Lowe Wines, Mudgee, New South Wales © Destination NSW
Blue Mountains to Mudgee: a 4-day road trip
Road tripping through the Greater Blue Mountains to the foodie haven of Mudgee offers up clifftop adventures, stunning scenery and even glow worms.
By Leigh-Ann Pow
Dotted with pretty villages and towns, and boasting adventure, scenery and respite in equal measure, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains in New South Wales have long been a retreat for Sydney city dwellers looking to get back to nature and breathe some fresh mountain air. Summer temperatures offer respite from the heat and humidity of Sydney, while the winter chill provides the perfect opportunity to cosy up in front of the fireplace.
The Central Tablelands town of Mudgee, meanwhile, has been steadily building up a reputation for being one of the best food and wine destinations in the country, with award-winning wineries, destination dining and an annual food festival that has the world watching.
Combining the two is the stuff that road trip dreams are made of.
Day 1: Sydney to Katoomba
Heading out of Sydney, your ascent into the heart of the Blue Mountains passes by or through a string of quaint villages and towns. Get to Katoomba early for a morning of adventure with High & Wild Australian Adventures. The friendly team here will have you abseiling down some of the most spectacular rock faces in the Greater Blue Mountains.
After your session, stop and refuel in Leura, with its main street lined with interesting little shops and cafés including Red Door Cafe, with its menu of healthy brunch options. This is also a great place to stock up on road trip munchies, with The Candy Store crammed with sweet treats, and Josophan’s Fine Chocolate offering up seriously indulgent cocoa creations.
Go a bit tamer this afternoon with a trip on Scenic World’s Scenic Railway. The car plummets through the lush vegetation to the Jamison Valley below (you can adjust the incline of your seat to make it an even hairier ride).
After a long day of gourmet, nature and adventure experiences, treat yourself to a luxe overnight stay at the scenic Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa set amidst two acres of manicured gardens adjacent to Echo Point.
Day 2: Katoomba to Capertee Valley
Set off from Katoomba for a 30-mintute drive to the pretty town of Blackheath. Stop to browse the shops and pick up your morning coffee at Anonymous Cafe. Blackheath is also a perfect weekend getaway, so make a mental note to return, and when you do, book Parkside at Blackheath, a 1930s cottage transformed into a chic weekender.
Take a 40-minute round trip detour down through lush rainforest to the Megalong Valley to enjoy morning tea at Megalong Valley Tea Rooms; the fluffy home-made scones alone are worth the journey.
From Blackheath, continue north along the Great Western Highway through Mount Victoria before the road weaves its way down the escarpment at Victoria Pass. Drop in to Hartley Historic Site to explore one of the best collections of historic buildings in the country, then head to the boardwalk next to the River Lett for the chance to spot an elusive platypus.
Forging on through Lithgow, head towards Wolgan Valley in order to reach Newnes Plateau and its magical glow worm tunnel; the walk through this former railway tunnel is like being surrounded by nature’s own version of fairy lights.
Double back to the highway and it’s an easy drive to Capertee Valley. Blanketed in World Heritage-listed nature, Capertee Valley is actually the second-largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon (it is slightly wider and longer, but not as deep). Encompassing three national parks – Wollemi, Gardens of Stone and Capertee – the valley has challenging walks (including to the top of the imposing Pantoneys Crown) and outstanding birdwatching.
Spend the night in one of Bubble Tent Australia’s three unique clear igloo tents – Cancer, Leo and Virgo. They each boast big beds, ensuite bathrooms, telescopes and outdoor fire pits, with Leo and Virgo also fitted out with outdoor bathtubs to soak up the views. Bubble Tents tend to book out months in advance so booking ahead is essential.
Day 3: Capertee Valley to Mudgee via Rylstone
On the drive from Capertee Valley to Mudgee, the dramatic landscape of the Greater Blue Mountains melts into the wide expanses of the Central Tablelands. Head off the highway and take the scenic route (Capertee to Mudgee direct takes an hour), stopping off for morning tea in the historic town of Rylstone. Given it is part of the Mudgee wine region, there’s lots of delicious local produce to be sampled; you can take a tour of the family-run Rylstone Olive Press or check out the award-winning wines at De Beaurepaire Wines.
Your arrival into Mudgee is heralded by the wineries and farms that thrive in this fertile region. Mudgee has a reputation for its food and wine offering, as well as a social calendar of markets, events and festivals. Visit in spring to catch the Flavours of Mudgee festival, or opt to tour some of the 40 family-owned cellar doors to get a taste of the area, including Logan Wines' sleek architectural tasting room (try the light and fruity Hannah Rosé with a cheese plate) and Lowe Family Wine Co with its Zin House Kitchen Garden Monday Lunch. You can sample various local wines at Alby & Esthers with a share plate of roasted lamb shoulder or pork, fennel and chilli kofta.
Housed in a Heritage-listed building in the heart of town, the boutique Parkview Hotel has seven rooms that seamlessly meld its historic architecture with sophisticated modern décor. Sierra Escape, a 20-minute drive from town, has three luxuriously appointed tents, two of which come with outdoor baths.
Day 4: Mudgee to Sydney via Bilpin
Heading back through Lithgow, chart a course for the sleepy hamlet of Bilpin. This is apple country, and the perfect place to pick up some local produce to take home. Pick your own apples straight from the tree at one of the many family owned and run orchards in the area, including Bilpin Springs Orchard or Shields Orchard, or sip the products made from them; Hillbilly Cider offers up sweet ciders and wood-fired pizza, or drop in to Bilpin Cider for its Picnic on the Farm baskets (be sure to order ahead), which can be enjoyed sitting on the grass behind the cellar door.