Adventure

7 Sydney Day Trips You Can Take With Less Than $20 On Your Opal Card

Your weekend adventure starts here.

Not every adventure can be a far-flung journey to another country, nor should it be. You don’t need to travel far from home to reap the many benefits of removing yourself from your everyday surrounds. You can save time, money and avoid extensive planning by exploring places that are easily within reach – say, on a regional train line from the city.

Whether you live in Sydney or you’re visiting and want to get further afield, we’ve rounded up found a bunch of killer destinations across NSW that you can get to from Sydney’s Central Station for less than $20 on your Opal card. So what are you waiting for?

The Blowhole and lighthouse in Kiama credit Destination NSW
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Kiama

Opal return fare: From $12.16

Kiama is a classic Australian coastal town, where the pace is slow and life feels easy. It has great beaches, cafes, and scenic walks, and is surrounded by pastures and forests. Approximately two-and-a-half hours south of Sydney, Kiama’s coastline is where the magic happens – spend your day stolling along the Kiama Coast Walk towards the famous Kaima blowhole and lighthouse. Treat your eyes to the gorgeous views, and treat your tastebuds too at these Kiama institutions:

#1 Penny Whistlers – a café with harbour views offering good coffee and top-notch gourmet food. Arrive in time for a late breakfast and soak up the sea breeze while digging into a bowl of porridge with saffron poached pears, baked rhubarb and almonds. De-lish.

#2 14 Manning – hop over to this joint for great coffee and a delightful lunch menu. Let your biggest weekend decision be choosing between fritters or gnocchi.

#3 Hungry Monkey – delicious locally sourced gourmet burgers. ‘Nuff said.

#4 Little Blowhole Art Bar – have your meal with a side of art at the Little Blowhole Art Bar, which serves tapas and wine and hosts a changing monthly exhibition from local and national artists. The bar’s namesake is just down the hill, too. While the Little Blowhole is the town’s lesser known blowhole, it actually works far more regularly than it’s older sibling (pictured above) and is a great stop on the Kaima Coast Walk.

Image: Destination NSW

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Newcastle

Opal return fare: From $12.16

Only three hours north of Sydney, Newcastle locals have successfully brushed off the coal dust to reveal a bustling harbour town perfect for foodies, vintage shoppers, market hoppers and culture vultures alike. Perched between a working harbour and beautiful beaches, here’s a few things to check out the next time you make to up to Newie:

#1 Enjoy a sunny day walk along The Bathers Way starting from Nobby’s Lighthouse and ending at the iconic Merewether Ocean Baths. Fun fact: these baths are actually the largest ones of their kind in the state.

#2 Doughheads – Who doesn’t love a hand-crafted doughnut? There’s a whole range of crazy flavours to choose from, so pick up a sample box and you can try them all.

#3 The Edwards – This former laundromat-turned-bar is hip as hell and is so typically “Newcastle” that it’s owned and operated by a guy who was in Silverchair. For real. Instagram your lunch and enjoy a glass or two from the extensive wine list.

Image: Destination NSW

Three Sisters at Echo Point katoomba credit Destination NSW
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Katoomba

Opal return fare: From $12.16

Scenic and secluded, Katoomba is at the heart of the Blue Mountains National Park, where deep valleys, sandstone plateaus, waterfalls and native animals abound. Go for the walks and scenery, stay for the relaxing vibe, cosy township and cute accommodation in Katoomba. While there, be sure to check out:

#1 The Three Sisters – Part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, the Three Sisters is one of those iconic Aussie spots you’ve just gotta see in your lifetime.

#2 Carrington Cellars and Deli – Located in the old Katoomba power station, the interior at Carrington Cellars and Deli feels as though the industrial revolution met Grand Designs. Spend an afternoon discovering rows of boutique local wines and treating yourself to the delish deli items.

#3 Head out on an adventure with High ‘n’ Wild, a company which runs daily tours around Katoomba including abseiling, rock climbing, canyoning, mountain biking and bush walking.

Image: Destination NSW

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Thirroul

Opal return fare: From $12.16

Thirroul is on the Grand Pacific Drive, which passes along some of NSW’s most spectacular and dramatic coastlines. The hub of northern Wollongong, the town of Thirroul is, not surprisingly, known for its beaches, its winding scenic roads and its unforgettable coastal views. But it’s not just a pretty picture – Thirroul also has a bunch of buzzing cafes and restaurants, shops and pubs.

#1 Explore the Sublime Point walking track – This track is one of the most famous treks of the Illawarra escarpment. Though challenging at times, the walk will take you through coastal rainforest to the incredible plateau above that’s perfect for a few dozen Instagrams.

#2 Go for a swim at Thirroul Beach – Try tackling the waves or chill with some laps in the ocean pool.

#3 Grab dinner at Samuels – Thirroul’s best kept secret, Samuels Restaurant is a cosy, boutique establishment serving modern Australian cuisine.

Image: Adam Taylor / Destination NSW

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St Mary’s

Opal return fare: $9.46

The unassuming township of St Mary’s is just an hour’s train trip away from Central train station. The suburb’s shining glory however, is the amazing Skypeak Adventure Park.

#1 Skypeak Adventures is a multi-million dollar attraction right next to St Mary’s Leagues Club. The Skypeak combines an aerial playground with a tree-climbing experience – basically, this is the place to go if you want to let your inner child run free

A relocated 28 metre tall river red gum tree is the impressive centrepiece of the park, with the tree’s trunk and branches incorporated into the aerial course.

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Bowral

Opal return fare: $12.16

Found at the base of Mount Gibraltar, Bowral is probably best known as the home of the Sir Donald Bradman Oval and the International Cricket Hall of Fame – but for the non-cricket fans, Bowral is a nice holiday destination for Sydneysiders (it’s only two hours away by train), there’s a host of private gardens, fields of tulips and delightful small town amenities. Try timing your visit with the monthly farmers’ markets.

#1 Dine at Biota – Biota Dining has singlehandedly brought top-notch food and service to the Southern Highlands. The menu is modern, with a Scandinavian-inspired decor. This restaurant itself makes the whole trip worthwhile.

#2 Empire Cinema – Be sure to catch a flick at Australia’s oldest commercial cinema, which has been operating since 1915.

#3 Corbett Gardens – The Gardens are one of the region’s oldest and most beautiful parks, and the centrepiece of the Bowral’s Spring Garden Festival which sees over 100,000 or so tulips on display.  It’s fairytale stuff.

Image: Destination NSW

Jetty leading to the Boathouse Palm Beach credit Destination NSW
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Palm Beach

Approximate Opal return fare: $10.36

Surfers delight: Palm Beach is home to Sydney’s most northerly stretch of sand and excellent surfing conditions. Passing south from Barrenjoey Head, the golden sands and are ideal for relaxing, strolling or swimming up a storm in the sparkling blue waters. Don’t miss:

#1 The Boathouse Palm Beach – A cosy eatery with front row views of Palm Beach and Pittwater. The Boathouse a probably the best spot to soak up the afternoon sunlight with a fresh seafood platter by your side.

#2 Barrenjoey Lighthouse Everybody loves a lighthouse, right? While getting to the top takes a bit of guts (it’s 91m above sea level) the view from the top is so very worth it. Take the shorter Smugglers Track to get your heart pumping and try your luck scanning the coastline for whales when you reach the summit. Access to the lighthouse is by tour only, so skip it if you’re saving dough.

Image: Destination NSW

(Lead image: Destination NSW)