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A Trip to the Blue Mountains

Updated on September 1, 2014

If you are planning a trip to Sydney you have probably heard about the Blue Mountains. It is Sydney's premier day trip, allowing you to experience ancient green landscapes, gorgeous waterfalls, quaint mountain villages and Australian wildlife in native environments.

There is enough to see and do here to consider an extended visit but if your time in Sydney is short then you can do it justice in just one day. The thing that most visitors struggle with is whether they should I take a Blue Mountains tour or plan their own visit independently? The answer to this really depends on what type of traveller you are and hopefully after reading this page you will know which way will work out best for you.

A gorgeous winter's day in the Blue Mountains
A gorgeous winter's day in the Blue Mountains | Source

How far is it to the Blue Mountains from Sydney?

A markerThe Three sisters -
Three Sisters, Echo Point Road, Katoomba NSW 2780, Australia
get directions

The centrepiece of the Blue Mountains Region the Three Sisters at Echo Point in Katoomba are approximately 110km (68miles) west of Sydney.

Joining a Blue Mountains Day Tour

I should start out by saying I generally avoid tours like the plague however there are times when they are the best choice.

When should you consider a tour?

  • Limited planning time - tours are great if you're planning time has been limited and you don't know much about the Mountains.
  • When you are interested in learning more about the history and culture of the area They are a great way to learn more about the indigenous legends of the region
  • When you want to do some walks and you don't have the required knowledge or equipment it can be great to have someone else to look after your safety.

There are many ways to experience the mountains. More than a 2 dozen tour operators offer day tours and special interest tours. I think the smaller operators who take groups of 20 or less are the best choice. Walking along these tracks in large groups means you won't really have much of a chance to hear the commentary or ask questions. Large groups also limit your time.

I have taken quite a few of these tours over the years and some that I have travelled with and enjoyed include Colourful Trips, Activity Tours and Blue Mountains Eco Tours. My favourite is the indigenous one run by Blue Mountains Walkabout. The choice comes down to which itinerary suits your interest best.

These trips will get you to places that are not as easily accessible by public transport. They also generally allow more time bush-walking and exploring outside the bus than the larger tour bus companies.

Tour or Do It Yourself?

Do you prefer to take tours or travel independently?

See results

Scenic World

The Cableway at Scenic world will take you down to the valley floor and offers great views of the 3 sisters.  It is also great for anyone with mobility issues.
The Cableway at Scenic world will take you down to the valley floor and offers great views of the 3 sisters. It is also great for anyone with mobility issues. | Source
The Blue Mountains Explorer bus
The Blue Mountains Explorer bus | Source

Blue Mountains Hop on Hop Off Services

There is a trolley and a big red bus

There are two competing hop on hop off services that take visitors to the Blue Mountains on pretty similar routes. If you are staying for more than a day then I think the red bus is the best choice as it is valid for up to 7 days. If you just want to sit on the tour for the entire route the trolley is better value for money.

Red Blue Mountains Explorer Bus

The explorer bus has 29 stops around Katoomba and Leura. You can buy your ticket as part of a combined train package from Sydney or on arrival in Katoomba. The pass is valid for 7 days. The bus only offers limited commentary and not a full guided tour. Explorer buses run on a half hourly schedule.

Cost: Adults $38, Kids $19

Check out the website for lots of great walks and attraction information

Blue Mountains Trolley

The trolley also has 29 stops including stops at the Three Sisters, Gordon Falls, the Giant Stairway and Prince Henry Cliff walk. You can buy your ticket at Katoomba or from the trolley driver. The bus has a commentary to tell you more about the area but instead of 30 minute wait between buses like the explorer the trolleys run on an hourly schedule. They also offer Jenolan Caves tour packages. Check the website for details.

Cost: $25 Adults, Kids $15

How to Use Public Transport for your Blue Mountains Day trip

Catching the Train to Katoomba

Going to the Blue Mountains by train is an option for those who like to be independent but you need to do your homework first. This is not an easy option for a one day tour. It works better for overnight stays.

Getting to the mountains is relatively easy just jump on a Mount Victoria train from Central railway station and a little under 2 hours later you will be in Katoomba - the main town of the area.

From here you can join on to one of the tourist services or if money is tight use the public bus system to get around. You can also walk from the station to the 3 Sisters lookout in about 20 minutes.

You can easily explore the villages of the mountains like Leura and Katoomba by train. Getting to sites like Wentworth Falls and Scenic World takes a little more work but is also possible.

If you do take the train I seriously recommend you buy one of the Hop on Hop off Explorer tickets to get you around once you are there.

Saving money on your train ticket

Ticket Type
Cost
Note
Train ticket - each way Monday to Friday
$8.60 each way
Weekend price offered for travel before 7am and after 6.30pm on weekends
Train Ticket - weekends
$11.80 return
 
Opal Card
$15 daily cap / $2.50 cap on Sundays
Free for the card - add credit to use.
My tip: Check the 131500.com.au website about planned track work. Sometimes buses replace trains on weekends making this a difficult journey.
One of my favourite Blue Mountains Walks
One of my favourite Blue Mountains Walks | Source
The path to the lookout - uneven surfaces but generally an easy walk.
The path to the lookout - uneven surfaces but generally an easy walk. | Source
Almost there...  keep away from the edge
Almost there... keep away from the edge | Source
this time with the sun shining.
this time with the sun shining. | Source
Mural in Leura Village - the perfect spot to stop for lunch
Mural in Leura Village - the perfect spot to stop for lunch | Source
Leura has many cute shops to explore
Leura has many cute shops to explore | Source

Resources for planning your time in the mountains

There are visitor centres located throughout the mountains but the best one for visitors travelling by public transport is at Echo Point (Three Sisters). This centre has walking trail maps, tour advice and knowledgeable staff.

Where: Echo Point
When: 9am to 5pm Daily (Closed Christmas Day)
Phone: 1300 653 408

Visiting Sydney? This is a good guidebook

5 Things not to miss

  1. The Three Sisters
  2. Scenic Railway
  3. The Waterfalls - at least one
  4. Leura Village
  5. Govertts Leap and the Fairfax Track

© 2014 Paula Morgan

Have you been to the Blue Mountains?

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    • jmsp206 profile image

      Julia M S Pearce 3 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Would love to take a trip to the Blue Mountains. You have show here so many things to see and ways to travel.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      What a lovely article on the Blue Mountains. I haven't been there for years and your beautiful photos are a great reminder of what I'm missing. It's such a comprehensive article, too.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 3 years ago

      Paula, I don't know that I will make it to your part of the world in my lifetime. ;) My mom wants to go on a vacation to Scotland -- she used to talk about moving to Australia. So, we'll see if she has a second vacation in her!!

    • PaulaMorgan profile image
      Author

      Paula Morgan 3 years ago from Sydney Australia

      Thanks Julieann

      It really is a glorious part of the world. Hopefully one day you will get to see it!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 3 years ago

      I hadn't heard of the Blue Mountains prior to reading your article - I had heard of Blue Mountain Coffee -- but I think that comes from Jamaica! Your pictures are quite lovely - I particularly love that first one with such a blue sky to complement the mountains.