A Bundanoon trip from Sydney is just what you need to top off your time in Australia.
Why visit Bundanoon?
The Southern Highlands of New South Wales is one of my favorite places in the entire world. And it’s not just because there is an abundance of Wombats down there. Okay, maybe it is.
But, if you’re looking for a short trip from Sydney that won’t be too crowded, check out the charming village of Bundanoon. It’s a quiet place with a distinct Scottish ambiance. The town became a well-known tourist destination early in the 20th century as its picturesqueness and the scenery offered working-class Sydney siders an affordable experience out of the city. The Blue Mountains around Katoomba were too expensive, so it was off to Bundanoon instead.
Nowadays, you can take in tree-lined streets with historic sandstone buildings framed in cherry blossoms, go for a bushwalk in nearby Morton National Park, or even take in the Bundanoon Highland Gathering festival. It’s on each April and you’ll think you’re in Edinburgh, not Australia.
Getting to Bundanoon from Sydney
If you have a car, you can get to Bundanoon from Sydney in just under two hours. It’s pretty much a straight shot down the Hume Highway, with a small turn off once you’re almost there.
But, if you don’t have a car, it’s still easy to arrive. All you need to do is take the Southern Highlands line from Sydney to Bundanoon station.
To get to the Southern Highlands Line, take a local train to either Campbelltown or MacArthur station. From there, you can hop on the train and head south. Just be careful, as the Southern Highlands line does split in half, so not every single service stops in Bundanoon. To avoid getting stranded, be sure to read up on the train timetable ahead of time. The regional trains also run less frequently than city services.
My boyfriend and I needed to wait until he got off of work to catch our train. We met at Central Station just before 5:00 and by the time we got to Campbelltown, we nearly missed our connection. If he hasn’t run the length of the platform yelling, “Wait!” to the station guard, we would have been stranded and missed our Bundanoon trip from Sydney.
This is because the last Highlands train that stops at Bundanoon left around 6:00 pm. There were other services that left later in the day, but not for our stop. So look out for this unless you want to spend the entire 90-minute ride on the verge of throwing up because running to make the train is the most physical activity you’ve done in months.
In addition, if you take a train that terminates at Campbelltown, ride at the very back of the train so you are closest to the stairs when you alight. This will save time. If you take a train that terminates at MacArthur, you should ride in the front as the Highlands line is usually just next to it, if a bit further down the track.
Where to stay in Bundanoon
If you don’t have a car, the easiest place to say is the Bundanoon Hotel. It’s right next to the train station and was recently remodeled. It looks a bit like a Scottish pub and lived up to my wildest Outlander dreams. We slept with our window open, but I still could hardly hear the trains. Probably because there aren’t that many that run at night anyway, but it’s still something to note.
However, if you can’t grab a room here, there are also a few other places within walking distance from Bundanoon station, like the Bundanoon Motel or the Bundanoon Guest House. These places can get a bit pricey though, so be sure to book ahead.
Where to eat in Bundanoon
The first was Delicious Bundanoon for a quick brunch. I thought the food was good and the service was really friendly. The barista even told me she thought my accent was cool. I didn’t hear that much in Australia, even after living there for three years. So I guess I was finally far enough out of Sydney that being American was a novelty again.
For dinner after our hike, we just ate at the pub attached to the place we stayed, the Bundanoon Hotel. The staff was really friendly and the food was classic Aussie grub. Can’t get much better than that.
My boyfriend used to come down to Bundanoon with his choir and did mention that for lunch or a coffee, Potter’s Pantry is also delicious.
If you’ve run out of snacks, or want to pick up something extra for the hike, there is an IGA in Bundanoon.
Things to do in Bundanoon
Other than putzing about and taking a look into all the shops (trust me there are plenty of cute windows to gaze into along the main street) the main reason people come down is to hike in Morton National Park. Even without a car, it’s very easy to get to the start of the trail from town.
As you can see, it’s just a straight walk down. And it is downhill, so factor that it when you are coming up the hill at the end of the day. It’s going to be exhausting.
However, the hike is fairly easy. There are toilets and places to fill your water bottle at the Gambell’s Rest campground at the very start. From there, you can easily do a loop down to enjoy the Grand Canyon lookout and Fairy Bower Falls.
This loop took us about six hours because I’m a slow hiker and my boyfriend likes to dawdle and take lots of photos. I realized about halfway through that I didn’t bring enough water for us and I also didn’t tell anyone where we were. There wasn’t any cell service and we didn’t come across a single person the entire day.
So, if you think your hiking partner might kill you, or you actually want to get rescued should something befall either of you, don’t do what I did on your Bundanoon trip from Sydney.
The trail was well maintained for the most part, but we did visit just after a storm, so some parts were bogged down. The stream that runs across the trail to Fairy Bower Falls was so swollen that the rocks people normally walk across were completely covered. We had to take off our shoes and socks, throw them across, and then crawl across to pass safely. The stones were so slippery, even in bare feet, that we risked injury if we didn’t.
I had put some paper towels in my backpack just in case anyone had an emergency poo on the hike (hey, it happens), so they came in handy in wiping our feet off on the other side.
How long should a Bundanoon trip from Sydney be
If you don’t have a car, you can’t do Bundanoon as a day trip. Just because of how the train schedule runs, you would need to plan at least one night in town to actually get to do the hikes and enjoy the ambiance.
Here’s a sample Bundanoon itinerary
7:00 pm arrive from Sydney and eat dinner.
9:00 pm enjoy a relaxing evening at the hotel.
10:00 am check out of the hotel and leave luggage in storage.
10:30 am eat brunch and check out the shops along the high street
12:00 pm head out for your hike
2:00 pm enjoy a picnic lunch looking out over the valley
6:00 pm arrive back at the hotel and have dinner
7:30 pm pick up luggage and chill in the lounge until the train back to Sydney
If you want things to be extra relaxing, you could stay another night and take the train back up in the morning.