By Olivia Morris, 4 June, 2016
The Opal card has been a recent hot topic of discussion with various crackdowns and changes to fares but one of the hidden gems of the scheme is frequently overlooked. All day travel for $2.50 on a Sunday.
You may be thinking: “Travel for $2.50? That is impossible!” Well, that is where you are mistaken. The Opal card scheme in New South Wales enables anyone to go anywhere in the state on a train, bus or ferry for $2.50 on a Sunday. It is a fantastic way to encourage people of all ages to explore what NSW has to offer.
The cap for Sunday travel was implemented in 2014, two years after the Opal card scheme was put into effect. Prior to this, only pensioners and travellers with children were eligible for the cap.
“The Sunday $2.50 cap has been a huge success. You only have to look at the numbers,” a spokesperson from Transport for NSW said. On average in 2015, 86,000 Opal cards used the Sunday cap every month and numbers are only increasing. In the last four weeks alone there was an average of 146,000 Opal cards that use the Sunday cap.
Lately, there has been widespread negative coverage of the Opal card scheme. Back in March, “Opal hacking“. More recently in May, NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance announced an end to free travel after eight paid journeys, instead a 50 per cent discount will take place after eight journeys. These changes will commence in September.
One thing that is not changing, however, is the Sunday $2.50 cap which is great as enables so many people to explore this wonderful place. NSW is home to numerous natural attractions, both inland and coastal, and Australia’s most populous and oldest city, Sydney. No wonder this state is one of the leading destinations in Australia and in the entire southern hemisphere.
So, I decided to highlight three must visit destinations you can go to for $2.50 on a Sunday so you can use your Opal card to its maximum potential.
Royal National Park
The Royal National Park is a vast region of dense forests, cliffs and beaches, 29 kilometres south of Sydney. Hidden in the bush of the national park you’ll find lagoons, waterfalls, secluded beaches and breathtaking coastal trails. Surprisingly, it is one of the most overlooked locations in NSW despite being the oldest national park in the world.
One of the best treks to do is the Otford to Wattamolla coastal walk. Catch the train to Otford, around one hour from Sydney Central Station. The entire walk will take you around four hours. On your way you’ll pass Garie Beach, which is surrounded by some incredible cliff faces, lush greenery and a cluster of heritage-listed shacks built in the ‘30s.
Whilst I was tackling this trail, I struck up a conversation with one fellow walker named Tony Fisher who owned one of the shacks, which are now holiday homes. When he visited he drove to the Royal National Park but he told me how refreshing it was to see people utilising the public transport and said, “I wish I could see more people doing the same thing”.
From Garie Beach, the walk to Wattamolla is around two hours with spectacular coastal views the whole way. Wattamolla is home to a freshwater lagoon in a secluded cove which flows out into a vast sandy beach. The lagoon also has a waterfall, which despite warning signs, you’ll most likely see people jumping from!
Video of some of the Northern Beaches from Manly to Dee Why. // Olivia Morris
The northern coastal suburbs of Sydney, better known as the Northern Beaches, extend from Manly Beach right up to Palm Beach near Ku-Ring-Gai National Park. It is an extremely sought after part of Sydney for families to live in and is an area which has seen property prices soar in recent years. However, even if you don’t live there the Northern Beaches are still an absolute must to visit.
The Northern Beaches stretch over 40km with some beaches such as Narrabeen spanning over 3.6km and some just as little as 350m, like Freshwater. There are plenty of walks connecting all the beaches and there is definitely no shortage of coastal views.
Couple, Alan and Elena Johnson regularly take advantage of the Sunday travel to go to the Northern Beaches. Elena said, “It’s such a great thing having the cap on a Sunday, especially for using the ferries. We just get the bus down to Circular Quay from the inner-west and jump on a ferry to Manly and work our way up to Curl Curl. We’re wanting to try to get the bus right up to Palm Beach and see what the walks are like up further north. We’ll probably do that in the summer months though, as it’s getting a bit cold now!”
Moving away from the coast lies the Blue Mountains, one of the most visited places not only in NSW but in the whole of Australia. It’s hard to believe that these mountains are only two hours inland, west of Sydney and span over 11,000 squared kilometres. They are a listed World Heritage Area and has been regarded as one of the top places to visit in Australia by TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet.
Within the national park alone there is so much to do, it could take you a good few Sundays to even make a dent in covering it! The great thing is trains run almost hourly on a Sunday from Sydney Central Station and the journey to Katoomba is approximately two hours.
There is an endless list of things to do at the Blue Mountains so choosing where to start is understandably difficult. One of the most popular spots to visit is the Three Sisters which you can view by getting off the train at Katoomba and doing the Three Sisters walk. However, you also get some incredible views of the Blue Mountains by getting off the train at Wentworth Falls or Leura.
The Charles Darwin walk at Wentworth Falls is a popular walk as it is an easy one-hour stroll through the bush which then opens up to see the magnificent views of the mountains and waterfalls. The most impressive views I’ve come across at the Blue Mountains is at the Sublime Point Lookout in Leura and it definitely lives up to its name. You get 360-degree views of the Blue Mountains which go on forever and you can even see the Three Sisters in the distance.
Backpacker Jake Crosby has been to all three locations and all on Sundays. He said, “Obviously I’m on a budget since I’m a backpacker and travelling Australia can be really expensive. So, the Opal $2.50 cap has been great for coming to the Blue Mountains and going to other places in NSW.”
Journey from Sydney to Sublime Lookout Point in Leura, Blue Mountains National Park, NSW. // Olivia Morris
Whoever said travel has to be expensive?
For more information about Opal travel visit www.opal.com.au.