I suggest a trip to the Blue Mountains if you have a spare day or two.
You can either go on an escorted tour arranged by your hotel/hostel, or alternatively, board a train. The journey takes around 2 hours by train from Central Railway Station to Katoomba.
The cost of a return train ticket is about AUD$23.00+, but if you go after 9am (off-peak), you will save about AUD$5.00+.
I strongly suggest to go by train as by bus, it may get caught in traffic and take even longer. Train is much mroe predictable and a lot more comfortable than by bus.
Trains in off-peak depart every hour and in peak hours, about every 30 minutes.
Most people go to the Blue Moutains to view the Three Sisters. The Three Sisters are also lit-up at night. There is some really nice bush walking (hiking) too.
I suggest an overnight stay as it's really peaceful and fresh, but if that is not possible, it's a journey easily possible within a day. There are all sorts of accomodation available, from cheap hotels to resort style hotels with all the fancy facilities.
My favourite location is Leura, which is next to Katoomba. Accomodation in Leura is slightly more expensive, but I feel it's nicer if you go as a couple.
Just note that in the winter months it can get quite cold so take some warm clothing. It does snow there sometimes (not often). Generally, Katoomba is about 7 to 10 degrees celcius cooler than Sydney. Maximum tempuratures in winter of around 8 to 10 degrees celcius is not uncommon.
The first train to Katoomba Railway Station from Central Railway Station is about 4am. Yes, that early! The last train to return from Katoomba is around 11:15pm.
In the Blue Mountains, about 2 hours from Sydney there is a town called Leura.
In this gorgeous but touristy town there is an old time candy Store. It is a very busy place as coaches stop there all the time, but it is well worth it. It has candy from all over the world and really gives a feel of being transported back in time.
I can't remember the exact address, back there is only one main street in Leura and if you ask anyone there, they should know it.
After doing all that, we went into Katoomba proper to shop and to eat lunch. I wasn't up to eating at that time (11.00) because of that big breakfast at the hotel. There was almost a disaster when, just before getting in the coach again, I discovered I left my camera in the post office. Of course I picked it up before getting in the coach. What made Katoomba notable was its July celebration of "Yule Fest". They decorated the town in red and green even though Christmas takes place in December because Katoombans must not feel right celebrating Christmas in December when it's summertime.
Get out of the city (only a short distance) and visit the Blue Mountains.
This has been the home to Aboriginal communities for some 14,000 years and at first it was a formidable barrier for the white settlers. The Blue Mountains are 1100 metres above sea level at their highest point and this kept the colonists virtual prisoners around the Sydney cove area. The early colonists thought that plains for grazing and crop farming would be better beyond the mountain but repeated attempts to cross the mountains failed. It was not until 1813 that three farmers set out on a well planned mission and got to the western side of the range successfully. Since the 1870’s though it has been a popular holiday resort. In 1959 the National Park was set up ensuring the safe keeping of the area The landscape has been developing over about 250 million years as sediments built up and then eroded, forming sheer cliff faces and canyons. The mountains get their name from the oil that is released from the eucalyptus trees which causes a blue haze. There are some lovely hikes and drives throughout the park. The Three Sisters were formed by erosion and Aboriginal legend says that the rock is in fact three sisters imprisoned for their own protection by their father.
The youth hostel offered a tour by bus to the Blue Mountains. The driver was a professor from the University (sorry, cant remember the name after all these years) who in his spare time takes tourists around the area and gives some very valuable insight in many things.
He took us to the Three Sisters and told us the story behind it, we visited Aboriginal ceremonial spots and caves and he told us to consider not taking any pictures of the wall paintings as this (if I remember correctly) is like stealing to them.
We rode the steepest train in the world (if I find the picture I will scan and enter it here) and at the gift shop told us that if we wanted to get a real useful souvenir we should buy a bottle of tea tree oil, which at that time was widely unknown in Europe.
While riding in the bus from location to loaction he told very interesting stories about Ayers Rock and played music of Australian bands...... I still remeber a song called "When its raining on the rock"..... I never found a tape or album when I checked for it in German music stores because again I forgot the name of the band..... maybe somone will write to me and knows the band, I would love that!
On the way back he started racing the bus down hill and we were all a little bit worried but he explained that he wanted to get to a certain bar on time within Happy Hour for all of us to have a beer as a closing of the tour.
This day was one of the most enjoyable days on any trip so far in my life!
This really knocked me off into hysterics. One of the shops in Leura has this bench outside of its premises and I thought the sign was hilarious. And it really hit the bullseye since my mum and sis were both inside the shop, leaving the in-this-case "Bored Son and Brother" outside waiting for them to finish their browsing.
The greatest part of my trip in Syndey was my time in the Blue Mountains. The scenery was so beautiful that some tears dropped out of my eyes, that's the magic of nature...
For more details, please see my Blue Mountains page.
Our trip to the Blue Mountains was quite fun and the view was amazing. The Three Sisters is a favorite and the story behind the name was interesting too. If you go, take the little lift car to the bottom and walk around!
Of course you want to go to the Blue Mountains while you're in Sydney - that's why I created a whole lot of Blue Mountains pages. So why are you looking here?
Okay, I'll give you a sampler. This is one of my favourite walks up in the hills (remember, they're only about 1,000 metres high).
This is a shot of Empress Falls and the walk that includes it and Wentworth Falls is definitely one of the best in the area for day walks. It takes about 4 hours and the views are to die for. For full details see my Blue Mountains section.
Fortunately my friend Anne convinced me to do this day trip to the mountains. What a fantastic day we had. We saw just about all the animals that are native to Australia at the sanctuary for wild animals (these animals were rescued after being hit by a car or hurt some other way). The blue mountains itself was absolutely fantastic, I have never experienced such majestic mountains before.
Well I am not sure if they always have someone there playing original Aboriginal music, but we were lucky on the day we went to find this gentleman. He was leaving a month later on a world wide tour to promote his music, so I hope things worked out well for him.
Due to the fact that my friend Anne suffers extremely from a fear of heights we decided to do the scenic rail ride instead of the cable car ride over the mountains.
Wow were we in for a surprise de luxe - this is a roller coaster ride of note ....... this railway use to take the coal worker down to the mining area, but since they do not mine there anymore it is now used to entertain visitors to the area. The view from there is absolutely stunning.
The following day was 4 July 1991. By then, it was no big thing being abroad on the American Independence Day because this was the third one in a row spent off the shores of the United States. In 1989, I was in Nice, in 1990 I was in Madrid, and then in 1991 I was in Sydney. We got up at 6.30 to take breakfast (the same thing as before) in the hotel restaurant.
We boarded the coach nonstop to the Blue Mountains, leaving at 8.15 (delayed by women in the group from New York and from Washington, Pennsylvania). Our Australian guide, Sandy, gave us spearmint candies in honour of the 4th of July. The place at the Blue Mountains where I took the photo was a good 2000 feet (610 m.) above sea level and there were clouds surrounding the mountains like the Smokies in Tennessee and North Carolina. They are called the Blue Mountains from a bluish haze given off by gum trees growing in the area.
The Blue Mountains is just a short drive out of Sydney (approx 1.5 to 2 hours if I remember correctly).
The Blue Mountains get their name from the eucalyptus oil evaporating off the trees in the heat. The haze gives the air a blueish tinge.
Beautiful scenery and a few great things to visit like the steepest railway in the world where you are held in place by seatbelts and a wire cage that goes over the top of the "train".
The Skyway is Australia's only horizontal passenger carrying cable car. You can find it at the same site as the Scenic Railway. A 7 minute scenic ride takes you 350 metres across a deep gorge. A bit unnerving but the scenery is fantastic.