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I'm hoping this is a constrained enough question to not produce either long lists, or lots of subjective answers, so here goes...

In December I'm going to want to get from Sydney to Brisbane. I won't have a car, and it's just a one way trip, so the obvious choices would seem to be either fly, or take the train. (Well, train then bus from Casino!) While the train looks to be slightly cheaper, when luggage fees are included, I've noticed that a CountryLink East Coast Discover Pass is about the same price as the flight + bag fees.

If I was to get a CountryLink East Coast Discover Pass, then I'd be able to make my way from Sydney up to Brisbane by train + bus, stopping as often as I like (as long as I don't backtrack). My idea was to maybe take something like 3-4 days to do the trip, stopping at a couple of places along the way (plus charging my gadgets up too - one snag I hit last time with the train is the lack of power points!)

What I'm not sure on is where along the North Coast that's served by CountryLink is worth stopping at for a day? I won't have a car with me, nor will I have that long, so visiting some of the more far-flung beaches is out. Between Sydney and Grafton I'm largely limited to two trains a day (I don't think I'll want to take the overnight one), and for the Garfton to Brisbane leg I've no real choice (XPT to Casino then bus looks the only sensible bet). The timetable listing is here, and this is the current timetable

For places to stop off at, they'd need sensibly priced accommodation near the station, as I'll likely not be packed for long walks with everything. I wouldn't mind a stop that would allow for some scuba diving, but otherwise places with one of interesting walking, a nice beach or a museum would be good. Oh, and I probably wouldn't stop at Surfers or anywhere north of there, as I can pop back to them from Brisbane later! I guess in addition to a whole day stop, I could always get the earlier Casino XPT, hop off for a couple of hours and see somewhere, then take the later Grafton XPT on to where I'm staying, so suggestions for somewhere for a museum / quick walk / etc might also be good!

So, along the route covered by the discovery pass, are there any places that would be recommended for a 1 day stop? And anywhere that might be interesting for a few hours?

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2 Answers 2

It's hard to say exactly what your goals are, but a few thoughts:

The train may end up taking longer than bus, since buses go directly between Sydney and your desired destinations (see greyhound map and train map).

If you are into overnight buses, you could consider taking one from Sydney to Byron Bay and hanging out there. Around $90 right now. This way you save on accommodation as well.

JetStar flies from Sydney to Gold Coast airport (OOL) for as little as $49. You can literally walk from that airport to the nearest beach in less than 10 minutes. You could hang out in that area (Surfer's Paradise, etc.) and then get a bus to Brisbane.

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So how much is it for train or plane? Have you considered Premier Motor Services (Bus)? It quoted me $95 for one-way full fare Sydney-Brisbane. Or check out the hostel boards or this rideshare site; the route Sydney-Brisbane is quite popular and it should be easier to get an even cheaper lift where you are more flexible with routes and sightseeing.

Byron Bay comes to mind as a stop, and most people like it. I was there twice and it's imho quite overrated and didn't live up to my expectations. Very touristy; expensive rates at hotels and hostels; not much more to see than beach and lighthouse, but you can go for some nice walks along the beach there. You should also be able to get a bus tour for a day to Nimbin; try that if you haven't been there before :)

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If you book on the direct train, it's about that price too (I paid $100 last year for the direct service), and I think the train's nicer than Premier Motor Services (who I've used in the past too). The train has a buffet that does lots of very nice food! East Coast Discovery Pass is $130 –  Gagravarr Nov 24 '11 at 9:39
    
Buffet you say? My only weakness! –  iHaveacomputer Nov 24 '11 at 10:37
    
Not a "all you can eat" one, but a buffet car that does cooked breakfasts, then mid morning tea, then cooked lunches, then afternoon tea, then dinner, and drinks+snacks in between. The scones with the afternoon tea in particular were excellent, especially for cooked on a moving train! –  Gagravarr Nov 24 '11 at 11:22
    
+1 for Nimbin ;-) –  greg121 Nov 5 '12 at 13:49

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