Blue Mountains - review by Rusty Compass
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Blue Mountains

| 11 Feb 2022
11 Feb 2022

The Blue Mountains National Park is a vast, dramatic landscape of forest, gorges, waterfalls, canyons and wildlife. The area takes its name from the blue haze generated by the concentration of eucalyptus trees and the cool mountain air. There are some delightful heritage towns surrounding the National Park. Temperatures in the mountains are always quite a bit cooler than Sydney and winter can be very chilly. Travellers can choose between challenging multi-day mountain adventures, casual bushwalks or things cultural and culinary. Best to dabble a little in all. The Blue Mountains are experienced over a few days rather than on a day trip from Sydney.

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The Blue Mountains Day Trip from Sydney

Getting to the Blue Mountains

Independent travel to the Blue Mountains is easy and practical. You can even visit by train with regular services from Sydney's Central Station to points like Wentworth Falls, Leura and Katoomba. Once in the mountains, a shuttle bus service operates between many of the main places of interest.

If you want complete freedom, travel by car. Katoomba, one of the main tourism centres, is around 90 minutes drive from Sydney on good dual-carriageway roads.

Jamison Valley, Katoomba
Photo: Mark Bowyer Jamison Valley, Katoomba

What to do on a day-trip to the Blue Mountains

This is a brief itinerary for day trippers to the Blue Mountains who get off to an early start. I haven't tested the feasibility of this itinerary by public transport. You will make your own call on how active you are but this itinerary assumes a couple of one hour to 90 minute walks for people of medium fitness.

A slice of the falls - Wentworth Falls - Blue Mountains
Photo: Mark Bowyer A slice of the falls - Wentworth Falls - Blue Mountains

Wentworth Falls

Leave Sydney as early as possible. Stop in at Wentworth Falls for breakfast and coffee before hitting the trails. We pulled in at Fed Cafe in Wentworth Falls town before our first walk. Take a short walk around Wentworth Falls town. Like all the towns in the Blue Mountains, it's a quaint little place that'll help you shift gears from the pace of Sydney.

Fed Cafe in Wentworth Falls
Photo: Mark Bowyer Fed Cafe in Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls Lookout is an outstanding first experience of the Blue Mountains and it's only a short walk from the carpark. One of the best things about the mountains is that an appreciation of the landscape is available even to those unable to cover big distances on foot.

If you're happy with steps, head down the Wentworth Falls Track towards the falls. The further you go the more dramatic things get. This is an hour-long walk with some spectacular moments. The fit and adventurous can keep heading down the rock face.

The Overcliff / Under cliff loop is a longer path (90mins) well worth checking out too.

Dramatic walkways with views - Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains
Photo: Mark Bowyer Dramatic walkways with views - Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains
Undercliff Path - Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains
Photo: Mark Bowyer Undercliff Path - Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains

Katoomba and the Three Sisters

Katoomba has been the centre of the Blue Mountains tourism industry for decades. My parents even spent their honeymoon here in the early 1950s!

Three Sisters and Jamison Valley - where all the fuss started.
Photo: Mark Bowyer Three Sisters and Jamison Valley - where all the fuss started.

Echo Point lookout's view of the Three Sisters across the Jamison Valley is among the most frequently used symbols of Australia's landscape - there's a good chance you'll have seen photos long before you get to the Blue Mountains.

Stop in Katoomba for a bite of lunch before you embark on your next mountain adventure. We had lunch at a tasty commune-run cafe called The Yellow Deli - it was a delight.

There are lots of other small eateries in Katoomba town. The tourist eateries around Echo Point are best avoided if possible. A walk through Katoomba town is recommended too.

The fame of the Three Sisters makes the Echo Point Lookout the most popular stop in the Blue Mountains - expect crowds. The earlier or later you come the better your chance of avoiding the tour coaches packed with Sydney day-trippers. Even on a busy day, you usually don't need to venture far from the look-out to get away from the worst of the crowds.

The main lookout is easily reached from the carpark but there are big rewards if you continue along the walking tracks.

Yellow Deli, Katoomba
Photo: Mark Bowyer Yellow Deli, Katoomba

The Three Sisters

Legends of Indigenous symbolism have been attached to the Three Sisters for decades. In several stories, legend says three sisters, Weemala, Meenie and Gunedoo, were turned to stone for their protection. It was not possible to reverse the magic that turned them to stone - and here they are for us to admire. 

Many have doubted the veracity of these stories and other Indigenous legends exist including one that views the three sisters as the remaining parts of a family of seven that once stood here. The Three Sisters have been recognised by the New South Wales Government as a place of Indigenous significance since 2014.

Come late when it's cold and you might get the place to yourself - Echo Point, Katoomba
Photo: Mark Bowyer Come late when it's cold and you might get the place to yourself - Echo Point, Katoomba

Katoomba is the location of Scenic World - a scenic railway and a cable car. These are the only major commercial tourism ventures operating right in the Blue Mountains. The Scenic Railway dates back to the 1940s when the old coal mine rail line was repurposed as a tourist railway taking visitors deep into the Jamison Valley.

There's also a skyway and a scenic cableway offering dramatic views of the valley and Katoomba Falls. Scenic World is a tourism magnet that is especially appealing to families. It's the easiest way to get to the rainforest micro-climate at the base of the valley.

Three Sisters and Jamison Valley, Katoomba
Photo: Mark Bowyer Three Sisters and Jamison Valley, Katoomba
Echo Point Lookout, Katoomba
Photo: Mark Bowyer Echo Point Lookout, Katoomba

Scenic World Katoomba

Scenic World is the major commercial tourist experience  in the Blue Mountains Mountains National Park. It’s the latest full-blown commercial incarnation of a mine shaft railway that became a tourist railway decades ago.

Scenic World consists of a scenic railway, scenic cableway and an elevated scenic walkway through ancient forest at the base of the valley. It’s an ideal spot for families and day trippers with limited time. It’s also good for those with some mobility limitations still wanting to get a sense of what it’s like at the bottom of the valley.

Those who watched Chris Hemsworth’s Disney series Limitless will recognise the Skyway where he performed stunts.

At around $55 a ticket (kids around $35) it seems like reasonable value for money - though though the experience will vary during school holidays and other busy times. Crowds would diminish the experience and part of the magic of our visit was that it was pretty quiet.

It’s all well done and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the elevated walks at the bottom. It’s the easiest way to see the beauty of the valley floor. Otherwise you’re up for a long hike.  You can choose your distance at the bottom (10 mins 20 mins or 50 mins) before heading back either on the railway or the cableway.

Scenic World, Katoomba
Photo: Mark Bowyer Scenic World, Katoomba

Photo: Mark Bowyer


Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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