Intriguing railway history and World Heritage wilderness create a striking setting for this semi-rural town at the foothills of the Southern Highlands. Thirlmere combines a splendid rail museum and iconic pie shop, with beautiful natural surrounds and outdoor adventures in the neighbouring national park named after Thirlmere Lake in England.
Things to do
The NSW Rail Museum is a popular tourist attraction, detailing the history of the area and how the town sprang up around the station when the Great Southern Railway began being built in 1863. There are interactive exhibitions with locomotives, carriages and wagons, plus if you visit on the weekend you can also enjoy a vintage train ride.
Steam trains operate every Saturday and Sunday, departing several times a day from the historic Thirlmere Station, travelling to Buxton and back. The enchanting trip takes about 40min. The annual Thirlmere Festival of Steam is a fun-filled weekend for the whole family, as is the quarterly Day out with Thomas.
Thirlmere Lakes National Park is part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, and a great spot for picnics, bushwalking and birdwatching. The Thirlmere Lakes walking track is a delightful 6km loop, taking in picnic areas, wildflowers and the Heritage Pump Station. Read these bushwalking safety tips before you head off.
Bring a picnic hamper and enjoy lunch at the lakeside Werri Berri picnic area, near the walking track. Majestic eucalypts provide plenty of shade, and there are free gas barbecues, tables and toilets. Around 140 bird species inhabit the park. Keep your eyes peeled for white-bellied sea eagles, gang-gang cockatoos and little lorikeets. You can also find rare aquatic plants such as frogmouth waterlilies.
The sandstone Heritage Pump Station, near Werri Berri picnic area, delivered water for steam trains on the old railway. Other lovely local activities include picking strawberries at Berrylicious Strawberries, and a visit to Cedar Creek Orchard for farm tours and shed sales. Enjoy a scenic drive on the Wollondilly trail, part of the Greater Blue Mountains Drive, passing through historic towns such as Picton and Camden.
Eat & drink
There’s something special about pie shops in semi-rural towns and Loop-Line Pies, just near the NSW Rail Museum, is no exception. Tempt your tastebuds with freshly made sweet and savoury baked goods. If you're in the mood for classic pub fare, you can't go past the Welcome Inn Hotel or there’s Off the Rail café for coffee, salads and burgers.
The small township of Thirlmere is about an 80min drive southwest of the city centre.