You won’t run out of things to do in Sydney quickly, but I was glad to have enough time for a day trips. There’s many to choose from, but none so spectacular as the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains are an area about an hour and a half from Sydney. They are named for the bluish haze hanging over them. Because of the views and outdoor activities, the mountains are popular with tourists and city dwellers in need of fresh air alike.
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Why visit the Blue Mountains
Home to some of Australia’s most awe-inspiring natural beauty and an area of cultural significance, the Blue Mountains are well worth a day trip from Sydney. You’ll find plenty to do. The main activity is hiking to all the amazing scenery including to some of the waterfalls. You can also visit the surrounding towns, explore caves, see the scenery from a cable car and more. If you’ve spent a lot of your time in Australia exploring the coast, the Blue Mountains provide some variety to a sun-soaked holiday.
Should you book a tour?
There are a few reasons I would recommend booking a tour to see them. Particularly if you are not experienced with hiking in Australia. You’ll probably feel safer and more confident exploring with a guide.
If you are travelling solo without a car, I would recommend booking a tour. I booked a tour to see the mountain through GetYourGuide, opting for the Afternoon and Sunset Tour. It was excellent. And I don’t usually say that about tours, there’s always something I don’t like about one. Even the lunch that was included was nice, wraps and fruit from a local deli in Leura. We didn’t run into any crowds and we had a laid back, fun guide.
The itinerary included stopping at a local town (Leura), hiking down to Wentworth Falls from Wentworth Picnic area (near Katoomba) after lunch. Toward the evening, we went hiking to the Three Sisters Lookout from Echo Point and finally to Eagle Hawk Lookout to watch the sunset.
But you’ll still have a lot of choice of what tour to take. As I said, I would definitely recommend the sunset tour. Partly because it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed sitting at the end of it with a beer watching an incredible sunset. And the lack of crowds makes me think most tours hit the trails in the morning. I liked booking a small tour. Ours was about 15 people riding on a minibus and was much better for it.
Some may include specific activities you are keen to do. For example, many include Scenic World which has a cable car, train, and skyway as other ways to enjoy the scenery. Others might include the Jenolan Caves, which I would have loved to explore if I had more time but it would have meant less time for hiking.
Visiting the towns around the Blue Mountains
The towns surrounding the Blue Mountains exude an almost old-fashioned, frontier vibe. Independent shops and nice cafes line the little streets. We spent about an hour in Leura at the start of the tour. I had enough time to explore the cute streets and stop for a coffee and some cake at one of the local cafes, Lily Pad Cafe. Meanwhile, our guide grabbed us wraps from a local deli.
Katoomba is the main town in the Blue Mountains. I only saw it via bus window/ to stop by the Woolworths, but I hear it’s got plenty of great places to eat and has a laid back vibe. It’s also close to a lot of the main lookout points so definitely worth a stop on the way.
Hiking to the waterfall
Wentworth Falls is a 187 metre high waterfall cascading down three tiers in the the Blue Mountains. You can reach it from the hiking trails near Wentworth Picnic area, then hike from the top of the falls to the bottom. It is not an easy hike to the bottom. There’s a reason our tour guide called it the stairway to hell. The 200 steps down don’t sound like too much of a challenge but it is steep! But the views are gorgeous.
Sunset in the Blue Mountains
After hiking, our guide stopped by the local Woolworths so we could grab snacks and beers. We then drove our group to a secluded look out spot to watch the sunset. Our group were the only people there. It was the perfect end to a day of hiking. The scenery was breath taking, watching the sun disappear behind the hills.
Tips for visiting the Blue Mountains
Safety in the Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains are spectacular for their natural beauty and it a great place to see some of Australia’s incredible wildlife. But of course, that means you do chance running into some of its scarier residents. For example, our guide showed us the home of a funnel web spider and told us that a brown snake called one area home.
Shortly after, I was hiking back up from the waterfall when something slid down the hillside and into my path in a pile of leaves. All I saw was scales and a long tail. I froze, just as I’d been instructed to do. My heart was pounding, only to have an Eastern water dragon (a rather cute and common species of lizard in Australia) pop his little head up and scurry on his way. But it definitely could have been one of Australia’s less friendly residents!
Apart from the normal hiking dangers (steep drops, uneven ground) another thing to keep in mind is bushfire risk, particularly in summer. Anyone watching the news last year will know how devastated the country was by the bushfires. There had been a few fires already in the Blue Mountains around the time I was there and it was another reason I booked a tour, the guide was in contact with the office which was monitoring the situation, and luckily there were not any fires that day. But they can spread fast, and you need to monitor what’s going on before visiting.
What to bring and wear
If you are hiking around the bushwalks, you must have sturdy, comfortable walking shoes with decent grip. Make sure to bring lots of water and a hat, it can get very hot (even in spring while I was there). If you plan to watch the sunset, do bring a jack or cardigan. The temperature drops quickly. I forgot my jacket and I was freezing.
I can’t recommend using at least one day on your Sydney itinerary to check out the Blue Mountains. You can find my full Sydney itinerary here.