By Tim Falk
September 23, 2020 | 6 minute read
The stress and frustration of battling through Sydney’s snarling traffic can quickly take the gloss off any adventure. So if you’re looking to take a break from driving, don’t have a car, or are keen to embrace sustainable travel, there are plenty of beautiful destinations in NSW you can easily access.
Whether you’re planning a quick day trip or an overnight stay, here are my top three picks for train travel destinations less than a three-hour ride from Sydney.
Travel time from Central: Approx. 2 hours
Building a railway line across the Blue Mountains was once deemed impossible, but its construction in the 1860s and 1870s opened up the region to settlers and leisure travellers alike. The Blue Mountains tourism industry soon boomed and the area is now widely recognised as one of Sydney’s best weekend destinations.
Happily, there are lots of great attractions within easy walking distance of Katoomba Station. Just remember that the weather in the Mountains will often be several degrees cooler than it is when you leave home — check the forecast and wear layers to beat the chill.
To help fuel your adventures once you arrive, stop in at Pomegranate for a coffee and a Big Brekkie. Then make the 2.6 km walk to Echo Point Lookout and the iconic vista of the Three Sisters, before looping around to the west to check out Katoomba Falls. Scenic World is another 500-600 metres from there and a steep ride down the Scenic Railway awaits.
There’s much more to see and do if you’re planning on staying the night, but day trippers might want to start the 2.5km trek back towards the station at this point. Along the way you can treat yourself to a Cheese, Louise burger or a Loaded Hot Chocolate at Aunty Ed’s, get some culture at Lost Bear Gallery, or warm up with a coffee and a sweet treat at one of several cafes on Katoomba Street.
And if you need some reading material for the train ride home, stop in at Mr Pickwick’s Fine Old Books as well.
Travel time from Central: Approx. 2h 10m – 2h 20m
The Southern Highlands have plenty to offer for anyone looking to relax and make the most of the fresh country air. Bowral is the region’s biggest town, and this charming village is easily accessed via rail as a day trip or overnight destination. Just remember that the climate in Bowral is much milder than Sydney, so you’ll need to pack warm clothes — especially in winter.
Start your visit with a trip to the Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame, a celebration of all things related to Bowral’s most famous export. Bowral was where Don Bradman first played a game of cricket, and this excellent museum offers everything from old memorabilia to displays exploring the physics behind the game. The museum is roughly a 1.2km walk from the station and well worth checking out.
Next, take a stroll around beautiful the Corbett Gardens. Worth a visit at any time of year, the gardens are particularly spectacular in September when they come alive with the vibrant colours of the annual Tulip Time Festival.
Bowral is also well known for its boutique shopping options, so you might want to pack light so you can fit in a few extra purchases for the journey home. Barbara’s Storehouse stocks an eclectic range of home décor items, while Quirkee Birds is a fashion boutique devoted to eye-catching designs. For lovers of all things vintage and handcrafted, Dirty Janes is a must-visit.
By now you will have worked up an appetite, so follow your nose to the best local eateries. If you’re longing for lunch, the Crab Linguine or the Scotch Steak Sandwich from Ludo will impress. If you’re staying for dinner, enjoy some fine Italian dining at Onesta Cucina. And if you’re after something a little more rustic, try a Lamb & Rosemary Pie from Gumnut Patisserie. Of course, a pub visit is always a highlight in any country town, so you might prefer to sit down for a beer and a hearty meal at the Royal Hotel.
Before you head back to the station, stop in at Ms Peacock Chocolatier so you’ve got some dark chocolate honeycomb to snack on during the train ride home.
Kiama Coast Walk
Travel time from Central: Approx. 2h 20m – 2h 30m
With the train journey to Kiama potentially taking 2.5 hours, this pretty beach town is probably best for an overnight stay rather than a day trip. Happily, many of Kiama’s best attractions are within easy walking distance of the station.
Start your visit to this South Coast gem with a 1km stroll to the Kiama Blowhole. It’s an impressive sight (and sound) when in full force, sending water shooting over 20 metres skyward. If the weather’s warm, you might want to cool off in the nearby Kiama Rock Pool.
Then it’s time to check out more of the coastal scenery, with the 20 km Kiama Coast Walk extending to the north and south from here. Your best bet is to head south and admire the juxtaposition of the lush green hills against the turquoise water, with towering Norfolk pines dotting the foreshore.
You’ll also come across Kiama Surf Beach, which is patrolled from October through to April, so you can cool off here or just spread out a towel on the sand. If you’re looking for calmer conditions, head a little further south to Kendalls Beach.
When you’ve had your fill of sand and surf, turn your attention inland to satisfy those hunger cravings. @Milkandhoney Café is a great breakfast spot, while a Bad Boy burger from The Hungry Monkey will definitely hit the spot.Silica serves up delicious seafood, while the Twice-cooked Duck Leg at Olive & Vine should also put a smile on your face.
Before you hop back on the train to head home, make two final stops. The first is at Bouquiniste, an independent and curated bookstore and café, where you can grab a coffee and something to read on the train. The second is at Parfait Patisserie, where you can stock up on a mouthwatering array of pastries and cakes to fuel your journey home. Now that’s what we call ending a quick weekend escape in style!
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