Just a two-hour train ride from Sydney’s CBD, you can whisk yourself away to the calming but utterly awe-inspiring setting of the Blue Mountains. 10 times older than the Grand Canyon these impressive formations and valleys are covered in eucalypt, the primary source for the blue haze that gives the Blue Mountains their name.
They span over a massive 267,954 hectares, so there’s plenty to see and walk through! They’ve also been on Dan’s must-see list since we landed in Perth nearly a year ago.
We’d recommend spending two days and a night there to be able to see the main highlights. If you have longer even better. It’s worth noting that your plans can change on the weather i.e. the cloud cover is so thick you can’t see past the safety railing! We had to wait for sunny conditions, so it’s best if you can be flexible.
The main geological attractions to look out for are:
- The Three Sisters at Echo Point Katoomba – a triplet of sandstone peaks
- Wentworth Falls – large waterfall with great walks (check out the National Pass)
- Govetts Leap at Blackheath
- Leura Cascades – tinkling waterfalls and a nice picnic area
- Jenolan Caves – one of the worlds most spectacular cave formations (unfortunately, we didn’t get round to these!)
Here’s what we got up to in our 48 hours in the Blue Mountains.
After a little drive around the area and stocking up on groceries, we stopped in the tourist hub of Katoomba – where we had a great sticky toffee pudding in a local café and planned what we wanted to see. We knew we’d arrived in the right place as everyone was head to toe in walking gear.
You can get the train direct to Katoomba from Sydney. This costs around $6.08 with a normal Opal card, outside peak hours, and it takes roughly two hours to get there. If you get a train on a Sunday, the Opal card caps at $2.70 which we thought was amazing from Sydney transport *claps*. You can plan your train journey here.
We spent our first day visiting some well-known, but unfortunately cloudy, spots as the weather wasn’t great. We visited Wentworth Falls and Pearsons lookout over Capertee Valley. The Pearsons lookout isn’t technically in the Blue Mountains but if you’re out that way (it’s about an hour drive from Katoomba), it’s the second largest enclosed canyon in the world so well worth a visit. However, as you can see, this is why you need to be flexible unless you’re happy seeing sweet fanny adams!
We camped at Lake Wallace which is a free campsite for up to 48 hours. A gem we found on one of our favourite camping apps, which you can read more about here. Under an hour drive to Katoomba (with incredible views along the way) the campsite setting is amazing. Lake Wallace is a huge plot of land around a massive lake and you can park wherever you’d like.
It’s a great place to kick back on your camp chairs with a brew and watch the sun go down. There are free hot showers, a toilet block and local shops/cafes a couple of minutes’ drive away. Just make sure to take drinking water.
Back to Katoomba and off to Scenic World! This is the easiest option to see the main sights. The main pulling point of Scenic World is their three awesome rides, the Scenic Skyway, Cableway and Railway, all with incredible vantage points. It’s great for kids and adults alike. If you’re heading from Katoomba on public transport, they have shuttles called the Blue Mountains Explorer or hop on the public 686 bus. Or, if you’re up for a bit of a walk it’s only 3km.
Start the day with a ride on the world’s steepest passenger railway. It’s been operating since 1945 and its glass-roofed carriages give you an immersive experience as you descend into the jungle. The carriages slope down at a 52-degree incline, with the option to up your thrill ride and set your seat to 64 degrees. Gab nearly fell off! The railway passes through a cliff-side tunnel and descends a massive 310 metres. If that wasn’t enough, they play the Jurassic Park theme as you set off, this is the real deal!
The train takes you down to the Scenic Walkway, a boardwalk through Jurassic rainforest. Here you can enjoy the tranquil sounds of bird life and the occasional mini waterfall. The walks vary in length and are wheelchair and pushchair friendly (although please note they can become slippery after rainfall and there are some steep parts!) so there’s something for everyone. Walking around this other world makes you feel completely detached from the city of Sydney only 100km away.
When you’re finished pottering around, follow the boardwalk round to the Scenic Cableway. These cable cars are a lot bigger than your average two-five seaters! Also wheelchair and pushchair friendly, there’s enough room to fit multiple families in and still be able to see out the floor to ceiling glass windows. It’s a 545m journey up to the top and offers a great photo opportunity for the Three Sisters, Orphan Rock, Mt Solitary and Katoomba Falls.
The Cableway takes you straight back to the gift shops/café so grab a coffee before heading for the next ride and set of trails. The final attraction is the Scenic Skyway. A glass pod, suspended 270m above the rainforest canopy, offering 360-degree views and the best spot to really appreciate the vast expanse. It’s relatively slow moving so you can take it all in and has a glass bottom platform for anyone who loves to look down from dizzying heights.
The Skyway is the best place to take photos of the Katoomba falls, as it takes you over another canyon to the east station. Disembark and enjoy bush trails to Echo Point and along the valley for more lookouts.
On a budget?
We bought tickets on the day, costing $78 for two adults with discount cards, you can book online for the saver rate of $39 per adult. They also offer good packages for families. That said if you arrive on the day and don’t have a discount card it’s $43 per adult, so pretty pricey. We got the whole thing done in around three hours it can be an expensive morning out.
If you’re on a backpacker budget and can’t spend the $80 then head over to the east side and take the free bush trails. You don’t have to have a ticket to Scenic World to go on these walks along the valley edge and over to Echo Point. You do, however, need a ticket to take the Skyway or any of the Scenic World attractions.
If it’s amazing views on a budget you’re after, then this is the best option!
Is Scenic World worth the entry price? We’d say so, especially if you’ve saved money in a free campsite! The rides are really good fun and it’s the best way to see the scenery in all its glory.
However, it’s worth getting there EARLY. We arrived at 9am and the car park was already full, luckily there weren’t queues for rides at that point and the coaches full of people hadn’t arrived yet! This was an advantage because you can get to the edges of the rides to get better views.
By the time we left around 12/12:30pm all of the attractions were pretty packed. Get there early, it’s worth it.
The weather was getting worse as the day went on so we tried our luck with a couple of the other lookouts, like Govetts Leap lookout, but as you can see the clouds can roll in quickly and unmercifully!
The best tips are,
- The lookouts like Wentworth falls and Govetts Leap are completely free and have accessible trails
- Still wear sturdy footwear, especially if it’s been raining
- Lake Wallace is a brilliant free campsite (48 hrs.)
- The trails to Echo Point and Three Sisters are also free (bonus)
- Check the weather, seriously it could ruin your whole trip!
- Sticky toffee pudding is always a good idea (especially when you’ve been rained on)