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.
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..
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.