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The Blue Mountains are breathtaking. Located 90 minutes from Sydney it is an easy drive, or if it’s more your style, you can catch a train. Actually, this is a great way to see the mountains for the first time. It’s a beautiful, scenic way to get to the Blue Mountains. Simply catch the train from Central Station in Sydney on the Blue Mountains Line and it takes around two hours. Sit back, relax and be ready for the view!
There are so many different things to see and do for those who love nature and hiking, to art lovers, families and couples looking for a romantic getaway. It is an area of distinct seasons so although you may not need to drag out the winter woollies in Australia’s coastal areas during winter, you certainly will here.
I guess that’s part of the appeal for me. I love a distinction in the seasons and I struggle with our hot summers, but for me, a crisp, cold, nose-numbing winter is like a cleanse. And it also means nights in front of the fire with a home cooked meal and a glass of red. Something I look forward to with relish.
The Blue Mountains has it all from hot summers and that distinct blue haze rising from the eucalyptus trees that blanket the mountains to cold, bracing winters, to pops of colour in the trees when autumn makes itself known to Spring with vibrant fresh greens that contrast so vibrantly with rugged cliffs and rocky outcrops.
This guide is for new and returning visitors to the Blue Mountains. With so much to see and do I am sure if you are able, you will return time and again to keep exploring.
You can also read the other articles in our Blue Mountains Series:
In this article, I am going to cover the following topics:
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WARNING! The Blue Mountains are stunning. Spectacular. Gorgeous. You will be picking your jaw up from the ground at every lookout you visit. So be prepared to be amazed. Even if you do nothing else in the Blue Mountains than drive to a few lookouts you will be gobsmacked. I will never forget when I drove my partner to see Govetts Leap. His jaw just dropped. He was speechless.
I recommend some time at each place, and if possible go early or later in the afternoon to avoid tourist crowds because these are places you will want to spend some quiet time, taking it all in and being one with nature.
In this guide, I am going to mention only three of the main lookouts, or I could be here forever. There are so many and if you have time to spare I would leisurely drive around and go exploring. The lookouts and places of interest are well signposted so there will be no problem in getting lost.
Echo Point in Katoomba is where you will see the famed Three Sisters, three pinnacles of eroded sandstone, formed over thousands of years and jutting out from the cliffs of the Jamison Valley. It is a spectacular view as is the whole of the Jamison Valley with views over Ruined Castle and Mount Solitary.
Even though this is the most touristy lookout of all it is not something you will want to miss. For that reason, I suggest you visit Echo Point before 10 am. We last visited on a Thursday morning and by 10.30 am the tourist buses were pulling in and it was getting a little crowded by the railings. And I hate dodging those selfie sticks!
But like any of these stunning places, I personally think they are best enjoyed early morning or late afternoon anyway. It is lovely to sit and watch the light shift and change before your eyes as you take in the breathtaking beauty. Such an incredible way to start your day!
For those that are up for a bit more of a challenge than just sitting and taking it all in you can walk down the Giant Stairway, only 980 steps down to the valley floor. But what goes down must come up so if you make your way around past Katoomba Falls you can return to the top via the Scenic Railway.
Maybe we will try that on our next visit!
This is my favourite. It always has been from the time I first visited when I was 17. It has always amazed me and each time I visit is like the first. I am always blown away.
From the light that plays all day through the crevices and on the cliff faces of the Grose Valley, continually changing to the rhythmic sound of the Bridal Veil Falls as it plummets to the valley floor below, you will be in awe of the beauty that is spread out before you.
Each time you visit it is different. And each time it is equally stunning. Touted as one of the most famous lookouts in Australia it is an absolute Must See on your visit to the Blue Mountains.
Ok, you got me, I get this isn't a lookout. But it is a beautiful drive down into the Megalong Valley. We are usually enticed by the Megalong Valley Tearooms where the food and coffee are wonderful. But what is even better is the view. A reverse of the mountain lookouts because you are looking back up at the mountains.
In the natural setting of the Megalong Tea Rooms, you can see the light dance along the cliff faces highlighting the colours and textures. And then you can spend time exploring the valley before heading back up.
Be careful driving. The road is a little narrow and winding so take it easy. The road winds its way through pockets of rainforest and it is well worth a stop (at the designated areas) to take a walk. You may even be lucky enough to see a Lyrebird or two. We narrowly missed one scurrying across the road last time we were down that way.
Some more of the many lookouts you may like to visit if you have time are:
Sublime Point, Leura
Evans Lookout, Blackheath
Boars Head Lookout
And if you are more adventurous, there are many more lookouts accessible only by hiking. Hiking is not my thing, food is. But I did find this great site called Wild Walks that you may find useful
The Blue Mountains are dotted with villages from the time you start your climb after crossing the Nepean River. But for this guide, I have focused on the larger villages that offer more variety in both shops, cafes and activities.
Wentworth Falls is a beautiful Blue Mountains Village. Tree lined Station Street is lovely for exploring dotted with coffee shops and quaint eateries and lovely stores including homewares and antiques.
Our favourite places to visit are Scharwzes German Bakery on Station Street, their coffee is great, and the Plantations Treat Café in Plantation Street (you can get there through the carpark near Schwarzes and down the stairs), which has great coffee and everything is gluten free and delicious.
Drive over the railway bridge through the lovely streets and head over to the Wentworth Falls Lake, a lovely place to stop.
From the Wentworth Falls Village, I would recommend visiting The Falls Gallery located on Falls Road. Just head right from Station Street onto the Great Western Highway and then the next left onto Falls Road.
After you have spent some time there, head down to the end of the road and take in the glorious views. Highly recommended.
After Wentworth Falls, the next village along is Leura. There is so much to see in Leura that I would set aside a few hours to explore. But be aware that Leura is a tourist town and as such can become inundated with tourists, not always a pleasant experience.
When we visit Leura we usually go early, have breakfast at the Red Door Café, and are ready to wander and explore the stores at 10 am when a lot of them open. This is the time that the buses start to come in but by the time the village is full, you will be done.
I would recommend a drive out to Sublime Point for a look, simply stunning. And maybe a stop at the Toy & Railway Museum if that’s your thing.
The area of Leura Cascades makes a lovely place to have a picnic, and there are public gardens like Everglades Gardens to check out.
Although lacking in appeal compared to Wentworth Falls and Leura, Katoomba is the hub of the Blue Mountains. The first hotel was built in Katoomba in 1882, now known as the Carrington Hotel, and it has been welcoming visitors ever since.
From here you can explore the Blue Mountains via the Explorer Bus and Trolley Tours. It is also the most visited town in the Blue Mountains.
It is jam packed with cafes and art galleries and a huge variety of stores waiting to be explored. Most of the Adventure Tour Operators are located here and It is a great base for backpackers to stay and explore from. It is home to Scenic World and Echo Point.
There is much to see and do here and should not be missed on a trip to the mountains.
We love Blackheath. It isn’t as pretty as Leura, but there is an appeal here that keeps pulling us back. It has all the required ingredients for us – cafes, interesting shops, art galleries and of course, at the end of Govetts Leap Road is Govetts Leap Lookout. Win!
We love Blackheath so much that we plan on moving here by the end of the year. There I have said it out loud and in this article, so it has to happen. Nothing like accountability!
The people we have met here are friendly, there are a good variety of stores to explore from Blackheath Interiors to the Antique Centre. And then there is the Blackheath Grower’s Market held once a month at the Blackheath Community Centre. All round our favourite place in the Mountains.
This is a German Bakery in Wentworth Falls – the coffee here is the winner for me (the cakes aren't bad either!) The service is friendly and fast. It is a bakery so there are lots of freshly baked goods and mouth-watering cakes to choose from. It is always busy particularly with locals, so always a good sign.
Located in Wentworth Falls this café gets a mention not only for its great food but that EVERYTHING is Gluten Free. Yes, you heard correctly everything in this café is gluten free. So it is becoming a regular stop for those with gluten sensitivities and coeliacs.
Being Gluten Free I miss certain things and pies are one of them. Not that I would eat them often, but sometimes they are a nice treat. So when we are here we usually buy a few to have for dinner that night after a day out in the mountains. And they are delicious and like the traditional ones (well almost).
The Red Door Café
A great cafe in Leura. This is one of our favourite cafes, particularly for breakfast, but they also have a great lunch menu. The coffee is good, very important on our early morning visits and the staff are friendly and service is fast. Highly recommended, especially the Sauteed Mushrooms on Toast. Yum!
Located on the Great Western Highway in Blackheath. We loved this little place that has so much character. The coffee was good and the service was fast. And I mean fast!
We stopped here for morning tea so there were cake and coffee all round. There was a good selection of cakes and slices including gluten free options too.
As my partner would say, we enjoyed ourselves disgracefully.
Other Cafes in Blackheath
I'm going to throw these two cafes into the ring as well. I cannot recommend them personally but we will certainly be trying them out on our next trip to Blackheath. They were recommended by a lovely lady who is a Blackheath local, so I thought they would be worth mentioning.
Wattle Café, Blackheath
I have it on good faith that this is a lovely place to eat with good coffee and great food. I will try it next time and add it to Part 2 of the Blue Mountains Café Series.
Govetts Leap Café, Blackheath
Located in the arcade in Blackheath, this place stays open later on the weekends and is a café/wine bar which sounds perfect to me.
Megalong Tea Rooms
If you are a visitor to Australia and want a very Australian dining experience, then you can’t go past the Megalong Tea Rooms in the Megalong Valley.
If you are visiting in the warmer months you will love sitting outside under the trees, with the magpies frolicking around you and gazing up at the amazing view of the mountains. It is a bit of a narrow winding drive to get down there, but it is a beautiful drive that weaves you through pockets of rainforest. Just be careful.
The menu here was updated earlier in the year and I love that it is a tasty Australian menu with a good variety, and of course, there is cake. Have you guessed yet that we love cake? And there were gluten free options too which also gets the thumbs up from me.
Of course, there are so many more cafes than what we have mentioned here. These are our experiences and I will post a new café article as time goes on.
You can also read my article 5 Cafes you should visit in the Blue Mountains, Australia
For anyone who would like a change of pace from all the stunning scenery, the Blue Mountains is full of interesting art galleries. Of course, the mountains are inspiring so it should be no surprise.
Norman Lindsay Gallery
Norman Lindsay, the famed artist of the Magic Pudding, was also a cartoonist, and writer. , came from a family that produced five artists. Lindsay left home when he was sixteen to live with his brother in Melbourne. In 1901 he moved north to make his permanent home in the Blue Mountains, working for the Bulletin in an association that lasted almost to his death.
His mythical poses contain such detail and his watercolours are truly exquisite capturing amazing light and using a vibrant colour palette that remains vibrant many years on.
The grounds are lovely to explore and there is a coffee shop perfect for a break.
For more information visit www.normanlindsay.com.au
The Norman Lindsay Gallery is located at 14 Norman Lindsay Crescent, Faulconbridge. Entry is $15.
Opening Hours: Daily from 10 am – 4 pm, including Public Holidays (closed Christmas Day).
This is a beautiful gallery to visit. Not only is the gallery itself interesting to look through but the gardens themselves are just beautiful to walk around.
With paintings by Garry Shead, Anne Smith, Bernard Ollis and Wendy Sharpe there is much to see and there are also ceramics by Ian Smith on display.
The artwork is quirky and fun and something I thoroughly enjoyed looking at.
For more information and upcoming exhibitions visit www.fallsgallery.com.au.
The Falls Gallery is located at 161 Falls Road, Wentworth Falls. Entry is $2.
Opening Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 10 am – 5 pm.
John Wilson Gallery
I found John Wilson's work to be amazing. They way he captures the light and his use of colours is absolutely stunning, particularly his work of the Blue Mountains.
You really must see his gallery in Katoomba when visiting the mountains.
John Wilson is one of Australia’s leading landscape artists and teachers.
You can visit www.johnwilsongallery.com to see more about artist John Wilson and his work.
The John Wilson Fine Art Gallery is located at 46 Narrowneck Road, Katoomba.
Opening Hours: 10 am – 4.30 pm.
Lost Bear Gallery
Not only does the Lost Bear Gallery represent many great Australian artists such as David Beschi, Herman Pekel, and Warwick Fuller, it is a lovely place to visit.
It has a serene feeling and exquisite lighting, perfect to spend time taking in the stunning artworks on display.
For more information and upcoming exhibitions visit www.lostbeargallery.com.au
The Lost Bear Gallery is located at 98 Lurline Street, Katoomba.
Opening Hours: Daily 10 am – 5 pm
Gallery One88 Katoomba
A relatively new gallery in Katoomba, this gallery represents Australian Artists displaying a good mix of contemporary and representation art.
I thoroughly enjoy the selection of work displayed throughout the building and I also like that the work is regularly changed. It's nice to see something new each time I visit.
It is a lovely, relaxing gallery to visit and worthwhile making the time to see.
For more information and upcoming exhibitions visit www.galleryone88finearts.com
Gallery One88 is located at 186-188 Katoomba Street, Katoomba.
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 5 pm
Day Fine Art
Day Fine Art is located in Blackheath. This is a small gallery but with a great selection of art to look at.
The diversity of paintings keeps it interesting and they represent many local Blackheath artists.
For more information and upcoming exhibitions visit www.dayfineart.com
Day Fine Art is located at 27-29 Govetts Leap Road, Blackheath.
Opening Hours: Friday: 10 am – 5 pm, Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm, Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm, Monday: 10 am – 5 pm
There are many more art galleries dotted throughout the Blue Mountains and worth visiting if you are on an extended stay.
Accommodation is not a problem in the Blue Mountains. There is such a huge variety to choose from that you will certainly find something to suit your budget.
The Blue Mountains can cater to backpackers through to those looking for a luxurious getaway.
Katoomba is a backpackers haven and is the perfect base for those without a car to be able to get around. Here you have access to trains and the tourist option of Explorer buses.
We like to use Booking.com when we book hotels.
And you may like to consider these choices as well.
- Farm Stays
My favourite of these would have to be Airbnb. I love self-contained accommodation so I can cook for myself and I also love connecting with a local and feeling like I am living like one. I have a $50 credit for your first stay.
Recommended Attractions for the First Time Visitor
There are a number of experiences at Scenic World and I would probably recommend doing all of them if you're not scared of heights like me.
The Scenic Railway
The world's steepest railway, the carriage descends to the valley floor at a nearly vertical angle, but this is a ride worth taking. Words cannot describe the beauty of this World Heritage Listed area and this is a great way to get down and take a look without hiking. Highly recommended.
The Scenic Skyway
I remember the last time I went on this I was 17 years old. 30 years ago (Wow where did that time go?) It was then that I discovered I have a fear of heights. I don’t remember it being a particularly fun experience for me, but the stunning views were not lost on me. Neither was the perspective it afforded me to the size and vastness of the valleys and mountains.
Suspended 270 metres above the valley floor is quite an experience, and dare I tell you it has a glass floor. All I have to say is have fun, but I will not be able to tell you about the current experience because I will not be trying it.
So for anyone that doesn’t have a fear of heights, this would be an incredible experience.
The Cableway descends down 510 metres into the Jamison Valley from the top of the escarpment. From the cabin, which is fully enclosed, you can view the Three Sisters, Orphan Rock, Mt Solitary and Katoomba Falls.
The Walkway is 2.4 kilometres through ancient rainforest. Enjoy the flora and fauna of this magical area via elevated boardwalks that protect the Jurassic rainforest.
There are a number of options available for exploring ranging from 10-minute walks to an hour. The area is well signposted and easy to follow.
The walkway is accessible from the Cableway and Railway stations.
Ticket Prices: An Unlimited Discover Pass is $39 AU per Adult and $21 AUD per Child.
For more information on Scenic World visit here.
These next images are taken from Echo Point in Katoomba looking back over at Scenic World. Can you spot the specks that are the Cableway and Skyway?
As mentioned in the beginning of this article you can reach the Blue Mountains from Sydney easily by train and for as little as $2.50 AU if you travel on a Sunday, $16.50 AU every other day using an Opal Card. For information on Trains and Times read more here.
The rail line runs straight through the mountains providing easy access to the Mountain Villages. And to make things even easier you can purchase a Blue Mountains ExplorerLink Ticket that includes your train ticket and the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus.
Operating every 30 minutes and with 29 stops in the beautiful Blue Mountains between Katoomba and Leura. Found directly outside the train station in Katoomba you will have no problem getting on your way.
For more information on the Explorer Bus visit here
Operate hourly on a hop on hop off loop with 28 stops in Katoomba and Leura.
For more information on Trolley Tours visit here
My preferred way to see the Blue Mountains would be by car. A car allows you freedom and flexibility to explore at your own leisure.
Car hire is available in the Blue Mountains. Visit here for more information.
If you are looking for a longer stay and would like to explore a bit further I would highly recommend a day at the Jenolan Caves, or in fact an overnight stay. Once a popular honeymoon destination in the early 1900’s the Jenolan Caves is a beautiful and fascinating place to visit.
I love the Jenolan Caves. I first visited as a child and it has fascinated me ever since. There are 7 caves you can visit, some with extended tours, adventure tours for those who want to take caving to the next level, you can take it a bit easier and walk around the Blue Lake and through the Devil’s Coach House and experience a touch of yesteryear staying in the Caves House.
For more information about the Jenolan Caves visit here
I truly hope you enjoy your time in the Blue Mountains. I would love to hear about your experiences and your recommendations so that I can share them with my community. Pop them into the comments below. Thanks!
Cindy Reid is the founder of Travel Charm. Cindy has travelled extensively both personally and with her groups. She has now combined her love of art, food and travel and hosts Painting Trips to Europe and continues to explore and roam in Australia.