Famous for its natural attractions, the Blue Mountains is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed region of New South Wales about 2 hours’ drive west of Sydney.
Named for the distinctive blue haze surrounding the mountains from the oil from the dense population of eucalyptus trees in the area, this region is a small section of the much larger Great Dividing Range which stretches the entire length of the east coast of Australia.
Between its natural wonders and its proximity to Sydney, the Blue Mountains are one of the most popular day trips out of the city and also a weekend getaway destination. That said, if you want to discover all that the region has to offer, you’ll need to spend much more time there.
The Best Things To Do In The Blue Mountains
With its stunning limestone cliffs, prehistoric eucalyptus forests and waterfalls, there are so many natural wonders to explore in the Blue Mountains.
I’ve picked out my must-see suggestions for the region in this post here, which you should definitely check out while planning your trip.
The Best Time Of Year To Visit The Blue Mountains
When is a good time to go to the Blue Mountains? Any time really. The Blue Mountains is one of those year-round destinations with plenty to offer no matter the weather.
In the peak of summer, when it’s hot and sunny, the waterfalls tend to be very popular. If it’s raining, you can visit Jenolan Caves.
The Blue Mountains can get quite hot in the summer, and while it’s not a common occurrence, it has snowed in the Blue Mountains during the winter.
Those who are more active and want to hike all of the trails should probably avoid the peak of summer. And also keep an eye out for other extreme weather. (Although this is very rare).
For those avid hikers out there. The Blue Mountains has trails worth exploring at any point during the year. Just watch out for the extremes of the weather (heat, rain, bushfires, etc), especially if you are planning on doing a multi-day hike.
Where Are The Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains region is actually quite a large area to the west of Sydney.
While most people might associate the Blue Mountains with Katoomba which is roughly a 1.5-hour drive from Sydney, the region is quite widespread.
Depending on who you ask, the Blue Mountains area (including its National Park) can stretch as far as Emu Plains in the east out to Lithgow in the west.
To the south, the Blue Mountains National Park includes Oberon and Jenolan Caves all the way down to the Wombeyan Caves. While to the north, Mount Wilson marks the separation with the Wollemi National Park which people can also often include as part of the region.
How To Get To And From The Blue Mountains
Driving to and from the Blue Mountains will give you the most options when you get there.
The drive from Sydney to the Blue Mountains is relatively straightforward by following either the Great Western Highway nearly the entire route or the M4 Motorway until it turns into the Great Western Highway with plenty of scenic stops along the way and you climb through (and over) the mountains.
Bells Line of Road from Richmond to Lithgow offers an alternate route.
That said, driving isn’t the only way to get to the Blue Mountains, and if you are planning on spending all of your time in one town, like Katoomba, then you might be able to get away without a car. But you will be doing a lot of walking!
The rail service links the city with towns throughout the Blue Mountains including Blaxland, Wentworth Falls, Katoomba, and Blackheath (just to name a few) before the service ends at Lithgow.
Several tour companies also offer day trip services out of Sydney.
How To Get Around The Blue Mountains
As I just mentioned, having a car is the easiest way to get around the Blue Mountains and opens up so many more opportunities to explore all that the region has to offer.
However, if you are an avid hiker or just don’t mind walking a lot, you should be able to get around towns like Katoomba without a car. It will just limit how much you can see. That said there are several hiking trails through the Blue Mountains National Park that interlink towns but those are often part of multi-day hikes.
That said if the prospect of driving around is a little too daunting. Or you are just looking for an easy option to see the highlights of the Blue Mountains without too much planning, there are the Blue Mountains Explorer hop-on/hop-off bus services that operate tours predominantly through Katoomba.
Best Accommodation Options In The Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains have the full spectrum of accommodation options, so you shouldn’t have any issues in finding somewhere to stay.
On the extreme end, there are plenty of free camping options throughout the national parks. While the Blue Mountains is also home to the most lavish, luxurious hidden away resort in Australia – the One and Only Wolgan Valley.
In between those, you will plenty of various options scattered all over the region.
Before I get into the town-specific options, I thought I’d make mention of some of the more noteworthy accommodation options that really should be on the top of your list. Especially if your trip to the Blue Mountains is for a special occasion.
I just made mention of the Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley resort. Made up entirely of private villas, this hidden away luxury resort in the Blue Mountains is the ultimate weekend getaway from the “real world”.
The resort offers a number of experiences, some of which are included in your stay. Definitely take advantage of the guided nature and wildlife walks in between relaxing at the onsite spa or in your villa’s private pool.
Another very noteworthy accommodation option to mention is the Hydro Majestic Blue Mountains. This iconic hotel is a sight to behold as you drive along the Great Western Highway through the Blue Mountains.
The ultimate in luxury when it originally opened in 1904, the Hydro Majestic still maintains its unique appeal with elegantly refurbished art-deco-inspired rooms with stunning views out over the Megalong Valley.
When looking for somewhere to stay in the Blue Mountains, Katoomba is probably the first place that comes to mind and with good reason.
Katoomba, and the neighbouring Leura, are the central tourist hub of the Blue Mountains with the most instantly recognizable attraction The Three Sisters. So it’s no wonder this is where you will find the greatest concentration of hotels and resorts as well.
If you want to make your trip to the Katoomba truly indulgent, the Fairmont Resort & Spa Blue Mountains MGallery by Sofitel (which is actually in Leura) should be at the top of your list. The resort is not only situated with stunning views out over the Jamison Valley but has a range of activities including a day spa, two pools and five on-site restaurants.
Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa is also a good alternative top-tier experience in Katoomba with its own day spa and pool but only two restaurants. While Hotel Mountain Heritage Blue Mountains offers stunning views in heritage-styled rooms.
For people more like myself, where accommodation is just somewhere to get some sleep while exploring a destination. I’ve got a few cheaper, yet still comfortable options for you as well.
If you are planning a longer stay, a week or so, then the apartment-style option of Leisure Inn Spires is your best bet.
For a shorter stay, then either the Alpine Motor Inn or the 3 Sisters Motel are both very good comfortable options. While backpackers might want to check out the Blue Mountains YHA for both private and dorm-style rooms.
Lithgow is a great alternative when looking at accommodation options in the Blue Mountains.
Located at the junction of two of the major routes through the mountains, the Great Western Highway and Bells Line of Road, Lithgow is a great spot to base yourself overnight if you are looking to explore several lookouts and trails along both routes.
Also if you plan to spend most of your time either exploring Newnes and/or the Zig Zag Railway.
With that in mind, the Zig Zag Motel & Apartments is my pick of the options in Lithgow, the onsite restaurant makes for a great and convenient place to relax after a big day of exploring.
In between Katoomba and Lithgow, Blackheath also offers some good accommodation options to consider.
If you are looking to spend most of your time in the Blue Mountains hiking and exploring the lookouts of Grose Valley but do not want to have to concern yourself with camping, then Blackheath is the ideal spot for you to stay.
High Mountains Motor Inn is the most modern option in Blackheath, with clean, comfortable rooms ideal for a short stay.
If you are travelling as a larger group or with family, there are a number of cottages and holiday houses available in Blackheath as well, but I can’t provide a recommendation on those as I haven’t stayed in any of those.
If the main purpose of your trip to the Blue Mountains is to visit the Jenolan Caves, but the Cave House is outside of your price range, then I would suggest that you have a look at staying in Oberon.
While not technically part of the Blue Mountains, Oberon is the closest town to Jenolan Caves and offers something very different. Especially if you are planning on visiting the Blue Mountains during the winter as it does often snow in Oberon.
Where To Find Food In The Blue Mountains/What To Do In The Evenings
A night out in the Blue Mountains can be as simple as a quick pub meal and a couple of drinks, or an extravagant 5-course fine dining experience. It really depends on what you are looking for and where you are staying. One of the appeals of some of the accommodation options outlined earlier in this post is the onsite restaurants.
As with accommodation, Katoomba is well set up for the tourist market and offers the most options. You’ll find a number of casual and fine dining restaurants along near the entire length of Katoomba Street through the centre of town.
If you would like to appreciate some of the grand tourist histories of the area, check out The Grand Dining Room at The Carrington Hotel.
The neighbouring Leura also features a number of boutique bars and restaurants. All of which you can find with a quick stroll along the Leura Mall.
Didn’t get enough walking in during the day? You can get in another hike after dark with the Katoomba Falls night walk. It’s the same trail you can take during the day, it’s just lit up until 11pm. It’s also worth noting that the Three Sisters are also lit up until about 10:30pm each night.
If you’d like to get more information to help plan your trip to and around Australia… Check out the rest of my blog posts.