Although just 90 minutes from central Sydney, the Blue Mountains couldn’t be farther from the buzz of city life, making this region one of the most popular weekend destinations for Sydneysiders and tourists alike. And with the stunning mountain views, vibrant forests, thundering waterfalls, and seemingly infinite walking trails, it’s no surprise that most people opt for an extended getaway rather than just a day-trip— even with a long weekend, you won’t spend a single second bored, which is probably why I just keep coming back for more. In this guide, I’ll share practical information about the region, my favourite lookouts and hikes, the best campgrounds, and everything else you need to know to plan an amazing trip to the incomparable Blue Mountains.
About the Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains is actually a expansive region that encompasses more than 10,000 square kilometres, 40 different towns, and a one million hectare national park with 200+ km of trails and an estimated 1,000 plant species. Given both its sprawl and unique beauty, it would be impossible to explore the entirety of this diverse World Heritage Site in a single visit, so I think it’s best to focus on a more narrow area, especially for a first trip. I’d recommend spending time in Wentworth Falls, Katoomba, Leura, and Blackheath, as these towns are rich with scenic mountain lookouts, short but rewarding hikes, waterfalls views, and even some in-town activities. On another trip, venture a bit father into the Blue Mountains to explore Lithgow, Jenolan Caves, Newnes Plateau, and Mount Victoria for even more impressive scenery.
Getting here & around
The easiest way to get to the Blue Mountains and make the most of your time is really to drive. Katoomba, one of the main towns in the region and home to many of the biggest tourist attractions, is only 90 minutes from the Sydney CBD, 2 hours from Wollongong, and 3.5 hours from Canberra. The M4 can certainly get congested over long weekends, but it’s usually a rather painless drive and I have never found parking anywhere other than Echo Point to be an issue.
Train & Bus
Another option is to catch a train from Sydney’s Central Station to Katoomba, which takes under 2 hours and costs only $8.50 each way. From the station, the best option for getting around to all the main tourist spots is to then buy a $50 hop-on/hop-off pass for the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus, which will stop at more than 30 attractions, including Scenic World, Echo Point, Leura Cascades, several lookouts and hikes, and a number of restaurants (see the full list here). This is a good option if you don’t have access to a car, but it will limit you to only the more popular destinations, so expect things to be crowded.
What to do
Visit scenic lookouts & viewpoints
The reason everyone comes to the Blue Mountains in the first place is for the stunning natural beauty of the iconic sandstone cliffs and abundant eucalypts, which you can enjoy from the hundreds of different scenic lookouts scattered throughout the region. Almost all tourists will stop at Echo Point in Katoomba for views of the Three Sisters (which I would definitely recommend), but some of my very favourite places to enjoy other, less crowded views of the mountains are:
1. Lincolns Rock
Area: Wentworth Falls
Getting there: Just navigate straight to Lincolns Rock, there’s a little area to park right next to the lookout
Walking required: About 10m from your car
Best for: Dangling your feet over the beautiful Blue Mountains
Top tip: Check out the cave below the rock for more amazing photo opportunities! Just walk over to the far left of the lookout and follow the tiny path down and around to the cave.
2. Sublime Point Lookout
Getting there: Navigate to Sublime Point Lookout and park in the carpark at the start of the short trail
Walking required: About 80m down a dirt path
Best for: Panoramic views of the Jamison Valley, Kings Tableland & Mount Solitary
Top tip: Take photos on the flat rock to the left of the trail just before you reach the lookout. It offers amazing views without all the people, and certainly adds something unique to your pictures!
3. Pulpit Rock
Getting there: Park on Pulpit Rock Road and walk down to the lookouts
Walking required: As much or as little as you want along the many ladders and paths leading to other viewing platforms
Best for: Views of Grose Valley and the Blue Gum Forest
Top tip: Allow some time at Pulpit Rock to explore the extensive network of ladders and lookouts for views in every single direction
Read more about the best lookouts to visit: 12 INCREDIBLE LOOKOUTS IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS
With a couple hundred kilometres of trail in the Blue Mountains National Park, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of phenomenal hikes to enjoy. The most well-known multi-day hike is the Six Foot Track, but there are dozens of half day hikes if you aren’t ready to commit an entire weekend to the trail. A few of my favourites are:
1. Prince Henry Cliff Walk
Starting point: Scenic World
Distance & time: 6.5km, 2.5hrs with frequent photo stops and side trips
Best for: Sweeping landscape views of the cliffs and valleys, incorporates some of the regions best viewpoints (including Echo Point) and falls (Leura Cascades, Katoomba Falls)
2. Grand Canyon Loop Track
Starting point: Evans Lookout
Distance & time: 7km, 2hrs with photo stops
Best for: Lush forest scenery, including abundant plant-life, waterfalls, and creeks
3. Valley of the Waters Track
Area: Wentworth Falls
Starting point: Conservation Hut
Distance & time: 1.5km, 1hr with photo stops
Best for: Big, beautiful waterfalls
Explore Scenic World
If you’re willing to brave the crowds of tourists, Katoomba’s Scenic World is actually a really fun place to spend an afternoon. Cruise down into the forest on the world’s steepest railway, wander through the ferns on a series of wooden walkways, return to the cliffs via the cableway, and then travel over towards Echo Point on the clear-bottomed skyway. Tickets are a bit pricey at around $40 for unlimited access, but it’s definitely fun.
Wander through Sculpture at Scenic World
For several weeks in April and May each year, you’ll also find a large art exhibition taking place at Scenic World. Several dozen artists install colourful pieces along the walkway every autumn, so spend a few hours strolling along the forest floor, appreciating the beautiful and thought-provoking pieces. Entry to Sculpture at Scenic World is included in the price of your Scenic World ticket.
Stroll along Katoomba’s Street Art Walk
Enjoy more than just natural scenery in the Blue Mountains with the Street Art Walk running along Beverly Place in downtown Katoomba. For the last 5 years, artists have been contributing large pieces of intriguing art to this little laneway, making it an explosion of colour and a hotspot for creativity in the region. On a grey day or just on your way through town, be sure to stop and explore this surprising collection of beautiful art.
Shop at Leura’s Sunday Markets
Stop in at the Sunday Markets in Leura from 9am- 2pm on the first Sunday of every month to wander through the stalls of art, collectibles, gifts, crafts, and nibbles. Find the markets at Leura Public School on the Greater Western Highway.
Where to Camp
Facilities: Bathrooms (clean enough and with TP); passable mobile reception; fires not currently permitted
Comments: This is the best campground in terms of view (several lookouts right at the site) and convenience (close to town and near a number of other lookouts/hikes in the Blackheath area, including a hike that begins right from the campground)
Top tips: If your camping gear allows, take the Blue Gum Walking Track to Acacia Flat Campground, another free and far more remote, walk-in only site in the valley
Blackheath Glen Reserve
Area: Megalong Valley
Facilities: Bathrooms (although they are far enough away that I usually opt for a bush, so I can’t comment on the cleanliness); campfires permitted, but be sure to keep them contained and put out with water before you leave; almost non-existent mobile reception, so do your planning before you arrive at camp
Comments: Although there’s nothing special about this site, it’s still my next choice for camping, as it’s not all the way into the Megalong Valley
Top tips: It’s usually considerably colder in the Valley than it is up in Katoomba, so pack more warm clothes than you think you’ll need— because you’ll need them
Old Ford Reserve
Area: Megalong Valley
Facilities: Toilets; fires permitted, many pits spread around the campground; right next to the lovely Megalong Creek; walk in via the Six Foot Track or drive in via Megalong Road
Comments: This is a lovely campground by the river, but it’s quite a drive into the Valley (8km past Blackheath Glen along the same road), so check that campground first to see if there is a closer option before you descend all the way into the Megalong Valley
Top tip: This campground intersects the Six Foot Track, a popular 46km hike in the region, so there are plenty of trails leaving directly from the site if you’re looking to explore without leaving the Valley