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Surrounded by the slate coloured haze that gave them their name, the iconic Blue Mountains of New South Wales are a peaceful getaway from Sydney. The trademark blue haze comes from oil given off by the eucalyptus trees that frequent the region. A network of walking trails with captivating viewpoints stretches throughout the Blue Mountains. It is possible to visit on a day trip but this scenic area deserves more attention.
Public transport can be used to get to the area. Once in Katoomba, the main town, there is a hop on, hop off Blue Mountains Explorer Bus. This will transport you to many stops throughout the Katoomba and Leura area. For a bit more freedom, consider a car/van as you will be able to reach more bushwalks and complete things at your own leisurely pace. The mountains are a simple drive up the M4, if coming from Sydney. In either case, it should not take more than two hours to reach Katoomba.
Things to Do:
- Street Art Walk: If bushwalking is not your thing, there is a short but sweet Street Art Walk in Katoomba that might interest you.
- Scenic World: While we opted out of this popular attraction in favour of more bushwalking, many people find it quite enthralling. There are four main attractions: a cable car, a train ride, a skyway, and a walkway. The train was pretty tempting after our trek down the Giant’s Staircase but we persevered and walked up the Furber Steps instead.
- Jenolan Caves border between the Blue Mountains National Parks and the Kanangara-Boyd National Park. Many of the tours here are paid; however, you will drive through a cave on your way in. Plus, the Visitor Centre can provide you with a map to a simple, free walk to the Nettle Cave and Devils Coach House. This will give you a pleasant taste of the caves if the guided tours are not in your budget (They were not in mine, so I feel you).
- Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens and Restaurant: We did not make it here but they are renowned for being the highest Botanic Gardens in Australia. If I ever find myself in the Blue Mountains again, I will be sure to check them out.
- Echo Point: The most common starting point in the Blue Mountains, Echo Point offers a great view of The Three Sisters. It tends to be a bit crowded as it is one of the most coveted ways of visiting the sisters. If, like me, simply looking at a viewpoint and leaving is not quite enough then stay tuned because many bushwalks begin from here as well.
- Sublime Point: Quieter but no less stunning, this viewpoint in Leura will leave you feeling content
- Evans Lookout: On the drive towards Blackheath, a quick stop at Evans Lookout will give you a different perspective of the mountains.
- Valley View Lookout: Found near Evans Lookout, this offers similarly stunning views.
- Govetts Leap Lookout: A popular lookout for visitors to Blackheath.
- Rocket Point Lookout: This is a lookout from Wentworth Falls, so it does require a bit of walking to get to. Once there, the lookout can be found on the opposite side of the falls.
- Kanangara Walls- Technically, found in the Kanangara-Boyd National park adjoining the Blue Mountains. This viewpoint is worth a detour if you plan on visiting the Jenolan Caves during your visit.
- Wear closed toe shoes. There are snakes and spiders that can kill you out there. However, they are not as commonly spotted as the world would have you believe.
- Avoid longer grass. Long grass serves as a bit of a snake haven.
- Stomp occasionally or walk a bit heavy footed. Snakes can feel the vibrations from your feet and will know to avoid you.
- Use a walking stick. At the very least, when used correctly they help conserve energy. We also heard from someone that snakes will occasionally attack the sticks rather than you if you inadvertently make them feel threatened. We do not typically use a walking stick though.
- While it is important to talk about how to protect yourself from a potential snake or spider bite, do not let this scare you off. In four months of being in Australia, we have only come across one snake on a bushwalk and he slithered off in the other direction. You would be remiss to skip out on bushwalks due to fear. Generally, we stomp if we see that the path is narrow and longer grass is beside it. Or jokingly, any time we feel slightly uncomfortable. For more information on snakes check this out.
- Bring lots of sunscreen, water, and snacks. Many of these walks do not provide places to stop along the way to replenish your supplies.
- For more information on bushwalking safety, check this out!
The Visitor Centre at Echo Point will provide you with maps (for a fee) and at the very least go over some options for walking trails to suit you. Before you start any hike, it is a good idea to take a picture of the map. Australian walking tracks are not as clearly marked as I have become accustomed to in Canada. In addition, let people know your plans. This is especially important if you plan to engage on any longer walks as they may be less frequented by fellow walkers.
- The Gully Walk (1km): A very easy walk to experience Aboriginal Culture.
- Prince Henry Cliff Walk (7km one way): This can be broken up into a smaller portion just to get a taste of it. We did not end up doing the whole walk but the parts we did were fantastic.
- Honeymoon Bridge(550m): From Echo Point, you can walk down to the Honeymoon Bridge, which takes you to one of the Three Sisters.
- Furber Steps (2.4 km)- Can be a bit steep but alternative option to paying for the Scenic World train back up to the top. Quite lovely views.
- Wentworth Falls via Undercliff Track (3.5 km): This short walk to the falls offers great views along the way. Wentworth Falls themselves were running low when we visited but that did not take away from the stunning scenery. Look for the Rocket Point lookout for a new perspective.
Half Day Walks
- The Grand Canyon (5 km): This walk sets out from the Evans Lookout point. We did not get a chance to do it but it is listed as have some strenuous ascent and descent but that it is well worth it.
- Golden Stairs Walk (8km): Leaving from Scenic World this walk takes you to the Ruined Castle (a rock formation).
- Giants Stairway (4.7km one-way): Leaving from the Honeymoon Bridge area, this is approximately 900 steep steps. It slaughtered my legs. At the bottom you are faced with optional walking tracks or going back up them. Going down the staircase can be a lovely start to some other walks. We took the Furber Steps back to the top after a brief stop at Katoomba Falls.
Six Foot Track- This is an overnight hike, with campsites along the way for the more adventurous soul. We did not attempt it as we are not properly set up for overnight hiking. However, we would love to do it one day. A small portion of it can be done from Blackheath to a suspension bridge.
Where to Eat in the Blue Mountains
After all that bushwalking, you will probably be wondering where to grab some food. There is both a Woolworths and a Coles, for any groceries you may need. If you are not up to cooking, then here are my top three food spots in Katoomba.
- The Yellow Deli: The Yellow Deli offers nutrition but not at the expense of flavour. The bread that served alongside the chili was divine. Plus, they have delectable drinks such as a dandelion latte.
- Station Bar & Woodfired Pizza: The name says it all. Come here for a creative twist on woodfired pizzas with options to suit every palate.
- Gingerbread Café: Offering simple but tasty sandwiches, this is a great stop for lunch. The true glory; however, is the monstrous desserts. The carrot cake was our favourite but we could not help browsing the candy selection.
As a budget traveller, I tend to limit eating out to once or twice per week and aspire to cook the rest of my meals. Sadly, this makes it hard to try everything. Where are your favourite places to eat in the Blue Mountains?
Shopping in the Blue Mountains
If any of your camping goods break or you find you need something, there is also a Salvos and a Vinnies here for a quick thrift shop stop.
Otherwise, there are a variety of camping stores for vital purchases.
What to Pack for the Blue Mountains
Even on a hot day it can be quite chilly overnight. So, pack warm and cold clothes. For me, my Kathmandu coat was a life saver.
We went in October and had the weird experience of misting rain. Essentially, it was impossible to escape, it was like the rain was clinging to the area, longing to attach itself to you from every possible direction. In the winter, the Blue Mountains may also get snow.
The Blue Mountains come for the views but stay for the array of walks and waterfalls. For more on where to stay, including FREE campsites, you might be interested in perusing this article.
We spotted kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats in the Blue Mountains. As always, take caution when driving and avoid any driving at dusk or dawn as that is when these animals are most active.
What are your favourite things to do in the Blue Mountains?
What I Never Bushwalk Without: