Head towards the hazy-blue horizon and escape the city in a matter of hours.
Taking its name from the blue-ish colour seen rising in the air as a result of eucalyptus oil, dust particles and water vapour, the Blue Mountains are a sight to behold. And with the foothills of the mountains beginning just 50 kilometres from the centre of Sydney, they are the perfect escape for those preferring fresh mountain air and lush greenery to sand between their toes and salt in the air.
Getting To The Blue Mountains
If you have a car, the drive from Sydney to Katoomba—the chief town and entrance into the Blue Mountains National Park—will take you only 90 minutes along the M4 and the Great Western Highway.
An alternative route into the area will take you past Windsor and into the mountains along the Bells Line route, passing the orchards around Bilpin as well as the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah, a wondrous cool-climate garden at 1000 metres above sea level and a must-see for nature lovers.
For those without a car, no wukkas. Trains from Sydney depart from Central Station every hour and take only two hours to reach Katoomba. From there, visitors have the option of taking the public buses used by the locals or enjoy the sights from atop the big-red Blue Mountains Explorer Bus, travelling in a loop around the area and stopping at all of the major attractions.
Things To Do And See In The Blue Mountains
There’s more to the Blue Mountains then breathtaking views and gorgeous walks. but that’s as good a place to start as any, especially if you’re going to get away from the city.
Trails & Treks
With over 140 kilometres of well-marked walking tracks, there’s a trail for every type of walker, wanderer, or avid cross-country trekker to take. There are trails to take you past streams and waterfalls, those that overlook forested valleys and peer down cliff faces, and some that pack in a little bit of everything, as well as multi-day adventures reserved for the most experienced.
The Six Foot Track, the original 1884 horse track, from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves is the longest of the walks in the Blue Mountains, stretching 42kms and crossing the Cox River. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but the prizes (waterfalls, rivers, heritage sites, rainforests, and starry night sky) along the way make it one of the more outstanding treks in Australia.
To make the three-day hike a little easier, try going pack-free with Life’s An Adventure, who will also keep you safe and on track.
Wake up early and be mesmerised by the spectacular views on the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, a one-way 7km trek from Katoomba to Gordon Falls following the cliff edge. With over 20 lookouts, this track has some of the best views in all of NSW.
For a more challenging walk, check out the National Pass. You might get tired but you’ll press on knowing that it will take you by Wentworth Falls where the soothing sounds of water cascading down rocks into the pool below will make it all worthwhile. But to get to the bottom of the falls, you will need to descend the Grand Stairway, a handmade stairway built in the early 1900s by men using picks, shovels and a bit of dynamite.
Set Off On A Tour
Not a fan of going it alone in the bush? That’s fine because sometimes it’s best to go with a group.
Possibly the easiest way to see as much of the Blue Mountains as possible is on the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus. Not only will it take you past must-see views like the Three Sisters and attractions like the Everglades Historic House and Garden, but it will also get you closer to many of the waterfalls in the area, so that you can spend more time resting and less time walking.
Hop on and hop off as you please and get the low-down from their informative bus drivers.
However, you can delve deeper into the history and all of the wonderful plants and animals in the area by joining the Aboriginal Blue Mountains Walkabout tour with Darug local, Evan Yanna Muru. Immerse yourself in the stories that the land has told his people for generations and experience the connection to Country they have.
The Three Sisters
Undoubtedly, the Three Sisters is the most famous and recognisable landmark in the Blue Mountains National Park.
According to Dreamtime legend, the rock formations were once three sisters who had been turned into stone by their tribe’s witchdoctor in an attempt to protect them. Unfortunately, it backfired when the witchdoctor—the only person able to reverse the transformation—was killed in battle with the neighbouring tribe. And now, the three sisters, ‘Meehni’, ‘Wimlah’ and ‘Gunnedoo’, remain in their magnificent craggy rock formation as a reminder of this battle.
The best vantage point from which to view the Three Sisters is Echo Point Lookout but don’t forget that you can get up close via Honeymoon Bridge.
Once a coal mine, Scenic World has been a major attraction in the Blue Mountains since opening in 1945, offering visitors a nature experience like no other.
It is home to the world’s steepest railway incline at 52 degrees, which is a favourite amongst visitors, as well as the 384-metre long Scenic Skyway gondola that crosses Jamison Valley, taking in views of the Three Sisters, Mount Solitary and Katoomba Falls. Visitors can also traverse the Scenic Walkway, a 2.4 kilometre boardwalk through the Blue Mountains canopy.
The Sculpture at Scenic World Exhibition is also a huge drawcard for the Blue Mountain region, showcasing artwork beneath the rainforest canopy once a year in autumn.
Australia’s most impressive cave complex can be found in the Blue Mountains as well. Jenolan Caves, just three hours’ drive from Sydney, offers nine spectacular caves to explore with pure underground rivers and limestone formations. There are self-guided and guided tours, night and ghost tours, as well as adventure caving for those who don’t mind getting a little dirty and think they can maneuver through tight spaces.
Eat And Drink In The Blue Mountains
After a hard day of walking and taking in the views of the magnificent Blue Mountains National Park, visitors are going to be hungry and thirsty. Lucky then that there is no shortness of quality when it comes to the coffee, the cafés, and the restaurants in the area. In fact, eating out and having a drink is actually the most popular activity in the Blue Mountains. And it tells!
On your way up into the mountains, get coffee from Dbl Ristretto in Springwood or stop a little closer to Katoomba and get your caffeine fix at Lily’s Pad, hidden behind a Woolies in a small garden. Both offer great coffee and tasty food to help start your day right.
You can grab lunch at Leura Garage, a café inside an old mechanics garage that only sources food within a 100-kilometre radius, or drive on to Blackheath and try the worldly cuisine at Cinnabar Kitchen.
If you’re sticking around for dinner, Blackheath’s Fumo restaurant is open on weekends for dinner and their take on modern-Australian cuisine with Japanese influences is a must if you’re in the area. Otherwise, try Darley’s in Katoomba for a multi-award winning Hatted restaurant in the former home of Sir Frederick Darley, the sixth Chief Justice of NSW, and be enchanted by the decor and sculpted gardens.
Sample wines at Dryridge Estate and Megalong Creek Estate, both in Megalong, or try the local brews from Zigzag Brewery in Lithgow. For cider, head towards Bilpin and you’ll find Hillbilly Cider as well as Bilpin Cider Co.
Shop In The Blue Mountains
There are few places where shopping can still surprise you as it does in the Blue Mountains and, once you’ve had a taste, you’re probably going to want to be taking a few things home. (And you should be because @emptyesky is still a thing.)
In the Blue Mountains, you can pick up local handicrafts and fashion next to fresh produce, next to eclectic antiques, next to rare, first edition books. You will find collectibles and memorabilia before coming across galleries selling local artworks, sculptures, and paintings.
And then, when you’ve gotten a little hungry again, stop in for a treat at the Blue Mountains Chocolate Company, only 200 metres from Echo Point, where chocolate lovers will be spoilt for choice with over 50 exquisite handmade chocolates in store. Visitors could also grab a baked good or pastry from any one of the local cafés before making the drive home.
Most importantly, take note of all the places you saw but didn’t get to visit on your visit, because we guarantee that you’ll be wanting to make another trip sooner rather than later.
For a complete list of bushwalks, check out the Blue MTS webpage.
It’s important to keep in mind that the Blue Mountains did not go unscathed during the summer bushfire season. Having lost up to 20% of its world heritage area, make sure to check the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service for updates on openings and closures before trekking out to the Three Sisters and surrounding areas.
And please remember to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions outlined by the NSW government as well as the rules in order to maintain the health and safety of everyone in our community.