... a dreamer, freelance writer, massage therapist, naturopath, 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 June 7th 2012
With a mean of only 77 clear days per year in Katoomba since 1981 (Bureau of Meteorology stats), it pays to be prepared when visiting NSW most visited tourist destination. Put together by a hardened Mountains local, this list of things to do when the weather turns foul, will ensure all is not lost for the tourist.
The Lounge area within the Carrington Hotel has to be my all time fave foul weather hangout. Not only is it warm and free of admission charges, it has heritage, ambiance, elegance and is, for the most part, free of annoying crowds of tourists.
In case you suspect bias, please know the Hotel was awarded the Getaway Lounge's Best of Best in 2011.
There's a bar where you can purchase either hot or cold drinks and cocktails. Alternatively, order a generously portioned Devonshire Tea or other light snacks. One other massive bonus may entice if you are endowed with little nippers – it allows children, provided they don't hover at the bar.
What makes this place so fab, is that it's one of the few venues where you can linger. Though this a privately owned establishment, like Echo Point and Bondi Beach it feels part of Australian heritage. You won't be hassled or given the 'isn't it time for you to go' glance by the staff - until closing time, in which case you will be booted out. Be warned: the delicious fake log fire (only active in winter or very cold days) will have you fooled and lure you to stay.
The Caro, as the locals affectionately call this Katoomba Icon dating from 1882, is located at the top end (rail station end) of Katoomba street. Walk or drive up the driveway. It's the big, art deco style building with the massive staircase. I am specifying the entrance because it's easy to be confused into going into the Piano Bar on the street level, which is also part of the Carrington, but far less stately. Then again, if noisy cramped spaces that smell of beer appeal, this might be your cup of tea.
There is some parking in the smallish parking lot for in-house guests of the establishment and more ambiguously, visitors to the hotel.
Service can be a bit paltry. If you want to be attended to, you need to ask at the bar. Another negative is that the bar closes early by Sydney standards - around 9 or 10pm, depending on how busy custom is. Food service closes far earlier. But, hey, this is Katoomba where everyone is diving into their electric blankets by then.
You'll still need to rug up to visit the caves as they are bone cold and technically (though I'm a bit thin on the technicalities here) outdoor's. Nevertheless, you'll be out of the wind and rain, hail or storm. The caves maintain a constant temperature of about 15 to 16 degrees Celsius, curiously touted as a positive on the Caves official website.
Tours to the caves are at set times during the day and take different amounts of time to complete. Look up the Jenolan Caves website before you go. On busy weekends, such as the school holidays period and Easter, it might pay to book. There's a cafeteria onsite which provides another indoor venue.
The drive to the Caves, passing pine forest then along ascending cliff tops overlooking deep gorges and mountains on Jenolan Caves Road, is spectacular in itself. This winding, sometimes one-way road, will take you through elevations of up to 1300 metres above sea level and the highest points of the Blue Mountains.
The Jenolan area is moody, if not slightly creepy, a thing you might find enjoyable. This is a rewarding day trip experience.
To get there follow the Great Western Highway to Hartley. At Hartley watch for the sign to Jenolan Caves telling you to turn left. Follow the signs all the way.
Note: there are no petrol stations at Jenolan Caves and the road is unsuitable for caravans.
3. Hit the Day Spa
If you can't get warm and pampered in a day spa, there's little hope of finding such a thing anywhere on earth.
In Katoomba you will find several spa's to accommodate you including Yindi Day Spa, Spa Sublime at Mountain Heritage Hotel and the spa's at Lilianfels Resort and the Carrington Hotel.
My personal fave, Yindi Day Spa is located on Lurline Street in Katoomba and hosts a wide-ranging menu of treatments. The couples spa and massage, a great warm up winner, will have you literally steaming. The premises have beautiful wall art and a soon to open vegetarian café. Treatments are reasonably priced and utilise only natural products. The day spa is open seven days a week. If the room is too cold, which sometimes happens, ask the therapist to pump up the heat and pop a blanket on you.
Yindi Day Spa, Katoomba
4. Drive and View Hop
Stay snug in your car and check out the sights. Don your cool weather gear to view hop the various lookouts and falls along the drive.
The Blue Mountains Drive takes one along the winding cliff tops on a route that accesses the major lookouts and natural attractions. These include the Three Sisters at Echo Point, Sublime Point, the Leura Cascades, Wentworth Falls lookouts, Wentworth Falls Lake and the Valley of the Waters picnic area. It takes approximately one hour to complete the route if you include stops.
Big disclaimer: do stop the car if you intend to look out the window for extended lengths. Secondly, on bad weather days the views might be minimal if non-existant, though the creeping mists which the Mountains is prone to, can be atmospheric.
Another recommended excursion is the drive to Megalong Valley. This will take about an hour by car if coming from Katoomba.
To get to Megalong Valley from Katoomba, head to Blackheath up the Great Western Highway (a ten minute drive). Turn left at the townships lights - this will have you crossing the Rail tracks. Then turn left again. After approximately 500 metres the road will turn sharp right. Go left at the following junction.
You will travel along a winding road descending into the valley, lined with rainforest and a canopy of ferns.
Along the way, look out for Mermaid Glen – it's all too easy to pass. This magical and mossy glen was used in the movie Mad Max: Return to Thunderdome. It's canopy of trees offers some cover from wet mist or light rain and from unpleasant winds.
Down in the valley, which is primarily a farming community, you will find tea-rooms, horse-riding and the Cox's River.
By taking other routes from the top of the valley you can see breathtaking views from Shipley Plateau, Mount Blackheath and Hargraves Lookout.
Leura Cascades - keep flowing despite the weather.
The Edge Cinema has one giant Maxvision screen with tiered ampitheatre style seating which makes for an enhanced movie experience. Be aware, not all the movies show on the big screen - the Edge has other movie screens with regular size screens. Call them and ask for what is screening on the big screen if you want the enhanced experience.
A word of advice: get there early as the candy bar and cinema tickets are purchased from the one spot and this system often results in a lot of waiting around. Also make sure you take a jumper in case the air conditioning is cold.
The Edge Cinema is located on the Great Western Highway at Katoomba. Turn right at the traffic lights into Civic Place
There is plenty of parking and cinema seating here – well, the majority of the time I've been there.
Thank you, very nice info on Blue Mountains in cold wet weather, what to do - and finding attractive places to enjoy, the Carrington, the cinema etc, I enjoy interesting architecture as much as anything, plus a hot choc or whatever thanks again, Barb