Difference between revisions of "Blue Mountains"
Revision as of 11:54, 29 April 2010
The Blue Mountains, located immediately to the west of the sprawling metropolian area that is Sydney, is one of the most accessible areas of (relatively unspoilt) highland natural beauty in New South Wales, Australia. Although not particularly high as a mountain range, the Blue Mountains is nonetheless renowned for its majestic scenery of a unique kind, for its cultural attractions and for its relatively tranquil, alternative mode of life.
Up in the mountains are
In the lower mountains..
The Blue Mountains is most famous for its three National Parks and other sites of natural beauty:
Although not especially high, the Blue Mountains cliffs were sufficiently challenging to prevent European explorers from penetrating the inland of New South Wales from Sydney for some time. Attempts to cross the mountains began in the very early 1800s and it was not until 1813 when Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson found a way across the mountains my following the ridges rather than the watercourses.
Once the route was found, roads, railway and development followed rapidly. The roads and railways today follow almost exactly the route taken by the original explorers and the roads that followed them. A visit to many of the scenic vistas, cliffs and waterfalls in the mountains will give you some appreciation of the challenges anyone would face trying to follow the rivers and creeks across the mountains.
The Mountains are a major weekend destination for Sydneysiders, but also have a passionate local community. Making your way up involves passing through many villages. Each with it's own centre, and residential area around it.
The lower villages are almost an extension of the Sydney urban area, but the higher you go the more a mountain way of life becomes evident.
Locals of the Blue Mountains tend to be:
The Blue Mountains locals have resisted much development - you'll only find two fast food restaurants (McDonalds/Burger King) between Glenbrook and Lithgow.
If you stay long enough to get to know the place, you'll find an interesting mix of 1860, 1960 and last year.
The temperature can be up to 10°C colder than on the coast during the day, and even colder overnight. There is probably only one or two days of snow every one or two years, but there are many more winters days where it feels like it might snow!. An open fire can be nice on a winters evening.
Travellers visiting Sydney are often faced with the dilemma of how best get to the mountains to spend a day or a couple of days. It is quite possible to visit for a day, and to see many of the main sights.
Take the M4 out of Sydney, then continue as the M4 becomes the Great Western Highway (A32) on Lapstone hill. Sydney to Katoomba is 103km and takes about one hour and fifty minutes in good traffic. The traffic is much worse leaving Sydney on a Friday night, or returning to Sydney on a Sunday afternoon. Your travel time can double. After a long weekend, traffic can come to a standstill coming down the mountains into Sydney.
Hiring a car from Sydney to spend a day or two in the mountains is a popular option for visitors to Sydney, however an issue often encountered by people staying the city centre is the opening hours of the car hire places, and the cost of parking in Sydney if you have to keep your car overnight before returning it. Consider your options.
CityRail  trains run every hour or two to the Blue Mountains from Sydney Central, and can also connect at major stations along the way, like Parramatta. Trains run every hour or so as far as Mount Victoria and usually every second one will proceed to Lithgow. While the train will get you to the mountains, you need to determine how to get around when you get there, as there are a number of locations that you won't be able to reach without a car. That said, most of the main towns in the Blue Mountains are linked together by the rail line, and the prime tourist spots are walkable or accessible by visitor friendly bus services. See how to Get Around below.
Many tour companies operate one-day or longer up to the Blue Mountains from Sydney.
Once you get up the mountains, it is easy to get around the mountains by car, and congestion or parking is generally not a problem in getting around. The Great Western Highway (A32) travels the width of the mountains and most places aren't far from it. Expect to pay for parking at Echo Point (The Three Sisters), but everywhere else should be free of charge. There are large parking lots at Scenic World.
By local bus
You can get to some stunning view points near Katoomba and Leura falls using the cheap and regular bus service. Buses stop right outside the train station. Visit Mountainlink online  for more info on buses, or for the timetable. Most popular visitor destinations are services, but service frequency can drop to every couple of hours on weekends.
Any type of MyMulti ticket will cover the local bus in the mountains - buy one from a ticket reseller or a train station. Cash tickets are sold on the bus.
If travelling between towns in the mountains (like from Katoomba to Blackheath, Medlow Bath, or Mount Victoria), train is also a great way to get around. Check the timetable, or be prepared to wait for an hour or so at the station.
By hop-on hop-off bus
There are also two hop-on hop-off bus services available. Consider how much time you have, and what you want to see. These will generally cost more money than local buses, especially if you have a MyMulti ticket (which includes the local buses). The link ticket with the train includes the hop-on hop-off bus, but doesn't really offer much of a saving - especially if you are travelling as a family.
There are many accommodation options in the Mountains.
There are a number of walks you can take in the mountains to experience them, where the tracks are well marked and well traversed. You can walk from Echo Point to the Scenic Railway, down the steps at the Three Sisters, and take the Scenic Railway back to the top. These walks have mobile reception, and you will have no problem following the tracks. There are shorter walks at Echo Point too. Check at visitor information.
If you are bushwalking any further, you should prepare for the possibility of getting lost in the bush. People get lost regularly, it gets cold overnight, and visitors and mountain locals have died when they have lost the trail, and become disoriented. Personal locator beacons are available free of charge from Katoomba Police . Let someone know your route, and when you will be back. Take a mobile phone (not always in range) and a GPS.