11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in the Blue Mountains
Part of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, Blue Mountains National Park is one of Australia's most famous wilderness areas. The park lies about 60 kilometers from Sydney and is one of the city's most popular day trips. Named for the blue haze emanating from its many eucalyptus trees, the Blue Mountains is a region of stunning mountain scenery. Rugged rock formations, pristine eucalyptus forests, abundant wildlife, waterfalls, ravines, and more than 140 kilometers of hiking trails and heritage tracks make this a haven for nature lovers.
Wilderness adventures abound. The park's dramatic topography provides a superb setting for rock climbing, canyoning, caving, canoeing, abseiling, mountain biking, horseback riding, and camping. If you're less adventurous, you can view the park's top features via scenic lookouts or explore the park on the self-guided Greater Blue Mountains Drive, an interconnected network of roads with 18 Discovery Trails that venture deep into the park. You can also experience the sweeping vistas via cableway, skyway, and the steepest railway in the world.
The region's charming mountain towns are also popular for weekend getaways - especially during summer, when the cooler temperatures provide a welcome refuge from the city heat. You can enjoy the galleries, gardens, gift shops, cafés, and heritage-listed hotels in charming mountain towns such as Katoomba and upscale Leura, where many writers, musicians, and artists make their home.
1 Three Sisters
The Three Sisters, near Katoomba, is the best-known tourist sight in the Blue Mountains. Rising more than 900 meters above the mist-shrouded Jamison Valley, these striking sandstone pillars afford magnificent photo opportunities. At night they are floodlit, creating a hauntingly beautiful effect against the night sky.
According to one Aboriginal legend, the peaks are three sisters bewitched by a tribal elder, who turned them into stone to protect them from three brothers in another tribe. The elder perished, however, before he could reverse his spell. Echo Point offers one of the best viewing areas and marks the starting point for several walking tracks descending into the valley. The Giant Stairway, a trail of more than 800 steps, leads to the base of these stunning peaks.
2 Scenic World
Scenic World offers some of the most popular adventures in the park and is a great way to experience the dramatic topography. Zoom through a cliff side tunnel into an ancient rainforest on the Scenic Railway, the steepest railway in the world. Soar across the forest canopy on the glass-floored Skyway, or plunge into the Jamison Valley on the Scenic Cableway. At your own leisure, you can also stroll along the 2.4-kilometer Scenic Walkway, an elevated boardwalk through the Jurassic rainforest.
Location: Corner of Violet Street and Cliff Drive, Katoomba
3 Govetts Leap Lookout
Perched over the steeply plunging Grose Valley, Govetts Leap Lookout offers one of the most magnificent views in the Blue Mountains. It also tends to be less crowded than Echo Point, which looks out over the Three Sisters. The panorama extends across the main ridge, with its sandstone cliffs, to Bridal Veil Falls and the dense eucalyptus forest below. If you're feeling energetic, you can descend into the valley from the lookout and enjoy the scenery along some of the region's more challenging hikes. Govetts Leap is easily accessible by car. Along the same road, you'll find the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre, with excellent exhibits and information on the area.
Address: Govetts Leap Road, Blackheath
4 Wentworth Falls
Cascading down three tiers of rock ledges, Wentworth Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the park. At the lip of the escarpment, Jamison Creek tumbles 297 meters over the upper and lower falls into a huge pool and gushes down a creek into the Valley of the Waters. Hikes in the area range from easy jaunts to challenging cliff-ledge trails, and you can view the falls from several lookouts. The falls can also be reached along the National Pass walking trail, but they are seasonal, so it's best to check on local conditions before venturing out. In the nearby town of Wentworth Falls, you can stop by the Conservation Hut, an information center, restaurant, and launching point for several popular walking trails.
Katoomba is the largest town in the Blue Mountains and a major tourist hub. Along with the smaller neighboring towns of Wentworth and Leura, Katoomba rapidly developed in the second half of the 19th century from a coal-mining town into a popular holiday resort, easily accessible by rail from Sydney. Centrally situated in Blue Mountains National Park, the town is packed with galleries, boutiques, antique stores, cafés, second-hand bookstores, and excellent restaurants.
Charming Leura, a mere three kilometers east of Katoomba, is known for its health spas and beautiful cool-climate gardens. Cherry trees line the main street, and its 19th-century cottages and Edwardian-style buildings impart the air of an English village. In the village center, Leura Mall is an enticing jumble of antique stores, galleries, gift shops, restaurants, and cafés.
If you're a green thumb, you'll love Everglades Historic House and Gardens. Designed by Danish-born Paul Sorensen, Everglades is a delightful array of native and European-style plantings, with superb vistas of the Jamison Valley. Other tourist attractions include the Toy and Railway Museum and the Leura Garden Festival and Leura Village Fair, both held in October. To the south of Leura, Sublime Point offers stunning views over the Jamison Valley, while a stroll along Prince Henry Cliff Walk leads to Leura Cascades, a delightful picnic spot. From here, you can walk to several waterfalls and lookouts.
7 The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden
Australia's highest botanic garden, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden is the sister to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and a must-see for plant-lovers. The gardens are perched on a basalt peak, about 300 meters above sea level, with beautiful views of the Blue Mountains wilderness.
The main theme of the garden is cool-climate plants, predominantly from the southern hemisphere. You can stroll among gardens grouped by geographical origin and compare and contrast how the plants have evolved across each region. Feature gardens include North American Woodland and the Heath and Heather Garden, and you can take a delightful walk through The Jungle, a 33-hectare tract of Blue Mountains rainforest. At the excellent World Heritage Exhibition Centre here, you can learn about the area's ecosystems through interactive exhibits. Other things to do include guided tours of the gardens, shopping at the garden store, and relaxing at the restaurant and picnic areas.
Address: Bells Line of Road, Mount Tomah
8 Jenolan Caves
On the southwestern edge of the Blue Mountains, Jenolan Caves are some of the oldest caves in the world. You can explore any of ten caverns, with staggering limestone formations, subterranean rivers, and fossilized remains. In the Cathedral chamber of the Lucas Cave, you can also attend musical concerts, which demonstrate the cave's excellent acoustics, claimed to be the best of any performance space in the world. Tours range from adventure cave clamoring to spooky night tours and easy strolls along the boardwalks. Be sure to book in advance. Since the tours can be lengthy, parents with younger children may want to opt for the self-guided tour. In the wilderness around the caves, bushwalking tracks provide ample opportunity to spot native wildlife. Bush cottages are also available here for overnight stays.
Address: 4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves
9 Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum
The sandstone cottage in Faulconbridge, occupied from 1912 to 1969 by the legendary Australian writer and artist, Norman Lindsay, is now a charming museum with a collection of his works. He is perhaps most loved for his children's book, The Magic Pudding, but even if you're not familiar with Lindsay's work, this is still an enjoyable place to visit. The grounds include the etching studio, garden sculptures, a painting studio, and beautiful formal gardens that brim with wisteria in the spring. Guided tours offer valuable insight on the life and works of this celebrated artist.
Address: 14 Norman Lindsay Crescent, Faulconbridge
10 Hiking and Heritage Trails
One of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of this World Heritage wilderness is by exploring some of the park's 140 kilometers of hiking and heritage trails. Many of the trails date from as early as 1825. One of the most popular trails is the historic National Pass. Carved into the edge of a cliff, the trail begins at Conservation Hut and enters the Valley of the Waters. Here, you can admire a set of graceful waterfalls before continuing on to the historic Grand Stairway, hand-built using picks and shovels more than a century ago. The walk ends at Wentworth Falls and Jamison Lookout, with awe-inspiring views.
Another popular trail is the Cliff Top walking track, which skirts the edge of the Grose Valley from Govetts Leap Lookout to Evans Lookout. Afterwards, you can refuel with a hot chocolate at Conservation Hut.
A great family hike is the Jellybean track - especially on a hot summer day. This easy trail descends into Glenbrook Gorge to picturesque Jellybean Pool, which is perfect for swimming with children. After a cool dip, you can enjoy a picnic on one of the sandy beaches. Also great for families, the Fairfax Heritage Track is suitable for wheelchairs and strollers and traces the banks of a hanging swamp through forests of scribbly gums. Before heading out, be sure to check local weather conditions, pack plenty of water, and don't forget to bring a camera.
11 Blue Mountains Heritage Centre
Before heading out on any trails at Govetts Leap, you should pop into the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre. Interactive displays and videos provide useful information on the park, and you can purchase walking track guides, maps, and books on the region. Check here for the schedule of Discovery Walks, which usually take place during school holidays and weekends. Souvenirs, gifts, and clothing are also available for sale.
Address: Govetts Leap Road, Blackheath
Tips and Tours
- To explore the region on a day trip from Sydney, consider joining the Blue Mountains Nature and Wildlife Day Tour from Sydney, which includes a visit to Leura, Katoomba, and the Featherdale Wildlife Park. Another great option is the Small-Group Blue Mountains Day Trip from Sydney with River Cruise, which ends with a scenic cruise along the Parramatta River and into Sydney Harbour.
- Dress warmly in winter, when average park temperatures range between 3°C and 12°C. In summer, the average temperature ranges between 15°C and 25°C.
- Wear sunscreen and a hat when heading out into the wilderness, and bring plenty of water.
- Take binoculars for close-up views of birds and other wildlife.
- Bring basic first aid equipment when packing for long hikes, register the planned route, and advise friends and family of an estimated return time. It's also a good idea to bring a topographic map and compass or a GPS.
- Emergency beacons are available at no charge from the NSW Police Force and National Parks and Wildlife Service.
- Weekends are especially busy, and parking might be limited in some areas.
- For more details on visiting Blue Mountains National Park see:http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/Blue-Mountains-National-Park
By car from Sydney:
- The most direct route is via the M4 Motorway and takes about 90 minutes from the city center.
- A more scenic route begins at Richmond, in Sydney's north west, along Bells Line of Road, through Kurrajong, Mount Tomah, Bell, and Mount Victoria. It takes about two hours. You can stop off at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden and Mount Tomah for lunch.
By public transport:
- Blue Mountains National Park is accessible from several stations, including Blackheath, Glenbrook, Katoomba, Leura, Mount Victoria, and Wentworth Falls.
- See the Bicycle information for NSW website for information on bike-friendly roads, bike safety rules, and other details.