Through the beryl-blue haze of eucalypt forests, the bounding landscape of the Blue Mountains National Park spreads over almost 2,700km². Here’s how to explore this abundance of natural beauty only 90 minutes west of Sydney.
What must Governor Phillip and co have thought when they looked the swaths of eucalyptus trees and towering 1000-metre-plus mountains in their western path in the 1780s? I think the word they used was ‘impassable’.
Cook hadn’t known what to make of the Blue Mountains either. In fact, it wasn’t until 1813 that any white men managed, with great effort, to blaze a trail.
It must have been so disheartening for them to find that Indigenous peoples like the Gundungurra, Dharug and Wiradjuri had been living it up the valleys and peaks of Colomatta – the Blue Mountains’ real name – for centuries.
These days, visitors admire the incredible vistas over the region for its sense of grandeur and scale rather than seeing it as an obstacle.
Here are our top 7 ways to see the best the Blue Mountains National Park has to offer.
1. Echo Point
Easily the best vantage point to see the biggest draw card of the Blue Mountains – the Three Sisters rock formation.
Local Aboriginal legend has it that these rocks were once three sisters, who caught the eye of three brothers of a neighbouring tribe. The brothers tried to kidnap them, so to protect them a witchdoctor turned them to stone.
He meant to turn them back when it was safe again, but he was killed and so there they stand to this day, Meenhi, Wimlah and Gunnedoo – the Three Sisters.
2. The Giant Stairway
Round the base of the Three Sisters is one of the more popular bush walks you can do in the mountains. It’s an easy-to-medium walk and only takes about 1 ½ hours.
To get back up from the valley floor, you can take the Scenic Railway funicular train or climb back up the Furber Steps as you wish.
3. Scenic World’s Scenic Skyway
This cable car crosses the Federal Pass Ravine from the Scenic World HQ to take you to the amazing Cliff View Lookout.
From 270m up, your view from Australia’s highest cable car is amazing. The centre of the car has a glass bottom floor you can see all the way down to the valley at your feet.
4. Scenic World’s Scenic Cableway
This cable car goes from the valley floor back up to the Scenic World centre. It’s the biggest cable car in Australia, holding up to 84 people. If you look at the picture above you can just see the cable car!
The 360-degree views from this car out over the forests of the Jamison Valley are stunning.
5. Scenic World’s funicular railway
Certainly not for the faint-hearted, this train – the last working vestige of the coal mines that ran here 130 years ago – runs on a steep track to the bottom of the escarpment.
At 52 degrees, it’s the steepest railway in the world, so the views from the carriage are literally through the roof – I thank you!
6. Scenic World’s Scenic Walkway
The 2.4km boardwalk leads you around the stunning canopy of the forest in the mountain valley and is perfect for a relaxing stroll.
The walkway is elevated to minimise its impact on the local environment, and teaches you a bit about what you can see and what this part of the Blue Mountains was used for back in the day.
7. Bush walks
The Blue Mountains National Park covers an area of over 2,600km2 with hundreds of amazing bush walks you can take. The walks range from an hour’s walk to four days out in the wilderness.
Here’s a quick list of some of the walks with pdf maps and directions. Otherwise the Katoomba YHA has more detailed notes on bushwalks as does the Blue Mountains Visitor Information Centre.
If you’re not in the mood for getting up close and personal or if the weather’s a bit dodgy, there are still plenty of indoor options to enjoy the breathtaking views in and around the Blue Mountains.
My new favourite way to ‘window shop’ the Blue Mountains is from the comfort of the Hydro Majestic, a hotel and spa with a stately seat looking down over the Megalong Valley. It does an excellent high tea we highly recommend.
Alternatively, try Echoes Boutique Hotel and Restaurant. The food they do there is sensational. We had dinner here, which was amazing, but due to the lack of sun we couldn’t see much of the views.
We returned the next day though and were rewarded with some amazing scenery.
Have you been to the Blue Mountains? Do you have any tips on where to go for a great view? Tell us in the comments!