Blacktown: Sydney’s Wild Wild West
So, you’ve done the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the shops, Luna Park, Darling Harbour, Manly and Bondi – what about Blacktown?
There is plenty to do in Sydney but you don’t have to stay right in the heart of the CBD to experience a bit of action and culture.
Yes, that’s right – you’ll find art, culture, design, shops, rides and even a koala and a few kangaroos in this guide to the best of Blacktown.
Australia’s newest theme park has been a big success, bringing crowds far and wide to the west. Based on the Gold Coast theme park of the same name, Wet’n’Wild Sydney is fun for big and little kids. There’s more than 40 slides and water adventure activities, including the hair raising T5, which has a 15 metre drop. There’s a half pipe, the Tropical Cyclone, Tantrum and 360Rush – as each name suggests, all designed for a thrill. Little ones will love Wet’n’Wild Junior, with mini water slides and splash zones. For something a bit different, hit the park for After Dark, when the lights come on and the rides keep going. Wet’n’Wild reopens after winter on September 19 until the end of the April school holidays.
The arrival of a brand new design hotel brings more than just industrial business parks to the west.
The company behind QT’s quirky hotels – QT Sydney, QT Gold Coast, QT Port Douglas and now QT Canberra – have branched out again with the Atura Blacktown.
A few minutes after turning off the M4 Motorway, the Atura comes into view. Surrounded by paddocks and the heritage-listed Royal Cricketers Arms pub, the building is long, low and a little bit space-age. It’s not a high-rise monstrosity that’s come to take over the area, but a boutique hotel with an uber cool, eclectic vibe.
Walking inside the lobby, what you see is what you get. And you can see just about everything. The open plan design puts the restaurant, lounge area, bar and pool right in front of you. There are funky lamps, hanging lights and exposed concrete walls, a pool table with a cool vintage illustration instead of a normal green mat, cushions in every shape and colour, and some seriously unique pool furniture.
Next to check-in is a gift shop with pick up sticks, vintage radios, ear buds for the kids, disposable underwater cameras for Wet’n’Wild, even a fridge section with the most gourmet-looking microwave meals I’ve seen in a long time.
The Hotel’s Roadhouse Bar and Grill does a steady trade in burgers but they also do a great steak and a Roadhouse Sundae, which already has a decadent reputation.
With just 122 guestrooms, the Atura is carving out a new kind of hotel style – catering for cool, corporate, kids and couples in one go, without attitude or airs.
Complimentary wifi keeps the kids and corporates happy, Malin + Goetz Toiletries (think Qantas business class amenities) are for the beauty fiends and the giant yellow dot on your ceiling is great as a focus for meditation if you can’t sleep. Not that you’ll have a problem with sleep – blackout curtains are a big bonus.
The average length of stay for Expedia’s Aussie travellers in the area is 1-2 nights and the Atura often sells out, so don’t wait too long to book.
Skyline Drive In
There are just a few drive in theatres left in Australia and Blacktown’s Skyline Drive In has been given a massive facelift. Now owned by the same company that created Atura, the drive in has been glammed up and taken back in time. The retro outfit harks back to the golden days of drive in cinemas – the Diner serves chilli dogs, burgers, sweet potato fries, nachos, malt shakes and banana spilts. There’s popcorn and candy too – the Twinkies are imported from America and have been bought by the box by hungry moviegoers.
If you’ve arrived in Blacktown without a car, don’t worry. As part of Event Cinemas, the Skyline has its own version of Gold Class. You can sit in a stripy deck chair on the astro turf “Gold Grass” and enjoy the movie from there.
Still, there’s something to be said for pulling up to one of the two big screens, tuning in the radio and pushing the seats back. It’s a blast from the past that’s often packed with hot rod car clubs, groups and birthday parties, and is a great alternative to a normal night at the movies.
Best of all, the Atura is literally right next door so you can check in, drive up, and drive home without leaving the block.
Featherdale Wildlife Park
There aren’t many tourists who come to Australia without wanting to see a koala or a kangaroo. They might make the trip out to Taronga Zoo or Darling Harbour’s WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo but if you’re after something a bit different, head to Featherdale Wildlife Park. The park is home to more than 30 species of rare and endangered animals, from Tasmanian Devils and Bilbys to Raptors and owls.
Best of all, it isn’t too big, and is great for families who want a snapshot of Australia’s unique wildlife. There’s penguin feeding, baby animal encounters and wildlife education talks. You can pose for a photo with a koala and will get very close to the kangaroos when you’re hand feeding them.
The park is located in Doonside, just a 10 minute drive from Blacktown and has plenty of parking.
Blacktown Arts Centre
The Blacktown Arts Centre building was originally an Anglican Church, dating back to the early 50s and opening as the centre in 2002. Since then, it has served to showcase work from members of the community and mainly local artists. The centre now has a performance space, hosts regular workshops and hosts plenty of thought provoking exhibitions. Stop by when you’re in the area for an insight into the culture and people of this multicultural community.
Lisa was the guest of Atura Blacktown, Skyline Drive In and Featherdale Wildlife Park.