I recently visited the Blue Mountains for the fourth time, and I was just as awed by the landscape as the first time around.
The Blue Mountains make a great day trip or weekend trip from Sydney, as they’re really close by – only an hour and a half drive out of the city, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by totally gorgeous natural scenery.
The Blue Mountains get their name from the blue hue of the landscape as seen from a distance, which is caused by the eucalyptus in the trees. I’ve actually taken trips to the Blue Mountains in both summer and winter, and the blue hue is always there, no matter when you go!
It’s easy to see the best of the Blue Mountains in a day trip or a weekend trip. I’m going to give you options for both, and you can decide which is better for you.
When to go to the Blue Mountains:
The Australian summer (December to February) is the peak season for visitors to the Blue Mountains. It’s nice any time of year, though – I’d recommend travelling in the shoulder seasons to avoid the summer crowds, or in winter (June to August) to see the beautiful landscape with the least amount of people.
If you end up going in winter, remember to take layers of clothes and some warm jackets, as the temperature up there is a few degrees cooler than it is in Sydney (it occasionally gets snow!). Also try to pick a clear day if you can; I’ve been up there when the mountains are covered in fog, and it’s truly disappointing when you can’t see a thing from any of the lookouts.
How to get to the Blue Mountains:
Rent a car – I recommend that you hire a car, as it’s easiest to get away from the tourist hotspots and travel through the mountains at your own pace if you drive. It only takes 1.5 hours to get to Katoomba from Sydney, and it’s an easy drive mostly along open highway. If you’re following my 2 day itinerary, then you will definitely need to go with this option.
Train – The train from Sydney’s Central Station to Katoomba is a popular choice for backpackers and people travelling on a budget. The train station is right next to Katoomba’s town centre, but you will have to catch a bus from here to the lookouts and hiking trails.
Bus – The Blue Mountains has a convenient hop-on hop-off bus that departs from Katoomba train station, or there are public buses that you can use to get around Katoomba and the nearby attractions.
Guided tours – A lot of tourists visit the Blue Mountains from Sydney on a guided tour, and there are loads of tour companies to choose from. Try a budget eco active day trip to get a true nature experience, or an all-inclusive tour for a comprehensive but relaxing day out.
Blue Mountains day trip – one day itinerary:
1. Katoomba – The town of Katoomba is the heart of the Blue Mountains. I would compare this town to Woodstock in New York state, as it’s full of hippie stores which are touristy but cute. Something I really enjoyed doing on my most recent visit to Katoomba was the street art walk down Beverly Place, where artists have adorned the walls of very boring buildings with vibrant murals.
2. Echo Point – Katoomba holds the main tourist attraction of the Blue Mountains, Echo Point. This lookout has vistas of the famous ‘Three Sisters’ rock formation, and also has a visitor information centre where you can learn about all the things to do in the area.
On our most recent Blue Mountains day trip, we did a hike from Echo Point along the Three Sisters Walking Track, down the Giants Stairway, across Federal Pass, then up Furber Steps and back along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk to Echo Point. The loop took about 2.5 hours, and it passed through rainforest, waterfalls, and amazing views. If you’re up for a big hike, I’d definitely recommend this one!
3. Scenic World – By far the most touristy attraction in the Blue Mountains, Scenic World is a cable car and railway combo that will take you down the side of the mountains to a rainforest below. Some people choose to hike down Furber Steps and catch the railway back up to the top, and I personally would recommend this option as the hike down follows a beautiful nature trail with some lovely viewpoints.
4. Wentworth Falls – This waterfall is just a 15 minute drive from Katoomba. The lookout is easy to access (just a 5-10 minute flat walk from the Wentworth Falls picnic area car park) and if you didn’t do a hike at Echo Point, then you can do the Wentworth Falls Track instead. This 1 hour return hike takes you to the top of the waterfall and is truly one of the most scenic spots in the Blue Mountains.
5. Lincoln’s Rock – This viewpoint has amazing sunset views over the mountains, and it has no safety railing so this is where you’ll get the best photos! If you’re doing a day trip, you can finish up here and head back to the city. If you’re making a weekend of it, continue on to your accommodation before your second day of explorations.
Blue Mountains weekend trip – two day itinerary:
6. Lithgow –After following the itinerary from day 1, venture a little deeper into the mountains by driving to the town of Lithgow, stopping in at The Tin Shed for brunch. You could once take the Zig Zag Railway (an adorable steam train that went through the mountains) from around here, but the attraction is currently closed and should reopen in 2019.
7. Hassans Walls – Just a few minutes drive from Lithgow is Hassans Walls lookout. Parts of the road to the lookout aren’t sealed, but they’re mostly fine for regular cars to access (just expect a few bumps!). The lookout has a brand new boardwalk with vistas over the valley providing spectacular views of the countryside.
8. Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens – Head back to Chifley Road then head east to Mount Tomah where you’ll find the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens. I thought this place was really unique as it’s focus is on cool climate plants, rather than the subtropical flora that you might find at the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney.
9. Bilpin Cider – Another 15 minutes along Chifley Road is Bilpin Cider (one of my favourite craft cider brands!) who have a cellar door up in the Blue Mountains. You can sample some of their range, including the blush pink cider, cloudy apple cider, or pear cider, and take a look at their pretty orchard. From here it’s just under 2 hours drive back to Sydney.
Where to stay in the Blue Mountains:
Hostels: Katoomba is going to be your best bet for hostels, with YHA Hostel and Blue Mountains Backpackers both offering accommodations for budget travellers.
Hotels: For something a bit fancy, you can stay in a heritage mansion at the Hotel Mansion Heritage in Katoomba, or at Echos Boutique which is a modern hotel with specky views of the mountains.
Airbnbs: There are plenty of Airbnbs in the Blue Mountains, from cosy bush cottages to huge holiday homes. It doesn’t really matter where you stay if you’re going with this option – anywhere around Blue Mountains National Park will make for a great stay.
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