Castle Hill is in the middle of a major transformation. Young families and professionals are moving in, lured by the promise of a more relaxed lifestyle 30 kilometres from Sydney’s CBD. It’s peaceful, close to sprawling green fields and has an excellent view over nearby suburbs.
The new Sydney Metro Northwest rail system, slated to open in 2019, will provide much-needed public transport in an area previously reliant on cars. The new rail link has also been the catalyst for renewed investment, including a $900 million expansion of Castle Towers shopping centre. New apartment blocks are going up, adding alternatives to the freestanding brick family homes for which the suburb is famous.
Castle Hill’s first inhabitants were members of the Bidjigal tribe, remembered by Bidjigal Reserve, popular for its walking tracks. Bidjigal man Pemulwuy, one of Sydney’s most significant historical figures, led the resistance against the first European colonists who arrived in 1791. By 1801 Governor King had established a government farm known as Castle Hill, and the district went on to serve as the city’s food bowl during the 19th century. The area’s history as an orange-growing town is commemorated each year with the Orange Blossom festival, which showcases local produce and brings the community together.
The biggest misconception about Castle Hill is that its constituents don’t know how to drink, says Abel Talos, local resident and head bartender at Pocket Group’s Crooked Tailor. “People come in here and pick apart our whiskies just as well (and as poorly) as our sister bars,” he says. “At the end of the day, the people who drink in the city generally live in the ‘burbs too.”
When Pocket Bar opened in Darlinghurst it was at the vanguard of the small bar revolution that was to sweep Sydney. In June 2015 the Pocket Group was one of the first to open an inner-city-style bar in Sydney’s northwest. The new bar’s “bangin' cocktails and crazy good burgers”, offered in an intimate setting – featuring leather sofas, timber panelling and low lights – have attracted a diverse array of customers who staff always encourages to try something new. “Giving our customers an environment where they're not left feeling silly because they don't know a drink is probably the best way to cultivate that curiosity,” says Talos.
7/250 Old Northern Road, Castle Hill
(02) 9899 3167
More than 200 years after convicts toiled on Castle Hill’s first farm, the suburb’s connection to the land lives on. “You can drive 15 minutes and pick up produce that has been grown out here,” says Chris Starke, who chose Castle Hill as the location for his third Youeni store. “There’s more space to get your veg patch in the backyard.”
Starke saw the Castle Hill store as an opportunity to grow and experiment away from the “noise” in the city. “Not physical noise,” he explains, “but [in the city] there’s so much of the same thing going on. Within a space of a month (or less) we had four different places open up within 100 metres of us. I wanted to be in a place where we could figure ourselves out on our own, but also refine what I really want to do.”
Since the move to Castle Hill in 2013 Youeni has extend its cafe operation into retail – many of its items are made in-house. While people initially expected Youeni to serve the traditional cafe fare of banana bread and coffees, Castle Hill locals quickly came around to Youeni’s wholefoods-focused menu, which is free of refined sugar and gluten (save the Bread and Butter Project sourdough) and now 90 per cent vegan. “It was a pretty big step, but the people out here love it,” says Starke. “They were ready for it, they wanted it.”
2/250–254 Old Northern Road, Castle Hill
(02) 9680 8885
Castle Hill born and bred, Matt Stone took a punt in 2011 and opened specialty coffee outlet The Baron in his home suburb. “We saw a need for something [that was] missing,” says Stone. Since then much has changed. “Coffee and cafes are blowing up here now,” he says. The Baron has led the way, serving quality produce including Single Origin coffee, Sonoma bread, Luke Avenue cookies and Farmer Jo muesli to an army of loyal customers.
461/4–16 Castle Street, Castle Hill
0414 138 464
Criniti’s is a Castle Hill institution, thanks to its metre-long pizza and distinctive décor, which features a Lamborghini engine suspended from the ceiling, a Ducati motorbike parked on the bar and Ferrari exhaust manifold fixtures used as chandelier lighting.
The Italian restaurant chain opened in Castle Hill in 2011. “It was a natural progression for Criniti’s to expand to such a family-oriented and growing area of Sydney,” says Criniti’s marketing coordinator Keveene Penilla, who, like other local operators, also notes the changes unfolding in Castle Hill. “With the current influx of residential projects, we’re seeing a rapid growth both in the local economy and businesses in general. With the introduction of new public-transport facilities such as the rail line, we are definitely witnessing a growth in the diversity of our clientele.”
Castle Towers Shopping Centre, Castle Hill
1300 274 648
Also worth checking out:
The family-run Costi’s Fishmarket has been selling seafood in the Hills District for more than 30 years.
Castle Towers Shopping Centre, Castle Hill
(02) 9634 2178
The site of the first government farm in 1801, Castle Hill Heritage Park offers visitors 20 hectares of walking tracks, playgrounds and blue gum forest.
Heritage Park Drive, Castle Hill
(02) 9843 0555
When the Powerhouse Museum Discovery Centre reopens in 2016 after major renovations, the 9000-square-metre building will house 50,000 items from the Australian Museum, Sydney Living Museums and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. A new educational facility will be open to the public.
172 Showground Road, Castle Hill
(02) 9762 1300
Hawkesbury Harvest Farmers & Fine Food Market takes over the Castle Hill Showground on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. Arts and crafts are available at the family-friendly Hills Artisan Markets held alongside the growers market on the fourth Saturday of each month.
To explore the suburb in further detail visit the Castle Hill suburb profile at realestate.com.au.