Guide to the Blue Mountains
Be captivated by the one million hectares (3861 square miles) of tall forests, sandstone cliffs, canyons and waterfalls that make up the magnificent Blue Mountains.
By Jennifer Ennion
With a blue horizon of eucalyptus trees that appear to stretch on forever, expect to be enchanted by the natural beauty of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Set out on foot to explore some of the 140 kilometres (87 miles) of walking tracks, admire the native bushland, marvel at the impressive rock formations and explore underground caves on a holiday centred around the outdoors. Listen to Dreaming stories told by local Aboriginal guides and admire the work of resident artists before retiring to a luxury retreat surrounded by wilderness.
- Set out on one of the many bushwalking trails
- Relax at the secluded One&Only Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa
- Enjoy fine dining at Darleys Restaurant
How to get there
The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is about two hours drive west from the city of Sydney. It is best reached and explored by car, however you can also get there by train and on a coach tour. Sydney Airport is about one hour and 40 minutes east of the main Blue Mountains town of Katoomba.
Things to do and top attractions in the Blue Mountains
Set out on a trail
Soak up the streams, waterfalls, forested valleys and cliffs of the Blue Mountains along the many well-marked walking trails. Follow the original 1884 horse track from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves on the three-day Six Foot Track, or take the easy 1.8-kilometre (1.1-mile) Princes Rock Walk to a lookout over Wentworth Falls, Kings Tableland and Mount Solitary. You can also wade and boulder-hop your way down Glenbrook Gorge, on the three-kilometre (1.9-mile) Glenbrook Gorge Track, or creep up the sheer cliffs around Wentworth Falls on the challenging National Pass. If you want to make preparation easy, let Overnight Adventures deliver all the equipment you need to camp out under the stars. You'll also receive a tablet guidebook to take the worry out of your self-guided walk.
Take a tour
Though many Blue Mountains walks can be done independently, it's best to join a guided tour if you're unfamiliar with the region and weather conditions. Life's an Adventure offers a great Six Foot Track tour, as well as a two-day Wolgan Valley and Glow Worm Cave Walk. You can also discover the Blue Mountains' rich Aboriginal heritage on a walking tour with a local Darug guide from Blue Mountains Walkabout. If your feet need a rest, spend a day on the hop-on hop-off Blue Mountains Explorer Bus or with Blue Mountains Trolley Tours. Both companies visit 29 stops, including the major attractions, around Leura and Katoomba.
Stay in a luxury hotel
Nestled among the stunning scenery of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, One&Only Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa is Australia’s first luxury wildlife and conservation-based resort. Built around a restored 1832 homestead, the resort is made up of free-standing suites with private terraces and swimming pools. Closer to town is Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort and Spa, a five-star hotel housed in a historic country mansion. Set on beautiful, manicured gardens, the property overlooks the spectacular Jamison Valley and is the perfect base from which to explore the Upper Blue Mountains. The views from the recently restored Hydro Majestic are also magic, with the historic hotel stretching one kilometre (0.62 miles) along the escarpment edge, overlooking the picturesque Megalong Valley.
Take in the views of the Three Sisters
The Three Sisters is one of the most visited sites in the Blue Mountains. They watch over the land of the traditional country of the Darug, Gundungurra, Wiradjuri and Dharawal Aboriginal people. According to one Aboriginal legend, the pillars were once three beautiful sisters named Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo who were turned into stone by a powerful tribal elder. This dramatic rock formation is best seen from Echo Point Lookout, however you can also get up close on a walking trail to the top of the Three Sisters via Honeymoon Bridge. Be sure to pay a visit to the Waradah Aboriginal Centre at Echo Point to learn more about how the Three Sisters were formed.
Take the family to Scenic World
A trip to the Blue Mountains wouldn't be complete without calling into Scenic World at Katoomba. There you can ride the Scenic Skyway gondola across Jamison Valley, taking in views of the Three Sisters, Mount Solitary and Katoomba Falls. Scenic World is also home to the Scenic Railway, the world's steepest incline railway, descending more than 400 metres (0.25 miles) down the escarpment. This thrilling ride passes through a long tunnel and gorge, ending on the valley floor, and is a huge hit with children.
Explore Jenolan Caves
With 11 spectacular show caves, underground rivers and awe-inspiring formations, Jenolan Caves is among the finest and oldest cave systems in the world. You can explore the caves on a guided day tour, get goosebumps on a ghost tour or enjoy a monthly cave concert with natural acoustics and fairytale ambience. Above ground, stroll through the bush and marvel at Blue Lake – you may even spot a kangaroo, wombat or the elusive platypus. Have lunch at the award-winning Chisholm's Restaurant, in historic Caves House, where you can also stay the night.
Visit the Botanic Garden
With thousands of plants from the Southern Hemisphere and around the world, including the rare Wollemi Pine, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah is a must-see for nature lovers. The cool-climate garden is 1,000 metres (0.62 miles) above sea level and has stunning views across the area. Wander around the estate and explore the many formal gardens. The Botanists Way Discovery Centre is also worth checking out to learn about early botanists who came to the area in search of rare plants.
Head into town
The Blue Mountains is a place to eat, drink and indulge. Lunch on Leura's pretty tree-lined streets, before browsing the galleries and boutiques. Sit down for coffee and cake in an Art Deco café in Katoomba, and shop for gourmet food at Blackheath. During winter in July embrace Yulefest celebrations, with many businesses putting on traditional Christmas spreads, with log fires, singalongs and mountain hospitality. Book a table in the grand dining room at The Carrington hotel, in Katoomba, or head to the sprawling Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains, in Leura, for a sumptuous Christmas buffet. When it's not Yulefest, reserve a table at the lauded Darley's Restaurant at Lilianfels, or at the nearby fine dining Echoes Restaurant and Bar in Echoes Hotel.