The Blue Mountains (web), 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 for a mountain range, the Blue Mountains is nonetheless renowned for its uniquely majestic scenery, 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
Undestand the Blue Mountains
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
CityRail (web) 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. A number of companies operate chartered tours (pegasus tour web) that offer tour guides and coaches with modern facilities (toilets, air conditioning).
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.
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. 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 (web) 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.
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.
You MUST See
You MUST Do
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.