6 day trips that make the most of unlimited public transport in Sydney on a Sunday

Sydney public transport, Circular Quay, Sydney

Circular Quay, Sydney. Image credit: Destination NSW

One of the things I love about Sydney is its tight ass Sunday public transport Opal deal. You can go ANYWHERE on the Sydney public transport network – buses, trains, ferries and light rail – and all you pay for the day is a maximum of $2.60. Bargain! Tell me a place where you can get a coffee for that?

So, I thought I’d provide some day trip inspiration to help you get out – Opal card in hand – and explore the outer reaches of Sydney, and squeeze the most value from your $2.60.

1. Ferry to Manly

Catching the ferry to Manly, and back, for $2.60 is an absolute steal! Hence why it has to be top of this list. Ferry is the best way to experience the magic and beauty of Sydney Harbour, and the trip to Manly is as exciting as a four-day working week.

Departing from Wharf 3 in Circular Quay, climb aboard the big yellow and green boat bound for Manly. You’ll chug past the Sydney Opera House, Fort Denison and The Heads.

Once docking in the beachside suburb, the world is your oyster. You can lunch at HugosPapi Chulos and the Manly Wharf Hotel; drink wine like it’s water at Manly Wine and Cured Manly; or try the local brew at 4 Pines Beer’s Brew Pub Manly. Of course, you can also just chill at Manly Beach, stroll along The Corso, poke you head into the shops, hire a surfboard or hike around North Head.

And, with ferries running late into the evening, there’s no need to rush back.

Public transport route: Circular Quay to Manly ferry
Time: approx. 30 minutes (from Circular Quay) 

Circular Quay to Manly Ferry

The ferry docking at Manly Wharf

2. Train to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains

This is a hearty day trip, taking two hours to trawl from Central Station, through Sydney’s Western Suburbs and up into the Blue Mountains. But, your efforts won’t go unrewarded. Train is an incredibly scenic way to get to the Blue Mountains, much better than the boring Western Motorway.

When you get here, the cute little town of Katoomba, surrounded by the rugged beauty of the Blue Mountains, will make it all worthwhile. As will the pizza at Station Bar and the high tea at The Carrington. If your legs are up for it, The Three Sisters lookout is a 30-minute walk from the station – alternatively, there is a bus.

Note: it is common to find the trains not running on a Sunday (because of maintenance the cheeky scoundrels), with a replacement bus service instead. But who wants to catch the bus to the Blue Mountains? So, best do your homework before eagerly sprinting to Central Station.

Public transport route: BMT train
Time: approx. two hours (from Central Station)

Mount Victoria, Blue Mountains

Train passing through the Blue Mountains. Image credit: Destination NSW

3. Bus to Palm Beach

I’m not sure sitting on a bus for an hour and a half sounds like my idea of a relaxing Sunday, but whatever floats your boat (or drives your bus). (Mind you, I did once squeeze my elderly parents into the back of my convertible EOS, and drove them out to Palm Beach. They would probably argue that that wasn’t the most relaxing, nor comfortable, of experiences either).

If you’re up for it, catch the L90 bus from Wynyard Station in the city and travel all the way through Sydney’s Northern Beaches – passing Dee Why, Narrabeen and Avalon. Before arriving at Sydney’s most northern suburb.

Once here, you can head for the beach, hike up to the historic Barrenjoey Lighthouse, or have lunch at The Boathouse Palm Beach or Jonahs. Alternatively, you can spend the day trying to spot Alf Stewart and iconic sites from Home and Away. Alf’s Bait Shop, the Summer Bay Surf Club and Pier Diner are all here (with the latter moonlighting as The Boathouse Palm Beach – yes, you can have lunch at the diner)!

Alternatively, if you’ve saved all your pennies from taking public transport on a Sunday all year, you can blow it by catching a seaplane from Rose Bay to Palm Beach. The luxury will set you back an eye-watering $395.

Public transport route: L90 bus
Time: approx. one hour, 40 minutes (from Wynyard Station)

Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk, Palm Beach, Sydney

Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk, Palm Beach. Image credit: Destination NSW

4. Train to Wollongong or Kiama on the South Coast

The colour blue is pretty dominant on the South Coast of New South Wales – there’s blue sky and blue ocean everywhere you look. Along with nature at its prettiest, gangs of wildlife and a pace of living that differs wildly from Sydney’s.

The SCO train from Sydney is a really easy train ride (and there’s toilets on-board –phew! My pea-sized bladder just breathed a sigh of relief). For 90 minutes, you travel through the outer reaches of Southern Sydney and through the depths of the ultra-lush Royal National Park, before arriving in Wollongong. Here you can get off for a day at the beach, or just an explore of New South Wales’s third-largest city.

OR… keep heading on to the coastal town of Kiama to see the world’s largest blowhole.

Public transport route: SCO train
Time: approx. one hour, 30 minutes (from Central Station) – Wollongong
Time: approx. two hours, 15 minutes (from Central Station) – Kiama

North Beach, Wollongong

North Beach, Wollongong. Image credit: Dee Kramer Photography

5. Train to Newcastle

A three-hour, one-way journey from Central Station, I feel like it’s ambitious to travel by train to Newcastle, and back, in a day. But, theoretically it’s possible, and if you’re game it’s the best value for money you’ll get, travelling all 165 kilometres (plus return) for $2.60.

Over the three hours you’ll travel through Central Coast towns like Gosford and Morisset, before eventually arriving in Newcastle. New South Wales’s second-largest city is a huge beachside metropolis with excellent cafes, scenic walks, galleries and beach action. Not that you’ll have a whole lot of time before you (sadly) have to jump on a train and get back to Sydney before you turn into a pumpkin.

Public transport route: CCN train
Time: approx. two hours, 50 minutes (from Central Station)

Newcastle Ocean Baths, Newcastle

Newcastle Ocean Baths. Image credit: Destination NSW

6. RiverCat to Parramatta

Catch the RiverCat from Wharf 5 at Circular Quay and take a trip down the Parramatta River, passing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Luna Park and Goat Island, before moving into the calmer and quieter mangrove-lined river waters. This ferry journey – that meanders towards Greater Western Sydney – is uniquely different from a Sydney Harbour ferry jaunt.

Public transport route: Circular Quay to Parramatta RiverCat
approx. one hour to 90 minutes

Rivercat on Parramatta River, Parramatta

A RiverCat on Parramatta River. Image credit: Destination NSW

Plan your Sydney public transport trip

And, whatever you do, always plan out the trip beforehand. No-one wants to catch an Uber from the Blue Mountains back to Sydney. Luckily, NSW Transport’s Trip Planner tool does the hard work for you.