The Blue Mountains have been high on my bucket list for the past decade. My first attempt at this trip was in December 2019, where they were understandably closed off for tours due to the devastating wild fires. Now that I’ve relocated to Australia, I’m fortunately a short flight away from this incredible UNESCO site. If you’re in Sydney, and looking to have a quick escape from the bustling city life, the Blue Mountains should be high on your list. Here is a guide on how to visit the Blue Mountains from Sydney in a day trip, with tips on transport, what to see and what to do.
How to Get to the Blue Mountains
The easiest way to get to the Blue Mountains is by car. There are plenty of towns, hikes and lookout points to explore, so having the flexibility of a car would make this trip great. Having a car also makes it easier to enjoy the many picnic spots around the Blue Mountains. You can go at your own pace without having to worry about public transport times or feeling rushed in a tour group. The only downside of having a car is finding a place to park in the popular spots. When we stopped at the Wentworth Waterfalls, it was packed with parked cars lined up along the whole main road. So I would imagine that would be something to be wary of. The most direct route for this is taking the M4 and the Great Western Highway.
As I was without a car, I chose to do the day trip with a tour group. I used the same company I went to the Great Ocean Road with, so felt confident it would be a good trip.
How to Get to the Blue Mountains by Public Transport
If you’re in Sydney without a car, it is possible to visit the Blue Mountains by public transport. There’s a direct train from Sydney Central Station that takes less than 2 hours. Sydney allows tap on/tap on with contactless payment, so no need to worry about buying an Opal card. The train will stop at various points including the main town of the Blue Mountains, Katoomba. You’ll have a few options for getting to the Blue Mountains from Katoomba. You can get a public bus that will take you straight to Echo Point (for the 3 sisters). There’s also a hop on/hop off bus specifically for the Blue Mountains, that will take you to all the main sites; Scenic World, Echo Point, Leura. Lastly you can get at taxi, and have a more tailored trip, however this will cost considerably more.
Whatever you decide, I would highly recommend getting there as early as possible. There’s so much to see, and even in the winter, it gets fairly crowded!
Exploring the Blue Mountains
Some of the best things to do in the Blue Mountains are:
- Enjoy Scenic World
- The Three Sisters
- Have a Picnic in Leura
- Blue Mountain Lookouts
- Explore Katoomba
- Hiking Trails
Hidden among the UNESCO-listed Blue Mountains National Park, Scenic World offers several attractions for thrill-seekers looking to see the Blue Mountains from a different angle. These include the famous Scenic Railway, the Scenic Skyway and the Scenic Cableway. It’s also home to the Three Sisters, Katoomba Falls and Jamison Valley.
An adult ticket to Scenic World will set you back $50 (AUD) and there are various annual passes available. Be sure to check out their opening hours before you visit. These change based on the seasons and school holidays, with last tickets available at 2:45/3:45.
The Scenic Skyway
We started our Scenic World experience by taking the 720m Scenic Skyway between the cliff tops. Suspended 270m above the Jamison Valley, this is one of the best ways to get panoramic views of the Blue Mountains. Key sights to spot along the way are the Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters, Mount Solitary and the Jamison Valley. As someone how is terrified of heights, I opted for the solid floor and clung to the railings in tears. But for those more adventurous travellers, there is an electro-glass cabin floor. This will give you the best views of the rainforest canopy below. Once we made it to the other side, I shakily made it to part two of our time at Scenic World; The Scenic Cableway.
The Scenic Cableway
The Scenic Cableway is a 510 metre journey that descends from the cliff tops into the Jamison Valley, with a return option back up available. The edge of my nerves had been taken off by the Scenic Skyway, but I was still extremely anxious riding this. For the best views on the descent, stand at the front of the Cableway or on the left hand side. You will get breathtaking views of the Jamison Valley and the famous Three Sisters. I was stood more in the middle towards the back and still got quite good views. The Cableway slowly descends to allow you maximum time to enjoy the views and take photos.
I was very glad to make it to the bottom! Once we were out of the Cableway, we were treated to a rainforest walk via the Scenic Walkway.
The Scenic Walkway
Unsurprisingly, this ‘close-to-the-ground’ experience was probably my favourite part of Scenic World. The Scenic Walkway is a 500m elevated boardwalk that takes you through the rainforests. This immersive walk takes you through a wide range of flora and fauna, some of which dating back to the Jurassic era! Along the way we also learnt about the area’s coal mining history, visiting an original mine entrance, and about Lyrebirds. Twenty minutes later we arrived at the Scenic Railway.
The Scenic Railway
To finish our trip to Scenic World, we rode the Scenic Railway back up the mountain. Out of all three ‘height’ rides, this was probably the most terrifying. At a 52 degree incline, this is the steepest passenger railway in the world. And if that wasn’t scary enough, the train goes backwards up the mountain. It’s safe to say, the entire carriage was screaming as we rode 310m back up the cliff. There’s an option to adjust your seat to a 64 degree incline but I stayed at the original 52 degrees. My eyes were closed the entire time, so I can add much commentary on the journey.
As I was part of a tour group, Scenic World was something the entire group was taken too. There was an option to sit this out, but ultimately, we’d have to wait several hours at the entrance car park. So I had to put my fear of heights aside and take the plunge into these attractions. In hindsight, I’m really glad I did, but I spent most of this part of the day terrified.
Visit the Town of Leura
The quaint village of Leura can be found just east of Katoomba and is often described as being the prettiest in the Blue Mountain range. It sits just outside of the Blue Mountain National Park, so it’s a great place to stay or stop for food before your adventures. Along the main strip, you’ll find plenty of local eateries, coffee houses and boutique shops. Leura is also home to beautiful gardens, showcasing a range of vibrant flora from around the world. During our trip, we were free to do what we wanted for lunch. I bought an amazing quiche from Leura Gourmet and sat outside in the sun. Be mindful that this is a small town, so all restaurants and cafes were busy during typical lunch hours.
The Everglades House and Gardens, a National Trust comprising of 5.2 hectares of heritage-listed Art Deco home with stunning gardens, were highly recommended to us. This former residence have now been turned into an art gallery and house-museum, with plenty of gardens and cafes to get lost in. We weren’t able to fit it in our fairly rigid time schedule, but it’s been added to my to-visit list.
Katoomba is the main town in the Blue Mountains. And just a 90 minute drive from Sydney, it makes for a very popular day trip. As with Leura, Katoomba is great place to stop for a bite to eat before embarking on a hike or trip to Scenic World. There’s plenty of restaurants, coffee shops and even a few bars to enjoy during your stay in the Blue Mountains. If you’re planning on staying overnight in the Blue Mountains, this is a popular town to do so, with a number of accommodation types available.
Blue Mountains Lookouts
The Blue Mountains is home to some pretty spectacular lookouts. One of the most famous lookouts being Echo Point Lookout. During my trip, we visited Lincoln’s Lookout and Jamison’s Lookout. Both provided breathtaking views across the Blue Mountains and gave great photo opportunities. There are many lookouts through the Blue Mountains to choose from, so pick a few along your trip and enjoy the area from different perspectives.
Blue Mountain Hikes
The Blue Mountains is home an intricate network of hiking trails. We stopped off at the Wentworth lookout and did a 30 minute hike through the forest to see the Wentworth Falls. There’s a number of different trails to choose from depending on your fitness level and how much time you want to spend here.
Once our day was over, we were driven to Parramatta to grab the ferry back to Circular Quay. Overall, it was a fantastic day trip and a great way to get introduced to the wonders of the Blue Mountains. It’s a very doable day trip from Sydney. However, now I’ve done the trip, I would advice spending at least a night there to really make the most of the area. We felt a bit rushed at times. If you’re planning to do this day trip, get there early! I would also recommend going outside of winter to make the most of the daylight. We had to leave early afternoon as it was getting dark.
Let me know if you do this day trip!
Happy Travels x