Blue Mountains: Breathtaking Nature
Known as Sydney’s backyard wilderness, the World Heritage Blue Mountains National Park is a 90-minute drive from the centre of Sydney and home to the famous sandstone formation, The Three Sisters. Breathe in the fresh, eucalyptus-scented air, stand at bush lookouts and peer out across the forested valleys with their famous blue haze. In storybook mountain villages such as Leura, Katoomba and Blackheath, browse antique stores, buy handcrafted chocolates and enjoy mulled wine beside a heritage-hotel fireplace.
The drive from Sydney to Katoomba is just 90 minutes and trains regularly depart from Central Station. There are also local buses in the Blue Mountains that stop at some of the country’s most spectacular attractions. Trains depart from Central Station every hour and take about two hours to get to Katoomba. You’ll need an Opal card to travel on NSW TrainLink Intercity services.
Did you know?
The Blue Mountains are so named because they appear blue from a distance. The blue haze that blankets the mountains is created by the eucalyptus oil released into the atmosphere from the many gum trees that forest the area. The eucalyptus ‘mist’ scatters short-wave light rays, mainly blue in colour.
The best way to soak up the extraordinary views of deep valleys that drape like fabric down from the mountains is from specific lookout points, especially in Katoomba, Wentworth Falls and Govetts Leap. Katoomba is the most visited town in the Blue Mountains and is often the starting point for tours and walks, as well as a popular place for top views. Here, visit Echo Point, which overlooks the unusual, jagged rock formation, The Three Sisters.
Echo Point LookoutEcho Point Lookout, Katoomba NSW, Australia
Insider Tip: The Lookout Echo Point dining precinct perched on the escarpment boasts a range of lunch options. Enjoy a burger or fish and chips at the Milkbar, savour a glass of wine at Bar NSW or soak up the elegant atmosphere and picturesque views of Restaurant 1128.
Wentworth Falls Picnic Area is a 30-minute drive away, where you can take a short bush walk to Wentworth Falls. Start at Jamison Lookout, which boasts a sweeping vista of Jamison Valley. Head along to the Wentworth Falls Track and down some log steps to Wentworth Lookout for waterfall glimpses, then seek out the side track and descend the steps to Fletchers Lookout to get a good view of the waterfall. Also at Wentworth Falls is Lincoln Rock, a huge flat, pale rock ledge known as Wedding Rock or Honeymoon Rock. Its cliff-edge overlook offers sweeping vistas of the Blue Mountains and the spectacular forested valleys below.
Wentworth Falls Picnic AreaWentworth Falls Picnic Area, Sir H Burrell Drive, Wentworth Falls NSW, Australia
Another top vantage point is Govetts Leap Lookout near Blackheath: one of the highest towns above sea level in the Blue Mountains. Govetts Leap is an impressive spot with breathtaking views of the blue gum forested valley, with bottlebrush, acacia and myrtle flowers dotted around. The Bridal Veil Falls is to the right and Pulpit Rock to the front.
Govetts Leap lookoutGovetts Leap lookout, Blue Mountains National Park NSW, Australia
A lesser-known spot with an interesting perspective of The Three Sisters, is Elysian Rock Lookout along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, near the end of Elysian Place in Leura. Stand on the majestic sandstone floor and look straight out across Jamison Valley and the ‘back’ of the Three Sisters.
Elysian Rock LookoutElysian Rock Lookout, Elysian Rock Access Walk, Blue Mountains National Park NSW, Australia
For nature-loving thrill seekers, Scenic World offers adventures such as cable car rides and rainforest walks in the majestic Jamison Valley. The Scenic Railway — the world’s steepest incline passenger train — commands awesome views as it emerges through a cliffside tunnel into the valley. For a perspective from above, glide above sandstone ravines in the glass-bottomed Scenic Skyway, or immerse yourself in the rainforest, walking the elevated Scenic Walkway or riding the gently descending Cableway.
Scenic WorldScenic World, Cliff Drive, Katoomba NSW, Australia
The magical Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens is the only botanic garden in a World Heritage area on earth. It offers free entry and you’ll be in awe of over 21,000 plants from 900 species. Take a walk amongst Wollemi pines, fairy grottos and breathe in the crisp mountain air. In spring, the colours of the flowers are vibrant and in autumn, the cool climate gardens and deciduous trees are ablaze with colour. Marvel at the rich colours of the Japanese maples, North American oaks and dawn redwoods.
Blue Mountains Botanic GardenBlue Mountains Botanic Garden, Bells Line of Road, Mount Tomah NSW, Australia
Stroll through Mount Wilson, where the streets are lined with elm trees and pink cherry trees, and the heritage-listed Breenhold Gardens, enchanting with red maple and glimpses of Blue Mountains National Park.
A labyrinth of limestone chasms carved by underground rivers, the Jenolan Caves are one of Australia's most spectacular cave systems. Nine of the 300 stalactite-lined caves are open to the public, with Lucas Cave being the most famous, featuring the limestone formation of the Broken Column as well as the Cathedral, a 54-metre high chamber often used for concerts. Linger longer with an overnight stay in a historic guest room at Jenolan Caves House.
Jenolan CavesJenolan Caves, Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan NSW, Australia
There are delightful places to stay in the Blue Mountains with picture-perfect views, from mountain cottages to heritage hotels and luxury villas amongst the wilderness.
Live the high life amongst acres of pristine wilderness at Wolgan Valley in the Blue Mountains. The luxury lodge boasts 40 heritage-style villas with private plunge pools and views of the valley and sun-kissed escarpments. Embark on an outback adventure such as a 4WD trek or horse ride guided by attentive staff, then soothe away the last of your stress in a private treatment room at the bushland wellness sanctuary.
Emirates One&Only Wolgan ValleyEmirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, Wolgan Rd, Wolgan Valley NSW, Australia
One of the most famous hotels, the Hydro Majestic at Medlow Bath, has a stunning valley aspect. Other luxury hotels include Echoes Boutique Hotel and its sister property, Lillianfels, which is home to Darley’s Restaurant.
Hydro MajesticHydro Majestic, Great Western Highway, Medlow Bath NSW, Australia
For a family-friendly resort with brilliant facilities, Fairmont Resort and Spa Blue Mountains is the pick. The rooms are luxurious country chic, the resort looks over the Jamison Valley, and boasts a heated pool, on-site cinema, pony rides and an arcade alley to keep you all entertained.
Stay in a sweet mountain cabin at Seclusions: there are just six couples-only cabins on this 20-hectare property, 40 minutes west of Katoomba. Each timber cabin has a generous spa, private balcony and kitchenette.
Seclusions Blue MountainsSeclusions Blue Mountains, Martins Road, Rydal NSW, Australia
For luxurious self-contained accommodation, Parkside Blackheath is a 1930’s cottage restored in ultra-luxe style with three bedrooms and art deco touches. It’s just a five-minute walk from town and the perfect base for small groups.
In the Greater Blue Mountains region in Capertee Valley, ever-popular Bubbletent has three snug spheres named after zodiac constellations giving guests luxurious touches and a dazzling vista of the stars at night.
Bubbletent AustraliaBubbletent Australia, Capertee NSW, Australia
Indulge in the Blue Mountains’ many gastronomic delights from the grand tradition of high tea to Asian-inspired local produce. At Lilianfels Resort and Spa, enjoy innovative fine dining at Darley’s Restaurant or enjoy bowls of Asian comfort food at Miss Lilian Teahouse.
Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & SpaLilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa, Lilianfels Avenue, Katoomba NSW, Australia
Miss Lilian Tea HouseMiss Lilian Tea House, Lilianfels Avenue, Katoomba NSW, Australia
For a casual lunch in industrial surrounds, pop into Leura Garage for a vibrant menu of rustic favourites. There are sweeping views of Jamison Valley from Echoes Restaurant and Bar, and don’t miss the decadent high tea at the Hydro Majestic Hotel.
Blue Mountains for all seasons
Springtime, from September to November, holds special significance in the Blue Mountains when thousands of species of wildflowers display their striking colours. Gardens in Leura and Blackheath bloom with bluebells and azaleas, ready for spring festivals such as the Leura Gardens Festival in October where you can find pink cherry blossoms, as well as Blackheath Rhododendron Festival in November. But the best is reserved for Everglades in Leura, a 1930’s art-deco mansion on the edge of the Jamison Valley, surrounded by five hectares of European-style grounds. You can picnic in the magical grounds, pick up a pretty souvenir from the gift shop or just admire the art deco home. While you’re in Leura, pop into Bygone Beautys for a homemade scone with freshly whipped cream and strawberry jam.
Summer in the Blue Mountains is the time to explore the natural beauty on foot in the fresh air. There are many bushwalks to suit all fitness levels and the Prince Henry Cliff Walk is hard to beat for views. Whether you’re up for a challenge or a more relaxed stroll, start at the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre at Blackheath to find safe bushwalking trails to add to your itinerary, pick up maps, and find out about local tours and organised discovery walks.
Prince Henry Cliff WalkPrince Henry Cliff Walk, Katoomba NSW, Australia
In Autumn, between March and May in the Southern Hemisphere, the Blue Mountains come alive with burnished colours of red, orange and yellow. Enjoy the crisp mountain air, play a round of golf on an award-winning course with autumn colours all around, or have a delicious hearty meal in a quaint village. In Leura, the European-style Everglades Garden — created in the 1930s by Danish landscape gardener Paul Sorenson — has towering trees, rolling grass carpeted with autumn leaves and pretty glimpses of the Jamison Valley.
Everglades Historic House and GardensEverglades Historic House and Gardens, Everglades Avenue, Leura NSW, Australia
A Blue Mountains getaway in winter is all about curling up by the fireplace in a heritage hotel, rejuvenating with a soothing spa treatment and rugging up to hike to lookouts in the morning to see the mist draping the forested valleys and perhaps a soft snow fall. Pop into Josophan's famous chocolate shop in Leura for pure Belgian drinking chocolate and handmade truffles, or enjoy the famous Yulefest celebrations in July, which boast roast dinners, log fire gatherings and singalongs.
Josophan's Fine ChocolatesJosophan's Fine Chocolates, Leura Mall, Leura NSW, Australia
Insider Tip: On your way back to Sydney, head along Bells Line of Road past beautiful orchards, fertile farmland and rustic country bakeries. Stop in at Hillbilly Cider Shed and relax on the grassed area by the log fire to enjoy woodfired pizza, award-winning apple cider and live music on Friday and Saturday nights until 8pm, Sunday until 6pm.