11 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in the Blue Mountains, Australia
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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 in New South Wales 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.
See also: Where to Stay in the Blue Mountains
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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 weekend getaways from Sydney - especially during summer, when the cooler temperatures provide a welcome refuge from the city heat. You can enjoy the galleries, lush 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.
For ideas on other places to visit in this ruggedly beautiful region, check out our list of the top attractions and things to do in the Blue Mountains, Australia.
1. The Three Sisters
The Three Sisters, near Katoomba, is the best-known tourist attraction 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. However, the elder perished 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 Blue Mountains National Park. It's 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 Scenic 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.
No matter what adventure you choose, you'll start at Scenic World Top Station, perched on a cliff edge over the Jamison Valley. Here, you can buy your tickets, grab a bite to eat, purchase souvenirs at the gift store, and steal a glimpse of the spectacular scenery that awaits you on your descent into the valley.
Address: Corner of Violet Street and Cliff Drive, Katoomba, New South Wales
Official site: www.scenicworld.com.au
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, New South Wales
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.
5. Hiking and Heritage Trails
One of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of this World Heritage wilderness is 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 Prince Henry Cliff Walk, which skirts the edge of a valley from Katoomba Cascades to Gordon Falls. Jaw-dropping valley views, spring wildflowers, and some of the park's most iconic features punctuate this popular hike.
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 a dip with the kids. After your swim, 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. If you're heading out on a long hike, it's a good idea to bring basic first aid equipment, register the planned route, and advise friends and family of an estimated return time.
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 from a coal-mining town into a popular holiday resort in the second half of the 19th century.
With all the things to do in Katoomba, it makes a great base for a visit to the Blue Mountains. This is where you'll find Blue Mountains attractions like Scenic World, The Three Sisters, Echo Point, The Giant Stairway, and the Prince Henry Cliff Walk. It's centrally situated in Blue Mountains National Park, and the town itself is packed with galleries, boutiques, antique stores, cafés, second-hand bookstores, and excellent restaurants.
For more information on things to see and do in Katoomba, make sure you stop by the Blue Mountains Visitor Information Centre.
The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre is also worthwhile, and it's one of the top things to do in the Blue Mountains when it's raining. The center is home to the Blue Mountains City Art Gallery, one of the top regional art galleries in Australia. Also here is the World Heritage Exhibition, with displays on this unique World Heritage-listed environment. You can also enjoy breathtaking views over the wilderness from the lookouts.
If you love waterfalls, you're in luck. The town's eponymous Katoomba Falls are a worthwhile attraction - especially when they're in full flow. To see them, follow the Katoomba Falls Round Walk, a two-kilometer circuit trail starting at Scenic World. Along the way, you can capture beautiful photos of the multi-tiered cascades tumbling over jutting lips of sandstone.
Katoomba is easily accessible by rail from Sydney.
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.
Fancy some shopping? In the village center, Leura Mall is an enticing jumble of antique stores, galleries, and gift shops. And you'll also find some of the most charming Blue Mountains restaurants and cafés here.
Besides sightseeing in town, one of the most popular things to do in Leura is to visit the Everglades Historic House and Gardens. If you're a green thumb, you'll love it here. Designed by Danish-born Paul Sorensen, Everglades is a delightful array of native and European-style plantings with superb vistas of the Jamison Valley.
Are you looking for things to do in the Blue Mountains in October? You can join in all the festivities at the Leura Garden Festival and Leura Village Fair.
Leura is also a great jumping-off point for some rewarding free things to do. To the south, Sublime Point offers stunning views over the Jamison Valley. And for another dose of nature, stroll along Prince Henry Cliff Walk to Leura Cascades, a delightful spot to spread a blanket and enjoy a picnic lunch. While you're munching on your sandwiches, listen out for the distinctive song of the lyrebird, and after lunch, you can walk to several waterfalls and lookouts from here.
8. The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah
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, New South Wales
Official site: https://www.bluemountainsbotanicgarden.com.au/
9. 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 10 caverns, with staggering limestone formations, subterranean rivers, and fossilized remains.
In the Cathedral chamber of the Lucas Cave, you can also attend musical concerts that 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
Official site: http://www.jenolancaves.org.au/
10. Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum
For a dose of art and culture in the mountains, make time to visit this charming museum in Faulconbridge. The delightful sandstone cottage here was occupied from 1912 to 1969 by the legendary Australian writer and artist Norman Lindsay and now honors his contribution to literature and the arts with a collection of his works.
Lindsay 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 - especially if you're an art lover. Apart from the gallery, the grounds also include an etching studio and a painting studio.
A particular highlight are the beautiful formal gardens. Sculptures adorn the lawns and fountains, and wisteria perfumes the air in the spring. Guided tours offer valuable insight on the life and works of this celebrated artist.
If you want to spend more time here, you can stay overnight in a romantic little cottage on the property.
Address: 14 Norman Lindsay Crescent, Faulconbridge
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.
Heading out for a hike? The helpful staff here will tell you all you need to know about current trail closures and conditions. You can also 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, New South Wales
Where to Stay in the Blue Mountains for Sightseeing
Blue Mountains accommodation ranges from elegant guesthouses to facility-packed resorts and budget-friendly motels. Check out these charming hotels and resorts in Katoomba, Windsor, Blackheath, and Leura, near Blue Mountains National Park:
- Parklands Country Gardens and Lodges: This sumptuous Blackheath guesthouse offers delightful cottages, beautiful gardens, a private lake, and day spa.
- Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains - MGallery Collection: If you're looking for plenty of amenities and beautiful views, you'll find them at this mid-range resort in Leura. Upscale dining, indoor and outdoor pools, games rooms, tennis courts, and an adjacent golf club keep guests busy during their stay.
- Crowne Plaza Hawkesbury Valley: Contemporary rooms, multiple restaurants, a heated indoor pool, wonderful spa, and floodlit tennis courts keep guests coming back to this popular Windsor resort.
- Sky Rider Motor Inn: You'll find budget-friendly rates at this great-value hotel near Katoomba town center. Rooms come with modern decor, and a barbecue area is available for guests.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to the Blue Mountains
- 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 Sydney Zoo.
- Another great option is the Small-Group Blue Mountains Day Trip from Sydney. This one includes a visit to the iconic Three Sisters, the Jamison Valley, and Wentworth Falls, and ends with a visit to the popular Featherdale Wildlife Park.
- Do you prefer to let someone else do the driving? Opt for the Blue Mountains Hop-on Hop-off Tour with Optional Scenic World Rides. This flexible sightseeing tour lets you choose where you want to spend your time. It's also a great option if you want to start a hike at one point and finish at another. You can also upgrade your pass to include rides at Scenic World.
- 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.
- Take binoculars for close-up views of birds and other wildlife.
- 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 northwest, 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.
- The Blue Mountains is a beautiful place to bike. Check out the Blue Mountains City Council cycling page for information on bike-friendly roads, maps, and other details.