Wilderness at the doorstep of one of the world’s largest cities. That’s a pretty accurate introduction to the Blue Mountains in Australia. Covering about a million (!) hectares, the vast forests of the Blue Mountains in NSW lie within an hour’s drive from Sydney.
It is an area of true wilderness, consisting mostly of temperate eucalypt forest, valleys and mountain ranges. It is an easy day trip from Sydney to the Blue Mountains and strongly recommended if you’re staying in Sydney. After buying a car in Australia’s largest metropolis, I spent two days . Although my first day was quite rainy, I ended up having an absolute blast.
Most people visit just the Blue Mountains National Park in New South Wales, which is actually a part of the much, much larger . The reason the region was included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List is the combination of exceptional cultural value, vegetation and geographic features. Although they are called ‘mountains’, the Blue Mountains, NSW are an enormous incised sandstone plateau. Most of it is still unspoiled and it is the largest protected piece of bushland in Australia.
Blue Mountains in Australia: Things to Do
The funny thing is that most visitors don’t actually set foot in the national park. Usually they just stay around the lookouts and go on rides on one of the gondolas or aerial tramways. Although those lookouts do offer spectacular views, there is so much more to do.
I spent two days hiking. The Giant Staircase is probably one of the most popular trails, running steeply down a cliffside towards Jamison Valley below. At the bottom there is access to several other hiking trails. Waterfalls are one of the main highlights of the region and I went to Wentworth Falls and Leura Falls.
The biggest attraction, though, is the Three Sisters. This world-famous rock formation plays a central part in the local Aborigines’ story of creation. It is a fantastic sight. The Three Sisters and Jamison Valley can be seen from the Echo Point Lookout, about two kilometers south of Katoomba, the region’s main tourist town. With about four million annual visitors, it is by far the most popular place in the entire Blue Mountains region in NSW.
Other attractions are the Katoomba Scenic Railway, a former part of the mining trams in Katoomba and now a tourist train that runs on 52-degree tracks, and the Scenic Skyway, a cable car with a glass bottom that crosses Jamison Valley. Both attractions are located in the tourist complex that is Scenic World.
The area is dotted with scenic lookouts, spectacular waterfalls and great hiking trails, but also with excellent restaurants, art galleries and museums.
The Blue Mountains in Australia can easily be reached from the Sydney CBD by car rental, bus or train. Depending on your transportation method it takes one to two hours to get there.
It is one of the most visited natural areas in Australia and it’s easy to see why. It’s extremely accessible, yet wild, rugged and spectacular.