Blue Mountains Australia
The Perfect Day Trip from Sydney
The Blue Mountains is a World Heritage wilderness that begins 60km west of Sydney Australia. The mountains are home to 400 different species of animals, 40 of them rare or threatened. It is surprising to most people to discover that they are not actually mountains but rather a valley that has been formed by thousands of years of erosion.
Only 2 hours from Sydney the Blue Mountains are the perfect distance for a day trip but a full weekend is the perfect amount of time to really experience the area.
This page will show you the main sights and attractions that are located in my 3 favourite places in the upper Blue Mountains; Wentworth Falls, Katoomba and Leura.
Why are the Blue Mountains blue?
The Blue Mountains get their blue hue from the oil in the eucalyptus trees. When the oil from the trees is dispersed in the air it give off a blue hue, well that is a layman's description but if you want more you can read more about the science behind the Blue of the Mountains here.
The Blue Mountains have been inhabited by the Gundungurra people for over 12,000 years
How to get to the Blue Mountains
Katoomba - the main centre in the Blue Mountains is 122km west of Sydney. There are also train stations at the towns of Wentworth Falls and Leura.
Train: The train from Central Station in Sydney takes approximately 2 hours to reach Katoomba. Tickets are cheaper after 9am or on weekends. The return trip can be made using a variety of tickets. The cheapest is the off-peak return (purchased after 9am) at $10.80 If you want to leave earlier than that the ticket is $15.60.
Car: It is approx 1hour 40 mins drive from the city. Most of the journey is via a motorway although the last section can be quite slow. Traffic on the weekends, particularly Sunday afternoons, can be very bad. For the quickest run back to Sydney it's best to leave the mountains after 5pm.
The YHA Introduction to the Blue Mountains
The Youth Hostel Association have a great hostel in the heart of Katoomba a few minutes' walk from the station. It's perfect for bush-walkers, backpackers or anyone travelling on a budget. This video gives a nice introduction to the area regardless of whether you plan to stay at the hostel or not.
Exploring the Blue Mountains without a car - Hop on Hop off services
There are 2 hop on hop off tours operating in the Blue Mountains - The Blue Mountains Trolley Bus or the Red Explorer Bus.
The Trolley Bus costs $20 and is a hop on hop off service but you can only go around the loop once (in one direction). It covers almost all the same places as the more expensive explorer bus but which is best really depends on how organised you want to be.
The Explorer Bus has 26 official stops but some of them are multiple stops in the same town. It covers all the main areas between Katoomba and Leura and has limited stops to Wentworth Falls. Tickets are valid for one day and cost about $36 (2011)
If you are really travelling on a budget you can get around using the public bus system but it requires a bit more planning. Ask at the visitors centre in Katoomba for timetables and maps.
The Three Sisters Katoomba - The number one attraction in the Blue Mountains
The Three Sisters at Echo Point are a short drive or even a walk from Katoomba train station. They are the area's most visited attraction. Busloads of tourists flock here each day on one day tours from the city and it can get a little crowded sometimes but it's still well worth a visit. The 'sisters' are flood lit from dark until 10.30pm each night. They look equally amazing no matter what time of day you visit and even a foggy day can provide a great photo as the rocks pierce the fog.
The rock formation gets its name from a dreamtime legend that says the rocks were actually 3 young sisters whose father turned them to stone while he fought an angry bunyip. He lost the fight and the girls were forever stuck in rock. Well that is the version I was told on my indigenous tour of the mountains years ago. There are other stories floating around and some controversy over which is correct. Check it out on Wikipedia
The Three Sisters and the dreamtime story
The Giant Stair way or the Furber Steps - You choose 1000 or 800 step staircase down to the valley floor below?
The Giant Stair way takes about 20-30 minutes to descend. This track takes you out onto the three sisters themselves. You make your way down the stairs to the bottom of the valley and the Scenic railway. This walk is not suitable for anyone who is not fit. There are full details on Wildwalks guide to the Giant Stairway walk
The Furber steps are a little longer but I think perhaps a little easier. There are several lookouts that run off the walk.. don't miss Juliet's Balcony! Once at the bottom of the steps you can catch the scenic railway back up to the top. I have done this walk and it's not that hard. I would rate it medium difficulty, make sure you wear sturdy shoes. This link has some great photos of the views along the Furber Steps Track. Wildwalks guide to walking the Fuber Steps
It snows at least once a year in the Blue Mountains
Wentworth Falls - My favourite Blue Mountains waterfall
There are numerous waterfalls in the Blue Mountains but my favourite - and among the easiest to reach without a car is Wentworth Falls. There is a walk called Darwin's walk (after Charles Darwin) that begins at the station and ends at the falls. It takes a little under 2 hours to complete and is a pretty easy walk.
If you want to swim at the bottom of the falls the Wentworth Pass Track will be the best one to follow.
If you decide to eat in the area the Conservation Hut offers good food with great views.
Scenic World - The Katoomba Scenic Railway & Skyway
Almost everyone who heads to the Mountains ends up at Scenic World. There are 3 rides you can try here. The scenic railway was originally built as a way to bring coal from the Katoomba coal mine on the valley floor. Today this track which travels 405 metres to the top of the mountain is used to transport visitors.
The Skyway travels over 3/4 km across the Jamison Valley providing amazing views. The skyway has a glass floor that is opened to reveal Katoomba Falls and the valley below.
There is also a cableway which I have not personally tried yet that takes you down to 3km of scenic walkway and at the end of the walkway is the railway to take you back up. This ride is wheelchair accessible as is the first section of the walkway.
Where to stay in the Blue Mountains - You can do it in a day but it's even better when you take your time
If you plan to stay overnight in the mountains choosing which pretty village to stay in can be hard. If you do not have a car then I would recommend Katoomba. There are lots of shops and restaurants and all tours and hop on services start here. It's also home to the YHA if you are travelling on a budget.
Leura is great if you are looking to stay for a few days.. The town is very quaint, has beautiful old homes with lovely gardens and there is enough to do to keep you busy if you need to be.
There are also some great pubs or houses further up the mountains in Blackheath and Mount Victoria (The Imperial)
Between Wentworth Falls and Katoomba, you will find Leura, a pretty village with beautiful gardens, quaint shops, and a variety of cafes and restaurants. There is a old fashioned market every 2nd Sunday.
Leura is the closest town to Sublime point lookout that is just as its name says, sublime! It's also home to the Leura Cascades - a beautiful picnic ground and a beautiful short walk to the cascading water.
Want more ideas for your visit to Sydney? My blog SydneyExpert.com is full of great ideas for your Sydney holiday
Stay safe in the mountains
Check the weather report and bushfire risk
Do not walk alone
If you are doing an overnight walk tell some when you expect to return
Always take water and food
Find out more about the Blue Mountains
- Scenic World
A visit to Scenic world at Katoomba is a great place to begin your exploration of the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains. Choose between the brand new Scenic railway or the scenic skyway or cable car. There is also a good range of dining options. V
- Ideas for adventure travellers
If you prefer canyoning, absailing, caving or any other daredevil activities this website will show you where and how for the Blue Mountains
- Blue Mountains National Park official camp sites
If a tent is more your style than a quaint country cottage this link lists the main campsites in the park. Remember it is very important to register where you will be camping, particularly in summer when bush fires are a real risk.
- The Greater Blue Mountains Drive
Maps for the touring routes that make up the Greater Blue Mountains Drive. This site is highly recommended for anyone driving to the mountains.
Timetable for Blue Mountains trains