The Blue Mountains were hands-down my favorite part of the 5 days I spent in Australia. The other days were spent in the cities of Sydney and Canberra, which were amazing as well. But the Blue Mountains day trip was my only chance to see a bit more of the wilder side of Australia (but still not too wild).
The Blue Mountains National Park is fairly touristy. And understandably so. The view of the forest below and the mountains in the distance from Echo Point is exquisite. Not to mention the attractions at Scenic World allow you to enjoy the national park, even if you’re not up for hiking.
If you want to get away from the crowds, though, you certainly can. There are miles (or…kilometers, since they use those) of trails to explore in the Jameson Valley.
How to get to the Blue Mountains
The easiest way to get to the Blue Mountains is by train, from Sydney Central Station. The trip is about 2 hours. And it’s crazy cheap. The fare is $5.95 AUD each way during off-peak hours. Head out as early as you can to give yourself plenty of time in the park and the beat the heat of the afternoon.
The stop for the primary lookout and hiking trailheads in the Blue Mountains is the Katoomba station. The train station is about a half hour walk from Echo Point and Scenic World. Alternatively, you can ride the public bus or buy a pass on one of the hop-on/hop-off services to the edge of the escarpment.
The three reasons to take a Blue Mountains Day Trip
Visiting the Blue Mountains is a must if you are visiting Sydney, and here’s why:
- Ride the steepest funicular railway in the world – Of the three “rides” at Scenic World, this one is by far the best. The Scenic Skyway may offer the grandest views, but the railway is hands-down the most fun. The train reaches a terrifying 52-degree angle from the horizontal at its steepest part. The seats have three settings that let you experience the ride in ‘Laid Back’, ‘Original’, or ‘Cliffhanger’ mode. Cliffhanger is a staggering 64 degrees from horizontal. Lest you are worried, there isn’t any risk of falling out of the train.
- The Giant Stairway – This. Is. Amazing. The stairway consists of over 900 stone and steel steps that take you from Echo Point and the Three Sisters down into the Jameson Valley. The descent is around 1,000 feet, and it is a spectacular hike. I suggest you do the trip as a one-way and take the railway back. But if you’re feeling adventurous, you could do it in reverse. It is quite the climb.
- Walk underneath the giant tree ferns – Ok. Maybe it’s just me, but I have always found tree ferns amazing. My dad grew one in our front yard when I was little, and it got several feet tall. Those in the Blue Mountains are far more impressive, towering 15-20 feet above you as you hike.
A few other tips for a Blue Mountains day trip
Through my experience visiting the Blue Mountains I discovered a few useful pointers that may help travelers:
- Don’t buy a hop-on/hop-off tour package, or a full tour package from Sydney. The Blue Mountains are extremely cheap to access by train and bus. The train to Katoomba is a mere $5.81 AUD off-peak. Once you’re there, the public buses run between Katoomba station and the major places you’ll want to stop. You’ll want to be hiking in the National Park anyway, so all you should really need is a ride each way between Katoomba and the edge of the escarpment. Rather than a $89 AUD day tour, you could easily be all-in, including lunch, for $25 AUD.
- Echo Point and Scenic World are the most touristy areas. You may want to avoid them entirely if you dislike crowds. I did buy the day pass at Scenic World for $39 AUD, and the train ride is quite enjoyable. The skyway and cableway aren’t as great, mainly because of the crowding. There are plenty of great views and hiking opportunities that are further off the beaten path.
- Make sure you flag the public bus in Katoomba. I didn’t see the sign on the exterior of the bus until it was too late. Even though I was standing right at the curb, the driver ignored me. I had to hoof it another 15 minutes.
I won’t deny that Sydney is a lovely place to visit, but if you really want to see a wilder side of Australia, consider a Blue Mountains day trip as part of your next visit to Australia.
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