As you breathe in the lovely aroma of eucalyptus and admire the steep, tree-covered Blue Mountains, the hustle and bustle of Sydney seems far away. It’s hard to believe that you’re only about an hour and a half’s drive away from the city, because the two places seem like a world apart.
Here is a suggested short tour of the Blue Mountains that you can easily follow in a day from your base in Sydney. It includes the most popular tourist attraction — The Three Sisters - but also takes you to a few places that are less well known. These were generously shown to us by our Australian friends.
Are the Blue Mountains Blue?
The Blue Mountains are not blue in color. They take their name from the blue haze that hangs in the air. This is caused by the evaporation of eucalyptus from the many gum trees that grow in the Blue Mountains.
The aroma produced by the evaporated eucalyptus perfumes the whole of the area. It’s hard to describe how lovely it is to walk around in a place where the air is perfumed. Whenever I smell eucalyptus, it takes me right back to the Blue Mountains!
Heading out of Sydney
From the center of Sydney, head towards Parramatta and join the M4 highway at Strathfield.
After you leave the highway at Lapstone, you’ll drive through a series of small towns.
Each town displays its height above sea level on its signpost, so that you can see that you are climbing higher and higher as you travel through each settlement, from Blaxland at 234 metres (767 feet) to Katoomba, which is more than one kilometer (3,280 feet) above sea level.
A Superb View from Sublime Point
Stop at Sublime Point, near the town of Leura. There’s a short, steep climb down to the lookout point.
You’ll need to tread carefully, because there’s just enough space for two people to pass on the uneven steps that border a very sharp drop down the mountain. There’s no barrier between the path and the mountain, so take care!
When you reach the lookout at Sublime Point, you’re rewarded for the somewhat scary walk by the most wonderful, breath-taking panoramic view of the mountains.
Welcome to Sacred Women’s Country!
The Aborigines apparently designated this area “sacred women’s country” where no men were allowed. The men truly missed out!
After Sublime Point, follow the signs to the major tourist attraction of the area: The Three Sisters at Echo Point, near the town of Katoomba.
Meet the Three Sisters Turned to Stone by a Witch Doctor
The Three Sisters is a rock formation with three separate peaks side-by-side. At the top of each peak, the rock formation seems to resemble a woman’s face.
There is an Aboriginal legend of three sisters who fell in love with three brothers from a neighboring tribe.
A tribal battle followed, because inter-marriage between the two tribes was forbidden.
During the battle, the three sisters were turned into stone by a witch doctor to protect them from harm.
However, the witch doctor died during the battle and no one else to this day has been able to turn the three sisters back into human beings. They remain, immortalized in rock, for all to admire.
Take a ride on the aerial cable car for a more close-up view of the Three Sisters and to appreciate just how steep and rugged the mountains are.
You can also experience the world’s steepest railway incline by taking the scenic railway that ends up in Jurassic rainforest in the Jamison Valley floor.
Walk through the rainforest on the scenic walkway’s elevated boardwalk, surrounded by lush green ferns.
Lunch in Katoomba
Katoomba is a good place to stop for lunch. There are several cafes and restaurants in its long main street.
Katoomba also has a few parks and picnic areas where you can eat outside and, if you have children, they can play in the open air.
Relax in Katoomba Falls
On the outskirts of Katoomba, visit Katoomba Falls where a waterfall cascades down the steep, tree-covered mountain. The Katoomba Falls Kiosk is a good place to sit on a sofa and relax with a cup of coffee.
After Katoomba Falls, drive through Medlow Bath, a spa town, and Blackheath. Blackheath is well-known for its rhododendron gardens and its annual rhododendron festival held each November.
Outside Blackheath, head for Hargraves Lookout.
Off the Beaten Track at Hargraves Lookout
The road becomes a bumpy, dirt track for a few miles but when you arrive at Hargraves Lookout you’re rewarded with spectacular views of the mountains and the green Megalong Valley below.
You’ll also see beautiful purple and yellow wild flowers growing in the mountain terrain.
Hargraves Lookout is a great place to visit because there are very few tourists.
Unlike Sublime Point, there are no steep drops on the way from the parking lot to the lookout point.
There is a walk from the lower lookout point into the bush that looks very steep and precarious. There is no fencing to create a barrier and the warning signs tend to warn you at the last-minute.
A sign that says, “Danger: Cliff Edge” is about an inch away from the edge!
Dinner with a Beautiful View
Once you’ve admired the view at Hargraves Lookout, you could either head back to Sydney or stay in the Blue Mountains for dinner. Although restaurants are dotted throughout the area, you’ll find a lot of them in Katoomba, including contemporary Australian, Italian, Chinese, Indian, and Thai.
The restaurants in the Blue Mountains tend to close fairly early in the evening. It’s not unusual for last orders to be taken at 8.30 pm.
Another reason to dine early is that some restaurants have beautiful views that can be admired before it gets dark.
A Place of Peace and Beauty
You’ll never forget the breath-taking, panoramic beauty of the Blue Mountains and the peace and stillness that can be found there.
It’s definitely worth getting off the beaten tourist track and exploring more of the area’s unspoiled natural beauty.