The Blue Mountains

 

The Three Sisters
The Blue Mountains really are blue

Justifiably, one of the most popular excursions from Sydney is to The Blue Mountains 110 kms the west of the city. Offering spectacular views and vistas, the Blue Mountains National Park provides an excellent break from the hustle and bustle Sydney, and is reached in just a couple of hours by train from Central Station in the CBD. CityRail only do one way fares of $AUD 16, children $AUD 8 and concessions $AUD 9.60. If you book in advance then you can save up to 40 percent. Check with CountryLink for timetable information.
 


Although a one day stay is a feasible, if time allows a 2 day visit is highly preferable. There is plenty of quality accommodation in the attractive and charming town of Katoomba, and 48 hours will give you ample opportunity to take advantage of highlights like the Three Sisters and Skyway, a gondolier style cable car. Moreover, the mountains tend to attract variable weather conditions, and 2 days gives you more chance of catching the key sites in fine weather.

 

One of the best things about the attractions is their accessibility. The key highlights are all based in the Katoomba area, and many of them can be easily reached on foot. The Katoomba Explorer Bus meets you at the railway station and takes you to 17 key sites around the area, in exchange for $AUD 14, $AUD 7 for children and $AUD 35 for families.

 

The Three Sisters
The Three Sisters

The circuit takes 50 minutes to complete. Local buses are an option too, check with the tourist office when you arrive. Taxi companies in Katoomba do a roaring tourist trade, and if you really want to be independent, there is no shortage of rental companies vying to put you behind the wheel of a car in the city. The National Park can be reached on an easy drive from Sydney along the Great Western Highway (have some change on hand as there is a toll-road involved). Better still, think about hiring a bike locally, and take in plenty of that fresh mountain air.

 

Cycletech 3 Gang Gang Street, Katoomba, Tel. 02 4782 2800, Fax: (02) 4782 4550, will be more than happy to put you atop a saddle for the day in exchange for $AUD 25. The deal includes a (mandatory) helmet, bike lock, local information and maps.

 

Once you get there, don't expect to see untold numbers of navy blue rock formations. The name "The Blue Mountains" is ascribed to the blue haze which pervades in the gorges, formed by the mist of oil which is given off by the abundant eucalyptus leaves.

The key attractions however are the breathtaking views, like that from "Echo Point", Katoomba Street, which takes in 3 pillar-like sandstone formations - "The Three Sisters" (named Meenhi, Weemala, and Gunnedoo in the Aboriginal Creation story), forested valleys and waterfalls. For those who like to collect "highest", "largest" and "biggest" experiences, there is the chance to take a ride on the steepest railway in the world.

 

Katoomba Scenic Railway
Katoomba Scenic Railway

Resembling more of a rollercoaster than a traditional railway, the Katoomba Scenic Railway (1 Violet Street, Katoomba), which dates back to 1878, will give you a 415 metre lift to the bottom of the Jamison Valley from where you can take a six hour walk to the Ruined Castle. The trip will cost you $AUD 4.50 return, and $AUD 2.00 return for children between the ages of 3 and 13. For more details call 02 4782 2699, fax 02 4782 5675 or visit their website.

 

If you find yourself ill-equipped for walking, or just fancy a more leisurely view of the area, try the Scenic Skyway, which traverses the Jamison Valley care of a cable suspended some 206 metres above the ground. The trip takes in aerial views of the Three Sisters, Orphan Rock, Mt Solitary and Katoomba Falls. Fares are the same as for the Scenic Railway, and the Skyway also goes from the corner of Cliff Drive and Violet Street.

 

If you are unlucky enough to visit the area on a dull day which affords only a limited view of these superb sites, then take some time to visit the Edge-Blue Mountains Maxvision Cinema, 235 Great Western Highway, Katoomba. This is a 40 minute documentary which offers the next best thing to viewing the sites in person. It isn't overly cheap however, weighing in at $AUD 12.50 for adults, $AUD 8.50 for children and $AUD 10.50 concessions. There is a family option at $AUD 38.

 

To the south-west of Katoomba are the Jenolan Caves. Actually part of the Kanangra-Boyd National Park, they are located on Jenolan Caves Road, a turn-off from the Great Western Highway at Hartley. If you are a serious walker, you can get to the caves on a three day hike from Katoomba, care of the Six Foot Track.

 

These limestone caves have been a popular attraction since the 1860s. They were discovered back in 1838 by a convict bushranger, and are widely believed to be the best limestone caves in Australia. A guided tour visits nine caves in all, but if you prefer a more independent experience, three are available for your own viewing. If you fancy staying in the area for a day or two, then the historic Jenolan Caves House Tel. Harvey World Travel (02) 473 54200 is a good place to base yourself. Built in the 1920s, the house offers a range of accommodation which should suit most tastes and pockets.

 

 
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