Great Day Trips – Sydney to the Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains, about two hours west of Sydney is the chosen day trip destination for families, older travelers, historians and backpackers alike, because it offers such a rich history and diverse array of attractions, both natural and man made.
The Blue Mountains represented one of the biggest challenges to early Australian explorers and are now one of the greatest natural attractions to modern Australian tourists. Undoubtedly, the star of the Blue Mountains is the picturesque town of Katoomba and its surrounds, a favourite weekend escape for Sydneysiders and a wonderful destination for travelers.
From Sydney, head out to the Great Western Highway via Parramatta. Note, there is extensive work being done on the highway in 2010 and 2011 so allow a little extra time for the trip.
Katoomba is the most visited of all towns in the Blue Mountains, not only for its picturesque location and countless tourist attractions but for its charming streets lined with historical buildings, cafes, antique shops and boutique hotels, not bad for a former mining town.
Before you start looking for a park, take a quick trip along Cliff Drive for a glimpse into the magnificent, colourful Katoomba landscape, with its golden cliffs and rocky outcrops, thick green forests and distant blue hues.
The Katoomba Coal Mine left us not only this quaint, scenic little town but one of Australia's most popular tourist attractions as its legacy - the Katoomba Scenic Railway. For travelers with children, this is an absolute must see. It is 415 meters of the steepest railway on earth and the journey takes you through breathtaking scenery, ancient rainforest, Orphan Rock, a kid-thrilling tunnel and to the ferny cliff face. From there you can explore almost 3 kilometers of scenic walkways (380 meters of which is wheelchair accessible) with plenty of interesting facts and attractions along the way.
After exploring the boardwalks and attractions, head to the steepest cableway in the southern hemisphere called The Scenic Cableway. Take a thrilling 545 meter ride over beautiful world heritage listed rainforest in the Jamison Valley.
If you are starting to get the feeling that the area is scenic, you would be right! The Scenic Skyway is the glass bottom boat of the sky – 720 meters of waterfalls, Jurassic rainforest and ravines all visible through a dizzying glass floor. Maybe not the ideal ride if you have a fear of heights but a big hit with kids and backpackers alike.
Three Sisters and Echo Point is a quintessential Australian landmark. The soft sandstone that makes up much of the Blue Mountains makes for terrible farming but breathtaking natural rock formations. Through erosion, these three monolithic formations jut out over the valley and make for a striking view. The natural light and the seasons dramatically change the appearance of the Three Sisters and the floodlighting in the evening is well worth a viewing.
The unusual name is believed to come from an ancient Romeo and Juliet style fable in Indigenous folk law. The story goes that three sisters fell into forbidden love with three brothers from a neighbouring tribe and were turned to stone by an Elder for their own protection. The Elder was then killed so the girls were destined to stand at Echo point, frozen in stone for eternity.
Be warned, Echo Point inspires a lot of cooeeing. For foreign visitors, a cooee is an Australian yodel. Unlike its European cousin, which is seemingly performed exclusively to annoy anyone in ear shot, the cooee is a bush emergency call. It is an extremely loud birdlike call (not a scream, it definitely takes some practice!) at pitches that perfectly resonate in mountainous areas so it can be heard for many miles around. Echo Point acoustics are the perfect spot to get a cooee to “bounce” so give it a go – you never know, it might just prove a handy skill some day. While there, visit the Echo Point Tourist Information Centre for maps, historical information and points of interest.
The Katoomba area features countless hiking trails for the novice through to the skilled mountaineer. For beginners, a guided tour or one of the short tourist trips is recommended (numerous visitors have needed rescuing after becoming disoriented in the bushland) and there are guided overnight camping options available. Visitors can choose from over a hundred eco-treks, 4WD roads, gentle walks and serious climbs. See Katoomba Tourist Information before heading out and if you are going unguided, be sure to tell them your intended route, take plenty of water and brush up on your cooeeing skills
Close by Leura is home to a number of museums, historical sites and spectacular photo opportunities from Sublime Point Road and access to Katoomba Falls. For real road trippers who are thirsty for more, a drive through the mountains to many of the nearby towns is a very pleasant way to spend a day and there are plenty of good spots to stop.
Hartely Village is frozen in the 1830s and is prefect for a fun and educational family visit, Hawksbury Heights offers spectacular views with perfect picnic spots, and the Zig Zag Railway in Clarence is always a big hit.
The Jenolan Caves are very impressive limestone caves that sport dramatic stalactites and stalagmites reminiscent of an underground alien world. There are a range of guided tours from kid's tours, to ghost tours to serious adventure caving experiences. Prices start at $68 per family. The Blue Mountains offer a wide range of activities for travelers and are the perfect destination for families, older travelers and backpackers alike. Discover why Sydneysiders are so proud of their rocky neighbours and are so keen to escape there themselves.