Under two hours north-west of Sydney is a rugged region called the Blue Mountains. It’s a popular getaway from Sydney that is renowned for its dramatic and breathtaking scenery. In the Blue Mountains, you’ll find stunning waterfalls, beautiful gardens, quaint villages, plenty of hiking trails and an abundance of wildlife.
The Blue Mountains is a must see for anyone visiting Sydney. There is so much to do in the Blue Mountains that we highly recommend allowing a full weekend to explore it all. We recently spent a three-day long weekend there without getting bored.
How to get to the Blue Mountains?
For a weekend trip, it’s best to hire a car and enjoy the region at your own pace. The Blue Mountains are a pleasant ninety-minute drive from Sydney’s CBD.
You can also catch an air-conditioned double-decker train that departs from Sydney’s Central Station. Once in the Blue Mountains, you can purchase a Hop-on-Hop-off Bus ticket and have the bus take you to all of the major tourist spots. That ticket also gives you discounts at more than 28 attractions. Prices start from $50 per person for the day and can be extended up to three days.
Alternatively, there are many organised day tours leaving from central Sydney if you don’t fancy taking public transport or driving, or simply can’t spare a whole weekend. You’ll have many choices, private or group, and most will pick you up at your hotel.
Why is it called the Blue Mountains?
The Blue Mountains are densely populated with oil-bearing Eucalyptus trees (commonly called gum trees). Those trees discharge a fine mist of eucalyptus oil from their leaves in the hot sun. The mist refracts light creating a haze that looks blue at a distance, hence the name.
What to do in the Blue Mountains?
Echo Point lookout and the Three Sisters
The famous Three Sisters are the icon of the Blue Mountains and Echo Point lookout is the best place to see them. It’s also the most popular tourist stop in the Blue Mountains. These three giant sandstone peaks were formed over thousands of years by weather erosion.
There are a few Aboriginal legends about the Three Sisters, and how they came to be. The main one being, that Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo, three aboriginal sisters from the Katoomba tribe, lived in the heart of the Jamison Valley. The young girls had their hearts captured by three brothers from a neighbouring tribe. But there was a law forbidding the girls from marrying outside of their own people. The three brothers tried to capture the girls to take them away to be wed. This created a tribal war and a witch doctor turned the sisters into stone to prevent them from being hurt. But the witch doctor was killed in battle and so the spell could not be reversed.
Beware of selfie sticks, it’s a very touristy place!
There are many waterfalls in the Blue Mountains and Wentworth Falls is one not to miss. There are walking tracks departing from the Wentworth Falls Picnic area that lead you past the Jamison and Wentworth lookouts and down two hundred steep steps to the cliff-edge Fletchers Lookout. The Fletchers lookout will give you unobstructed views of the falls and their hundred metre drop into the valley. It’s well worth the effort.
Scenic World offers four unique ways to experience the Blue Mountains. The Scenic Skyway, the Scenic Railway, the Scenic Cableway and the Scenic Walkway. Start with a short ride on the Scenic Skyway where you can view the rainforest canopy through its glass floor.
The Scenic Railway is the steepest passenger railway in the world with a 52-degree incline. If you are adventurous you can even adjust your seat position to the Cliffhanger, a steep 64-degree incline!
Wander around the 2.4 kilometres boardwalk of the Scenic Walkway. It’s a gorgeous walk amongst the Jurassic Rainforest. You’ll also learn about the mines and the miners who worked in the area years ago and how they used to haul the coal up out of the valley.
The Scenic Cableway is a large glass cable car that travels up and down 545 metres, providing splendid views of Jamison Valley, the Three Sisters, Orphan Rock, Mt Solitary and Katoomba Falls.
Read more about Scenic World here.
Make sure to fit in at least a couple of hikes while in the park. There are many hiking trails to be tackled in the Blue Mountains and there are tracks suitable for all fitness levels. We really enjoyed the Pulpit Rock track and would highly recommend it. It starts from the Govetts Leap lookout and goes around the cliff tops to the Pulpit Rock lookout. Along the way, you’ll pass many other lookouts that offer stunning views of the Grose Valley’s dramatic cliff line and waterfalls. Once you reach Pulpit Rock, there is a walk down to the lower platform of the Rock, via a set of steep stairs. The view changes at each of the three levels. It’s amazing! The hike is three kilometres each way and takes around two and a half hours.
Another great hike that we wish we’d had time to do is the Grand Canyon track. We are saving it for next time!
The Jenolan Caves are 340 million-year-old! They are the world’s oldest discovered open caves and the largest and most spectacular caves in Australia. To explore the caves, you’ll need to book a guided tour (it’s preferable to book ahead online to get the tour you want). The guided tours will take you through a selection of nine spectacular caves. There are guided tours suitable for all ages and fitness levels.
You can book your guided tour here.
Check out some of the best viewpoints in New South Wales
There are so many lookouts that are easily reachable by car in the Blue Mountains. Be sure to check out a few during your trip. Don’t miss Govetts Leap, Evans Lookout, Cliff View lookout and Cahill’s lookout.
Where to stay in the Blue Mountains?
The George is a cosy, comfortable and inviting boutique hotel located in Blackheath. It is tastefully decorated with furnishings from the Victorian period, including the longest one-piece Chesterfield couch in the world! There are a couple of sitting rooms to relax in after a long day of exploring. The sunroom comes with free coffee, tea and biscuits and the library has a fireplace and complimentary port and chocolates. It is a short walk to the restaurants down Blackheath’s main street. We enjoyed our stay at the George. Prices start from AU$190. Click here for the latest prices.
If you prefer something a bit more luxurious, the Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains is more upmarket and has a pool to cool off in during summer. Or if money is no issue, the ultra fancy Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley looks amazing but at over AU$2500 a night, it was way out of our price range!
Use the search box below to find alternative accommodation in the Blue Mountains:
Where to eat in the Blue Mountains?
Located in Blackheath this is one of the best restaurants in the Blue Mountains. Cinnabar offers an interesting menu of shared plates, tapas style, with flavours from all over the world. It’s very popular so be sure to book.
The Yellow Deli
This homely and inviting little cafe is located in Katoomba. The inside is beautifully decorated. It’s like being inside a mountain chalet. The food is simple but tasty and the staff are amazingly welcoming and friendly. You may have to wait for a table on a busy day.
Lily’s Pad in the small village of Leura is another nice cafe to eat your breakfast or lunch at. They serve lovely wholesome food with generous proportions and great coffee.
The Piedmont Inn is a very busy and cosy Italian restaurant in Blackheath. They serve the best gourmet pizza in the Blue Mountains. They also do take away if you can’t get a table.