You don’t need to have access to a car to get away for the weekend. Make use of the Countrylink service and head north to Newcastle to spend a day by the water, or go inland to the Blue Mountains and take on a picturesque hiking track. Here are five options for public transport getaways. All hikes and hospitality are within easy reach of the local train station.

Palm Beach/The Basin
Palm Beach, Sydney’s northernmost suburb, is just as enticing in winter as it is in summer. Its famous golden-sand surf beaches are less than an hour from the city (get on the bus at Wynyard station). Go for lunch at The Boathouse, and then walk the Barrenjoey coastal track up to the lighthouse for some whale watching. Head back home, or pack some camping gear and hop on the ferry for 20 minutes over to the other side of Ku-rin-gai Chase National Park. Set up your tent at The Basin, a popular waterfront campsite with grassy areas and an in-land lagoon. Pick up some firewood in Palm Beach so you can cosy up later.

Travel time from Sydney: one hour to Palm Beach, another half hour to the campsite.

Blue Mountains
The train from Central station to the Blue Mountains takes around two hours, depending which area you want to get to (we recommend you get off at Wentworth Falls, Leura or Katoomba). Spend the day hiking the National Pass walking track, a route which winds around the Jamison Valley with stunning views of waterfalls and mountains, and then order a wood fired pizza from Leura Garage once you’re done. The last train back to Sydney leaves at 10pm, so it’s best to find some accommodation for the night. We recommend camping in the national park, or sleeping in a treehouse in the sky.

Travel time from Sydney: two hours.

A speedy hour and a half from Central station, you’re never more than 15 minutes from the beach in Wollongong. Get an early train and order your latte from Sifters, a coffee shop in a shipping container by the main beach. After that, spend the day hiking and walk up to Mount Keira Lookout to enjoy panoramic views of the ocean. Grab a hot dog for dinner from His Boy Elroy, and then taste test a few craft beers at Five Barrel Brewing before jumping back on the train. Wollongong’s proximity to Sydney (and the frequency of trains) makes it perfect for a day trip. Save money on accommodation, arrive early in the morning and hop on the train back home at night.

Travel time from Sydney: one and a half hours.

Avoca Beach/Bouddi National Park
Avoca is located on the central coast, so getting there means hopping on the Countrylink train to Gosford and then switching to a bus for an hour. The area’s two-kilometre main beach is popular with surfers and paddle-boarders, and nearby Bouddi National Park is renowned for its spectacular coastal walk and whale-watching lookouts. Avoca is a relaxed beach town with an impressive food scene. Visit Becker & Co. or Like Minds for coffee, the Avoca Markets on the fourth Sunday of each month for homemade treats, and have a luxurious lunch or dinner at Bombini – a fine dining Italian restaurant with a popular three-course menu. Stay the night so you can make the most of it.

Travel time from Sydney: two and a half hours.

Australia’s second oldest city is around two and a half hours from Sydney on the train, just jump on the Countrylink from Central station and travel north until you reach the beach. Go for the weekend and you’ll have ample time to explore the hospitality, beaches and culture the coastal city is famous for. Awkward train times means it’s best to stay overnight, so book your accommodation somewhere central (like The Lucky Hotel) and head to One Penny Black for your morning coffee, Terrace Bar for dinner and drinks, the Newcastle Memorial Walk at sunset and the Merewether Ocean Baths for a dip.

Travel time from Sydney: two and a half hours.