Only a 90-minute drive or train ride away from Sydney, the Blue Mountains is a spectacular cool altitude (1000m) that is 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.
Most people know of the Three Sisters, which is one of the famous Australian landmarks to visit but there’s much more to discover at this World Heritage wilderness region.
The region has rainforests, valleys, soaring sandstone escarpments, plunging canyons and windswept heathlands that cover more than one million hectares.
It’s one of Australia’s iconic landscapes and a national wonder that consists of eight conservation reserves: Blue Mountains, Stone Gardens, Yengo, Wollemi, Nattai, Kanangra Boyd, Thirlmere Lakes and Jenolan Caves Karst Reserve.
Despite their name, they are not ‘mountains’ in the conventional sense but a dissected sandstone plateau with an extraordinary diversity of plant and animal life filling the deep gorges and canyons.
- 1 Things To Do In Blue Mountains
- 1.1 Things to do in Katoomba
- 1.1.1 1- See the Three Sisters
- 1.1.2 2- Ride the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus
- 1.1.3 3- Ride the Scenic World Gondola
- 1.1.4 4- Ride The Scenic Railway
- 1.1.5 5- Hike The Giant Stairway
- 1.1.6 6- Visit the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre
- 1.1.7 7- Go On The Street Art Walk
- 1.1.8 8- Drink At Champagne Charlie’s Cocktail Bar
- 1.1.9 9- Buy An Old Book At Mr Pickwicks
- 1.2 Things To Do In Leura
- 1.2.1 10- Go Shopping and Cafe Hopping
- 1.2.2 11- Go on a Segway tour
- 1.2.3 12- Visit The Leuralla Toy and Railway Museum
- 1.2.4 13- Visit Everglades House
- 1.2.5 14- Admire The View At Sublime Point
- 1.2.6 15- Explore Wentworth Falls
- 1.2.7 16- Look Down At The Drop From Lincoln Rock
- 1.3 Things To Do Around Blackheath
- 1.4 Other Things To Do In The Blue Mountains
- 1.5 Getting to the Blue Mountains from Sydney
- 1.1 Things to do in Katoomba
Things To Do In Blue Mountains
One of the reasons why there are so many fascinating things to do in the Blue Mountains is because it’s a place steeped in history.
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 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 these impassable mountains in NSW, a convenient myth for the local authorities of the 18th and 19th-centuries.
The first crossing by European settlers is an event that altered the destiny of the Sydney colony by opening up new pastures for its survival.
Things to do in Katoomba
Taking photos is one of the top things to do in 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 and around Katoomba 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, 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 attractions to see, so start with these:
1- See the Three Sisters
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.
The Three Sisters is a 2.5km (about 25 minutes) walk from Katoomba Station or board bus 686.
2- Ride the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus
Once in the area, there is no need for a car as moving from point to point is made a hassle-free experience by the Explorer Bus and Trolley Tours.
The hop-on/hop-off service links all of the areas and points of interest for a minimal fee (A$38 for an adult Explorer Bus full-day pass and discounts for families).
This is a great way to visit the area without wasting any time trying to find specific locations and removes the headaches of finding your way around, parking and rushing against time in a place you’re unfamiliar with.
The double-decker Explorer buses begin their rounds at Katoomba station leaving every 30 minutes.
3- Ride the Scenic World Gondola
There is a new generation of entrepreneurs in the region who work hard to make visitors welcome and make sure they have the best experience possible.
An example is 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.
It has 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 an awe-inspiring joy ride for adults and children. It’s a 30-minute walk from Echo Point and can be reached by bus on the 686 route.
4- Ride The Scenic Railway
While there’s an overview of this stunning landscape from the 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 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.
This area has dramatic scenery but don’t just stop at the Three Sisters, venture past them on perfectly maintained walking trails and you’ll be immersed in the true Australian bush.
5- Hike The Giant Stairway
The Giant Stairway is one of the most popular attractions in Blue Mountains National Park.
The 998 steps near the Three Sisters Walk connects Echo Point and Honeymoon Bridge, which is near the first sister.
Stretch your legs on this historic walk, which is 4.7 km (each way) and has been wowing hikers since 1909.
The walk starts below the Three Sisters and descends into the valley along steel and stone steps leading to the Scenic World entrance.
If you’re planning on riding the Scenic Railway back up, make sure to get to the bottom before 4.50 pm or be prepared for the three-hour hike back to the top.
6- Visit the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre
The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre consists of the city’s art gallery, library and Into the Blue, which is an immersive show about the history and natural scenery of the area.
There’s a viewing platform with breathtaking panoramic views of Katoomba and the Jamison Valley.
The cultural centre is the place to learn about the region’s Darug and Gundungurra traditional owners.
As the region is a magnet for artists and creative people, there’s a programme of events always on offer here.
Watch a show, attend a workshop, see an exhibition or shop for a gift at the centre’s store.
Blue Mountains Cultural Centre is a short walk from Katoomba Station.
7- Go On The Street Art Walk
Katoomba’s colourful murals are eye-catching works of art and wandering around gazing at the buildings is like exploring an outdoor art gallery.
The Street Art Walk is a city beautification project that started in 2013 and the murals draw from the creativity of artists from around the globe.
It features a collection of cool, creative, colourful and thought-provoking murals that will have you captivated for a few hours at least!
The Street Art Walk is at the end of Beverly Place and is a five-minute walk from Katoomba Station.
8- Drink At Champagne Charlie’s Cocktail Bar
Sip a cocktail beneath the stained glass dome at Champagne Charlie’s cocktail bar.
On the menu is a list of traditional and contemporary cocktails, craft beers and wine.
The cocktail bar in The Carrington, which opened in 1882, is the place to soak up some history.
Originally known as ‘The Great Western’, this hotel was built when Katoomba transformed from a mining town to a tourist destination.
The Governor of NSW, Lord Carrington was partial to drinking champagne for breakfast and was also given the nickname ‘Champagne Charlie’ for living a Champagne lifestyle.
Champagne Charlie’s Cocktail Bar is at 15 to 47 Katoomba St and has an all-day menu from 11 am to 4 pm and drinks until late.
9- Buy An Old Book At Mr Pickwicks
The region has several bookshops that sell second-hand books as well as antique shops and charity shops where you might find a rare gem.
This New South Wales region is home to writers, poets and artists, so it’s not surprising to find shelves packed with interesting finds.
One of the most charming second-hand bookshops is Mr Pickwicks.
The shelves are stocked with antiquarian, collectable and specialist books covering a range of subjects such as art, history, literature, war and local history.
Even if you’re not a collector of old books, browsing the shelves in a book shop is fascinating and curling up in front of a fire with a good book is one of the joys of visiting the area.
Mr Pickwick’s is at 86 Katoomba Street, Katoomba and a two-minute walk from the station.
Things To Do In Leura
10- Go Shopping and Cafe Hopping
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, 9 am to 5 pm, 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.
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.
11- Go on a Segway tour
Tired of hiking and walking? The good news is there are plenty of adventure activities in this region.
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’
12- Visit The Leuralla Toy and Railway Museum
Visit the Leuralla Toy & Railway Museum, which is the Southern Hemisphere’s most extensive collection of toys and trains.
The museum is guaranteed to impress serious collectors with its display of 20th-century toys such as Barbie, Popeye and Tintin.
The mansion has lovely gardens with interesting sculptures and train buffs will love the model railway displays.
The museum is at 36 Olympian Parade, Leura and within walking distance from the train station.
13- Visit Everglades House
The stately 1923 National Trust manor has beautiful gardens constructed in the 1930s and called ‘The Everglades’ by original owner Georgina Stonier.
Designed by Danish-born landscape gardener Paul Sorensen, the garden is one of Australia’s most stunning inter-war era ones.
Enjoy the quiet pool of contemplation, grotto, and stroll around the terraced garden on winding paths.
Visitors are encouraged to bring morning tea, lunch or afternoon tea and enjoy a picnic on the lovely grounds.
The Everglades gardens is a must for those who love classical landscaping of Rhododendrons, azaleas and European plants along with native plants growing around pools and ornamental fountains.
Lunches and afternoon teas are available.
Everglades House is at 37 Everglades Avenue, Leura, open from Thursday to Monday (10 am to 4 pm).
14- Admire The View At Sublime Point
Sublime Point is a breathtakingly beautiful spot where you can marvel at the view of the Jamison Valley and the Three Sisters.
It’s no wonder this is a popular spot for rock climbing and if you are a keen climber, ‘Hell’s Bells’ should be on your list to tackle.
For those of average fitness, the walking track is a bit of a workout to climb the steep stairs but the panorama is worth it and a balm for the soul.
If inspiring views is what you’re after, Honeymoon Lookout is another place not far, which is also perfect for a picnic.
At Honeymoon Lookout, you’ll get a view of Kings Tableland and back to the point.
Sublime Point is a 3km walk from Leura Station or take the 695 bus to Watkins Road and walk the rest of the way.
15- Explore Wentworth Falls
The most scenic waterfall is Wentworth Falls and this is 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 Wentworth 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.
16- Look Down At The Drop From Lincoln Rock
A famous rock ledge with marvellous views, Lincoln Rock, has a plunging 300 m drop to the Jamison Valley and a cave beneath the shelf.
The Rock was named after Wentworth Falls-based mountaineer Lincoln Hall who survived a night near the summit of Mount Everest.
Keen photographers should make it a point to tick this place off the to-photograph list as the photos will ‘wow’ your friends.
Lincoln Rock is at 51 Little Switzerland Dr, Wentworth Falls.
Things To Do Around Blackheath
17- Enjoy 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 NSW that exudes elegance and charm.
Scrumptious pastries, dainty sandwiches, baked scones are served on three-tiered silver serving stands, and there are vegetarian and gluten-free options on the menu too.
Drinking coffee or sipping champagne while enjoying the sweeping view of the landscape is a fabulous way to spend an afternoon.
18- Wander Around Campbell Rhododendron Garden
Campbell Rhododendron Garden in Blackheath is another stunning garden for Rhododendron fans and also blooms with other colourful flowers like azaleas and lilacs.
The most beautiful season to explore this garden is in spring, from September to November, when the blooming flowers are spectacular.
The tea room is open in spring when they serve up a totally scrumptious cream tea.
Campbell Rhododendron Garden is a 10-minute walk from Blackheath Station.
The garden is open from 9 am to 6 pm (spring and summer) and 9 am to 4 pm (autumn and winter).
19- Picnic At Pulpit Rock
Like many of the other places in the world with the same name, Pulpit Rock doesn’t disappoint.
The Pulpit Rock lookout in the national park is an easy lookout to get to for a stunning view with minimal walking.
The walking trail is only 400m from the car park, and the lookout has a fantastic panoramic view of Govett’s Leap and the Grose Valley.
Look down, and you’ll see how far above the valley floor you are. It’s a fabulous spot to photograph sunsets too.
Pulpit Rock is a 10-minute drive from Blackheath and a good picnic area.
20- Follow The Trail To Hanging Rock
Another popular thing to do in Blue Mountains is to follow the hiking trail along Burramoko Ridge, also known as Hanging Rock to the lookout.
This medium-level walking trail leads to one of the best views around.
Look out for waratahs along the trail but stay away from the edge of the cliff if you are not an experienced hiker.
Hanging Rock is on Ridgewell Road about 1km from Blackheath. If some of your party are not keen on heights, leave them at the Blackheath Visitor Centre to learn more. The information centre is at 270 Govetts Leap Road, Blackheath.
21- Admire The Waterfall At Govett’s Leap Lookout
The region’s first European settler, William Govett, lent his name to this stunning lookout, which was called a leap which meant waterfall in a Scottish dialect.
Govetts Leap is another famous lookout with an impressive waterfall with a 180 m drop.
It’s an awe-inspiring part of the Grose Wilderness home to wildlife and beautiful birds such as king parrots and yellow-tailed black cockatoos.
There’s a lovely picnic area on top of the bluff, with toilet facilities and access to the wheelchair-friendly Fairfax Heritage Track.
For more things to do in NSW read:
Other Things To Do In The Blue Mountains
22- Visit Mount Tomah Botanical Garden
Within the UNESCO World Heritage Area, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah has a beautiful range of native and foreign plants.
Located on the Bells Line of Road, which connects Sydney to the Upper Mountains via Richmond, it’s also Australia’s highest botanical garden and the only garden in the world within a World Heritage-listed area.
It has more than 6,000 species spread across 28 ha of landscaped gardens and 244 ha of wilderness.
The garden’s specialty is cool climate plants from Australia and around the world.
There are regular educational activities, guided walks and a free garden tour at 11.30 am that starts at the Visitor Centre.
Mount Tomah Botanic Garden is on Bells Line of Road, Mount Tomah, NSW and around a 45-minute drive from Katoomba. It’s open from 9 am to 5 pm daily.
23- 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.
Note: if you are a fan of caves, read our posts on Gomantong Caves in Sabah, Capricorn Caves in Queensland and Mole Creek Caves in Tasmania.
- Check out a range of Blue Mountains Tours here
- Book a hotel in the Blue Mountains here
- Blue Mountains Itinerary.
24- 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 is a way to connect with a landscape that has been chiselled over millions of years by the power of nature.
25- Go Tasting At Bilpin Cider
An alternative route from Sydney is through Bilpin, which is a famous area for apple orchards.
Bilpin Cider is one of the most popular stops along the way as the cellar door offers apple and pear cider tastings.
There’s a choice of 10 ciders (three of them are non-alcoholic), and you can enjoy the range by choosing a tasting paddle with four ciders.
Apple picking season is from March to June.
The grounds are lovely for a picnic (available on weekends) for two ($55). Bilpin Cider Company is on the Bells Line of Road, and open daily from 10 am to 4 pm.
Getting to the Blue Mountains from Sydney
Blue Mountains By Car
There are two scenic driving routes from Sydney.
It’s a 90-minute drive from Sydney to Katoomba via the M4 Motorway (this route goes through Springwood, Woodford and Leura).
Bells Line 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.
Blue Mountains By Train
The fastest train is the express service from Central Station to Katoomba (two hours) but there are other regular trains throughout the day.
1 to 4 and 10 contributed by Maria Visconti.
For more things to do in Sydney read:
- Where To Stay In Sydney
- Sydney Whale Watching Cruise
- Sydney’s Secret Historic Spots
- Cockatoo Island
- Cabramatta Food Safari