The Blue Mountains in Australia are a place of extraordinary natural beauty, offering breathtaking views of deep forested valleys and soaring sandstone cliffs. There are spectacular landscapes, bushwalks, historic houses and beautiful gardens to enjoy. The Blue Mountains are a popular day trip from Sydney, but I suggest you stay a while if you can.
A quaint old-world village vibe persists in the upper mountains in Leura & Katoomba but especially in Medlow Bath, Blackheath and Mount Victoria. There’s a wide variety of antique shops, gift shops, restaurants and coffee shops. So there are lots of things to do, even on a rainy day.
- Why are The Blue Mountains blue?
- Are the Blue Mountains in Australia worth visiting?
- Reasons to visit the Blue Mountains in Australia
- 1. Escape from the city
- 2. Shop for antiques, art, crafts & local produce
- 3. Visit Katoomba & Scenic World
- 4. Enjoy the beautiful scenery
- 5. Bushwalking in the Blue Mountains
- 6. Heritage Houses, Gardens, Museums & Galleries
- 7. Historic Guesthouses and Hotels
- 8. High Tea in the Blue Mountains
- 9. Wine Tasting in the Blue Mountains
- 10. Meditation Retreats
- 11. Festivals in the Blue Mountains
- Where to eat in the Blue Mountains
- The Blue Mountains Accommodation
- When to visit the Blue Mountains in Australia
- Getting from Sydney to the Blue Mountains
- Final Thoughts
Why are The Blue Mountains blue?
The Blue Mountains in Australia are densely forested with eucalyptus gum trees. Vapour from the eucalyptus oil in the gum leaves causes a blue haze to form over the mountains, and from a distance, they appear blue.
For the early settlers in Sydney, the Blue Mountains were an impenetrable barrier that prevented the expansion of the new colony in Australia, separating the coastal areas from the fertile farmland further inland. The sheer cliffs, deep valleys and dense forests were considered wild and impassable until 1813 when the explorers Blaxland, Lawson & Wentworth followed a route used by the local aboriginal tribes. The path took them along the ridges rather than through the valleys and they forged a pass over the Blue Mountains that opened up the farmland beyond. Today, the Blue Mountains in Australia are a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike.
Are the Blue Mountains in Australia worth visiting?
Yes! The Blue Mountains in Australia are UNESCO world heritage listed and offer spectacular landscapes, gorgeous escarpment and cliff views, dense forests and many scenic walking trails. So if you’ve explored Sydney and you’re looking for a great day trip why not head inland to the beautiful Blue Mountains of Australia.
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Reasons to visit the Blue Mountains in Australia
I love the Blue Mountains, and for me, they are a home away from home. I go there to escape the city, breathe the fresh mountain air and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. The constant hum of the city traffic disappears, replaced by the sound of bird calls and wind sweeping up the valleys and through the trees. The majestic escarpment views and bushlands of the beautiful Blue Mountains restore my spirit and call me back, time after time.
1. Escape from the city
Escape the bustle of the city and head to the Blue Mountains in Australia for fresh air and cooler weather. The lower mountains feel like the outer suburbs of Sydney but when you venture higher up, there’s a quaint old English feel. Restored cottages and heritage buildings with pretty English gardens are plentiful.
Rents are cheaper than in Sydney, and artists & musicians are drawn to the alternative lifestyle and the beautiful surroundings. With such a creative community, the Blue Mountains in Australia are full of art and crafts. Café’s & bakeries cater for the alternative tastes of the locals & it’s easy to find delicious vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free food.
2. Shop for antiques, art, crafts & local produce
I love shopping in the mountains, especially at Leura, Katoomba and Blackheath. There’s an old-world charm in the main street and I love the quirky, quaint shops & cafes. I often find myself gift shopping, especially in Leura. The Upper Blue Mountains have a great selection of specialist boutiques and galleries that sell, arts & crafts, antiques, and gifts.
One of my favourite things to do in the autumn is to buy fresh apples and honey direct from the Logan Brae Orchard on the Shipley Plateau near Blackheath.
3. Visit Katoomba & Scenic World
Katoomba is the largest town in the upper Blue Mountains and a centre for shopping with supermarkets, a hospital and other services. Echo Point and the famous view of the Three Sisters is the main attraction for tourists in Katoomba.
When you’ve seen the stunning view from the Echo Point lookout, head around to Scenic World to ride on the Scenic Skyway, cableway or railway. The Scenic Railway makes the steep descent into the Jamison Valley easily accessible. And the Gondola ride across the valley delivers panoramic views of the Three Sisters, Mount Solitary and the Jamison Valley. The gondolas have a glass floor, so hold on tight and be prepared for some incredible views.
Scenic World is open Thursday to Monday and closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays
4. Enjoy the beautiful scenery
Scenic Drives and stunning views are a feature of the Blue Mountains in Australia. If you follow the Blue Mountains Drive around the cliffs tops from Leura to Katoomba, you’ll pass many beautiful lookout points, picnic spots and walking trails.
The stunning escarpment views in the upper Blue Mountains in Australia will take your breath away. Rugged, forested valleys, plunging waterfalls, wide-open, expansive views and the wild Australian bush stretch as far as the eye can see. Outdoor activities like hiking, rock climbing, and cycling are popular.
Scenic lookouts in the Blue Mountains
There are many scenic viewpoints in the Blue Mountains and these are a few favourites:
- The Three Sisters at Echo Point in Katoomba are a quintessential landmark of the Blue Mountains in Australia and a must-see when you visit. The famous Three Sisters are a unique formation in the sandstone cliffs. The aboriginal tribes of the area, the Gundungurra people, believe that the Three Sisters watch over their ancestral lands in the Jamison Valley.
- Further around the cliff tops on Cliff Drive, Cahill’s Lookout has a sensational view of the Narrow Neck that juts out into the Jamison Valley in Katoomba.
- From Sublime Point in Leura, you can see the other side of the Three Sisters and sweeping views of the Jamison Valley. From the car park, it’s a short walk of around 175 metres to the lookout point.
- Inside the Blue Mountains National Park at Wentworth Falls, there’s a choice of lookout points, and Princes Lookout gives the best view of Wentworth Falls from above. It’s a 20-minute return walk to the lookout point from the car park.
- For more spectacular views of Wentworth Falls, take the National Pass trail to Jamison Lookout and the top of the waterfall. Continue down the steep stairs carved into the cliffside to the valley below for another great view from the base of Wentworth Falls.
- Lincoln’s Rock near Wentworth Falls is a large flat rock that offers spectacular views of the Jamison Valley. The flat rock platform faces west and is a favourite sunset spot. It gets very windy here, so rug up when you go. And take care near the cliff edge as there are no barriers.
- Govetts Leap in Blackheath looks out over the Grose Valley on the opposite side of the ridge to Katoomba. The views are majestic, and the heights are dizzying. Two waterfalls plunge into the Grose Valley at Blackheath, Horseshoe Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
- Evan’s Lookout offers a different angle of the stunning Grose Valley and is the starting point of the popular Grand Canyon hiking trail.
- Baltzer’s Lookout, also known as Hanging Rock, is a spectacular lookout point over the impressive Grose Valley. The main rock climbing scene in the film, “The Edge” was filmed here. You have to walk several kilometres to Hanging Rock or ride a bike along a fire trail to access the dramatic lookout on the cliff edge.
- Hargraves Lookout offers sweeping views of the Megalong Valley and can be found on the western side of the railway line a few kilometres from Blackheath. From the viewpoint, you can see the Hydro Majestic Hotel perched on the clifftop at Medlow Bath. There’s a dirt road into Hargraves Lookout, and the west-facing aspect gives lovely sunset views.
From the Mitchell Ridge lookout, in Mount Victoria, the views stretch as far as the eye can see over the lovely Megalong and Hartley Valleys from one of the highest points in the Blue Mountains.
Hassans Walls in Lithgow is on the other side of the Blue Mountains. It’s a spectacular spot, with gorgeous views of cliffs, mountains and Hartley Valley. Access is via dirt road.
5. Bushwalking in the Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains National Park has many beautiful bushwalks with well-maintained trails. There are short walks to scenic lookout points that all the family can enjoy, and more demanding day walks and multi-day hikes into the valleys for those who are fit and more adventurous. Some of the trails are challenging, with steep sections, ladders and steps chiselled into the sandstone cliff face.
If you’re bushwalking, carry water and warm clothing and wear hiking boots or shoes with a good grip. The weather is changeable, and some of the trails are very steep and difficult along bare cliffs with dizzying drops. People get into trouble, and dramatic rescues happen each year, so be prepared and stay safe.
In 2019, destructive bushfires burnt through the valleys of the Blue Mountains in Australia and some of the trails are still closed for maintenance. Check in at the National Parks Centres in Blackheath and Katoomba for the latest information.
My favourite Short Walks in the Blue Mountains
- The Prince Henry Cliff Walk in Katoomba is one of the most popular walks in the Blue Mountains. There are spectacular views of the Three Sisters and you’ll pass the cable car station along the way. The return walk from Katoomba Falls to Echo Point takes around an hour.
- Descend into the Jamison Valley on the Giant Stairway and walk on a challenging trail from Echo Point to Scenic World in Katoomba. This walk takes 2-3 hours, and you have the option of taking the scenic railway back up the cliff or climbing 800 stairs.
- The Grand Canyon Walk from Evans Lookout in Blackheath is a popular 3-hour walk into the valley. The path follows a stream into the lush green Grand Canyon, and there are some steep sections. The more adventurous will enjoy abseiling into the Grand Canyon on a canyoning expedition.
- The National Pass in Wentworth Falls is an epic walk around the cliffs at the top of sparkling Wentworth Falls. The trail descends via a very steep staircase to the base of the waterfall. Look for the historic photos of walkers from 1912 embedded in the cliff face. It’s not a walk for the faint-hearted, but the views are nothing short of spectacular. The National Pass was partially closed at the time of writing due to a fatal rockfall.
6. Heritage Houses, Gardens, Museums & Galleries
There are many Art Galleries and museums in the Blue Mountains, and there’s no shortage of places to visit for art lovers. Private Art Galleries can be found throughout the Blue Mountains in Australia and you’ll find woodwork, glass art and other crafts among the artwork. Some of the most attractive galleries are housed in heritage National Trust Properties.
The Everglades is a 1930’s Art-Deco Blue Mountains retreat with a large, cool-climate garden and stunning views of the Jamison Valley. The Everglades historic house & garden is a heritage-listed property of the National Trust. There’s a small art gallery, a café and a huge garden to explore at 37 Everglades Ave, Leura. (The Everglades is closed on Tuesdays)
The Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum at Faulconbridge is also a historic property run by the National Trust. The former home of the artist and author Norman Lindsay, the museum now houses Lindsay’s paintings and illustrations and is a post-WW1 museum. The sprawling gardens that surround the family home are full of sculptures. The Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum is open from Thursday to Sunday.
Some other galleries and museums you might enjoy:
- The Treasured Teapot Museum & Tea Rooms in Leura
- The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre regional Art Gallery in Katoomba
- The Falls Gallery in Wentworth Falls shows collectable Australian Art by Some of Australia’s finest Artists
- Lost Bear Gallery in Katoomba showcases contemporary art.
- Leura Fine Woodwork Gallery
- The Nooks Art & Craft Gallery in Leura
And there are many more……..
The Botanical Gardens at Mount Tomah also make a lovely day out. The gardens showcase cool-climate and alpine plants and cover 28 hectares of the UNESCO World Heritage Blue Mountains in Australia.
7. Historic Guesthouses and Hotels
A fun way to experience the heritage of the Blue Mountains in Australia is to stay in a historic guesthouse or hotel. Some of the older hotels and guesthouses were built in the 1800s and still retain the historic appeal of the Victorian era.
Here are a few of my favourites:
- The recently restored Hydro Majestic Hotel in Medlow Bath is indeed majestic. The beautifully decorated building is full of history and charm. Perched on the clifftop at Medlow Bath, the hotel has sweeping views of the Megalong Valley and a myriad of function rooms, nooks and crannies, most of them with a view. The hotel runs history tours and there are some surprises. Australia’s first Prime Minister, Sir Edmond Barton, died at the Hydro Majestic Hotel in 1920.
- Charming and sophisticated, The Carrington Hotel oozes character. The grand old building has beautiful stained glass windows and a ballroom in a great location near the station in Katoomba village.
- Kurrara Historic Guesthouse is a charming place to stay in Katoomba that gets exceptional reviews for its location, ambience and hospitality.
- Leura House is an 1880 Victorian Guest House and restaurant. It’s charming and airy with a beautiful garden.
8. High Tea in the Blue Mountains
A popular way to enjoy the ambience of the historic hotels in the Blue Mountains is to call in for High Tea.
The Hydro Majestic Hotel serves High Tea with a piece of Australian history and the elegance of a bygone era. You’ll enjoy sandwiches, scones and sweets along with amazing views of the Megalong Valley from the luxurious Wintergarden.
Lilianfels in Katoomba and the Fairmont Resort in Leura also serve a stylish High Tea.
9. Wine Tasting in the Blue Mountains
The Megalong Valley has two wineries with open cellar doors just a 20-minute drive from Blackheath. Enjoy rolling hills and escarpment views while you sample the produce of the well-established Vineyards of the Megalong Valley.
The Dry Ridge Estate has an Open cellar door from Friday to Sunday
The Megalong Creek Estate offers cellar-door wine tasting on weekends.
10. Meditation Retreats
The Blue Mountains in Australia are a wonderful place to recharge your batteries and tune out in beautiful world heritage-listed surroundings.
The Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre in Medlow Bath offers silent meditation in the Buddhist tradition with guest instructors catering for beginners and advanced meditators. Spending a weekend in silence is a peaceful experience, and the centre has a lovely garden and provides delicious, wholesome, home-cooked food.
The course teachers are volunteers, but donations are accepted in the Buddhist Tradition. The fee you pay covers the cost of food and basic accommodation.
The Kunsang Yeshe Centre in Blackheath offers a range of activities and retreats for all ages in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. It’s a place of self-discovery and transformation where the development of a peaceful mind and a good heart are encouraged.
11. Festivals in the Blue Mountains
If you’re still looking for a reason to visit the beautiful Blue Mountains in Australia, there are festivals held throughout the year. Here are a few:
- The Blackheath Rhododendron Festival is held on the first weekend of November each year. This festival celebrates spring in the Blue Mountains when the rhododendrons are in flower and covered with gorgeous colourful blooms.
- The Leura Gardens Festival is held over two long weekends in early October when the gardens are in bloom and at their best.
- The Katoomba Winter Magic Festival is a fun event and an annual celebration of the winter solstice with music, street food, dance, street theatre and markets. In 2022 the Winter Magic will happen on Saturday, 18 June.
- Dinosaur Valley in Katoomba runs from November to February. Descend into the Jamison Valley below Scenic World to see the ancient rainforest come to life with an exhibition of life-size pre-historic dinosaurs. It’s a fun event for the whole family, and you can reach the Jurassic Forest on the scenic railway. Dinosaur Valley passes are available online
Where to eat in the Blue Mountains
There are so many great cafes and restaurants in the Blue Mountains. These are just a few of my favourite
Cafes and bars.
- The Victory Theatre Café Blackheath
- The Megalong Valley Tea Rooms
- Blackheath Deli & cafe
- Leura Gourmet Café & Deli
- The Red Door Café Leura
- The Pomegranate Café Katoomba
- The Carrington Hotel bar Katoomba
- Bake House on Wentworth Blackheath
- Blackheath Fish & Chips for takeaway
The Blue Mountains Accommodation
There are accommodation choices for all budgets in the Blue Mountains in Australia.
Upper Mid-Range: I love the historic Carrington Hotel at Katoomba – in the town near shops, cafés and just a short walk to the train station.
Luxury: Lilianfels Resort in Katoomba gets fabulous reviews. Just minutes from Echo Point and the Thre Sisters, the location of Lilianfels is perfect. There’s a resort pool and a spa. High Tea is served in luxury at the hotel.
Logan Brae Retreats offers boutique cabins on an apple orchard with escarpment views on the Shipley Plateau near Blackheath. Enjoy the untamed natural beauty of the Blue Mountains in Australia.
When to visit the Blue Mountains in Australia
Anytime is a good time to visit the Blue Mountains in Australia. The seasons are quite distinct in the mountains and the air is drier than at sea level.
Spring, from September to November, is my favourite time to visit the Blue Mountains. The gardens are in bloom & overflowing with colourful flowers. The rhododendron trees are stunning, covered in pink and red blooms. In spring, the bush comes to life with pops of vibrant colour; yellow wattle, red bottlebrush and waratah. There’s nothing more delightful than coming across the huge, bright red flower of a waratah growing naturally in the bush.
Summers, from December to February, are hot in the Blue Mountains but you can expect the weather to be changeable. Temperatures soar into the 30s but it’s a dry heat and once the sun sets the air cools down. Picnics, swimming & walking in the cool of the valleys are fun summer activities to enjoy in the Blue Mountains.
It’s bushfire season & the fires can be devastating. Just 2 years ago in 2019 hundreds of kilometres of bushlands were blackened by fire and many suburbs and houses (including mine) were threatened. Thousands of kilometres of bushland were destroyed and native wildlife lost their homes. But bushfires are part of life in Australia and the bush is quickly recovering.
Autumn, from March to May, brings cooler weather and less rain. It’s an ideal time for bushwalking. Again the mountains are full of colour. The English gardens with their deciduous trees turn golden, then burnt orange, before they lose their leaves altogether. Autumn is apple season and it’s fun to head out to the Logan Brae Orchard on the Shipley Plateau to buy fresh local apples, apple juice and honey, direct from the farm.
Winter, from June to August, is cold & misty and has a character of its own. Mists blow up the valley and envelope the upper mountains. Sometimes the fog is so thick you can’t see more than a few feet in front of you and this makes driving hazardous. It’s an experience to stand at Echo Point lookout in Katoomba and see nothing but clouds, with the famous Three Sisters disappearing completely behind a thick blanket of mist.
Winter is the time of year to snuggle up in front of a roaring fire with a good book or a movie and a hot chocolate.
Occasionally it snows in the upper mountains but the snow rarely lasts more than a few days.
Getting from Sydney to the Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains in Australia lie 60 km west of Sydney and are easily accessible by road and train. It takes around 2 hours to get to Katoomba in the upper Blue Mountains by car, bus or train.
While it’s easy to catch a train from Sydney, the best way to get around in the Blue Mountains is to drive. Having a car will give you access to more stunning viewpoints. You’ll be able to escape the crowds and explore beyond the main tourist spots of Katoomba and Leura.
Driving to the Blue Mountains
From Sydney, head west towards Penrith, take the M4 motorway from Strathfield, and then the Great Western Highway into the mountains. You can also access the Blue Mountains on the Bells Line of Road from Windsor and Richmond.
Catching a train to the Blue Mountains from Sydney
If you don’t have a car, the Blue Mountains are easily accessible by train. From Central Station in Sydney to Katoomba in the upper Blue Mountains takes around 2 hours each way.
At Katoomba station jump on The Hop-on-hop-off explorer bus. It’s a fantastic way to see the main sights in Katoomba and Leura.
The train from Sydney will also take you to Medlow Bath, Blackheath and Mount Victoria but you’ll have to walk or catch a local bus to get to the lookout points if you don’t have a car.
Another option is to get off the train at Wentworth Falls to see the most impressive of the waterfalls in the Blue Mountains. From Wentworth Falls station it’s a 2-kilometre walk to the Blue Mountains National Park on the Charles Darwin trail. Once you reach the National Park there are lots of trails and lookout points to choose from including the National Pass, one of the most spectacular and hair-raising scenic walks in the Blue Mountains.
The Blue Mountains in a day
Day trippers usually head to Katoomba’s Echo Point and Scenic World to see the famous Three Sisters. The Hop-on-hop-off bus picks up passengers at Katoomba Station and stops at all of the most popular places in Katoomba and Leura. You’ll enjoy stunning scenery, short bushwalks and all the attractions of Scenic World; the Scenic Skyway, Scenic railway and Dinosaur Valley on this tour.
Tours to the Blue Mountains in Australia
Another great option for day trippers to the beautiful Blue Mountains in Australia is to book a Day Tour from Sydney. On a day tour, you’ll see the main sites without the hassle of having to find your way around and you’ll make the most of limited time. Here are some great options:
The Blue Mountains in Australia have so much to offer and are a lovely escape from busy Sydney. You can visit for a day or stay a bit longer to relax and recharge your batteries. I’m sure you’ll love the spectacular landscapes of the Blue Mountains as much as I do.
#2. Travel Insurance – I always use World Nomads so I can concentrate on enjoying my trip without worrying about something going wrong.