... a dreamer, massage therapist, naturopath, freelance writer, mother & drop-out social work student living, working and writing in the Blue Mountains. When not occupied with the real world, she writes fantasy.
Published January 22nd 2013
There's more to the Blue Mountains than the 3 Sisters
There's more to the Blue Mountains than the Three Sisters. In fact, you won't find any mention here of those over-rated rocks.
Here's my personal list of the best things to do while visiting the Blue Mountains.
Valley of the Waters, National Pass Trail is exceptional!
For waterfalls and dramatic scenery you can't beat the Valley of the Waters walk (pictured above) at Wentworth Falls. Check out my extensive article on it here.
For shade cover – the Leura Cascades walk (accessed from the car park off Cliff Drive) is reasonably shaded and at 0.8km roundtrip, won't exhaust one. For something harder and shadier still, the Leura Forest walk takes one down into a palm-ridden valley. It can be accessed via the Leura Cascades. Beware, it has a lot of steps and is graded 'hard'.
For sweeping views – climb up the Kanangra Wall at Kanangra Boyd National Park. From this massive rock ledge you can see Mount Cloudmaker and distant waterfalls. To find the Wall, follow the signs to Jenolan Caves, and once you've passed the Caves follow the signs to Kanangra Walls. The Bushwalking Australia website provides details of walks from thence.
For aqua water and the acoustics of running water, try the Jenolan River Walk (pictured below). It commences at the Blue Lake at the Jenolan Caves Grand Arch and follows the path of the river. This 3 km round trip also has good shade cover and with its occasional conifers and infestations of nettle, is something different to the usual Blue Mountains flora.
Get more details and an app for the walk on the Jenolan Caves site.
This is just a tempter of all that is possible in the world of walks across the Blue Mountains. For a comprehensive list of all Blue Mountains walks, click on this link to the Blue Mountains website.
The Blue Pool where the Jenolan Caves River Walk commences.
This world class natural feature and tourist destination hasn't won awards for nothing. With over 340 million years under their belt and the distinction of being the world's oldest discovered open cave system, a visit to the caves is a memorable occasion. I love it for other reasons: the mystical ambience that exists in this isolated spot, the winding journey up the mountain and the beautiful blue pool of water that skirts the Grand Arch.
The perfect summertime activity, this underground adventure encompasses cool temps, shade and outdoor exercise. In addition, you can partake of concerts, theatre, adventure caving or a Legends, Mysteries & Ghosts' tour within the caves.
Check out the official Jenolan Caves website for all you need to know. Best not to rock up, but research first to avoid any disappointment. Cave tours (there are 11 caves open for viewing) and other activities occur at scheduled times and can sell out at busy periods like the school holidays. Give yourself an hour to get there from Katoomba.
3. Sparadise Japanese Bath House and Tea House
The Entrance to the Japanese Bath-House - the only Japanese Onsen in NSW.
On a cold day, you can't beat this. During winter you could even be lucky enough to sit amongst snow in the outdoor spa. As the only example of a Japanese Onsen in NSW, this is a truly unique experience and one I can't recommend highly enough. You can find out what's on offer, prices, opening hours and directions at the Sparadise website here or read my informative article on visiting the Japanese Bath-House, here.
4. Garden picnics
Picnics provide the ultimate chill time amongst nature.
So long as the weather blesses you, you can't go wrong with a picnic. My favourite picnicking sites include the Mount Tomah Botanic Garden (pictured above and blissfully free to enter), and the Everglades garden at Leura (small admission charge). But there's nothing to stop you spreading a picnic blanket anywhere a stunning vista and grassy space beckons. Read more about these gardens in my article on the Best Public Gardens to Visit in the Blue Mountains.
Mt Wilson, Leura, Blackheath, Mount Vic, Katoomba and Wentworth Falls are the most picturesque of the villages, with Leura Mall (pictured above in Spring) probably the most popular street for browsing. It's particularly sensational in Spring, when the row of cherry blossoms lining the median strip are in blossom.
Partake in local entertainment ranging from free performers in cafes to paid shows at the Clarendon. Check out the local fairs and market stalls. For those of spiritual bent, there is a plethora of meditation retreats and courses on offer. See the Brahma Kumaris website for a list of their upcoming meditation retreats or contact the Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre.
There are also regular festivals (such as the annual Writers Festival, Winter Magic Festival, Leura Gardens Festival, Lady Luck Festival, Blue Mt's Film Festival, Yulefest and more). The artsy and garden minded Blue Mountains is a cultural hub and always has something to offer.
7. Horse-riding the Megalong Valley
Megalong Valley Heritage Farm offers pony rides, escorted horse-riding and the chance to see donkeys, sheep and more.
Megalong Valley Farm offers Australiana style country atmosphere, horse-riding and the chance to sit with a beverage around a campfire or outdoor tables down in the Megalong. Kids will love the wandering donkeys, sheep and ponies and the pony ride around the pond.
Megalong Valley Farm - soak up the country atmosphere!
Established in the 1900's as a health retreat, the Blue Mountains is a popular spot for all things retro. Many of the original old buildings now function as guest-houses, hotels and restaurants. Soak up the ambience of yesteryear in venues like the Carrington Hotel, the Clarendon, the Avalon (Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge), the Paragon Cafe, and the Comet Inn Restaurant and B&B at Hartley.
Unfortunately, our grandest example of Blue Mountains historical architecture, the Hydro Majestic (pictured below during the recent snowfall) is still undergoing renovations and won't be open for some time. But, stay tuned ...
The Hydro Majestic Hotel, Blackheath during the 2012 spring snow fall - is currently closed for renovations.
Scenic World is an agglomeration of tourist type activities - operated by the Hammon family - that includes the Scenic Railway, Cable car, Skyway, revolving restaurant, cafe, souvenir shop and a constructed platform walk through the bush. If you abhor crowds, steer clear. Otherwise, it's a decent enough experience of the Mountains that won't strain your legs too much.
Check out the Scenic World website (including the hefty prices) here.
Scenic World also offers history, like this coal mine.
Come winter, the log-fires and wintry ambience of the mountains beckons many a tourist. Yulefest (celebrated in July) is a great time to lounge about within a cosy Christmas themed interior. If this appeals, see my article about venues for Christmas in July in the Blue Mountains.
Just be aware that the Blue Mountains is prone to fits of ill weather including mists, winds, rain, storms and generally off days. Be prepared for all kinds of weather; bring warm clothes, hiking shoes and umbrellas and do check the forecast before you depart.
May your time in the Blue Mountains be filled with relaxation and adventure.
Blossoming trees at the Everglades Garden, Leura. The Blue Mountains is at its finest in Spring and Autumn.