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 Blue Mountains are one of the favourite tourist destinations for a day trip outside of Sydney as they are so easy to get to, being only a couple of hours away by car or train!
The train is probably the main way tourists get there and a return ticket costs only AU$13.60 for a return from Central Station to Katoomba. Watch out for the bus guided tours, which cost a lot more - one of my friends took this after forgetting my advice and felt a little ripped off when he realised how much more he'd spent getting there...
Once arriving at Katoomba, you can either take an enjoyable walk through the Art Deco heart of the pleasant town of Katoomba down to the main attraction of The Three Sisters, or you can take a hop on hop off Tram that does a big circuit of all the main points of interest - I say get a tram ticket, as it is an enjoyable way to see the sights!
Conveniently for tourists, the main attractions are all around The Three Sisters rock formation in a sort of tastefully done 'theme park'...
The Scenic Railway
The Visitor Information Centre
The Three Sisters
The Edge Maxvision Cinema
And the Katoomba Falls Reserve
Of course, Katoomba is not the be all and end all of the Blue Mountains as there is a huge array of sights further afield, if you have more than just a day to explore...
Please check out my Blue Mountains VT page for further information on this wonderful and easily accessible tourist mecca.
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.
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.
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