Not far from Sydney is the highland area known as the Blue Mountain, and for most visitors going to Sydney this is usually a must visit place. For a lot of people, they would usually follow a day excursion tour which leaves Sydney early in the morning and coming back in the evening. While a day tour is great if you don’t have time, staying over in the Blue Mountains is recommended to enjoy nature and experience the laid back atmosphere of the community.

Getting There

It’s really convenient to get to the Blue Mountains and for most residents in Sydney, driving is the preferred option. It takes roughly 90 minutes to drive the 100km from Sydney to Katoomba, the main town in the Blue Mountains.

If you prefer to take public transport, then taking the train is the best option, which is what I will cover in this post. The train ride takes slightly more than 2 hours from Sydney Central Station to Katoomba Station. And you get to see the change of scenery as urban sprawl gives way to the rugged landscape of the Blue Mountains while the train slowly climbs from sea level to more than 1,000m above sea level..

Sydney Central is the main train station with it’s classical architecture. Trains to other cities and the airport all stop here.
The Blue Mountains Line train is only 4 carriages long and leaves at hourly intervals.

So what about train tickets? No tickets are required. You have to use the Opal Card for all public transport in Sydney. Just tap in at the entry gates and it’s free seating on the train. In case you are wondering what the Opal Card is, here is my earlier post on Sydney and how to buy and use the Opal Card. The ticket price does vary depending on peak hours, but for myself it cost only AUD4+ for the trip from Sydney to Katoomba (100km). Conversely, my bus ticket from Sydney to Bondi cost me the roughly the same amount (9km).

Katoomba

Katoomba is the largest town in the Blue Mountains and is where the famous 3 Sisters rock formation is also located. Thus, you will find that most of the visitors will stop and stay here. Needless to say, this is also where most of the lodgings can be found.

Katoomba isn’t the last stop for the train. It stops only for a few minutes for passengers to alight and board. So don’t snooze when you are nearing Katoomba or you’ll find yourself going deeper into the Blue Mountains.

Katoomba 1
Although Katoomba is rather small, it’s about 2.5km from the train station to the 3 Sisters. There are a couple of public bus services but their timings are rather long. If you are travelling in a group or have bulky luggage then getting a taxi is the best option. It cost us around AUD7.50 to travel from the station to the middle of Katoomba where our Airbnb was. There is a taxi stand conveniently located just outside the train station.
Airbnb
Our Airbnb was a non-descript house but very nice furnished with that antique-curio shop vibe.

Katoomba is a small town and walking is a good option due to the cooler weather in the mountains. In fact, we walked most of the time and took the bus only when we were too tired, or if the timing of the bus was just right.

Katoomba 2
Katoomba has that retro 1960’s look. The main street is lined with shops and restaurants on both sides.
Katoomba 3
If you want to walk then be prepared for some killer slopes in Katoomba. We were huffing and puffing after our first walk to the town center. The train station is located at higher ground than the southern end of the town, so you should plan if you want to walk uphill or take the bus.
Katoomba 4
There isn’t much to do in Katoomba except if you need food and supplies where you can get them at the supermarkets. There are numerous lodgings ranging from backpacker hostels, motor inns, bed and breakfasts to luxury hotels. Restaurants range from Asian to Australian. Some of the buildings are decorated with street art as you can see here.
Katoomba 5
We stopped by this chocolate shop for some fantastic chocolate milkshake. And yes, they sell home made chocolates which many tourists were buying.

The 3 Sisters

This is arguably the most famous attraction in the Blue Mountains. It’s just a rock formation but aboriginal legend has it that once there were 3 beautiful sisters. They were in love with 3 brothers from the neighbouring tribe, but tribal law forbade them to marry. So a war was fought by the 3 brothers to claim the 3 sisters. A wise man turned the sisters into stone to save them from danger. The wise man was supposed to turn them back to human form once the war was over, but he was killed in battle and no one could break his magic spell. And so the 3 sisters remained as they were until this day.

If you are staying in Katoomba then the 3 Sisters is at the southern end of the town. Just follow the signs and you’ll find yourself there in no time. There is a lookout area called Echo Point where you can view the 3 Sisters.

3 Sisters Cover
The best time to view the 3 Sisters is probably sunset. The rays from the setting Sun shine over the escarpment and light up only the tips of the 3 Sisters. You can see also the blue hue that gives the Blue Mountains it’s name.
3 Sisters 7
After the Sun goes down, the 3 Sisters remain lighted up at night until late. The city lights of Sydney can be seen over the horizon.
3 Sisters 8
I planned to capture the Milky Way in the Blue Mountains if I could and managed to capture this view with the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) on the left. The LMC is a dwarf galaxy that orbits our Milky Way and can only be seen in the Southern Hemisphere.

Besides just looking at the 3 Sisters from the lookout point, you can also walk onto the first Sister rock formation. It’s definitely better to do this in the morning. And if you are an early riser then you could come to the lookout point for some sunrise photos as the Sun should be coming up behind the 3 Sisters. After that you can walk to the 3 Sisters.

3 Sisters 1
The start of the path to the 3 Sisters. It’s on the left side of the souvenir shop.
3 Sisters 6
It’s a short walk through eucalyptus trees and stunning views of the valley.
3 Sisters 5
Eucalyptus trees with their distinctive white trunks.
3 Sisters 2
After that it’s a vertigo inducing climb down steep stairs onto the bridge that crosses over to the first Sister rock formation.
3 Sisters 4
Climbing down is easy but looking down at a maybe 1,000 foot drop onto the valley below is really scary. Climbing back up the steep stairway was really tough.
3 Sisters 3
Come here early in the morning to enjoy the serenity and view all to yourself. Minutes after taking this photo, a group of ladies photo-bombed the whole place.

Scenic World

I don’t know how to describe this place, it’s like some sort of nature park with rides. Scenic World is located on the southwestern corner of Katoomba. The public bus does go there, but you can walk there if you want to.

Scenic World 1
The main entrance at Scenic World.
Scenic World 2
You can see the 3 Sisters from Scenic World’s main building.

We bought the Unlimited Discovery Pass (AUD39/adult) which gives unlimited rides for the whole day. There are several suggestions for hiking routes which depends on your preference. Some routes are longer and some are shorter.

Scenic World 3
The Skyway is cable car ride that brings you over to the other side of the valley.
Scenic World 10
There is a lookout point here with a 1,000 foot drop to the valley floor.
Scenic World 9
If you don’t like the idea of paying to enjoy nature, then there are numerous hiking trails that skirt along the escarpment and are not part of Scenic World.
Scenic World 4
The other ride is the Cableway which is also a cable car but it descends into the valley below. It’s kind of scary when it’s going down.
Scenic World 6
Probably the most fun ride is the Railway which claims to be the world’s steepest railway.
Scenic World 8
You can adjust the angle of your seat to scare yourself silly.
Scenic World 7
Looks fun! They even play the Indiana Jones music as the train speeds through the incline.
Scenic World 5
Once you have had enough adrenaline rush, you can take a slow walk in the valley to appreciate nature.
Scenic World 11
Along the way, we passed by some historical exhibits which revealed the coal mining past of the area.

If you want to visit Scenic World then my suggestion is to come in the morning when it just opens and is less crowded (before the tour buses come). Take the rides, then use the public hiking trails that skirt along the escarpment back to Echo Point where the 3 Sisters are. That will take you past Katoomba Falls (which we didn’t get to visit). Or if you are too tired, then take the bus back to Katoomba central. The park closes in the evening and you may not have much time to explore if you come late in the afternoon.

Leura

Next to Katoomba is the village of Leura. They are actually so close together that now they look like just like the same town. You can take a taxi into Leura or take the train (Yes, the same train that you took from Sydney). We decided to take the train and Leura is just 1 stop away. And if you are more adventurous it’s actually possible to hike all the way from the 3 Sisters to Leura through the hiking trails.

Leura 1
Getting off at Leura Station.
Leura 2
Again, you get that retro 1960’s vibe.
Leura 6
Leura’s main attraction is Leura Mall which is their main shopping street. It gets crowded on weekends as Sydney residents come here for day trips to relax and shop. The shops in Leura are more artisanal compared to Katoomba. So if you are looking for something more authentic and unique, I would recommend Leura.
Leura 5
More or less the end of Leura’s main street which is about 300m long.
Leura 4
Relaxing under this huge tree while we had our late lunch.
Leura 3
The laid back life in the Blue Mountains.

For ourselves, we planned it such that we left the Blue Mountains early in the morning by train to Sydney Central Station (Slightly more than 2 hrs) and then switched to the Airport Link train to get to the airport (15 min). All in, you can get from Katoomba to Sydney airport in less than 3 hours by train. This is possible if your flight leaves in the afternoon. Alternatively, the taxis in Katoomba can drive you directly to Sydney Airport in less than 2 hrs, but that is a very expensive option.

4 thoughts on “Blue Mountains Getaway

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