Visiting The Blue Mountains
Why you should make the trip from Sydney to the famous Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains is the stunning, World Heritage-listed upland area to the west of Sydney. It is composed of rolling green hills, plunging sandstone cliffs, mystical waterfalls and dramatic ridges. Once a prolific coal mining area, it is now one of the most popular day trips from Sydney. The Blue Mountains are a spectacular display of nature at its finest. The area got its name from the blueish hue of the mountains on the horizon. This incredible natural phenomenon is caused by light scattering through compounds in the air released by the endless eucalyptus trees that flank the slopes.
View of the Three Sisters (left) and Mt. Solitary (centre) from Echo Point.
Getting to the Blue Mountains couldn’t be easier. If you are already in Sydney, then simply go to Central Station and hop on the train to Wentworth Falls or Katoomba. Trains depart roughly every hour and take 1h 50m (direct) or 2h 20m (indirect). The trains are relatively modern double deckers with air conditioning and toilets. Unfortunately, there’s no Wi-Fi - but you can gaze out the window and enjoy the view changing from the city skyline, through the suburbs, to lush forest and mountainous peaks. If you arrive into Wentworth Falls, follow the signs for Charles Darwin walk. This short walk through the forest will bring you to the Wentworth Falls trails. If you arrive into Katoomba, then follow the signs for the Three Sisters or Scenic World.
Alternatively, you could drive there. From Sydney CBD it takes roughly 1h 20m via the M24 and the A32. There is plenty parking available at Wentworth Falls, Katoomba Falls, and Scenic world – with the latter being free. If you are short on time or want a bit more freedom, then this is definitely the best option. I hired a car from Hertz with 3 other friends and it cost $30 per person for a 24-hour rental, insurance, and petrol.
What to see and do
Spend an afternoon, a whole day, or maybe even a few days here if you have the time. The Blue Mountains cover an area slightly larger than Cyprus, so there’s plenty to see and do however long you choose to stay.
If you only have an afternoon, then head straight to Scenic World in Katoomba. Entrance is $49 for an adult ticket and covers unlimited rides on the cableway and skyway (both gondola style cable cars), and the scenic railway – the steepest railway in the world!
If you want to take in the gorgeous view of the famous Three Sisters, the tablelands, and Echo Point, then ride the skyway to East Station and follow the Prince Henry Clifftop Walk.
If you want to descend down into Jamison valley, then take the railway and hang on tight! The theme track from Indiana Jones begins to play as you disappear into the murky darkness of a mining tunnel before emerging into the daylight high above the valley floor – all at an almost impossibly steep angle. Once down in the valley, follow the raised board walk to see how the old miners lived and worked, and keep your eyes peeled for the abundant wildlife. Yellow-Bellied Gliders, Koalas, Grey Kangaroos, and Tiger Quolls are all found in the area.
After you’ve explored the area, take the cableway back up to Scenic World Top Station, grab a coffee (or something stronger from their licensed bar), and take in the views from the Terrace Café or the Eats270 restaurant.
If you have time for more adventures, then head to the stunning Wentworth Falls. From the car park it’s about a 20-minute hike down a steep trail to the falls, where in 1836 Charles Darwin gazed in amazement at the water rushing off the 100m high cliff and on to the forest canopy below. Be sure to stop off at the lookouts on the way down for some of the best views of Mt Solitary in the entire national park.
From the falls you can either take the same route back to the car park or begin the National Pass Trail. The National Pass is a demanding 3.5-hour loop that takes in a bit of everything that the Blue Mountains has to offer. The beginning of the walk is even carved into a sheer cliff face! It’s not for the faint-hearted but is a rewarding trek for anyone who attempts it.
Finally, if you have a couple of days, a lot of hiking experience, and a good set of boots, you could walk the Golden Stairs to Mt Solitary, via Ruined Castle route. With quite significant hills, this is a great walk for the day-walker looking for something more challenging than the average Katoomba cliff top walk. It takes about 9 hours one way and offers fantastic views at Botting’s Lookout, from the top of the Ruined Castle, and especially good views from Mt Solitary, this walk is well worth the time invested. This walk passes through very remote areas and sections have no visible track. At least one person in your group should have training and experience in off track walking and navigation. Even with these notes and a GPS these extra skills and equipment are required.
View from the National Pass trail near Wentworth Falls.
Keen to explore Australia? Check out our Oz Intro trip here!