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Did you know Australia had mountains? Everyone knows about The Outback and the beautiful coast, but mountains? Sure, they’re not huge like in the Canadian Rockies, but they’re beautiful nonetheless. The Blue Mountains in Australia are perfect for a Sydney day trip or weekend trip from Sydney. If you’re planning on travelling to Australia make sure you add the Blue Mountains to your Australia itinerary. There’s plenty to do in the Blue Mountains, particularly if you like getting outdoors and are up for some adventure. Here are my top picks from the two days we spent roaming around on our visit to the Blue Mountains.
About Australia’s Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains are known for their dramatic scenery of steep cliffs, waterfalls, eucalyptus forests and quaint villages full of galleries and gardens. The biggest town in the area, Katoomba, borders Blue Mountains National Park and the bushwalking trails. Whilst you shouldn’t head there expecting the mountain peaks of the Alps or the Dolomites, the Blue Mountains are still impressive. These mountains are far greener, leafy, full of birds and kangaroos and are more reminiscent of America’s Grand Canyon than a European mountain range.
There are six areas that make up the Blue Mountains National Park. There’s the Katoomba area which is the most visited, particularly by daytrippers from Sydney; the Blackheath area which is perfect for Blue Mountains adventures like biking and hiking; the Glenbrook area in the east with natural swimming holes and Aboriginal art (has an entry fee of $8 per vehicle, per day); and the Lower Grose Valley, Mount Wilson and Southern Blue Mountains areas which are more remote and give you a slice of Australian wilderness.
Where are the Blue Mountains?
The Blue Mountains are west of Sydney in Australia’s New South Wales state. Due to their proximity to the city, you might hear them referred to as being the ‘Blue Mountains of Sydney’, but they’re still a few hours away.
Why are the Blue Mountains blue?
The Blue Mountains of New South Wales get there name as they look blue when viewed from Sydney. The forest is mostly eucalyptus and in the summer sun the leaves of the trees give off a mist of eucalyptus oil. When this mist is refracted in the light the haze around them looks blue from a distance: The Blue Mountains!
When is the best time to visit Blue Mountains, New South Wales?
The best time to visit the Blue Mountains is from Spring to Autumn. Remember that since it’s in the southern hemisphere, the months are different from our spring – autumn!
Visit the Blue Mountains from December to February to experience summer where the trees come alive, clouds blanket the mountains in a mist when it rains and there are plenty of waterfalls. It’s a bit warmer but usually cooler than in the cities.
For those looking to hike the Blue Mountains visit in autumn (March to May) as the temperatures have cooled down and there’s less rain too.
Spring is also a great time to visit (September – November) as the flowers come back to life.
If you’re visiting in Australia’s winter (June – August) the weather is still okay. It’s cooler than you might expect but is generally still pleasant. However, it’s peak season for tourists so expect things to be busier.
How to get to the Blue Mountains from Sydney
Chances are you’ll be going to the Blue Mountains from Sydney. Getting to the Blue Mountains from Sydney is easy but can take some time depending on the traffic. You can drive or get the Sydney to Blue Mountains train; information on both of which is below. Whilst it’s totally possible to make a Blue Mountains trip from Sydney in a day, I’d recommend giving yourself at least one night in Katoomba, to properly see the area.
Driving to the Blue Mountains
The town of Katoomba in the Blue Mountains is about 1.5 hour’s drive away from Sydney. The distance from Sydney to Blue Mountains is roughly 100km. This means that it’s completely feasible to do a Blue Mountains day trip from Sydney.
The most direct route is to take the M4 and then the A32 westbound. However, check directions to the Blue Mountains before you go, as traffic can make other routes easier.
If you need to rent a car in Australia, I highly recommend checking out RentalCars.com. They make it super easy to compare deals between companies so you know you’re getting the right deal for you. It’s who I use whenever I need to hire a car abroad!
Train from Sydney to Katoomba
It’s also possible to take public transport to the Blue Mountains from Sydney. It takes slightly longer but the plus is there’s no time wasted in traffic!
The Blue Mountains train leaves from Central Station in Sydney, as well as a few other smaller stations. Look for the train to Mount Victoria via Parramatta and get off at the Katoomba station which is the Blue Mountains train station.
The train runs hourly and, from Sydney Central, return tickets cost $16.80 off-peak. You can see the full Blue Mountains train timetable here.
Whilst you can get the bus to the train station and then on to the Blue Mountains, there is no bus to Blue Mountains from Sydney that’s direct.
Where to stay in the Blue Mountains
The largest town in the Blue Mountains is Katoomba and this is where the largest choice of accommodation in the Blue Mountains is. Below are some of the best hotels in Blue Mountains National Park and the surrounding area that are suitable for budget travellers.
Budget-friendly hotels near Katoomba
Here are some of the best places to stay in the Blue Mountains on a budget.
Blue Mountains YHA: This youth hostel in the Blue Mountains is just 700m away from the Katoomba train station. The hostel offers single-sex dorms as well as private rooms and can help organise Blue Mountains tours.
Blue Mountains Backpacker Hostel: This hostel is super close to the train station, has dorms, private rooms and family rooms and plenty of space to hang out in making it a great choice for solo travellers looking for accommodation in Blue Mountains National Park.
Echo Point Motor Inn: This inn is just 200m away from Echo Point and the Three Sisters viewpoint. It’s an ideal location for exploring the Blue Mountains National Park in Australia.
What to do in Blue Mountains, Australia
Check out this list of the best things to do in the Blue Mountains including the top attractions in Blue Mountains National Park with great views!
Best tours in the Blue Mountains
Short on time and looking for the best Blue Mountains tours to show you the highlights? Here are a few highly recommended tours in the Blue Mountains which will take you to the top places to visit in Blue Mountains National Park.
- Blue Mountains 4×4 adventure drive with a local guide
- Sydney to Blue Mountains tour at sunset
- Blue Mountains day trip from Sydney with lunch and travel included – the ultimate Blue Mountains one day trip.
- A Blue Mountain sunset bushwalking tour – This Sydney Blue Mountains tour takes you on a sunset walk for the best views!
Blue Mountains National Park Map
Check out this Blue Mountains attractions map which I’ve added all the top Blue Mountains sightseeing spots and the best Blue Mountains places to visit which are included below in more detail. It’s also got the best bushwalks in Bue Mountains National Park included on it too.
Wentworth Falls is one of the most beautiful towns in the Blue Mountains and is the starting point of many a great bushwalk. The town of Wentworth Falls was one of the first places we came to in the Blue Mountains and it’s definitely worth making a stop here as it’s one of the top things to see in the Blue Mountains.
Follow Falls Rd, south of the town, until you get to an incredible view point of the Blue Mountains. From here there are numerous small hikes in the Blue Mountains that you can take, on well-maintained paths. Jamison Lookout is well worth walking to for the views as well – I’d even say it’s one of the best walks in the Blue Mountains.
Hiking in the Blue Mountains National Park
One of the best adventures in Blue Mountains, NSW is to go hiking. You simply can’t come to the Blue Mountains without doing a hike, even a small one!
We didn’t do any big hikes due to being a little short on time, but we did make sure to get out of our car regularly and walk up and around the sites. Walking around the trails is one of the best activities in the Blue Mountains and there’s no need for it to be too strenuous either.
The routes are all well mapped out and you could easily spend several days walking through the Blue Mountains and making the most of the free campsites dotted throughout the park.
Best hikes in Blue Mountains
If you’re looking for Blue Mountains hikes, then check out this list of the top 5 best walks in Blue Mountains National Park.
- Round Walk Track near Katoomba
- Leura Cascades Walking track
- Grand Canyon Walk
- Clifftop walking track
- National Pass
Visit Scenic World in the Blue Mountains
We skipped this one as we were on a very tight budget what with a trip to Hong Kong & Southern China and our move to Canada on the horizon, but this would be a great addition to a Blue Mountains itinerary, especially if you’re wondering what to do in the Blue Mountains with kids.
Scenic World is an area of the Blue Mountains near Katoomba that has cable cars, walkways and a railway to give you the most incredible views of these mountains in Australia. If you want to dedicate a day just to explore the nature and landscape of the mountains (and you totally should) then Scenic World is a must.
Go shopping in Leura
Another of the top Blue Mountains attractions is the quaint town of Leura. Leura is a popular stop-off for visitors to the Blue Mountains. It is one of the oldest towns in the area and has Edwardian storefronts and 19th-century cottages. Coming from England we’re a bit spoilt when it comes to pretty, old buildings, but there’s no denying Leura had some charm.
It’s great for some browsing of antiques in the Blue Mountains and it’s also home to some of the best art galleries in the Blue Mountains area too. Since it was raining for much of our visit to the area, browsing and window shopping in Leura made a great escape from the weather!
See the Three Sisters, Blue Mountains
The Three Sisters is the most well-known of all the attractions in the Blue Mountains National Park. The rock formation of the Three Sister is just outside one of the larger town of Katoomba.
The best time to visit The Three Sisters is definitely early or late. There are a lot of tour buses that stop here so try and beat them there so you’re not jostling elbows with each other. There’s also a great viewpoint that looks down onto the rocks, or you can take it one step further and get up close to them…
Walk to the Three Sisters
From the Three Sister’s viewing point, it’s just a short walk towards the Giant Stairway where you can cross a bridge on to the first of the Three Sisters.
Getting to the bridge involves some steep, not very even stairs, so if you’re not a fan of heights maybe stick to the viewing platform, but otherwise it’s great to have a different perspective of these famous rocks.
Go camping in the Blue Mountains
There are plenty of places to go camping in the Blue Mountains and many of the camping spots are completely free!
As there is so little light pollution in the Blue Mountains, camping here means you’ll get to see an amazing night sky. We opened the doors in our campervan and watched the stars above; counting satellites and hoping for shooting stars.
The Blue Mountains National Park website has a list of all the camping sites in the park, both free and paid for.
Drive the scenic Megalong Valley
The Megalong Valley is one of the highlights of a Blue Mountains trip. Driving down through the valley is breathtaking as you head deep into the heart of the Blue Mountains. You’ll drive through lush rainforest and come out to open fields full of kangaroos on the valley floor with the heights of the Blue Mountains reaching high around you.
Go kangaroo spotting
Whilst most people are looking at the landscape, for us one of our favourite Blue Mountains tourist attractions were the kangaroos! If you’re not from Australia you may think the same thing too.
In Australia, kangaroos roam free and the first time you see one you’re bound to get excited. We pulled over many a time to watch kangaroo families in the fields of the Megalong Valley. They’re Thom’s favourite animal now!
They’re not the only animals in the Blue Mountains. You may also see koalas and dingos or the tiger quoll which is an unusual type of marsupial native to Australia – I imagine they’re pretty hard to spot though!
Have tea at the Megalong Valley Tea Rooms
The Megalong Valley Tearooms have a strong reputation and have been open in the Megalong Valley for the last 60 or so years. It’s a great stopping off point when you’re driving the Megalong Valley. Enjoy a cream tea, scone, or apple pie while warming up next to the fire in winter, or a filling breakfast or lunch under the trees in summer. It’s definitely one of the best cafes in the Blue Mountains.
Eat a pie at Old Church Cafe in Leura
The Old Church Cafe towards the end of Leura Mall does a tasty meat pie. It was raining when we visited and a warming pie was just what we needed! Order at the front and then make your towards the back where there are some comfy seats, a fireplace and newspapers to browse while you take a break.
Relax and take in the views
Take a break from walking, shopping and driving to pull over somewhere and just sit and look out at the Blue Mountains. Everywhere we went in the park we were treated to fantastic views with lots of greenery and tonnes of wildlife. It’s a pretty nice spot to have so close to the city!