Emerald-green valleys, soaring pinnacles, stunning caves and golden ridges – the drama of the landscape and its epic outdoor appeal is what draws so many people to the majestic Blue Mountains. Nestled within this natural grandeur, you’ll have your pick of charming villages – offering mouth-watering meals, gardens to meander, and quaint vintage shops – to punctuate the journey and encourage you to stay. Ninety minutes from Sydney’s hive of activity, the promise of peaceful exploration and an idyllic country life awaits when you head for the hills. Spectacular, jaw-dropping vistas crop up at every turn; matched by the riches of ancient Indigenous rock art and sacred cultural sites (which you can tour with local Aboriginal guides). With the many exhilarating experiences a traveller could take on, let’s narrow down the options a smidge.
Plan your adventure around the magnificent natural landmarks dotted throughout the 260,000-hectare Greater Blue Mountain UNESCO-protected area – particularly if you’re short on time or making your first foray. Then you can easily allow yourself to be side-tracked by other top attractions along the way that enhance this superlative wilderness.
For a peak experience, start in the main town of Katoomba, and walk or drive to Echo Point Lookout. Be rewarded with a remarkable view of the Three Sisters: a rocky formation rising from sandstone cliffs and set against a verdant expanse of rainforest. To get a little closer, take the easy path to Prince of Wales Lookout while learning about traditional connection to Country at the new Gathering Place. If you’re up for a walking challenge, descend the Giant Stairway’s 1,000 steps to the Jamison Valley floor. For after-dark visits, this craggy, iconic trio is floodlit till 11pm, with Katoomba Falls Reserve also beautifully illuminated for night-time walks.
The drop-dead gorgeous Wentworth Falls are the most scenic waterfalls in the whole World Heritage National Park. Tumbling over tree-cloaked escarpments, the mountain creek plummets 297-metres into the Valley of the Waters – an especially excellent place to picnic. The bushland around this picturesque landmark is also great for walks, ranging from easy to more committed full-day affairs.
Extend your trip to Jenolan Caves for a truly unmissable experience, clocking a further 90-minutes from Katoomba. The world’s oldest cave system is dazzlingly decorated with natural formations and delicate ornaments, with some chambers featuring crystal-clear lakes. Plunge into a magical tour deep below the earth’s surface that’s bound to take your breath away. Stop journey for a delicious lunch or dinner at the grand dining room of historic Jenolan Caves House; or book a package that includes comfortable accommodations for the night.
You wouldn’t be the first visitor who’s been tempted to pack up their city life whilst scanning the listings on Blue Mountains’ realtor windows. Such is the allure of the gorgeous villages scattered around these parts. As they say: location, location, location!
Katoomba’s streets are filled with enchanting Art Deco and charity shops, brimming with antiques and vintage finds. Spend an afternoon browsing through bric-a-brac and old heirlooms and leave with something to treasure or at least a delightful memento of your journey. For an unforgettable family excursion, Scenic World is a popular tourist attraction featuring the world’s steepest train ride, or explore Dinosaur Valley hidden in the Jurassic rainforest, or take the opportunity to be whisked across Jamison Valley on a suspended cableway. Just a little something that should leave your heart pounding.
Moments away, Leura promises a lovely escape, topped with cherry trees and a postcard-pretty outlook. Stroll the heritage streetscapes that make the town centre worthy of its National Trust classification. Indulge in some retail therapy and pop in for brunch at the local favourite, Red Door Cafe. Wander through the European-inspired Everglade Gardens or bring out the wondrous child in you at the Leuralla Toy and Railway Museum. And if the mountain air proves pleasantly soothing, book in a sleepover at Magical Manderley. This luxurious getaway is set in stunning gardens, with Tuscan fountains and hydro-spas for guests. To crown your romantic experience, slip up the road to the Hydro Majestic in Medlow Bath to take high tea. There’s no more fitting place to partake in this moreish Blue Mountains tradition than at this stately 1900s institution.
If bohemian Blackheath is more your style, you’ll love its vibrant retro vibe and eclectic ambience. Look out for local markets, cool cafes and art galleries. Get lost in the vintage mecca that is the Victory Theatre Antiques Centre, decorated with Jenny Kee murals and housing the extremely popular Victory Café. Pick up a collectable or just enjoy foraging through the two-floors of fascinating wares. End your Blue Mountains odyssey with some fine fare at Cinnabar Kitchen or eat with casual inner-city flair at Anonymous or the Blackheath General Store. Drive back to the big smoke with memories you can dine on for ages.