An enjoyable way to experience the beauty of the coast north of Sydney is on a train to Newcastle, the second-largest city in NSW. The journey, via the Central Coast, is less than three hours from Central Station to Newcastle, where there are buses to beaches and other top attractions.
Merewether Beach is one of Australia's National Surfing Reserves and home to the international Surfest surfing competition and festival every summer. The waves helped shape the success of Mark Richards, who was crowned world surfing champion four times.
Check the events calendar when planning your trip. Enjoy daily travel caps and the $2.70 per person Sunday cap using Opal cards on public transport from Sydney to Newcastle and the Hunter, as well as buses on the Central Coast, Newcastle and Hunter, and the Stockton Ferry in Newcastle.
The city also offers heritage tours and Fort Scratchley Historic Site has spectacular views of the harbour and the vast Pacific Ocean. During whale-watching season, Nova Cruises will take you to where humpbacks play in the sparkling blue waters. Other things to do in this vibrant city include the Bathers Way, a spectacular coastal walk, and visits to Newcastle Museum and Newcastle Art Gallery.
You'll find many kid-friendly cafes and restaurants, and if you're planning a weekend escape, there are accommodation options to suit a range of budgets. And you can also travel by train from Newcastle to Maitland in under an hour for a fascinating tour of the historic Maitland Gaol.