Ah, the Blue Mountains; a place that will always have my heart. My wife and I got engaged here and we had some very memorable times during our travels.
This is my little guide to spending a weekend in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales.
Just a mere 1.5 hours west of Sydney lie the Blue Mountains; a place that will forever be one of my favourite places in the world. The mountains not only bring cooler and fresher air but awe-inspiring views across canyons filled with eucalyptus trees that photos can do no justice to. No trip to Australia would be complete without spending at least a weekend in the Blue Mountains.
Whilst there are plenty of day trips that stumble up from the coast, you would be doing this UNESCO world heritage site a dis-service. There is so much to experience in the Blue Mountains that you really need a few days to take it slow and explore everything that it has to offer. From iconic landmarks and stunning views to bush walks and fresh mountain air, you won’t regret visiting.
A GUIDE TO A WEEKEND IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS, AUSTRALIA
The Three Sisters are no doubt the most famous of landmarks in the Blue Mountains. If you’ve ever heard of the Blue Mountains before, this is what you will have in mind.
You cannot possibly spend a weekend in the Blue Mountains without seeing the Three Sisters especially from the viewpoint at Echo Point in Katoomba. Just bear in mind, all of the coaches with day trippers come here so try and visit either early morning or late evening. We visited a few times and, in the late evening when the golden sun makes the Three Sisters look spectacular, it was pretty quiet.
Whilst you’re here, do not miss the short walk that takes you literally on to the first of the Three Sisters. A very steep set of stairs carved into the rock take you down to the Honeymoon Bridge which connects to the first rock. This is not one for those afraid of heights. Let’s just say it took me forever to get down (and back up) the stairs, clinging on for dear life. It’s not that bad as there are railings to stop you falling but you are seriously high up here. However, this was one of the stand out memories for me from ten months in Australia!
Paragon Cafe, Katoomba
Another Katoomba icon but this time in the form of the heritage listed Paragon Cafe. The Paragon Cafe was an institution famed for its handmade chocolates which, until recently, was housed in a building that had been a cafe for 102 years. I understand that due to issues with the lease sadly Paragon Cafe has had to move premises but I’m sure it is equally as impressive. In any event, the chocolates, cakes and drinks will more than make up for it!
Scenic World is a tourist attraction in Katoomba offering classic views of the Three Sisters and Jamison Valley alongside some cool cable cars and the impressive Scenic Railway.
Scenic Railway is something that you have to experience to believe. Really something like this should be in Alton Towers or Universal Studios. This is the steepest railway gradient in the world! Where else can you hurtle 310 metres down a cliff edge on a staggering 52 degree incline with thoughts of impending death all in the name of good old-fashioned fun? Not only that, it’s very convenient way to reach the valley bottom for some true Australian bush walking.
If you’re a true adrenaline seeker, tip your seat to the cliffhanger position to experience a 64 degree incline. Insane. Also, keep a tight hold off your drinks bottles as they WILL end up at the front of the carriages no matter where you’re sat. I think now’s a good time to apologise for whoever felt the full force of our two metal water bottles flying through the air. Sorry.
As well as the scenic railway, you’ll find two cable cars one of which crosses directly over the valley with a glass floor allowing for a fully immersive experience.
To be honest, anywhere you go in the Blue Mountains it’s all about those views. You might think once you’ve seen it once that’s it, but every time you look you see something slightly different. You’ll be in constant awe at the scale of the canyons and the seemingly never-ending eucalyptus trees.
I think we paid $45 each to enter Scenic World which, granted, is a bit expensive considering the views are exactly the same as you would see at Echo Point for free. However, you do get to go on the cable cars, the scenic railway and have a little walk in the bush with relative safety. It wasn’t that busy when we went either so I quite enjoyed it!
For more information and to book cheaper early-bird tickets, visit Scenic World’s website here.
Red Hands Cave
I’ve always been fascinated by stories of early man (no creationism here folks) so you can guess how excited I was when the first stop on our Blue Mountains adventure was in Glenbrook; home of the Red Hands Cave. As you’ll see, clearly not the most enthralling attraction but to see stencils of hands from thousands, if not tens of thousands, of years ago is pretty impressive.
The cave is only a 8km return walk through the Australian bush but, if you want to do things the difficult way, you could always drive the 26km return along a bumpy fire track. For the life of me I can’t remember why on earth we decided to drive; probably thinking it would save a lot of time and this was only our first stop of the first day. However, given the conditions of the road and not wanting to destroy the suspension on our new campervan, it took absolutely ages.
However, the stencils were still worth the long drive. I think they were actually the most impressive we’d seen during our travels in Australia though we didn’t quite make it up to Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory where I’ve read they are some incredible pieces of rock art.
Wentworth Falls is not only the name of the penultimate village before Katoomba but also the name of the mightily impressive waterfall just inside the Blue Mountains National Park. There are plenty of lookouts around here including Princes Rock which probably has the best view of Wentworth Falls.
You can also stretch your legs and head down to the waterfall itself before returning, like we did, using the Undercliff track which was lovely. A gentle reminder that this is essentially a double waterfall with the second dropping right down into the valley. The safety barriers are therefore for a reason. I saw so many people jumping the barriers and clambering down the slippery rock for selfies which is not cool at all.
Govett’s Leap & Evans Lookout, Blackheath
Some of the Blue Mountain’s most famous views are from these easily accessed lookouts. The lookouts at Katoomba and Wentworth Falls look due South whereas at Blackheath, you’ll see a completely different area of the Blue Mountains. Both of these locations make the most of eastern views so I can only imagine how good they’d be at sunrise but, equally, very good during the day. At Govett’s Leap, you’ll get the benefit of a waterfall cascading over the edge of the cliffs before dropping 600 foot into the abyss.
We didn’t get chance to go but Pulpit Rock is very close by and would be worth seeing for a different angle of the valley.
Lincoln’s Rock is so insane, it really cannot be missed on a trip up to the Blue Mountains. We went here for sunrise the morning after we got engaged (hence the ring photo) and it was mesmerising. The sunrise was one of the best I’ve ever seen with the colour of the sky lighting up the entire Jamison Valley below. The rock itself is a travel photographer’s dream offering a little perch literally on the edge of the cliff. Granted, it’s a little illusion and you’re not actually facing a drop of over 300 foot to the valley floor rather a 20 foot drop that would still take some getting out of. Please be careful!
Definitely not the best place to sit if you’re afraid of heights but certainly the place to watch the sunrise (albeit from behind you). There was only us and a group of four people praying on Lincoln’s Rock that particular morning. I can imagine that sunset will be packed full of travellers so set the alarm and get here early.
For location, it’s just outside Wentforth Falls off Tablelands Road. Those directions won’t help too much but Google Maps and local signposts will bring you straight here.
What I Wish I Hadn’t Missed In The Blue Mountains
Hanging Rock, Blackheath – To think we were so close to Hanging Rock and completely missed it pains me to this day. If you have a search on Instagram or even Google, you’ll see how absolutely incredible the photos are from this place. One day I will get a photo here though I will need to find a willing subject to go up on the rock; I’ve read that you need to jump across an 80cm gap to gain access. Falling down the gap is obviously not advised as apparently it is a long way down. So this one is quite dangerous so again anyone checking this out, be extremely careful and use your common sense!
Kanagra-Boyd – Jenolan Caves & Plateau Walk – Another one that I’m absolutely gutted about not just for the views but also Jenolan Caves that look awesome. This area is over an hours drive from the main sights of the Blue Mountains so may not fit into everyone’s trip but I’d definitely check this out if I ever went back.
Where To Stay In The Blue Mountains
If I visited again, I’d definitely want to splash out on a little luxury with a night at the Hydro Majestic Hotel. The hotel is roughly half way between the main towns of Katoomba and Blackheath and looks absolutely beautiful. I’m sure the views alone would make this entirely worth it.
However, many a traveller visiting the Blue Mountains won’t be in a position to stay in luxury and may not even want to. If you’re in a campervan, I’d recommend staying at the Blackheath Glen Tourist Park which isn’t badly priced (unpowered = $35 per night for 2 adults). Alternatively, if you’re not in the spending mood at all, I’m sure you’d get away with free camping around here. We certainly did.
If you need any more tips on spending a weekend in the Blue Mountains, want personal travel advice or just fancy a chat, feel free to leave a comment below!