Emu Plains Railway Station

Emu Plains: A surprise in Sydney’s Greater West

There are three reasons to visit Emu Plains. I want to explore the Arms of Australia Inn Museum, visit the Penrith Regional Gallery and walk the other half of The Great River Walk as I walked the Penrith side when discovering that suburb.

Where is Emu Plains?

Located on the outskirts of Greater Sydney, at the foot of the Blue Mountains, Emu Plains is perhaps the furthest west that I’ll venture on my suburban Sydney discovery. Passengers on my train wear battered bush hats and weathered hiking boots. They carry maps and backpacks, well prepared for a day of walking in the Blue Mountains.

Emu Plains Railway Station

The old brick and sandstone Railway Station in Emu Plains is unusual. It is one of the few stations with a second storey. This is where the Station Master lived.

Leaving the station, I walk towards the Great Western Highway. The contrast between the old sandstone station and a modern single storey complex housing a medical centre, dentist and tax and financial services is stark. Historical Emu Plains has been encroached by urban sprawl, and it takes work to uncover the hidden treasures of this western Sydney suburb.

O'Donoghue's Irish Pub

An Historic Pub

Nepean Creative and Performing Arts School

Nepean Creative and Performing Arts School

O’Donoghue’s Irish Pub

Nearby, O’ Donoghue’s Irish Pub, built in 1886, is an Historic Inn listed in the Blue Mountains History Highway Inns. Opposite the pub, a block of blond brick townhouses called Heritage Gardens gives a nod to the history of the area.

A bell sounds behind me and the cyclist nods as he passes on my right. This suburb has the feel of a small country town. The air is fresh, there is a calmness about the place and people smile and say “Hello”.

The Arms of Australia Inn Museum

The Arms of Australia Inn Museum is a restored staging post where Cobb & Co would change teams of horses and their passengers would rest and take refreshment. The Inn was almost demolished in the 1970s after years of decay. A concerted effort by Nepean District Historical Society, with help from Penrith City Council and local fundraising restored the building and developed it into the well-managed museum they run today.

Australian Arms Inn Museum

Note the shingle roof

The Australian Arms Inn Museum

Outside the Barn

A man mows the green lawn from his seat on a ride-on mower. Sprinklers arc back and forth while magpies enjoy a bath in the spray. I find Ted reading a book in one of the outer buildings. He tells me that after being “laid off from work” and unable to find other employment, he first volunteered as a handyman never expecting that in time he would be leading school groups and seniors on tours of the museum.

Inside the Museum

As part of the restoration, the Historical Society replaced the three layered shingle roof (as opposed to the easy option of a corrugated iron roof) which now gives an air of authenticity to the building. The walls are thick and the doorway low, and I duck my head to enter the long narrow museum.

Inside Australian Arms In Museum

Inside the Museum

The Australian Arms Inn Museum

The School Room

Long lost objects that had slipped through gaps in the wooden floor were found including pieces of broken crockery, buttons, domino pieces and old convict nails.  I rake my fingers through a dish of old marbles (stoppers from old glass soft drink bottles). They are surprisingly cool and almost soft to the touch.

One room is dedicated to communication, with typewriters, an old switchboard and wall telephone. School children really enjoy this room. They also find the school room complete with slate boards and wooden desks fascinating. Ted tells me that when seniors visit, they love being reminded of days past by the comprehensive display.

When planning my Emu Plains discovery, I decided not to visit Lennox Bridge, but a photograph in the museum prompts me to ask if it is easily accessible on foot. Apparently, it is. I’ll try to get there.

Suburban Emu Plains

Moving on, I cross The Great Western Highway and continue to Sheppard Road via Sheppard Lane. Here, a small strip of shops serves the local community. There’s a hairdresser, a grocery store and a spa. The newsagent, like many all over Sydney looks tired. Again, people greet me with a smile.

House Emu Plains

Simple Cottage

Modern home Emu Plains

Modernised

Many of the simple homes are brick, a few are cement-rendered and modernised. A gardener tidies edges with his whipper snipper and a contractor delivers parcels in this quiet suburban street.

The War Memorial

Back on the other side of The Great Western Highway I find the WW1 war memorial standing in a hedged enclosure in a beautifully kept park. Emu Plains appears to be a well-kept and well maintained (loved) suburb. I must admit, I am surprised.

I’m delighted to discover that a nearby sandstone building with a shiny new corrugated iron roof was once the Emu Plains Public School. I didn’t think I’d find it.

Aboriginal Artwork Emu Plains

Aboriginal Artwork with War Memorial in the background

Park in Emu Plains

Beautifully Kept Park

The Governor built the Emu Plains Government House as part of the Emu Plains Government Agricultural Establishment. This is where surplus convicts and new arrivals were processed and educated in agricultural. Now Lennox Village Shopping Centre stands on the site of Government House and the farm complex is a grid of suburban dwellings.

St Paul’s Anglican Church

St Paul’s Anglican Church is next on my list. A new blond brick Anglican Church initially hides the sandstone building from view. The quaint little church built from hand hewn sandstone has a fine bell tower.

St Paul's Anglican Church Emu Plains

St Paul’s Anglican Church

Emu Plains General Cemetery

Emu Plains General Cemetery

Walking through the adjacent Emu Plains General Cemetery I reflect on how many of the deceased lived relatively long lives even though they were born in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Looking for Lennox Bridge

Although the sun is beating down, I continue on to Lennox bridge, passing Dukes Cottage (formerly the original Post Office) and cursing myself for leaving my sunscreen on the bathroom shelf.

Green Gables Cottage Ruins

Down an embankment near the parking area is a monument to John Whitton, an early engineer in chief for the railways. Nearby a wire fence encloses the ruins of Green Gables Cottage (1867), a railway gatekeepers’ cottage severely damaged in a 1968 bushfire.

John Whitton Memorial

John Whitton Memorial

Green Gables Cottage

Green Gables Cottage

The Knapsack Reserve sign indicates that Knapsack Bridge is 850m away. I don’t read the sign properly and guess that this is Lennox Bridge. Continuing on, I hug the shade and ask a couple of walkers if they have sunscreen. One doesn’t but offers her water. Another does, but it is in her car.

Knapsack Bridge

Knapsack Bridge is another sandstone marvel with beautiful arches and views back to the city. The Steve Taylor Stair Challenge, at the opposite end of the bridge, encourages walkers to jog or walk up the 107 wooden steps. Recently firefighters trained here for their climb up the 98 storeys of the Sydney Tower Eye in full firefighting gear to raise funds for Motor Neurone Disease. I later learn that Lennox Bridge is about 2km further on. Maybe next time.

Knapsack Bridge

Knapsack Bridge

View from Knapsack Bridge

View from Knapsack Bridge

The Nepean River

Back in the suburban area of Emu Plains, I pass another simple sandstone building, the now Uniting, once Methodist, Church. The wide streets are lined with old callistemon trees heavy with red bottle brush.

Callistemon lined Street

Callistemon lined street

Rusty car

Project in waiting

Reaching River Road and the Nepean River, I can see the Nepean Belle in the distance. The houses are fancier here. It stands to reason. They’re riverfront with the broad Nepean in front of them.

The Penrith Regional Gallery

The Café at Lewers on the grounds of the Penrith Regional Gallery is buzzing. It is fun finding these little out of the way cafés and I enjoy a much-needed cold drink and break from the heat before taking a look around the gallery. A modern exhibition “The Curtain Breathed Deeply” by Justene Williams isn’t really my cup of tea but the colourful geometric pieces by Leonora Howlett are more appealing.  The exhibition changes regularly.

The Penrith Regional Gallery

The Penrith Regional Gallery

Before leaving, I stop to take a photo of the gallery through the garden. A gardener walks past saying “it’s good to see people appreciating the garden”. It is a beautiful garden.

The Great River Walk

Signs along the Great River Walk warn of snakes. The snakes are hiding, but numerous water dragons of all sizes scuttle across the path into the bushes on my approach. Ducks, moorhens and cormorants swim and feed along the rivers edge.

Water Dragon on Great River Walk Penrith

Water Dragon

Sculpture on Great River Walk

Sculpture on Great River Walk

A man carrying a roughly hewn walking stick nervously asks if I have seen any snakes and is relieved at my reply.

You too should visit Emu Plains

My discovery of Emu Plains has come full circle and I wait for the next train thinking about how Emu Plains surprised me. It has a calm, welcoming feel about it and a museum and gallery well worth exploring as well as a few good bush walks. Take a day out to Emu Plains. You too may be pleasantly surprised.

If you enjoyed discovering Emu Plains, you will most certainly enjoy finding out more about Windsor, Annandale and Parramatta
Next stop: Bonnyrigg

Useful information:

Plan your trip at transportnsw.info

Sunday Market: The Nepean School of Performing Arts hosts a “Westies Market” on the third Sunday of every month.

The Arms of Australia Inn Museum:

  • Located on the corner of The Great Western Hwy and Gardenia Avenue
  • There is a small entry fee.
  • Open Monday, Wednesday & Thursday 9am to 2pm
  • Check with venue for holiday open times
  • If you are coming from afar please call us on (02) 4735 4394 first during office hours or 0407247806 after hours as school groups may mean the museum is closed to casual visitors.

St Paul’s Anglican Church and Emu Plains General Cemetery: Nixon Street

Dukes Cottage: Corner Great Western Highway and Russell Street

Uniting Church: Emerald Street

Penrith Regional Gallery:

  • 86 River Road, Emu Plains
  • Exhibitions are free, check their website for details.
  • Open 7 days.

Cafe at Lewers:

  • Phone: 4735 4265
  • The café is open for breakfast, lunch, morning and afternoon tea.

Click here for a Map of The Great River Walk

If you would like the detailed day notes that I used, email me via the contact form. Please note that they are a guide only.

And a map to assist you walk through Emu Plains: (You can download it here)
(Note that this is a guide only and that the time indicated on the map does not allow for any stops. I take an average of 4-5 hours when I explore):

Emu Plains Walking Map

 

Comments

  1. The museum looks fascinating, from the shingle roof to the instruments outside the barn and the old-time items, like slate boards in the schoolroom. I love the brickwork on Knapsack bridge and the view from it looks gorgeous. Looks like a very good place to visit.

    1. Author

      You are right Bernadette, the museum is fascinating. I think the children really enjoy the hands on school excursions there.

  2. Hi Joanne,

    I’ve been following your blog for some months now and I thought that’s it’s about time that I thanked you for all the work that you put into the walks.

    I am a member of the Waverton Hub and run a walking group – one of the many activities the Hub offers its members.

    Over the years I have put together about 40 or so walks, some of which you have more or less covered in your walks. I would be happy to pass on to you a list of the walks we’ve done. Next week we’re going on one of the 2 walks we do in Castlecrag – Monday is our walking day.

    Please let me know if you’re interested by phone or email – my details below .

    Kind Regards,

    Phil.

    1. Author

      Hi Phil
      Thank you so much for your comments and your generous offer. Castlecrag has been on my list but for various reasons, I have not got there yet. Now that you mention it, I will certainly make an effort to get there soon. I’ll contact you separately via email.
      Joanne

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