisers spurting and spraying water to keep everyone cool.

Thanks to the vast diaspora of people living is Blacktown the Max Webber Library’s (Flushcombe Rd) collection goes far beyond the expected range of English language volumes and includes books and magazines in all the languages spoken by Blacktown residents. It also has a spacious kids section for reading and activities.

When the weather is not conducive to outdoor play, head to Playtime and Zone Bowling at the Westpoint (17 Patrick St), which boasts 75 arcade games, a bowling alley and all the neon flashing lights, bells, whistles, and bonus rounds you could ask for.

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Fresh produce in boxes at a market
Fresh produce in boxes at a market
Photograph: Time Out

Shopping

Love cheese? At Maywand Supermarket (84 Main St) you can buy a giant bucket of 2kgs of haloumi for your next brunch party. They also stock a dizzying array of spices, meal bases, imported cosmetics and scented oils, halal meats, fresh biscuits and confectionery.

The extremely tall, shiny crown of Blacktown’s shopping offering is undoubtedly the Westpoint Shopping Centre (17 Patrick St). It’s where you’ll find the best coffee in the high street, plus all the major high street brands and shops, from the generalist giants like Target, through to specialist stores like Zing Pop Culture, where you can buy board games and collectibles for all ages. They also have some of the most flash parent’s rooms in the city, if you’ve got very small humans in tow.

Every Sunday Blacktown Markets sets up with 200 stalls of new and second hand goods, food stalls and live music at the Skyline Drive In (Cricketers Arms Rd). Head here for anything from gourmet doggy treats, pickles, hot sauces, nappy cakes for baby showers, and fresh doughnuts from the Cook Islands to pre-loved clothing, fresh fruit and artisan sweets.

Humza Market (80 Main St) is where you want to go for that authentic ingredient that will make your international cooking sing, be is sour cherry jam, curry pastes, Middle Eastern pickles, and a dizzying array of imported snacks, from colourful bags of rainbow candies to tacky nougat encased in apricot conserve.

Forget farmers markets – a short drive from Blacktown, behind the Eastern Creek speedway on Ferrers Rd there are the Western Sydney Parklands Urban Farms, genuine farms producing fresh fruit and vegetables at their farmgate shops. Pull into the gravel driveway and stock up on everything from sweet potatoes and garlic to cherry tomatoes, blueberries, leafy greens and tiny butternut pumpkins.

Mark your calendar

Each year in May the Blacktown Medieval Fayre takes over Nurragingy Reserve (Knox Rd, Doonside), with a birds of prey show, medieval displays, a working blacksmiths hut, arts and crafts, and camel and pony rides for the kids. There’s even an International Jousting Competition. Do dress in theme, it’s half the fun and everyone else is doing it.

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