The big snow of 2015 at the Carrington Hotel, in Katoomba - snow falls are generally less frequent than in the past
Just 50 kilometres west of Sydney, the Blue Mountains is one of Australia's most visited tourist destinations, popular with both domestic and international visitors. Thousands of tourists visit every year to experience sweeping views of the ancient landscape from lookouts, bushwalking and seasonal events like Yulefest (Winter in July), spring and autumn garden festivals.
Other charms of the area include the preserved character of 19th century cottages and buildings. However, the region is best known for the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Greater Blue Mountains National Park, which incorporates seven national parks and a conservation reserve and saves one of the largest protected forests in Australia.
For a better understanding about what makes the Blue Mountains unique, check out these fascinating facts from history to mystery and more.
33 fascinating facts about the Blue Mountains
1. The Blue Mountains is the site of the steepest funicular railway in the world – the Scenic Railway in Katoomba (originally a mining tramway constructed between 1878 and 1900 to transport coal). The cable train has a maximum gradient of 52 degrees as it descends through rock cliffs for 415 metres.
2. The Blue Mountains is home to the only Japanese bath house and hot mineral spring in NSW – Sparadise at Bowenfels near Lithgow.
3. Katoomba, the highest profile town in the Blue Mountains, was the first village in NSW to gain endorsement as a Cittaslow (literally a 'slow town'). The criteria for becoming a 'slow town' include identifying and taking steps to preserve the unique qualities of a town for the wellbeing of all.
The writers house - a typical example of a Blue Mountain's cottage in springtime.
4. the Blue Mountains were originally named Carmarthen Hills and Landsdowne Hills by Governor Phillip In 1788.
5. The Blue Mountains ended up with its name because of the blue colour it takes when viewed from the distance. The blue tinge of the Blue Mountains is caused by the dispersion of volatile terpenoids (oils) released by the eucalyptus trees. When these interact with short-wave light, dust and water vapour, it creates a blue hue.
6. The residents and the local council of Katoomba (the main tourist town) have fought several successful battles to keep fast food chains such as McDonalds and KFC out of the Blue Mountains. As of 2016 (the date of this article), Subway is the only fast food chain in Katoomba.
7. Historically, the Blue Mountains is linked with several strange myths and mysterious legends, such as reported sightings of a black panther in the Lithgow area, UFO's, ghosts and bipedal monsters some have labelled yowies. The Blue Mountains even offers its own mystery tour and ghost tours
Chisolsm restaurant at Jenolan Caves is actually named after its resident ghost (a former employee). However, the food is delicious and the (living) staff are lovely.
8. The City of the Blue Mountains has sister city relationships with Sanda City in Japan and Flagstaff in Arizona, USA.
9. The Blue Mountains has higher proportions of residents citing an English, Irish or Scottish heritage (48.6 per cent) than the average for the rest of Australia (39.8 per cent).
10. The Blue Mountains attracts a high percentage of artists, musicians and writers. It is the site of the Varuna Writers Centre, and the home of acclaimed poet Henry Lawson and artist Norman Lindsay. 7.6% of the total residential population of the Blue Mountains are employed in the creative industries, compared to the NSW state average of 4.7% and the national average of 3.5%. The creative industries are the third biggest contributor to revenue in the Blue Mountains ($152 million), while the output from creative work in the area is estimated at $592 million. (Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise, 2015)
Atmosphere and ambience beloved by artists - cloud over the Blue Mountains
11. The Blue Mountains was named the State's inaugural 'City of the Arts' in 1998. It is the only world heritage listed city with such a status.
12. The dreamy location of the Blue Mountains has provided inspirational settings for many books such as Delia Falconer's The Service of Clouds
, The Treasure Cave
, The Witch Number
, (1983) Taronga
, (1986) and Salt
13. Every year about 130 bushwalkers get lost or require rescuing in the Blue Mountains, according to NSW Police figures. Fortunately, most are found within 24 hours.
14. The Blue Mountains has the largest network of walking tracks in Australia. These cover an area over 250 kilometres. The National Park itself covers over 250 million hectares of mostly remote and inaccessible land.
15. The Blue Mountains National Park is NSW's busiest park, receiving about 3.5 to 4 million visitors annually.
16. The Blue Mountains is home to about 1,000 canyons and Australia's greatest known number of slot canyons (deep, narrow trenches formed by running water).
Kanangra Wall looking over one of the deepest gorges in Australia - one of the most spectacular places in the world heritage greater blue mountains. Don't go too near the edge.
17. The Blue Mountains is the site of one of the worlds most significant horticultural discoveries. In 1994, David Noble discovered the existence of the Wollemi pine (the world's rarest and most ancient tree) in the Wollemi National Park, in the Northern Blue Mountains. The Wollemi pine was thought to have become extinct 30 million years ago. The Blue Mountains trees are the only known wild specimens in the world. Their exact location remains a secret.
18. From the late 1800's to mid 1900's, the Blue Mountains was a sanatorium or place of healing popular with Sydney-siders for its fresh, invigorating air, natural features and healing spas.
19. 150 plant species found nowhere else in the world are protected in the Greater Blue Mountains area.
20. The Blue Mountains is considered a hotspot of evolution. It's considered the best example in the world of the transformation of ancient Gondwana forests into modern day sclerophyll forests. (Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, NSW)
21. The Blue Mountains is the only world heritage area in the world dominated by trees. (Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, NSW)
22 There are over 100 different species of Eucalypt in the Greater Blue Mountains National Park.
The Grand Canyon - one of the best walks in the Blue Mountains
23. The Blue Mountains is home to 10 per cent of endangered flora and fauna species in NSW, illustrating its importance in preserving diversity. (Blue Mountains City Council). Endangered species in the area include the brush-tailed wallaby, copper butterfly, tiger quoll, long-nosed potoroo, Blue Mountains water skink, koala, giant dragonfly and magenta lilly pilly. There are 344 flora and fauna species listed under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 within the Blue Mountains. With Australia a world leader in species extinction, the conservation efforts happening in the Blue Mountains are incredibly important. (Blue Mountains Conservation Society).
24. The Blue Mountains has been inhabited by Aboriginal people for at least 22,000 years and were occupied by the Gundungurra and Darug people. The Gundungurra Tribal Council Aboriginal Corporation is based in Katoomba.
25. The Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve was Australia's first eco tourism facility and the first caves in the world to gain legal protection (in 1872). The Jenolan Caves were also the first caves in the world to have electric lighting. Examples of these early lightbulbs can be seen in the caves today.
26. The first example of hydro electric power used to generate electricity in Australia occurred in the Greater Blue Mountains region at Jenolan, and was completed in 1917.
The Blue Lake at Jenolan Caves - home to a platypus and the site of the first hydro-electricity in Australia
27. Fire plays an important role in the ecosystem of the Blue Mountains. Fire is necessary to release seeds from woody cones, stimulate flowering, remove competitive plants and help nourish the soil. It's estimated about 250 plant species rely on fire to break their dormancy. (Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, NSW)
28. Although bush fires are beneficial to some trees, it's damaging to the local tourist-based economy. It's estimated the local tourist industry lost about $30 million because of the 2013 bush fires. The area relies heavily on tourism. In 2015, the Blue Mountains had over 3.5 million visitors worth about $572 million to the local economy. (Destination NSW)
29. According to local legend, Katoomba was the site of a secret underground tunnel designed as a wartime emergency escape route. The tunnel is thought to run from the Carrington Hotel across the street to the Savoy Cafe (formerly a movie theatre).
30. The upper Blue Mountains generally receive two to three snowfalls a year over winter. This has reduced in incidence and volume over the past few decades - possibly due to increased population in the area, global warming or other climate factors. Snowfalls are most reliable in the areas of Oberon.
The Rhododendron garden at Blackheath showcases the cold climate camellia's, azaleas and rhodo's typical of Blue Mountains gardens and is ablaze with colour every November during the annual Rhododendron Festival.
31. "The fish" and "the chips" have been the names of two commuter trains in the Blue Mountains for over 100 years. According to local legend the owe their names to John Heron, a burly Scottish train driver based at Penrith who operated the train in the 19th century. The guards at Penrith changed his name to "herring" and as his train arrived, the guards would shout here comes the big "fish". The "chips" was named to complement the service.
32. The Blue Mountains is rich in coal and shale and has been the subject of numerous environmental battles including the current fight against the Badgery Airport development and coal seam gas.
33. The residents inhabit villages that make up the towns of the Blue Mountains in parochial communities depicted in books as a realm disconnected to mainstream Australia.
And, on that note, I might end and throw another log on the fire as the mist swirls outside, then get back to my writing work.
As they say in the Blue Mountains: "Stay warm and well."
Life in the Blue Mountains - the writers cat stretched out on the central heating vent.