Only a 90-minute drive or train ride away from Sydney, the Blue Mountains are spectacular. The cool (1000m altitude) makes it a great place to hike, eat and photograph. Although it’s suitable for a day trip, with so many things to do in the Blue Mountains staying at least two days is ideal.
Mention the Blue Mountains and most people think of the Three Sisters, which is one of the famous Australian landmarks to visit.
Despite their name, the Blue Mountains are not ‘mountains’ as we normally think of them.
- What are the Blue Mountains?
- Incredible things to do in the Blue Mountains
- 1- See the Three Sisters at Echo Point
- 2- Ride the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus
- 3- Ride the Scenic World gondola
- 4- Take the Scenic railway to the bottom of the gorge
- 5- Try abseiling or canyoning
- 6- Go shopping in Leura
- 7- Go on a Segway tour
- 8- Explore Wentworth Falls
- 9- Take a tour of Jenolan Caves
- 10- Have High Tea at the Hydro Majestic
- Getting to the Blue Mountains from Sydney
What are the Blue Mountains?
They are instead dissected sandstone plateau with an extraordinary diversity of plant and animal life filling the deep gorges and canyons.
The Gundungurra people – who inhabited the area for millennia – say that Dreamtime creatures Mirigan and Garangatch (half fish, half reptile) fought an epic battle over the area leaving the land scarred with canyons and gorges.
When Charles Darwin crossed the Blue Mountains in January 12 1836, he stopped at the head of the Jamison Valley and observed: “Below is the grand bay or gulf, for I know not what other name to give it, thickly covered with forest.
The point of view is situated as it were at the head of the Bay, for the line of cliff diverges away on each side, showing headland, behind headland, as on a bold Sea coast.”
Many convicts in the colony believed China lay beyond the impassable mountains, a convenient myth for the local authorities of the 18th and 19th-centuries.
The first crossing of the Blue Mountains by European settlers is an event that altered the destiny of the Sydney colony by opening up new pastures for its survival.
Incredible things to do in the Blue Mountains
Millions of dollars have been spent recently upgrading old attractions and creating new ones.
These days, some of the best luxury escapes in NSW can be found in the Blue Mountains and with such amazing scenery, it’s easy to see why.
Although the mountains are primarily a place for hiking and have many trails from many starting points, but for an introductory day excursion, Leura and Katoomba are a good start.
Katoomba sits at the end of the railway line and is the ‘capital’ of the Mountains where the first hotel, The Carrington was established, and Leura is only 10 minutes away. In between, there are plenty of exciting things to do in the Blue Mountains – start with these:
1- See the Three Sisters at Echo Point
This spectacular rock formation is a spectacular Blue Mountains attraction that draws crowds all-year-round.
Have you heard about the legend of the Three Sisters?
It’s a romantic but sad story: a long time ago, three sisters from the Katoomba tribe fell in love with three Nepean warriors from a warring tribe.
So that they could be together, the boys decided to capture the sisters during a tribal war.
To protect the sisters, an enterprising witch doctor decided to turn the lovely ladies into stone.
The well-intentioned witch doctor was going to transform them back into human form when it was safe but alas, the witch doctor died before he could do that.
So, the Three Sisters continue to captivate tourists with their rocky charms.
2- Ride the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus
Once in the area, moving from point to point is made a hassle-free experience by the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus and Blue Mountains Trolley Tours, which offer a hop-on/hop off service linking all of the areas and points of interest for a minimal fee (A$38 for an adult Explorer Bus full day pass; discounts for families).
This is a great way to visit the area without wasting any time trying to find specific locations.
The double-decker Explorer buses begin their rounds at Katoomba station leaving every 30 minutes.
3- Ride the Scenic World gondola
Riding the Scenic World gondola offers a bird’s-eye view of the Blue Mountains.
There is a new generation of entrepreneurs in the Blue Mountains who work hard to make visitors welcome and make sure they have the best experience possible.
An example is Scenic World’s David Hammon who, aware of the importance of social media, says he wakes up every morning to check visitors’ comments on TripAdvisor.
He wants every single person to be happy with his or her experience.
Together with his sister Anthea Hammon they are proud to be the third generation in which hands the enterprise is.
Anthea Hammon (a Mechanical Engineer) who, like her brother David grew up working at Scenic World in various roles, has supervised the maintenance department and capital projects which include a state-of-the-art gondola that takes visitors across spectacular gorges and the revamping of the steepest railroad in the world still in its original place: a coal mining rail-track established there to move coal from the bottom of the valley to the top.
Today Scenic World’s gondola it is a joy ride for adults and children alike. For more details go here.
While Scenic World offers an overview of this stunning landscape from their gondola, a ride in the steepest railway to the bottom of the gorge is fun for everyone.
The Railway plunges 310 metres through a tunnel in the cliff and it seems rather miraculous when you arrive in an ancient rainforest at the Jamison Valley floor.
What’s more amazing is this railway has been in operation since 1945!
Once on the valley floor, you can stroll through the rainforest along the Scenic Walkway.
Echo Point has one of the most dramatic scenery in the area but don’t just stop at the Three Sisters, venture past them on perfectly maintained tracks and you’ll be immersed in the true Australian bush.
5- Try abseiling or canyoning
A day trip to the Mountains can only be an overview of the wondrous natural paradise for bushwalking, canyoning, abseiling and rock climbing–among many other activities.
Canyoning is a fun summer activity that will test your endurance through a range of challenges such as swimming, jumping into pools, abseiling waterfalls and scrambling over boulders.
A guided canyoning tour of the Blue Mountains is a way to connect with a landscape that has been chiselled over millions of years by the power of nature.
6- Go shopping in Leura
If abseiling and canyoning sounds like hard work, pack your walking shoes and go shopping and cafe hopping. Here are our top places to shop in Leura:
Cafe Madeleine, 187a Leura Mall, Leura, serves top breakfasts, lunches, house-blended hot chocolate and house-baked desserts, 9am-5pm, seven days.
Josephan’s Fine Chocolates
Josophan’s Fine Chocolates, (132 Leura Mall, Leura, 02 4784 2031) where our very own Master Chocolatiere Jodie Van Der Velden (winner of many international prizes) has a magical store filled with handmade chocolates infused with fragrant herbs and spices.
Van Der Velden exclusively uses fair trade chocolate. Workshops in chocolate appreciation and hands-on chocolate making are held behind the shop.
The Everglades Gardens (37 Everglades Ave 02 4784 1938) is a must for those who love classical landscaping Rhododendrons, azaleas and a myriad of European and native plants grow around pools and ornamental fountains, under arches and surround the Everglades, a 1930 National Trust House. Lunches and afternoon teas are available.
Bygone Beautys (20 Grose Street, 02 4784 3117) is a quaint and kitschy place for traditional high teas, home to the biggest collection of teapots in the world.
The Leura Garage
The Leura Garage, (984 Railway Parade, 02 4784 3391) offers delicious modern Australian fare served with flair in a stunning locale of industrial chic design.
7- Go on a Segway tour
Tired of hiking and walking?
Let those feet have a rest and sign up for a Segway Tour.
Segway Tours operate on the grounds of the Fairmont Resort (1 Sublime Pt Rd Leura, 0418 229 539) offering guided bush tours described as ‘the closest thing to flying without leaving the ground’
8- Explore Wentworth Falls
The most scenic waterfall in the Blue Mountains is Wentworth Falls and one waterfall that’s definitely worth the effort.
The best spot to see the falls is to follow the trail to Wentworth lookout and Fletcher’s lookout, where the view of the falls dropping into the lush green valley is a breathtaking vista.
Then keep on going to the top of the Falls for a different view of Jamison Creek cascades flowing a tranquil pool and more eye-popping views, this time of the stunning Jamison Valley.
The 1.4km Wentworth Falls Track is easy enough for most people but a more challenging hike is the 5km Wentworth Pass Loop.
9- Take a tour of Jenolan Caves
Jenolan Caves is a major cave system offering an impressive range of cave tours.
It’s not the sort of cave you’d just pop in for a look, actually, you could spend days exploring the various caves.
There are guided cave tours of Lucas, Imperial and Chifley cave with hidden chambers to explore.
River Cave is a magical underground maze with pools formed by the River Styx, then there’s the Orient Cave, with its soaring chambers, and Imperial Diamond Cave, where you’ll be charmed by the white crystal of the Crystal Palace.
10- Have High Tea at the Hydro Majestic
High Tea at the Hydro Majestic’s Wintergarden is a wonderful way to enjoy an afternoon of splendid views and delicious treats.
The Hydro Majestic is a historical landmark in the Blue Mountains and exudes elegance and charm.
Scrumptious pastries, dainty sandwiches and baked scones are served on three-tiered silver serving stands.
There are vegetarian and gluten-free options on the menu too.
Drinking coffee or sipping champagne while enjoying the sweeping view of the Blue Mountains is a fabulous way to spend an afternoon.
Here’s how to spend a few more days in the Blue Mountains.
Getting to the Blue Mountains from Sydney
There are two scenic drives from Sydney to the Blue Mountains
It’s a 90-minute drive from Sydney to Katoomba via the M4 Motorway (this route goes through Springwood, Woodford and Leura).
Bells Liine of Road
A longer route (two hours and 15 minutes) is along the Bells Line of Road through Windsor past Bilpin and its orchards, the Mount Tomah Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah and Mount Wilson.
The fastest train is the express service from Central Station to Katoomba (two hours) but there are other regular trains throughout the day.