With only 60 miles (100 kilometers) between downtown Sydney and Blue Mountains National Park, there’s no excuse to not make the quick jaunt for at least a day. While enjoying an escape from city life, travelers are treated to views of the serene mountain range — it has landscapes draped in majestic forests and carved by stunning sandstone cliffs, and it’s spotted with cool swimming holes as well. Before you head out into the wilderness, read on to familiarize yourself with what awaits!
- Location: southeastern Australia
- Established: 1959
- Size: 1,040 mi² (2,690 km²)
- Annual Visitors: 4 million
THE BLUE MOUNTAINS
The Blue Mountains were first home to Aboriginal tribes such as the Darkinjung, Darug, Gundungurra, Wanaruah, Wiradjuri, and Tharawal Nations, whose lasting legacies are immortalized in the area’s beautiful rock carvings. Over time, more people began exploring the region, and the process to make the area a national park began in the 18th century. Originally called “Carmarthen Hills,” the peaks that make up this forested range are populated with an abundance Eucalyptus trees. These trees — the tallest flowering plant on earth — excrete oil, which mixes with dust and vapor in the air. When sunlight passes through this combination of substances, a bluish hue is created — hence the park’s name.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
When first organizing your trip, take Australia’s seasons — and, more importantly, its temperatures — into account. There’s no hiding from summer’s heat down under so, if you’re braving the unwavering sun come December, be sure to bring lots of water and always know your limits!
During the other three seasons, temperatures in the Blue Mountains become more manageable. It’s also good to know that the higher you hike, the cooler it will get. For instance, it’s not unlikely to see a 50-degree (10 degrees Celsius) difference between Sydney and Mount Victoria. This is especially true in the winter, when daily highs hovers around 41 degrees (five degrees Celsius) in the upper regions of the park.
With this is mind, be sure to choose suitable routes when exploring the park. The escarpments, waterfalls, and canyons are all intriguing, but it’s best to be realistic about the challenge each lookout, cliff, and trail present. For the more extreme adventurers, there are options for rock climbing and canyoning — choose your favorite and start exploring!
There are also numerous towns in and around the park such as Leura, Katoomba, and Wentworth Falls. These small communities boast restaurants, hotels, and stores that allow you to stock up on supplies and recharge your batteries (both figuratively and literally) during your trip.
Driving from Sydney is a relatively stress-free way to access the Blue Mountains. To reach the outer edges of the park, you’ll need to drive roughly an hour, and to explore highly sought after destinations like The Three Sisters, you’ll have to extend the journey to about 90 minutes. If you do travel by car, be prepared to pay the eight-dollar entrance fee ($6 USD). But, if driving’s not your thing, don’t worry — there are alternatives.
Catching a train from Sydney to the Blue Mountains has never been easier. The city’s public transport is impressive for many reasons — most notably for the efficiency of its trains. If you leave from Central Station, you can reach almost all of the park’s main attractions and towns, and each stop will have taxis waiting to take you to more particular sites like lookouts and trailheads. For a one-way ticket, you can expect to pay roughly $6.50 USD.
There are also plenty of guided tours that leave the city on a daily basis and allow travelers to take in the scenery by bus. If you’re looking into this option, be sure to plan ahead, as many of the guided buses fill up quickly!
WHAT TO DO
Go For A Hike
Over one million hectares of trees, canyons, and waterfalls make up this beautiful park that showcases Australia’s Great Dividing Range — and there’s no better way to experience it than by exploring the park’s plentiful hiking trails (also known as bushwalking trails). Within the park you’ll discover hikes for explorers of all ages and levels of expertise, ranging from quick strolls to strenuous, overnight endeavors. Topping this long list of trails are the Grand Canyon Walking Track, National Pass, and the Federal Pass Walking Track. Each adventure will highlight the unique, stunning beauty of southeastern Australia.
Hop On A Bike
Another way to revel in the Blue Mountain’s beauty is by bicycle. The park is lined with mountain bike trails that lead to popular sites such as Wentworth Falls and Blue Gum Swamp. If you don’t have your own bike, you can rent one from Blue Mountain Bikes, located just five minutes from the train station in Katoomba. But be aware: there are no same-day bookings, so be sure to plan ahead!
Find Your Adrenaline Fix
The Blue Mountains are no stranger to adrenaline junkies. From abseiling and rock climbing, to canyoning and mountaineering, there seems to be something for everyone seeking a rush. When considering these extreme endeavors, it’s best to book with a guide. Luckily, the park boasts numerous companies to choose from, so pick the one that best suits your needs and get ready for a wild ride!
Relax and Rejuvenate
After you’ve sweated up and down a mountain or two, it’s time to sit back and relax. Like many well-established national parks around the world, the Blue Mountains have no shortage of spas and retreats. You can pick from day spas, wellness centers, and comfortable lodging to help you recover before you head back to the city.
Header image by Floris Jan-roelof