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New South Wales: The Blue Mountains

For over a century, The Blue Mountains has been a favourite holiday place for the people of Sydney. Its huge 141,000 hectares of mostly forested landscape on a sandstone plateau contain some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in eastern Australia - tremendous sandstone precipices ringing densely wooded valleys which, viewed from a distance, are of an intense cobalt blue, hence the range's name.
World Heritage Listed and protected by a series of National Parks, The Blue Mountains has been extensively developed for tourism and is now criss-crossed by more than 1,100 kms of roads, most of which are first class. The terrain, however, is so broken by deep gorges that considerable areas are still rarely visited, except by skilled bush walkers or mountain climbers. Some 24 towns and villages are scattered through the region. Well maintained walking tracks from these towns provide easy access along cliff tops and deep into valleys to view the stunning escarpments, waterfalls and rainforests of the canyon floor at close range.

How to Get There

By road: There are two main roads - the Great Western Highway (linking with the Olympic Way to Melbourne, at Bathurst) via Parramatta and Penrith, and the Bell's Line Road which crosses the mountains to the north, via Windsor, Richmond and Kurrajong to Mount Victoria. From Sydney, take Great Western Highway or the Western Motorway to Penrith. Follow the signs to Katoomba and/or the Blue Mountains via Great Western Highway, or Bell's Line Road via Windsor and Richmond.
Visitors Centres at Glenbrook, Katoomba, Oberon and Lithgow have some excellent maps and itinerary suggestions, and major tourist attractions are clearly signposted.
Self drive itineraries
By train: The mountains are served by fast electric trains from Sydney, the journey between Sydney and Mount Victoria taking almost two hours. Trains to the Blue Mountains leave Sydney Central Station departing platforms 12/13 hourly. Trains usually stop at Strathfield, Parramatta, Penrith and all stations to Springwood, Katoomba, Mt Victoria or Lithgow.
Day trips by train are possible, however, because of the travel time and the large number of places of interest in the Mountains, an early start is recommended. Even then, you will only scratch the surface of what the Blue Mountains have to offer in a day.
City Rail also offers a number of rail/coach tour options including the Blue Mountains ExplorerLink (daily, except Christmas Day). Tickets can be purchased from any CityRail Station and include return train fare and guided tour. Train timetables (select Blue Mountains Line)

Megalong Valley lookout Porter's Pass, Grose Valley Jenolan Caves entrance

Getting Around

Organised Tours: operating out of Katoomba, Blue Mountains Trolley Tours or Blue Mountains Explorer Bus offer a transfer service between tourist locations around Katoomba and Leura, including major lookouts, bushwalking trailheads, tourist attractions and hotels. Passengers can hop on and off wherever they please. Passes are also available which include entry to major tourist attractions along the way. A range of operators provide guided tours to see the region's special places. Tours range from adventure four wheel drive tours, to more conventional coach tours. For tour companies based in the Blue Mountains click here.
By Bus: Blue Mountains Bus Company provides regular commuter bus services between major towns in the Blue Mountains from Penrith to Mount Victoria.

Bushwalks in the Blue Mountains
Waterfalls in the Blue Mountains
Blue Mountains Lookouts
Blue Mountains Tours
Canyoning In The Blue Mountains


Blue Mountains National Park: of all the parks in the Greater Blue Mountains area, the Blue Mountains National Park is the best known and most visited. It is the area most developed, with such well known features as The Three Sisters, Echo Point, Wentworth Falls and the many waterfalls, walking paths and vantage points between Wentworth Falls to Blackheath, including Katoomba. Activities for the visitor include short walks to lookouts above cliffs and waterfalls, overnight and longer walks to more remote areas of the park, canyoning, abseiling, rock climbing and mountain biking.

Wollemi National Park: the largest wilderness area in NSW, Wollemi is a maze of canyons, cliffs and undisturbed forest. Descend to the Colo River on Bob Turners Track and enjoy the inland beaches in one of the state's longest and most scenic gorges; or there are historic ruins at Newnes and the Glow Worm Tunnel; Dunns Swamp has easy walks and plenty of opportunities for canoeing.

Kanangra-Boyd National Park: lies to the south west of and is contiguous with Blue Mountains National Park. The Kanangra-Boyd Wilderness Area boasts a large scenic water catchment area, providing opportunities for solitude and unsophisticated, self-reliant recreation.
Within Kanangra-Boyd National Park there are two land units, the elevated, gently undulating Boyd Plateau and the labyrinth of creeks, rivers, deep gorges and spiny ridges into which the plateau falls away. The plateau is traversed by the Kanangra Walls Road and can be accessed either from Oberon or Jenolan Caves.

Jenolan Caves: these caves are without question, Australia's most impressive limestone caves. Located near the Blue Mountains, there are nine show caves open to the public with spectacular lighting, underground rivers and cave formations. Tour guides take visitors through the caves.
The natural welcoming of the Grand Arch is unforgettable. The acoustics of the Archway make any concert performed there a truly magical event.

Grose Valley: a rugged valley which makes its way east towards the Hawkesbury River, of which it is a tributary. From its headwaters in the Mount Victoria area, the Grose River has cut a deep gorge through the Blue Mountains. Sheer sandstone cliffs standing hundreds of metres above the river make for spectacular scenery. In the Blackheath area there are a number of accessible lookouts, the best known being Govetts Leap.

Gardens of Stone National Park: this park protects an ancient landscape of majestic cliffs and strange rock formations; the delicate and intricate pagoda rock formations are a prominent feature. They occur near sandstone escarpment edges where erosion process have sculptured bee hive domes and a curious array of other shapes. The park has no facilities apart from a few fire trails which provide short walking opportunities and off track exploration for experienced walkers.

Yengo National Park: stretching over 70 km from Wisemans Ferry to the Hunter Valley, Yengo National Park is a wild area of steep gorges and rocky ridges.  The area is rich in Aboriginal and cultural heritage. The historic Old Great North Road, an intact example of early 19th century convict road-building, follows the south-east boundary of the park. Included as part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage, the area also includes the Mt Yengo Aboriginal Place and much of the reserve is declared wilderness.

Capertee Valley: bordering on The Blue Mountains, the largest enclosed valley of Australia provides spectacular views of rock formations and escarpments of what has been called Australia's unknown Grand Canyon.

Nattai National Park: this national park primarily encompasses the valley of the Nattai River, which is surrounded by spectacular sandstone cliffs. The park is covered in dry sclerophyll (hard leafed) forest - mostly eucalypt, and has fairly frequent forest fires. It is largely an untouched wilderness area, receiving very few visitors, as it has virtually no facilities and is fairly remote, despite its proximity to Sydney.
Nattai National Park has several worthwhile hikes, however it is a remote area, and also very dry.

About The Blue Mountains

The Greater Blue Mountains Area consists of 1.03 million hectares of mostly forested landscape on a sandstone plateau 60 to 180 kilometres inland from central Sydney, New South Wales. It includes vast expanses of wilderness and is equivalent in area to almost one third of Belgium, or twice the size of Brunei. A segment of the Great Dividing Range with an area of 141,000 hectares, the Blue Mountains themselves are bounded on the north by the Grose River and on the south and south-west by Cox's River and their tributaries . It begins about 64 kms west of Sydney .
Including eight protected areas in two blocks separated by a transportation and urban development corridor, is made up of seven outstanding national parks as well as the famous Jenolan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve. These are the Blue Mountains, Wollemi, Yengo, Nattai, Kanangra-Boyd, Gardens of Stone and Thirlmere Lakes National Parks.
The area does not contain mountains in the conventional sense but is described as a deeply incised sandstone plateau rising from less than 100 metres above sea level to 1,300 metres at the highest point. There are basalt outcrops on the higher ridges. This plateau is thought to have enabled the survival of a rich diversity of plant and animal life by providing a refuge from climatic changes during recent geological history.
More than 400 different kinds of animals live within the rugged gorges and tablelands of the Greater Blue Mountains Area. These include threatened or rare species of conservation significance, such as the spotted-tailed quoll, the koala, the yellow-bellied glider and the long-nosed potoroo as well as rare reptiles including the green & golden bell frog and the Blue Mountains water skink.
The Great Western Highway follows closely the road across the Blue Mountains laid out by convicts and soldiers under the supervision of William Cox, a former military paymaster turned landowner, in the winter of 1815. The road literally opened up the interior of New South Wales beyond the mountains, but gained in importance with the discovery of gold at Bathurst in 1851 which precipitated a series of goldrushes. Sydney people, however, did not discover the merits of the scenery and the climate until the late 1870s, when rich men from Sydney began to build themselves elaborate holiday homes in the hills to escape the discomforts of summer on the coastal plains.

Zig Zag Railway, Lithgow
The Zig Zag Railway is a heritage railway reconstructed along a 19th century engineering masterpiece, a section of the original Western Railway Line where it made its descent into the town of Lithgow on the inland side of the Blue Mountains. A fully restored tourist steam train operates on the line, passing over and through a system of grand sandstone viaducts and tunnels that were built in the 1860s. The zig zag was replaced in 1910 by a 10 tunnel deviation. Every trip from Clarence Station winds its way through the remarkable Blue Mountains’ scenery, accompanied by the chuffing steam locomotive. It is a chance to appreciate the difficult terrain that confronted the builders and marvel at how they brought the railway down into the Lithgow Valley and on westward to the city of Bathurst.


The Blue Mountains' endless stretches of sandstone cliffs, dramatic waterfalls and hidden canyons is not only a landscape of stunning natural beauty, it also provides a fantastic environment for the thrilling adventure activities of abseiling, canyoning, rockclimbing, mountain biking and bushwalking. There's a lifetime's worth of adventuring right there in Sydney's backyard.
The Blue Mountains Adventure Company operates a range of high adrenalin tours, including canyoning.

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