The Blue Mountains have now become my home, having moved to Blackheath in July 2017. This Visitor's Guide will be continually updated as I gather more information to share about this amazing area.
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.
The Blue Mountains has it all from hot summers with that blue haze rising from the eucalyptus trees that blanket the mountains to cold, bracing winters, to an autumn display that will leave your senses reeling to Spring with vibrant fresh greens, eye-popping pink and white bursts of blossoms 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.
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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.
This guide will be continually updated so keep popping back to see what's new.
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 easily accessible ones are the ones that I mention in this guide. Others are available to those with a 4WD vehicle or hikers.
The lookouts and places of interest are well signposted so there will be no problem in getting lost.
Towns & Villages
The Blue Mountains are dotted with villages from the time you start your climb after crossing the Nepean River.
This guide focuses on the villages and towns in the Upper Blue Mountains that offer a larger variety of services and activities.
Places to Eat
Each village will include a recommendation of where to eat. These are from my personal experiences. The Blue Mountains is full of fine dining restaurants but I thought that best for a post another time.
This is a list of eateries suitable for breakfast, morning tea, and lunch.
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 that it is a haven for artists.
The Church, Glenbrook
Let's start at the base of the mountains in Glenbrook. Glenbrook is a popular place for visitors to stop because of the Visitor's Information Centre.
But if you keep going into the village itself and through the main street you will find The Church Cafe. You won't miss it, it's the one that looks like a church. Sorry, couldn't help myself.
I often stop here with my tour groups coming up from the South Coast because I find most people are more than ready for a bathroom break and a good cup of coffee, particularly if we have hit the road early.
Try and get a table inside (not easy) just for the atmosphere.
Located at 20 Ross Street, Glenbrook.
Norman Lindsay Gallery, Faulconbridge
Norman Lindsay, the famed artist of the Magic Pudding, was also a cartoonist, and writer. He came from a family that produced five artists. Talented family!
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. And of course, they are cheeky and were extremely controversial for the time.
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).
Just over an hour's drive from Sydney is Wentworth Falls, a quaint little village rich in scenery and bush walks with views over the Jamieson Valley. It is also a great place to start exploring the Blue Mountains.
It is has a pretty tree-lined main street, Station Street and is lovely for exploring. Dotted with coffee shops and quaint eateries and lovely stores including homewares and antiques.
Our favourite place to visit is 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 for a picnic or just to relax. It does get busy here with families when the weather warms up.
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.
Plantations Treat, Wentworth Falls
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).
It is a little tucked away from the main street, but if you eat gluten-free then this place is worth looking for. It is just one street over from the main street, in Plantation Street (see what they did with their name?)
Wentworth Falls Lookout
Given its name for the Falls that are on spectacular display, Wentworth Falls are fed by the Jamison Creek, cascading over levels of rock before plummeting 100m to the valley floor. At the bottom of the falls, the water collects in a shallow pool.
The viewing platforms offer stunning views over the Jamison Valley.
There are a variety of walks that will take you to different vantage points to view the falls or even to the falls themselves.
Depending on the time (and energy levels) you have, walks range from 20 minutes to 1 hour. Be warned there are a lot of stairs involved!
Located at Falls Rd, Wentworth Falls and is a sealed road suitable for standard vehicles.
Falls Gallery, Wentworth Falls
This is a beautiful gallery to visit. Not only is the gallery itself interesting to look through but the gardens themselves are a treat 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.
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.
The Red Door Café, Leura
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 with Hazelnuts on Toast. Yum!
Located at 134 Leura Mall, Leura.
Katoomba is the most visited town in the Blue Mountains. Although lacking in appeal compared to Leura, Katoomba is the hub of the Blue Mountains. It is a popular place to stay providing a variety of accommodation from luxury hotels to youth hostels.
It is a popular place to stay providing a variety of accommodation from luxury hotels to youth hostels. 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 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 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.
But don't let your trip to the Blue Mountains end at Katoomba. Keep exploring and see more of the mountains away from the tourist crowd.
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!
What I love about Cahills Lookout is that it is rarely busy with tourist, unlike Echo Point. That, and the view of course.
Cahills Lookout is a favourite place for rock climbers, but other than that it is fairly quiet.
And this is where you will see Boars Head Rock. It also gives you stunning views over the Megalong Valley and Narrow Neck Plateau.
Cahills & Boars Head Lookout is located at 258-276 Cliff Drive, Katoomba.
Pomegranate Cafe, Katoomba
I love this place but it gets incredibly busy particularly on the weekends. It is worth the wait though and it is my favourite cafe in Katoomba.
Now just to let you in on a little secret, if you are heading there for lunch, and you like risotto order the Mushroom Risotto with Truffle Oil and DO NOT SHARE IT!!!
It is a truly amazing dish with flavours I cannot even begin to describe. For me, it is by far their standout dish.
Located at 49 Katoomba Street, Katoomba.
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?
Medlow Bath is a tiny town that boasts the beautiful Hydro Majestic. It also has a train station and a coffee shop and at last count had a population of just over 500.
Boiler House Cafe @ The Hydro Majestic, Medlow Bath
If you are looking for something a little more special for lunch, then I would suggest the Boiler House Cafe in Medlow Bath.
Located next to the main complex of the iconic Hydro Majestic the views over the Megalong Valley are stunning.
The food and service here are fantastic. Imagine good food, wine in hand, and those views! Doesn't get much better than that.
Tip - make sure you book as this is a very busy place on the weekends.
Located at 52 - 88 Great Western Highway, Medlow Bath.
We love Blackheath. In fact, we loved it so much, we moved here! It has so much to offer and I am so happy that we picked this village to be our new home.
Blackheath has cafes, interesting shops, art galleries, a great deli, plus so much more. You can read my post - Loving Blackheath and find out everything we love about it.
And of course, at the end of Govetts Leap Road is Govetts Leap Lookout. My favourite lookout in the Blue Mountains. Win!
The people 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.
Govetts Leap Lookout
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.
At the end of Hat Hill Road in Blackheath (follow the signs from the Great Western Highway) and you will find Perry's Lookdown.
You will need to park the car and take a short stroll but the views (as with anywhere in the mountains) are worth it.
Perry's Lookdown looks out over the Grose Valley and out to the sheer cliffs of Mount Banks and the Blue Gum Forest.
If you are a bushwalker you might like to consider a hike to the Blue Gum Forest or maybe an overnight stay in Perry's Lookdown campground.
Turn left over the railway lines in Blackheath and left again just after and make your way over to the Shipley Plateau. It is well signposted so you won't get lost.
Do mind the narrow road though and take care. Drive to the end of Shipley Road passing apple orchards (we love buying our apples from Logan Brae Orchard when they are in season) and you will end up on a dirt road heading toward Hargraves Lookout. The road is in good condition and a 4WD is not necessary.
Hargraves Lookout is on the most western end of Shipley Plataue and will grant you the most magnificent views of the Megalong Valley and Kanimbla Valley. It is a popular spot for hang gliders.
The General Store, Blackheath
This is one of our favourite "local" cafes. Belinda and her staff are so friendly, the food is good and servings substantial (read here huge!) and cooked on an AGA cooker. And the coffee is really good.
Oh, the scones! Do yourself a favour and try the scones - Pumpkin Scones and gluten-free Maple Syrup Scones.
Located at 249 Great Western Highway, Blackheath.
The Blackheath Deli is a great place to pick up a coffee (or dine in) and they have the BEST cakes and slices.
But even more than that this is the perfect place to pick up everything you need for a gourmet picnic.
It's one of our "go to" places when putting together an antipasto or cheese board. They have a huge variety of food and loads of gluten-free things to choose from as well.
Located at 32 Govetts Leap Road, Blackheath (right next door to the Ice Box - you know for that bottle of wine to go with your picnic!)
The gardens are unique displaying mass plantings of rhododendrons and azaleas amongst native plants of the Upper Blue Mountains.
Their flowering period is from October to November and it is at this time you will find the Lodge open where you can buy light refreshments and talk to one of the volunteers for more information. Spread over 18.3 hectares you will find many walks and some picnic facilities.
The gardens are also particularly beautiful in Autumn when all the deciduous trees put on a magnificent show of autumn colour.
Located in Bacchante Street, Blackheath the gardens are open at all times but vehicle access is from 9 am – 4 pm daily. Entry is by gold coin donation and there is an honesty box at the front entrance.
Day Gallery 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. They also focus on artwork from Colonial Australia.
For more information and upcoming exhibitions visit www.dayfineart.com
Day Gallery 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
Ok, you got me, not a village as such but certainly a great community.
We are usually enticed by the Megalong Valley Tearooms where the food and coffee are good. But what is even better is the view. A reverse of the mountain lookouts because you are looking back up at the mountains with their rugged cliff faces displaying everchanging colours at different times of the day.
Not only can you indulge in good food, but why not try some wine tasting at Dryridge Estate or spend some time horseriding.
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.
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.
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.
Located at Megalong Road, Megalong Valley.
Travel west along the Great Western Highway from Blackheath and you will come across the small mountain village of Mount Victoria.
The village boasts a number of buildings dating back to the mid 19th century and is well worth a visit, maybe stop for a coffee and enjoy some of its history.
You will drive through Mount Victoria following the Darling Causeway to the Bells Line of Road if you are heading to the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah.
A small township located on the Bells Line of Road it is best known for being the home of the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens.
Located approximately 40 minutes from Blackheath, Mount Tomah is a spectacular drive.
There are numerous picnic areas dotted along the way, starting points for more difficult bushwalks.
Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens
The Garden occupies 252 hectares of land with 28 hectares open to the public. It is the only botanic garden within a World Heritage Area.
The gardens are a beautiful cold climate garden focused on conservation. Entry is free.
The onsite restaurant has a pretty spectacular view, but you might also like to consider taking a picnic like we did. There are so many places to throw down a picnic blanket and relax for a while.
Although the gardens are a bit of a drive from the main part of the Blue Mountains I would highly recommend a visit. They are stunning and well worth the effort to get there.
The Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens are located at Bells Line of Ride, Mount Tomah.
A few more of the many lookouts you may like to visit if you have time are:
Sublime Point, Leura
Leura Cascades, Leura
Evans Lookout, Blackheath
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
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.
GOT MORE TIME?
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 or 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
Whatever it is you choose to do when you visit the Blue Mountains you won't be disappointed.
It is a beautiful part of Australia and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Enjoy your stay.
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.