Australia’s Blue Mountains are covered with eucalyptus trees which produce a lovely and aromatic blue haze. I wanted to bottle that wonderful air and take it home with me. Since I didn’t have an empty container on hand, I purified my lungs by huffing and puffing along the hiking trails. The Greater Blue Mountains Area covers 1.03 million hectares and boasts over 90 varieties of eucalyptus trees. This diversity is so special, it has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The fragrant forest is spread over plateaus and gorges that make for some dramatic scenery that simply shouldn’t be missed. So how do you get to the Blue Mountains from Sydney? The best way is to hire a car and do a self-drive tour. Here’s how to plan an easy Sydney day trip.
Katoomba is the main town in the Blue Mountains and home to some of the star attractions. It takes almost two hours to drive from Sydney to Katoomba so start early. I was fortunate enough to have a local friend who kindly offered to take me in his car. We began our mountain adventure at the Echo Point Visitor Information Center to pick up maps and get our bearings. (We also bought souvenirs at the fabulous gift shop.) The big draw at Echo Point, though, is the Three Sisters.
According to one local legend, this famous landmark was created when three beautiful sisters were turned to stone. Three brothers from a rival tribe wanted to marry the sisters, but the family did not approve. To keep the ladies safe, a witch doctor changed them into rock form. But in a twist of fate, the doctor was killed in battle before reversing the spell. Thus, the limestone ladies remain frozen to this day.
Echo Point Lookout has a close-up view of the Three Sisters and is the starting point for the Three Sisters Walking Path. At the end of the trail, you’ll find the Giant Stairway. This historic route was created in the 1920s as a way to reach the valley floor – via 900+ steps! I went down a portion of the stairs to a platform carved into one of the Sisters. After the requisite photo, I climbed back up so my friend and I could continue with the day’s activities.
Downtown Katoomba has several options for lunch, though I can’t imagine any being better than the Yellow Deli. Others apparently agree because there was a lengthy wait to eat inside the charming cafe. We nabbed a table on the small terrace instead. I highly recommend ordering a “lambwich” off the all-day breakfast menu. The flavorful sandwich is packed with lamb, egg, onion, red pepper, two types of cheese, and the chef’s own secret sauce. Wow, was it good! (Note that the cafe is closed on Saturdays.)
Our next and final stop of the day was Scenic World. This wooded wonderland offers rides on three types of conveyance so visitors can admire the Blue Mountains from every possible angle. The “Discovery Pass” combination ticket is a cost-effective way to experience all three rides. At the ticket seller’s suggestion, my friend and I started with the Scenic Railway ride. With a 52-degree incline, the Scenic Railway is reportedly the steepest of its kind in the world. Daredevils can incline their seats even more, if they so choose. Glass sides and ceilings offer unobstructed views of the forest as the train zips down to the valley floor. Once at the bottom, we wandered through the primordial vegetation towards the Scenic Cableway – the second ride – which whisked us back up the mountain.
My favorite ride was the Scenic Skyway, the third method of transport. The glass cable car soars over Katoomba Falls, from one side of the valley to the other. The views were so breathtaking that I wanted to ride it again immediately! If you only have time for one attraction in the Blue Mountains, make it the Scenic Skyway.
Would you like to take a day trip from Sydney to the Blue Mountains?