If you have an Opal card, you can travel all day Sunday on Sydney public transport (trains, buses and ferries all included) for only $2.50 ($15 limit on other days). This includes a lot of the regional train network and, importantly for Canberrans, the Southern Highlands line starting in Goulburn. Now, to get to Sydney at a reasonable time to spend a full day of sightseeing, I feel there are two viable options.
Option 1: Wake up at ridiculous o’clock, drive for 1 hour to Goulburn and arrive in time for the 5:54am departure (there is free parking near the station so that eliminates one level of stress). This train reaches Central Station in Sydney at 8:56am. If you miss this train, however, you’ll be waiting til 2:20pm for the next one.
Option 2: Camp overnight near one of the train stations and walk to the train station at a slightly more reasonable hour. Trains increase in frequency once you get above Moss Vale station – just under 2 hours drive from Canberra. A couple of stops up is Bargo, around a 2 hour drive from Canberra. The same train mentioned in Option 1 stops at Bargo at 7:28 – much more reasonable, and, if you happen to be running a little late, instead of an 8+ hour wait, it’s only 1 hour (although you may have to change trains). Again, this will get you to Sydney by 9am. The earliest option leaves Bargo at 4:36am and arrives in Central at 6:25am.
Waiting at the Bargo Train Station
It just so happens that there is a lovely free camping site hosted by Bargo Pub – directly across the road from the train station. With a bunch of TV screens (which they were happy to change to an AFL game when requested), a few different rooms and a good atmosphere, it was an ideal place to have a few beers before we hit the sack. They also do food if you’re hungry and have rooms to stay in if camping isn’t your style. There is safe parking around the back where we left our car all day. Would highly recommend this pub as a place to camp, whether before a day trip or if you’re just looking for a camp site in the general area.
Bargo Pub from the train station – parking driveway to the left,
the grassy field behind and to the right is the camping area
Camping facilities at Bargo Pub: Drinking water, large flat grassed area for tents and campers, tables and benches, a playground, toilets when the pub is open, parking.. all for free so be sure to pop in even if it’s just for a drink to say thank you.
Note: As the camping site is opposite the train station, there are occasional freight trains that may wake you up – best to pack ear plugs.
Bargo Train Station facilities: Unfortunately at the moment you can’t buy or top up your Opal Card – you can only buy the traditional one way tickets at the station however we found you can top up your Opal Card at the service station nearby.
Returning home: If you opted for option one, the last train to get back to your car leaves Central at 5:25pm, arriving in Goulburn at 8:25pm. If your car is in Bargo, the same train will arrive there at 6:50pm with 2 hourly trains leaving til the last train leaving Central at 11:39pm arriving at Bargo at 1:34am (with a change).
And what did we do for the day? Caught a train to Circular Quay, made our way to Dock #2 and caught a ferry across to visit Taronga Zoo – we very much enjoyed the bird show and thought the giraffes were too distracted by their food to appreciate their amazing view! (Tip: buy tickets online beforehand for $41.40 compared to $46 at the gate)
Notice both the harbour bridge and Sydney Opera House behind the giraffes!
Transport: $2.50 with Opal card
Taronga Zoo tickets: $41.40
Food: BYO – plenty of water taps around Taronga ~$5-10
Beers: $11 (for 2)
Total: $75 for two people in the car