Why Visit Greater Blue Mountains Area – Best places to see in Australia
The Greater Blue Mountains Area consists of 1.03 million ha of sandstone plateaux, escarpments and gorges dominated by temperate eucalypt forest. The site, comprised of eight protected areas, is noted for its representation of the evolutionary adaptation and diversification of the eucalypts in post-Gondwana isolation on the Australian continent.
Ninety-one eucalypt taxa occur within the Greater Blue Mountains Area which is also outstanding for its exceptional expression of the structural and ecological diversity of the eucalypts associated with its wide range of habitats.
The site provides significant representation of Australia’s biodiversity with ten percent of the vascular flora as well as significant numbers of rare or threatened species, including endemic and evolutionary relict species, such as the Wollemi pine, which have persisted in highly-restricted microsites.
Greater Blue Mountains Area – How to get there
Take the M4 out of Sydney, then continue as the M4 becomes the Great Western Highway (A32) on Lapstone hill. Sydney to Katoomba is 103km and takes about one hour and fifty minutes in good traffic.
The traffic is much worse leaving Sydney on a Friday night, or returning to Sydney on a Sunday afternoon. Your travel time can double. After a long weekend (public holiday), traffic can come to a standstill coming down the mountains into Sydney in the afternoons.
The are two major roads into the Blue Mounatins. The Great Western Highway is the main route that leads to Katoomba. The Bells Line of Road is the alternative road north of this that comes from Windsor Road. The two roads are joined at Mount Victoria by the Darling Causeway. This forms a loop road which you can do in either direction. The Bells Line of Road is more narrow and winding, but provides for a less tourist motorway like experience. There are several cafe’s, resturants, and fruit orchards along the Bells Line of Road. Total ascent/descent on either way from the Sydney basin is approximately 1000m.
Hiring a car from Sydney to spend a day or two in the mountains is a popular option for visitors to Sydney, however an issue often encountered by people staying the city centre is that car rental companies along the city strip generally close before 6pm, and can have queues when they open at 9am. This can make for a very short day in the mountains. The alternative is paying for an extra days car hire, and for overnight parking in the city for two nights, which can add considerably to the cost. Your call, your wallet, your time.
Greater Blue Mountains Area – How to Visit
Getting there by car
Once you get up the mountains, it is easy to get around the mountains by car, and congestion or parking is generally not a problem in getting around. The Great Western Highway (A32) crosses the Mountains east to west, and most places aren’t far from it. Expect to pay for parking at Echo Point (The Three Sisters) at $4 per hour, but everywhere else should be free of charge. There are large free multi-storey parking lots at Scenic World.
Local Car Rental is available from RediCAR , but if you are coming from Sydney, driving up the mountains is a good option.
It’s worth considering that nearly all car rental companies do not allow you to take their cars off of the sealed roads. This is unfortunate as one of the great benefits of a self drive tour of the Blue Mountains is being able to enjoy some of the lesser known lookouts off the beaten track.
By hop-on hop-off bus
There are also two hop-on hop-off bus services available, very inspired names as:
- Blue Mountains Trolley Tours
- Blue Mountains Explorer
You can purchase a link ticket with the train that includes the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus and the train fare to Katoomba from any Cityrail station. If you are travelling as a family the family fare saver, where only the first child pays, means that you should only buy a link ticket for one child, and buy the other child ticket on the bus.
Consider how much time you have, and what you want to see. HOHO buses will generally cost more money than local buses, especially if you have a MyMulti ticket which includes the local buses. They can only get you to various lookouts and places of interest in the Katoomba and Leura area. You can see some great views over the Jameson Valley but you are not able to see views and lookouts in the Grose or Megalong Valley’s.
By local bus
You can get to some stunning view points near Katoomba and Leura falls using regular bus service. Buses stop right outside the train station. Visit Blue Mountains Bus online for the timetable. Most popular visitor destinations are serviced, but service frequency can drop to every couple of hours on Saturdays and many routes don’t run at all on Sundays.
Any type of MyMulti ticket will cover the local bus in the mountains – buy one from a ticket reseller or a train station. Cash tickets are sold on the bus.
If travelling between towns in the mountains (like from Katoomba to Leura, Blackheath, Medlow Bath, or Mount Victoria), train is also available. Trains generally run every hour or so, more frequently during peak times.
What to see in Greater Blue Mountains Area
- The most popular attraction in the Mountains is Echo Point at Katoomba, a major lookout with incredible views of the Jamison Valley and the Three Sisters. There’s also an information centre here with displays about the environment of the area, so its a good place to start your visit to the mountains. Maps and souvenirs available for sale. Come back at night to see the area lit up.
- Govett’s Leap, a lookout at Blackheath with fantastic views over the Grose Valley. A number of walking tracks around the edge of the escarpment start here
- Cliff Drive, around Katoomba and Leura has many pull-offs for admiring the view.
- Gordon Falls, the lookout provides views of the huge waterfall and the forest, close to Leura
- Kanangra Walls at Kanangra Boyd National Park.
- Wentworth Falls.
Watch a IMAX movie at The Edge Cinema in Katoomba – its giant screen has somewhat regular showings of ‘The Edge Movie’, which is a documentary about the Blue Mountains, but check times on their website first, to make sure they aren’t showing the latest Disney feature when you plan to visit. The cinema is about 10 minutes walk from Katoomba Station, the other direction from Echo Point.
In the more residential lower Mountains commuter belt, there are a couple of mildly interesting tourist sites at Faulconbridge – the Corridor of Oaks, which has oak trees planted by many Australian Prime Ministers, and Sir Henry Parkes’ Grave, the final resting place of a man considered to be the ‘Father of Federation’.
What and where to eat in Greater Blue Mountains Area. Where to sleep in Greater Blue Mountains Area – from budget to best lodging
There are many accommodation options in the Mountains.Bed and Breakfasts are popular, but can be expensive, especially on weekends. These generally cater to a premium end of the market. Also check guest houses and motels.
Pubs – many have been gentrified, but not all. Money Savings Tip: The price variations are significant between the two types.