Planning a day trip to the Blue Mountains? You’ve come to the right place! The Blue Mountains National Park near Sydney is a UNESCO World Heritage Site spanning across more than 1 million hectares of eucalypt forest and several conservation reserves. According to UNESCO, “it constitutes one of the largest and most intact tracts of protected bushland in Australia” and is an illustration of the evolution of rare and endemic plant life discovered in this area. The region is characterized by an ethereal blue-ish haze (in actuality a fine mist of oil) emitted by the eucalyptus trees populating the park.
The diverse landscape of towering cliffs, slot canyons and roaring waterfalls is absolutely captivating, and the Blue Mountains’ proximity to Sydney and charming towns makes it an accessible and eye-opening day trip. Like the viewpoints along the Great Ocean Road near Melbourne, the majority of the Blue Mountains sights and attractions are well-paved with clear signage and spacious viewing platforms (including several wheelchair-accessible locations) – this means that you can cover a lot of ground, even if you only have 1 day in the Blue Mountains. Read on for more practical information to help you plan a Sydney to Blue Mountains day trip!
How to get to the Blue Mountains from Sydney
There are 6 areas in the Blue Mountains National Park: Katoomba (the main town that visitors head to), Blackheath, Glenbrook, Lower Grose Valley, Mount Wilson and the Southern Blue Mountains Area near Oberon. Getting from Sydney to the Blue Mountains is relatively easy if you rent a car – the Blue Mountains National Park is located approximately 1.5-2 hours away from Sydney. From Sydney your best option is to rent a car (we have used and recommend Budget and Thrifty) to make the drive over – remember, you drive on the left in Australia!
You could go an organized group tour (and there are tons of Blue Mountains tours from Sydney) where transportation is taken care of, but if you enjoy the flexibility that comes with having your own car then I highly recommend renting a car to drive from Sydney to the greater Blue Mountains region. There is plenty of parking in the Blue Mountains (the majority of which is free) and the roads are easy to navigate. This particular article will offer a self-drive Blue Mountains itinerary with places to visit and where to stay.
Looking for the best prices for rental car companies around the world? Click here to book your rental car ahead of your trip. Bookings can be cancelled or amended if your plans change!
That being said, it is possible to visit the Blue Mountains without a car and without joining a guided tour. If you are staying in Sydney, head to Central Station and look for the Blue Mountains Line. You can check the schedule here, though you should know that when we visited in late February 2020 there was some damage to the train lines from the bush fires, and replacement buses were being used in certain areas. The journey from Sydney to Katoomba station takes 2 hours but may take longer if replacement buses are being deployed.
Once you have arrived at Katoomba Station, you can use the Blue Mountains hop-on/off Explorer Bus to get around. The first departure is at 9:15 AM – check the map for exact hop-on/hop-off points. You can buy your tickets in advance via Klook and skip-the-line at Katoomba Station!
Where to stay in the Blue Mountains
It is an easy day trip from Sydney to the Blue Mountains and the journey will take you approximately 2 hours each way by train or about 1.5 hours by car – click here for some highly rated accommodation in Sydney.
However, if you’re looking to cut down on travel time or want to spend several days exploring the Blue Mountains National Park then I recommend looking into accommodation in and around Katoomba, Leura, and Blackheath, though the nicer hotels in the area can be fairly pricey. Alternatively, you can also look into accommodation in Blaxland, Glenbrook or Penrith – these towns are around 30-45 minutes away by car from Katoomba and Wentworth Falls. Click here to check availability and rates!
Best time to visit the Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains is one of the top tourist destinations in Australia, and its accessibility from Sydney makes it a popular year-round destination for international and local visitors alike. That being said, the park is spread across many different attractions so it is not difficult to stray from the beaten track away the crowds, though many of the more famous locations like the Echo Point Lookout will always be more busy than others.
In general, the Blue Mountains is cooler than Sydney by a few degrees due to the elevation, and I recommend bringing a light jacket even if you are visiting in summer or spring. During the Australian summer from late November to about February the temperature can reach upwards of 30 degrees Celsius, and can plummet below 10 degrees during the winter from June to August. For the most comfortable visit I recommend heading to the Blue Mountains between November to May; those looking to do more extensive hikes in cooler weather then the Australian spring from September to November is a good option as well.
Places to Visit in the Blue Mountains National Park
This is a 1 day Blue Mountains self-drive itinerary with a list of the Blue Mountains attractions that we visited, but there are a number of other options if you have more time in the area. If you don’t have a car then you can take the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus or perhaps even join a Blue Mountains tour from Sydney.
Some places (such as the Echo Point Lookout) charge a parking fee – if you venture beyond this list then you should know that a park entry fee of AU$8 per vehicle per day applies in the Glenbrook area. Without further ado, here are some of the best places to visit in the Blue Mountains!
1. Echo Point and the Three Sisters
Probably the most iconic of all of the Blue Mountains attractions, Echo Point Lookout is a viewpoint overlooking the Three Sisters, a trio of sandstone peaks formed thousands of years ago. The Three Sisters stand in the land of its traditional Aboriginal custodians, and the legend is that the three sisters from the Katoomba Tribe had fallen in love with three brothers from another tribe, but were forbidden from marrying each other.
A tribal battle ensued as the brothers refused to accept the decision, so a witchdoctor turned the sisters to stone to protect them. But before the witchdoctor could reverse his spell, he was killed during battle and the sisters remained petrified forever.
The stunning formation can be viewed from either the upper or lower viewing platforms at Echo Point, or you can even trek below the pillars themselves if you have more time (and comfortable walking shoes). You should also know that occasionally the sisters are shrouded in thick mist which hides them from plain sight – the weather doesn’t always cooperate!
If you need a quick coffee break I highly recommend stopping at Cassiopeia Coffee, a cute little coffee shop tucked away in Katoomba town.
2. Katoomba Cascades and Katoomba Falls
The Blue Mountains National Park is filled with a number of dazzling waterfalls, and the majority of them require you to go on a short trek. This one, however, is easily reached on foot down a few flights of stairs and a 5-minute drive away from Echo Point and the Three Sisters.
Venture just 10 minutes beyond the minor falls along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk towards the Reid’s Plateau Lookout and Katoomba Falls Lookout (follow the signposts) and you will find one of the best viewpoints in the Blue Mountains: one that gives you an unobstructed view of Katoomba Falls, the Scenic World cable car (“Scenic Skyway”) and the Three Sisters.
3. Govett’s Leap
Govett’s Leap lookout is one of the best viewpoints in the Blue Mountains with a panoramic view across the descending valley, forests and Bridal Veil Falls. We were visiting the park with my boyfriend’s 92-year-old grandmother, so the accessibility of the lookout was important as you can park right in front of the viewing platform and walk less than 20-metres for jaw-dropping views.
There is a secondary viewpoint to the left of the main platform as well as several walking tracks if you want to embark on any bushwalks.
4. Lincoln’s Rock
Lincoln’s Rock in Wentworth Falls has soared to popularity thanks to social media – the flat rock is a popular photo spot in the Blue Mountains and bus-loads of people visit the unfenced ledge day in and day out. However, with mass tourism comes a whole host of problems – littering, public urination and defecation (yes, really) and safety issues, some resulting in serious injuries.
If you are visiting Lincoln’s Rock, remember that there is a plummeting cliff edge – it should go without saying that you absolutely must be careful when approaching the edge of the viewpoint, the drop is no joke. If you are uncomfortable or afraid of heights your safest bet is to stick to some of the sections closer to the entrance that are a bit wider and further in from the edge.
5. Scenic World
Visiting Scenic World is one of the top things to do in the Blue Mountains. It is an attractions centre offering a number of different outdoor and sightseeing experiences including the Scenic Skyway (Australia’s first cable car), Scenic Cableway (also a cable car that descends 510 metres to the valley floor) and the Scenic Railway (the steepest passenger railway in the world).
If you are hopping on the Cableway or Railway you can then walk along the 2.4 KM boardwalk across the Jamison Valley. Tickets for Scenic World can be booked ahead of time so that you can skip the line – click here to get 10% off your Scenic World tickets!
How long to spend in the Blue Mountains
For those looking for a taste of the Blue Mountains then a day trip from Sydney gives you plenty of time to visit a handful of waterfalls, easy walking trails and viewpoints. However, avid hikers might want to dedicate a few days to exploring all of the extended trails and paths. As we were looking for a laid-back day trip with easy-to-access viewpoints and minimal hiking, 1 day in the Blue Mountains was sufficient.
For even more options, you may also want to venture towards one of the oldest cave complexes in the world: the Jenolan Caves. The network of underground caves and pristine lakes are open for guided visits and reachable by car – the drive from Katoomba will take more than an hour via the Great Western Freeway. You may want to dedicate a whole separate day to visiting the caves or cut down on the amount of time you spend in the core Blue Mountains National Park area, or else you’ll be in for a long, exhausting day.
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The natural beauty of the Blue Mountains took my breath away, and made for a wonderful day in the great outdoors of New South Wales. Are you planning a day trip to the Blue Mountains? Pin this for later!
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