If you’re looking for a quick getaway from Sydney’s big city scene, the Blue Mountains are where you’ll want to head. Located a little over an hour’s drive from the city center, The Blue Mountains make a great day trip from Sydney. This lovely mountainous region offers travelers exquisite scenery and options for outdoor activities. Strap on your hiking boots and charge up your camera, this beautiful place is well worth a visit.
How to get there:
The drive is not difficult to make, but if you find yourself without a car, you can also reach the main town of Katoomba via train by taking the Blue Mountains line.
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When to go:
The Blue Mountains is a favorite destination for Sydney travelers. Because of this, some places can get fairly crowded. I recommend visiting the mountains in the shoulder and low seasons (February -September), although these months will bring colder temperatures in the mountains. Also try to avoid school holiday times, as this is when locals will be traveling as well.
What to do:
There are many things to do throughout the Blue Mountains area. Without a car or tour group, you may not be able to access all there is to do, but there is definitely enough to fill up a good day.
Blue Mountains Cultural Centre
The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre is a great starting point for your visit to the Blue Mountains. Here, you will be able to find lots of information about the Blue Mountains and can pick up a map of the area. In addition to the information, the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre also features one of the leading regional art galleries in Australia. Entry to the Cultural Centre is free, but there is an admission charge for the art gallery.
Echo Point Lookout
One of the best views in the Blue Mountains is at Echo Point Lookout. Here, you will find various platforms from which you can look out over the unique rock formation known as the Three Sisters. This is also a fantastic area for panoramic views of the Blue Mountains. Echo Point Lookout is also a great starting point for many of the area’s hiking trails. There is a Visitor’s Centre here, if you decided to skip the Cultural Centre.
The Giant Stairway
From Echo Point Lookout, you can make your way into the valley below via the Giant Stairway. This staircase contains 911 steps, so going down is the easiest way to experience it. The stairs will lead you around the Three Sisters and down roughly 300meters in elevation. The stairs can be steep, and it is recommended that you have a decent fitness level should you decide to take them on. However, the views from the stairway are incredible.
Prince Henry Cliff Walk
This seven kilometer hike leads you along the cliff edge of the Blue Mountains, from the Katoomba Cascades all the way to Gordon Falls. With over 20 different scenic lookouts, the Prince Henry Cliff Walk is one of the best in the Blue Mountains. The track is rated a Grade 3, meaning that it is suitable for most ages and fitness levels. Most people take 3-4 hours to complete the full walk, but you can shorten your hike by beginning at one of the many entrance points along the path.
The Katoomba Falls are some of the most well-known falls in the Blue Mountains. There are several ways you can experience the falls, but if you want to get up close and personal with them, you’ll want to hike the Katoomba Falls Circuit. This trail winds down through the rainforest and leads you to one portion of the falls, where you can see them falling from above, and continuing over the cliffs. The walk takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes, and it is recommended that you have a decent level of fitness.
Waradah Aboriginal Centre
If you want to learn more about Australia’s indigenous people, the Waradah Aboriginal Centre is a great place to do so. Local members of the Dharug and Gundungurra tribes offer lectures and discussions about Aboriginal culture. There are also daily performances where you can learn about the creation of the didgeridoo and see traditional dances. Guests can also stop by the Art Gallery and gift shop to browse and purchase traditional Aboriginal artwork.
Perhaps one of the biggest attractions in the Blue Mountains, Scenic World allows you to see some of the best views of the Blue Mountains, while learning about the rainforest and the historic coal mining operations. Visitors can ride a scenic cablecar over top of the Jamison Valley for picturesque views, or they can hop onboard the Scenic Railway, which descends into the valley below at a thrilling 52 degree angle. Within the valley, you can walk the 2.4 kilometer boardwalk through the rainforest and see some elements of the site’s previous coal mining operations.
Just outside the main town of Katoomba you’ll find a smaller town called Wentworth Falls. A short walk from the Wentworth Falls picnic area will lead you to the magnificent 100 meter falls from which the town gets its name. This 1.4 kilometer walk will take you only 45 minutes to an hour to complete, making it a great option if you’re short on time.
Toy & Railroad Museum
For something a little different, head over to the town of Leura, to the Toy and Railway Museum. Here, you’ll find the largest collection of 20th century toys, trains, and memorabilia within the Southern Hemisphere. Bears, Barbies, dolls, model train displays, and lots of other collections are on display in this historic mansion every day from 10am to 5pm.
The Greater Blue Mountains Drive
If all this hiking and outdoor activity doesn’t sound right for you, you can always take in some of the beauty inside your car. Now, the Greater Blue Mountains Drive covers 1200 kilometers, which could take a lot of time to cover. However, you can just do sections of the scenic drive, to get a taste of the beauty within the Blue Mountains. There are also many other hikes and parks accessible via this drive, so you can get out and stretch your legs.