For over a century, The Blue Mountains has been a favourite holiday place for the people of Sydney. Its huge 141,000 hectares of mostly forested landscape on a sandstone plateau contain some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in eastern Australia - tremendous sandstone precipices ringing densely wooded valleys which, viewed from a distance, are of an intense cobalt blue, hence the range's name.
World Heritage Listed and protected by a series of National Parks, The Blue Mountains has been extensively developed for tourism and is now criss-crossed by more than 1,100 kms of roads, most of which are first class.
The terrain, however, is so broken by deep gorges that considerable areas are still rarely visited, except by skilled bush walkers or mountain climbers. Some 24 towns and villages are scattered through the region. Well maintained walking tracks from these towns provide easy access along cliff tops and deep into valleys to view the stunning escarpments, waterfalls and rainforests of the canyon floor at close range.
Katoomba is the largest town in the Blue Mountains and has become a hub for visitor activities in the area. It is the place where most tours of the central Mountains area are based. You can admire deep valleys, sandstone plateaus, waterfalls and native animals from the many walking trails and lookouts near Katoomba.
In and Around Katoomba: Katoomba Falls; Three Sisters Lookout; Echo Point: The Giant Stairway (into Jamison Valley); Katoomba Falls; Katoomba Scenic Railway; Scenic Skyway cable car; Winter Magic Winter Solstice festival; The Edge, a six-storey cinema screen that showcases the grandeur of the Blue Mountains.
Leura is one of the series of small towns stretched along the Main Western railway line and Great Western Highway that bisects the Blue Mountains National Park. Leura is situated adjacent to Katoomba, and the two towns merge along Leura's western edge.
In and Around Leura: English-style, cool-climate gardens; historic streetscape; NSW Toy and Railway Museum; Leura Gardens Festival (held annually in October); Leura Cascades; Sublime Point (views to Jamison Valley; Leura Cascades); Track to Katoomba, taking in many attractions along the way, including the Pool of Siloam, Leura Cascades, Leura Falls, Jamison Lookout, Linda Falls and the Dardanelles Pass; The Giant Stairway; Leura Roarin 20's Festival (first Saturday of February); Leura Harvest Festival (every May).
Blackheath is located near the highest point of the Blue Mountains, between Katoomba and Mount Victoria. The sights and attractions of the Grose Valley are accessed from Blackheath. Canyoners and rockclimbers also base themselves at Blackheath for activities in the surrounding national park. The Megalong Valley can be accessed by road from Blackheath, about 18 kilometres to the west, via Mount Victoria.
In and Around Blackheath: Lookouts at Govetts Leap, Pulpit Rock, Perrys Lookdown and Anvil Rock (Grose Valley); Mount Boyce Lookout; The Blue Gum Forest; Campbell Rhododendron Gardens; Rhododendron Festival (September)
Wentworth Falls is often used as a base to explore this World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains area on foot. Many of the iconic walks to and through the Jamison Valley commence here. Arguably one of the most beautiful towns in NSW, Wentworth Falls is a popular setting for weddings and honeymoons.
In and Around Wentworth Falls: Wentworth Falls Reserve (Princes Rock Lookout - view of the Wentworth Falls and Jamison Valley); Wentworth Falls Lake (bbq and picnic facilities); Breakfast Point Lookout, Rocket Point Lookout; 18 hole golf course; Princes Rock walking track; Charles Darwin walk; Blue Mountains Cooking School; National Pass Walk; Wentworth Falls Nature Track; Kings Tableland featuring indigenous engravings, axe-grinding grooves, modified rock pools and an occupation shelter; Sunset Lookout and McMahon's Lookout (views over Lake Burragorang); Ingar Picnic Ground; Valley of the Waters Track (Empress Falls, Sylvia Falls, Lodore Falls, Flat Rock Falls, Vera Falls).
Glenbrook, the first sizeable village in the Lower Blue Mountains on the highway up from Sydney, lies between Lapstone and Blaxland at an elevation of 163 m (535 ft) and is approximately an hour's drive from Sydney. It is home to a large number of attractions, recreational opportunities and native flora and fauna. Glenbrook retains many historical homes and buildings throughout the village, although most are not open to the public.
In and Around Glenbrook: Glenbrook Railway Heritage Walk; Knapsack Gully Viaduct; Glenbrook Lagoon; Glenbrook Native Plant Reserve: Red Hand Lagoon (indigenous rock art); Mt Mortal and Nepean Lookouts; historic Lennox Bridge, Lapstone
The gateway to the Blue Mountains on the western side, Lithgow is a unique destination. Around town are historic industrial and ming ruins, Mt. Piper Energy Expo; beyond town are some excellent spots for canyoning, bushwalking, camping and viewing mining ruins.
In and Around Lithgow: Historic attractions in and around Lithgow include Blast Furnace Park, Eskbank House, Bowenfels Railway Station, Glen Davis, Portland, Hartley Historic Village, Zig Zag Railway (currently CLOSED), Small Arms Museum, Lithgow State Mine, Railway Heritage Park, Lithgow Pottery, Newnes-OilShale Industry Ruins and Capertee.
Natural Attractions include Jenolan Caves; Capertee Valley, the Glow Worm Tunnel, Grose Valley, Newnes Plateau, and Wollemi National Park.
How To Get There
By road: there are two main roads - the Great Western Highway (linking with the Olympic Way to Melbourne, at Bathurst) via Parramatta and Penrith, and the Bell's Line Road which crosses the mountains to the north, via Windsor, Richmond and Kurrajong to Mount Victoria. From Sydney, take Great Western Highway or the Western Motorway to Penrith. Follow the signs to Katoomba and/or the Blue Mountains via Great Western Highway, or Bell's Line Road via Windsor and Richmond.
The journey by road from central Sydney to Katoomba takes 1 1/2 hours (more if travelling in peak hours) and covers a distance of 100 km.
By train: trains to the Blue Mountains leave Sydney Central Station departing platforms 12/13 hourly. Trains usually stop at Strathfield, Parramatta, Penrith and all stations to Springwood, Katoomba, Mt Victoria or Lithgow. The train journey from Central Station to Katoomba takes 2 hours.
Day trips by train are possible, but because of the travel time and the large number of places of interest in the Mountains, an early start is recommended. Even then, you will only scratch the surface of what the Blue Mountains have to offer in a day.
City Rail offers a number of rail/coach tour options including the Blue Mountains ExplorerLink (daily, except Christmas Day). Tickets can be purchased from any CityRail Station and include return train fare and guided tour.
Planning Your Visit
Whatever mode of transport you chose to get to the Blue Mountains from Sydney, the journey takes around two hours each way, so if you are planning a day trip, that does not leave a lot of time for sightseeing. Day trippers are recommended to head to Katoomba - it is near the most regularly visited attractions and is the place from which most organised tours originate.
Visitor Centres have some excellent maps and itinerary suggestions, and major tourist attractions are clearly signposted.
Glenbrook: Great Western Highway. Ph. 1300 653 408
Katoomba: Echo Point. Ph. 1300 653 408
Lithgow: Great Western Highway. Ph. (03) 6350 3230
Oberon: Cnr Ross St and Edith Rd. Ph. (02) 6329 8210
Organised Tours: operating out of Katoomba, Blue Mountains Trolley Tours or Blue Mountains Explorer Bus offer a transfer service between tourist locations around Katoomba and Leura, including major lookouts, some bushwalking trailheads, tourist attractions and hotels. Passengers can hop on and off wherever they please.
Passes are also available which include entry to major tourist attractions along the way. A range of operators provide guided tours to see the region's special places. Tours range from adventure four wheel drive tours, to more conventional coach tours.
By Bus: Blue Mountains Bus Company provides regular commuter bus services between major towns in the Blue Mountains.