If you're out for an adventure, you've come to the right place. This inexpensive version of a train trip to Tweed Heads takes a few hours longer than just boarding a north coast or Brisbane bound XPT. Plus, it's fun, inexpensive and a lot to see along the way. The trip is broken into four segments of train/bus/train/bus.
Sydney to Broadmeadow
If you're starting from Sydney, catch the express Newcastle train, Opal service, that leaves Central at 11:15. (M to F). Here's the full timetable for Sydney to Newcastle line.
Broadmeadow to Taree
Alight at Broadmeadow at 13:41 and walk under the subway to the main station entrance on the east side of the station, Platform 1. Here you'll find a taxi rank and a coach stop. The good thing here is that the area and the entrance to the station are all new, as of August 2018. The coach you're looking for is the Taree bound coach which is operated by Busways and departs the coach stop at 14.24. The service is the Newcastle to Taree via Forster service - number 150. The service runs daily. Here's the full timetable for the Newcastle - Taree via Forster service
Broadmeadow is the most popular pickup stop on the service. So you should find other people waiting at the bus stop who you can ask to reassure yourself you're in the right place. Nearby on the station, there's a small kiosk with drinks, cigarettes, ice-creams and papers. There's a toilet on the station near the waiting room on platform 1. Near here you'll also find the station attendants. Here's a map of the Broadmeadow station area showing the coach stop
To board the bus you'll need your Seniors card and $2.50 in cash or EFTPOS for the fare all the way to Taree.
It's important to note that you can only get the $2.50 fare on the bus. If you try to call NSW TrainLink or book online you'll be charged half fare. Yep, it happened to me. First time I paid half fare and my error was picked up by the TrainLink travel agent at Taree who refunded my fare and told me to pay cash when boarding the bus. It just goes to show that NSW TrainLink is somewhat like the British Navy - tough but fair.
Also, be warned that this service can be very busy on school holidays. There's a way around this. Catch an earlier train up from Sydney and go through to Newcastle Interchange and catch the coach from the coach/bus stop near Newcastle interchange. You'll get a seat if you're lucky the one upfront near the driver for a perfect view ahead.
Once leaving Broadmeadow it's a 5 hour run through to Taree. You'll pass along the shore of the Myall Lakes, the beaches along the coast from Pacific Palms to Forster Keys and into Forster and Tuncurry. The final stop is Taree Railway station where you'll arrive at 18.20.
Taree to Casino
There are various places to eat in Taree town but nothing near the station which is about 1km from the centre of Taree. If you want to eat in Taree, ask the bus driver to let you off near town. There are numerous pubs, cafes, restaurants, fast food and clubs open. But keep an eye on the time. Leave town at least 20 minutes before the train departure to walk up to the station. If you have a bag and ask the driver nicely he'll deposit it at the luggage check-in at the station for you. Once you arrive in Taree you've got until 20:08 when the train departs for Casino.
You'll be greeted by a delightfully clean, air-conditioned waiting room and toilets at Taree Station. The station master is on duty and you can also buy a ticket and check your bags in. Although tickets are available at Taree, I advise you to buy them online or over the phone especially if it's school holidays or close to. The ticket from Taree to Tweed Heads will cost $2.50 with your Seniors card. You can purchase your ticket, called a Country Senior Excursion (CSE) up to 7 days before the day of departure. Here is the full timetable for the XPT train/bus service to Tweed Heads. The train is the Sydney to Brisbane XPT service and departs Central at 14:14. This is a daily service.
Book online or call 13 22 32 to book over the phone. Have a credit or debit card ready, Visa, MC, Amex or Diners Club accepted, and your Seniors card. You can also elect to pay in the buffet car when you board the train. On board, only Visa, MC and cash are accepted. So if you don't have a debt or card you can pay by cash on the train. You can also pay for your ticket at the post office.
Casino to Tweed Heads and Byron Bay
You'll arrive at Casino at the unlikely hour of 02:19. There are an air-conditioned waiting room and toilets at the station. The coach to Tweed Heads, Byron Bay and all stops in between departs Casino station at 02:35 and arrives at Tweed Head at 05.48. The coach arrives at the main bus stop in the middle of Tweed Heads. If you're heading further along the Gold Coast or up to Brisbane, the local Surfside Buslines depart on a regular interval through to Southport or Varsity Lakes Station for the train to Brisbane.
What about places like Bangalow and Ballina?
Don't worry, they're also covered under the CPE at just $2.50 ticket from Taree. Just check the timetable and let the agent know when you're making your booking.