Ok, the Blue Mountains are not "off the beaten path", but they make for a great day trip out of Sydney.
The train ride from Sydney to Katoomba takes about 2 hrs and you'll step out into a beautiful scenery of steep hills covered with gum trees. The name "Blue Mountains" derives from the blueish mist of oil, given off these gum trees.
There are lots of great walks to be done, or for the lazy...great rides at Scenic World. Of course you can combine both...
A combined train & explorer bus ticket costs 36 AU$ for a day.
Approximately 2 hours to the west of the city are the Blue Mountains, a natural barrier to the westward spread of Sydney.
It is a spectacular sight, and one of the easiest places to reach out of Sydney for a day trip or two week holiday, trekking through the bush.
If you want to travel independently, an easy option is the train to Katoomba, from where some of the major sites (Three Sisters, Scenic Railway etc) are nearby. But many of the main Blue Mountain attractions are accessible at the various stations on this train line.
See separate Blue Mountains National Park page
A two hours train ride from Sydney the Blue Mountains National Park is situated. You will not find that the mountains here are coloured blue, but there is a sort of haze coming from the eucalyptus trees that is a bit blue. Pictured you will see the Three Sisters, which is the best known attraction of the Blue Mountains. Though certainly not the only one. I will tell you more about the Blue Mountains on my Blue Mountains National Park page soon.
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.
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 Grand Circular Tourist Drive is a fantastic way to see the majority of the Blue Mountains. The road winds its way up and around the mountain, 260km from Sydney along the Great Western Hwy & Bells Line of Road.
From Sydney, take the M4 Motorway out of the city and follow the Great Western Highway up the mountains from Lapstone, this route is the way the first European explorers headed over the mountains in 1813.
Stop at the Heritage Centre in Blackheath and pick up maps, souvenirs and brochures, and ask questions, the volunteers are eager to help!
From Blackheath there are a number of possible touring routes where you see Sandstone cliffs, plunging waterfalls, and historic towns.
Drive another 15km along the Great Western Highway from Blackheath to the 19th-century village of Hartley, at the base of the Victoria Pass (this is a steep descent). This is an old historic town, worth a wander around. After Mt Victoria the Bells Line of Road loops back to Sydney, passing by Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens and Wollemi National Park on its way to the historic townships of Richmond and Windsor.
A great day's outing, remember to allow plenty of time for sightseeing and walking!
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.
Everybody except my Grandma held a koala. Unfortunately, animal rights activists have been successful in prohibiting tourists from holding koalas in the New South Wales province of Australia which contains Sydney, therefore I am thankful I had that opportunity back then. Our return trip was nonstop. The lion's share of those on the coach were asleep. I took candid photos of Gena and Tiffany (both from the Westminster group) sleeping on the coach. On returning to the hotel, we decided to take supper in the hotel restaurant. I took the prawns (shrimp) with rice and salad. After supper, I started to write 21 postcards. Because I had to go down to cancel Mr. Rath's early wake-up call anyhow, it also made sense to take my written and stamped postcards down for early mailing.
Taking a trip to the Blue Mountains is a must in my opinion. After several trips to Australia, I finally made it to the Blue Mountains in 2010. The Mountains are absolutely beautiful. The natural beauty and serenity found here is incredible. There are several hotels/B&B's in the area if you want to spend an extended period of time here. We took a day tour to the Mountains and found it to be an excellent way to spend the day.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.