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Blue Mountains

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Revision as of 11:54, 29 April 2010 by 198.54.202.150 (talk) (History)

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Blue Mountains

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The Three Sisters and the Jamison Valley, from Echo Point, Katoomba

The Blue Mountains,[2] 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.

The Blue Mountains region was inscribed as a World Heritage Area by UNESCO in 2000 [3].

Towns

Up in the mountains are

  • Katoomba - the largest, and most visited town, with Echo Point, Scenic World, and shopping.
  • Leura - right next to Katoomba, is a quaint craft shops, and boutique shopping.
  • Wentworth Falls - close to Katoomba, bush, views and Bed and Breakfasts.
  • Blackheath - genuinely pretty mountain town, surrounded by parks and scenic walks.
  • Mount Victoria - the highest point of the mountains.
  • Medlow Bath - the home of the Hydro-Majestic, and its sweeping views along the Megalong.

In the lower mountains..

Other destinations

The Blue Mountains is most famous for its three National Parks and other sites of natural beauty:

Understand

History

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.

People

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:

  • Retirees
  • Commuters
  • Folks looking for an alternative lifestyle, including a large and active gay and lesbian community
  • Artists (including, in the past, the infamous Norman Lindsay
  • People who want to get back to nature
  • Hospitality and tourism workers

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.

Climate

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.

Get in

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.

By car

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.

By train

CityRail [4] 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.

By tour

Many tour companies operate one-day or longer up to the Blue Mountains from Sydney.

Get around

By car

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.

  • Local Car Rental is available from RediCAR [5], but if you are coming from Sydney, driving up the mountains is a good option.

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 [6] 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.

By train

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.

See

Lookouts

  • The most popular attraction in the Mountains is Echo Point at Katoomba, a major lookout with incredible views of the Jamison Valley and the Three Sisters. There's also an information centre here with displays about the environment of the area, so its a good place to start your visit to the mountains. Maps and souvenirs available for sale. Come back at night to see the area lit up.
  • Govett's Leap, a lookout at Blackheath with fantastic views over the Grose Valley. A number of walking tracks around the edge of the escarpment start here
  • Cliff Drive, around Katoomba and Leura has many pull-offs for admiring the view.



  • Watch a movie at The Edge Cinema in Katoomba - its giant screen has somewhat regular showings of 'The Edge Movie', which is a documentary about the Blue Mountains, but check times on their website first, to make sure they aren't showing the latest Disney feature when you plan to visit.
  • Wentworth Falls.

Monuments

  • In the more residential lower Mountains commuter belt, there are a couple of mildly interesting tourist sites at Faulconbridge - the Corridor of Oaks, which has oak trees planted by many Australian Prime Ministers, and Sir Henry Parkes' Grave, the final resting place of a man considered to be the 'Father of Federation'.
  • Explorers Tree

Do

Mountain Bike

  • Ride the Oaks Trail on your mountain bike.
  • Ride on one of the scenic rides into the Jamison Valley from Katoomba.
  • Zig Zag Railway. ph 02 6355 2955 or 02 6351 4826 (recorded timetable). fax 02 6355 2954. email [email protected] The Zig Zag Railway is a historic railway. It was the main system for descending from the mountains before tunnels were made, and now it is a tourist attraction. You can drive to it from the Bells Line of Road or catch a Cityrail train to Zig Zag station and change. The train journey up and down the mountain takes about 1.5 hours. Trains run at 11AM, 1PM and 3PM, steam trains only run on Wednesdays, weekends, public holidays and school holidays. Tickets are $20 adults, $15 students and seniors, $10 children over 5 and free for children under 5. Family tickets for 2 adults and 3 children or 1 adult and 4 children are $50. [7]
  • Megalong Australian Heritage Farm, 1 Megalong Road, Megalong Valley (30 Minutes from Katoomba), 47 878 188, [1]. 9AM to 5PM. A unique venue offering rural experiences. Set in 2000 acres the venue has a restaurant, horse riding, 4WD, bushwalking, childrens petting farm, wilderness camping sites and B &B accommodation.

Walks

  • Govett's Leap.
  • The thousand steps (at Echo Point, down into the valley).
  • The thousand steps through the valley to the Scenic Railway.
  • Six Foot Track (starts at the Great Western Highway (A32) and ends at Jenolan, takes at least a day).
  • National Pass (Wentworth Falls).
  • Faulconbridge Point Lookout/Grose River.
  • To get away from the crowds in "scenic" Katoomba, get a bus (or taxi) to Leura falls, and walk down the steps to the wedding veil falls and along Federal Pass - a fantastic walk, not too hard, and loads of wildlife! [8]

Sleep

There are many accommodation options in the Mountains.

  • Resorts
  • Bed and Breakfasts are popular, but can be expensive, especially on weekends. These generally cater to a premium end of the market.
  • Guest houses.
  • Motels
  • Pubs - many have been gentrified, but not all. The price variations are significant between the two types.
  • Camping.

Stay safe

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 [9]. Let someone know your route, and when you will be back. Take a mobile phone (not always in range) and a GPS.

Get out

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


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