Pictures Can’t Do Australia’s Blue Mountains Justice (But I’m Sure As Hell Going to Try!)
While not exactly a secret getaway, The Blue Mountains are an area often neglected by visitors to Sydney. I spent a long time planning my Aussie trip before finally booking my flights, and I’m so glad I put this national park on my must-see list.
This day was one of my favourites of my whole time in Australia. The Mountains are about an hour and half from central Sydney and so worth the journey. Check out how we spent our time there and my tips for an amazing day trip!
Wentworth Falls & Fletchers Lookout
Our first stop was Jamison’s Lookout, where you get your first glimpse of the mountains about 30 seconds walk from the car. From here it’s a few minutes down some steps to the Wentworth Falls lookout, where you get an amazing view of the Jamison Valley. Luckily the waterfall hadn’t dried out despite the intense heat (remember my British bias here – this was early March and about 25 degrees…).
At this point you need to start hiking back up all those stairs, and they’ll definitely get ya! So definitely make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes. But what fun would it be without a little cardio? Then it’s definitely worth heading down to Fletchers Lookout after to get closer to the Falls, and a great spot for photos. (There’s only room for two at the bottom of the stairs so you won’t have any photobombers!)
Three Sisters & Giant Stairway
From here we drove to the biggest sight of the day – the Three Sisters. These three outcrops near the town of Katoomba are very significant in Aboriginal legends: it’s believed the three sisters Meehni, Wimlah and Gunneedoo were turned to stone by an elder to protect them, but the elder then died in battle and they couldn’t be turned back. Pictures don’t do them justice – the Sisters are quite something to behold, each at over 900m high.
I then dropped a cool $50 in the gift shop (can you resist an iron-on Vegemite patch for your travel backpack? Because I can’t) before we headed down the Giant Stairway to a little bench inside Meehni. Now, these stairs aren’t for the faint of heart (or quad) as they are predominantly-hand carved and scale very steeply down the cliff face. There’s then a little bridge to Meehni that I had to jog over, squealing all the way as a fervent acrophobe (good thing it was only about 7 paces!).
It’s busy here, but take your moment to sit on the bench and think about the spiritual significance of these rocks. Alongside the story of how the sisters were turned to stone, Aboriginal women would give birth in a cave near Echo Point and the men would watch for when the third sister bowed, indicating the child had been born.
(Hot tip: do try not to smack your head as you stand up as it will ruin the moment for everyone.)
We were tempted to carry on down the Stairway from here, but it was definitely time for some lunch by now. We were pretty relieved at our choice on the way back up when we saw a sign informing us that the Giant Stairway was true to its name at around 900 steps. Maybe next time…?
Less than ten minutes’ drive from the Three Sisters, Leura is a kitschy, unspoiled village definitely worth a lunch stop. On a recommendation we ate at Leura Garage – I tried out a Rosnay sparkling rosé from Cassawindra in NSW (delicious) with a pumpkin, feta, and onion jam pizza (doubly delicious). Though it was a little pricey at $26 for a pizza and $11 for a flute of fizz, we left feeling very smug at our choice of eatery.
We then wandered down Leura Mall, stopping in at cute furniture and knick knack shops and walked through to the Leura Arcade where we visited the amazing must-visit Candy Store. Every candy/sweet/lolly you could think of is here, and we left with about $30 worth of goodies to sustain us for the drive home.
Anvil Rock Lookout
Our last stop of the day was the Anvil Rock Lookout just past Blackheath. This lookout is another half an hour’s drive away from Sydney, but so worth it for a very quiet spot with near panoramic views of the Grose Valley.
Again, photos don’t do justice, but make sure you take heaps and be sure to grab one with the anvil itself. I regretted that I didn’t get the classic, cheesy ‘trying to lift the anvil’ shot – don’t make the same mistake I did!
After a 2 hour drive back to Sydney, we were back in Neutral Bay by about 7pm, ready to put up our sore feet and order in some Thai food.
Critical Travel Tips
Keep it cheap by sharing travel costs. I was visiting friends in Sydney so road-tripping in my friend’s car made sense. If you can find someone to split a car rental with it’s pretty cheap, as we only paid for parking at Echo Point which was less than $5.
However, if you really want to keep it cheap (and maybe grab a little snooze on the journey), on Sundays Sydney’s Opal card fares are capped at $2.60 so you can get the 2-hour train to Katoomba for less than the price of a coffee. It’s then a short bus ride on the 686 to the Echo Point lookout, or there are hop on hop off bus tours you can get on for the day.
If you’re driving, you may want to leave after rush hour to get out of Sydney quickly, but if you get the train you can get going early and hit up the Three Sisters before the big crowds arrive.
What to bring. Don’t go without comfortable shoes, sunscreen and a hat. You’ll be walking on a lot of uneven ground and tackling a lot of steps, so leave the flip flops at home! And although a lot of the time you’ll be shaded by trees, I did come home with a distinctly pink face wishing I’d thought to bring a baseball cap.
Weather. As you can see, I was very lucky that the day I went to the Mountains it was sunny and clear. But sadly, I’ve seen photos where people have visited Echo Point and it’s so misty they can’t even see the Three Sisters. If you have a flexible enough schedule while you’re in Sydney, choose a beautiful day for your visit, and make sure you tag me in your photos!