Things to Do in Blue Mountains
The Three Sisters is an ancient rock formation located in the Blue Mountains National Park in the town of Katoomba. The towering trio of stone has a mythical dimension in the Aboriginal Dreamtime legend about three sisters who lived in the Jamison Valley and fell in love with three brothers from a rival tribe whom they were forbidden to marry.
Situated at the heart of Australia’s Blue Mountains UNESCO World Heritage Site, Scenic World offers the rare chance to explore the mountains from all angles. Ride overhead in a cable car, hike along the valley floor, ride a train through mountain tunnels, and discover some of the most impressive scenery in Blue Mountains National Park.
The Blue Mountains National Park, part of the Greater But Mountains World Heritage Area, is one of Australia’s most visited national parks and makes an easy day trip from Sydney. The park has over 80 miles (140 kilometers) of walking trails, protected Aboriginal sites for visitors to admire, and camping. It’s also home to Echo Point where the famous Three Sisters rock formation sits.
Leura, sometimes called the “Jewel in the Mountains Crown,” is a small Blue Mountains village located about 60 miles (100 kilometers) west of Sydney. Smaller than neighboring Katoomba, with a quaint, cherry tree lined town center called the Leura Mall, the village exudes mill-town charm. There are cafes, bakeries, antiques shops, and high-end boutiques, with brightly colored flowers decorating the streets.
Wentworth Falls is a charming town located in the Blue Mountains Heritage Site about 60 miles (100 kilometers) west from Sydney. Known for its eponymous waterfalls, the town has a number of walking and hiking trails, picnic and BBQ areas, a well-preserved Aboriginal site, and a charming downtown with historic buildings and gourmet coffee shops.
Anyone who’s seen a picture of the Blue Mountains should recognize Echo Point. Famous for its view of the Three Sisters, this sweeping viewpoint on the outskirts of Katoomba defines the Blue Mountains’ beauty. From this cliff top ledge, the jagged escarpment vertically drops towards the distant valley floor—a void where clouds can linger in the treetops nearly a thousand feet below.
Take a deep breath and drink in the beauty of the Blue Mountains’ southern flank, and then consider walking the “Giant Stairway” that drops down into the valley. Over 800 stairs that are carved from the mountain descend 1,000 vertical feet, where numerous hiking trails weave their way along the forested valley floor. Climbing the walls of the “Ruined Castle” is a popular valley hike, and is a good way to escape the crowds that tend to gather at the viewpoint. Rather than hiking back up the stairs, take a ride on the “Scenic Railway” that leads back to the top of the cliff. At inclines of up to 60° it’s considered the world’s steepest railway, and drops passengers at Scenic World—a short walk from Echo Point Lookout.
One of Australia’s oldest and most impressive cave systems, Jenolan Caves are a highlight of any visit to the Blue Mountains. The caves serve up some spectacular scenery, with dramatic stalactites and stalagmites, underground rivers, and unusual limestone and crystal formations.
In the 1930s, when early conservationists and Australian bushwalkers were lobbying for a National Park, you could argue that places like Govetts Leap ended up making it happen. With its sweeping view of the Grose Valley and swath of forested wilderness, Govetts Leap is often considered the most scenic Blue Mountains viewpoint. Surely, while standing at the top of the sheer rock face, and gazing out at the undulating hills that are completely covered in blue gum trees, lawmakers and bush walkers could all agree that this was a place to be saved.
What makes the lookout so exceptionally stunning is 600-foot Bridal Veil Falls—the tallest single-drop waterfall found anywhere in the National Park. There is a narrow hiking trail that descends the cliff face down to the base of the falls, although the sheer drop-offs and steep climb make it a trail for serious hikers. Most visitors will be better off just gazing out at the view—or stopping at the Blue Mountains Heritage Center at the end of Govetts Leap Road.
Set in the Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney, the cool climate of the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden (previously known as Mt. Tomah Botanic Garden) nurtures thousands of species of plants, from all over the world. The plants are arranged geographically, allowing for a walk among the greenery of different regions of the southern hemisphere. At 1,000 meters above sea level, there are magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and World Heritage Park. At this higher elevation rich volcanic and clay soil called basalt, along with heavy rainfall, creates conditions perfect for producing and cultivating unique plants found only in this climate. The 28-hectare estate has both manicured gardens and wilder “jungle” sections, as well as accommodation for those wishing to stay in the park.
The Blue Mountain Botanic Gardens are also focused on conservation, with a World Heritage Exhibition Center has educational displays for a variety of plants, animals, and for local history.
Katoomba is one of the most visited towns in the Blue Mountains. Home to Echo Point, where visitors can see the Three Sisters rock formation and Scenic World, Katoomba offers ample attractions and activities to delight all kinds of travelers. While it maintains a small-town feel, it’s home to a large selection of accommodations, dining options, and shopping in the center of town.
More Things to Do in Blue Mountains
One of the world’s largest, privately owned cool-climate gardens, Mayfield Garden extends over 14 acres (16 hectares) within a 4,940-acre (2,000-hectare) working farm. The garden offers lush scenery and many pathways, nooks, and crannies to explore. Since opening to visitors, it has also become an entertainment hub, hosting regular events.