Blue Mountains

From Wikitravel
Revision as of 04:58, 13 September 2012 by (talk) (Mountain Bike)

Earth : Oceania : Australia : New South Wales : Blue Mountains
Jump to: navigation, search
Blue Mountains

Default Banner.jpg

For other places with the same name, see Blue Mountains (disambiguation).
The Three Sisters and the Jamison Valley, from Echo Point, Katoomba

The Blue Mountains,[4] 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 [5].


Up in the mountains are

  • Katoomba - the largest, and most visited town, with Echo Point, Scenic World, and shopping. Known for its artsy, hippie population.
  • 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:


Aboriginal Inhabitants

When the Europeans arrived in Australia, the Blue Mountains had already been inhabited for several millennia by the Gundungurra people who are now represented by the Gundungurra Tribal Council Aboriginal Corporation which is based in Katoomba. It is a not for profit organisation representing the Gundungurra traditional owners, promoting heritage and culture and providing a support for Gundungurra people connecting back to Country.


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 by 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. 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:

  • 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.


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.


The main visitor district of the mountains centres around Katoomba, with Echo Point (Three Sisters), Scenic World, Wentworth Falls and Leura all within a few kilometres each direction. The towns of Blackheath and Mount Victoria are smaller tourist centres in their own right, only around 15 minutes drive from Katoomba. Jenolan Caves are a significant distance further, over an hour to drive from Katoomba.

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.

There are no scheduled commercial flights to the mountains. The closest airport is Sydney.

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 that car rental companies along the city strip generally close before 6pm, and can have queues when they open at 9am. This can make for a very short day in the mountains. The alternative is paying for an extra days car hire, and for overnight parking in the city for two nights, which can add considerably to the cost.

By train

CityRail [6] 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. A number of companies operate chartered tours [7] that offer tour guides and coaches with modern facilities (toilets, air conditioning).

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) crosses the Mountains east to west, and most places aren't far from it. Expect to pay for parking at Echo Point (The Three Sisters) at $4 per hour, but everywhere else should be free of charge. There are large free multi-storey parking lots at Scenic World.

  • Local Car Rental is available from RediCAR [8], but if you are coming from Sydney, driving up the mountains is a good option.

By hop-on hop-off bus

There are also two hop-on hop-off bus services available.

  • Blue Mountains Trolley Tours, [1].
  • Blue Mountains Explorer, [2].

You can purchase a link ticket with the train that includes the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus and the train fare to Katoomba from any Cityrail station. If you are travelling as a family the family fare saver, where only the first child pays, means that you should only buy a link ticket for one child, and buy the other child ticket on the bus.

Consider how much time you have, and what you want to see. HOHO buses will generally cost more money than local buses, especially if you have a MyMulti ticket which includes the local buses.

By local bus

You can get to some stunning view points near Katoomba and Leura falls using regular bus service. Buses stop right outside the train station. Visit Blue Mountains Bus online [9] for the timetable. Most popular visitor destinations are serviced, but service frequency can drop to every couple of hours on Saturdays and many routes don't run at all on Sundays.

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 Leura, Blackheath, Medlow Bath, or Mount Victoria), train is also available. Trains generally run every hour or so, more frequently during peak times.



  • 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.
  • Wentworth Falls.


  • Watch a IMAX 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. The cinema is about 10 minutes walk from Katoomba Station, the other direction from Echo Point.


  • 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


  • Tour the show caves at Jenolan Caves. Note that this is quite a long way from the Blue Mountains proper, and is probably a full day affair. If you don't have a car, you'll need to join a bus tour.
  • 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. [10]
  • Megalong Australian Heritage Farm, 1 Megalong Road, Megalong Valley (30 Minutes from Katoomba), 47 878 188, [3]. 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.


There are literally hundreds of walking opportunities in the mountains, from short 1km trips to lookouts, to multi-day walks, and the famous Six Foot Track from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves. They will have all the details at the visitor information at Echo Point.

  • The Giant Stairway descends to the bottom of the Jamison Valley, right next to the Three Sisters at Echo Point. You can walk along the base of the valley for around 2km to get to Scenic World, at take the Scenic Railway back up the hill. From here you can walk to 2km back along the top of the cliff, by following the Price Henry Cliff Walk back to Echo Point, via Katoomba Falls. There is food and drink at Echo Point, at Scenic World, and at a kiosk along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk. The track is well marked, (you will see the signs to Scenic Railway) and well traversed, so you don't need to be too prepared to do this one. If you are driving, then consider parking at Scenic World, and doing the Prince Henry Walk first, that way you can avoid the parking charges at Echo Point. If you want to test your fitness, go down the scenic railway, and then up the thousand steps.
  • National Pass Trail [11] at Wentworth Falls is a recently restored trail, running along the cliff line at Wentworth Falls, and not as steep as it may sound. There is about 3 hours of walking in all, but shorter walks are possible. The start of the walk is about 45 minutes walk from the train station.
  • Faulconbridge Point Lookout/Grose River.
  • Govett's Leap.
  • 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! [12]

Mountain Bike

  • Ride the Oaks Trail on your mountain bike. This is a classic mountain ride, through bushland fire trail well away from the highway. It goes from Woodford to Glenbrook, almost all downhill. You can get the train from Glenbrook back up the hill to the start.
  • Ride on one of the scenic rides into the Jamison Valley from Katoomba.


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

Get out

Leaving Katoomba by car at 4PM on a Sunday will get you stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic from Leura down the hill. The traffic does not clear until around 6PM.

This is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

Create category