Eco Trip: Greenista Guide to the Blue Mountains – Part I

Famous Three Sisters rock formation in the Blue Mountains

Weekend trips to local spots are the best.  You’re able to get away from it all without having to travel very far.  It’s how my husband and I like to recharge!

Our most recent trip was to the Blue Mountains, a vast World Heritage wilderness site full of waterfalls, canyons and sandstone cliffs that are only an hour and a half outside bustling Sydney.  They’re worth a trip whether you live in the City or are just passing through.

Where to Stay

Part of the Blue Mountains charm is the string of quaint towns that are nestled along the perimeter of the area.  Each one is worth exploring on its own, so we’re planning multiple trips back.  But for our first Blue Mountains adventure, we stayed at Glenella Guest House in Blackheath.  The guest house is a heritage building that first opened its doors as a bed & breakfast in 1915 and was managed by a woman named Elizabeth Phillips and her five daughters.

c/o Glenella Guest House

We stayed in Glenella’s oldest and smallest room.  It was basic and fit our needs, but if you’re going away for a special weekend we recommend upgrading to a different room or staying in another town.  Katoomba is the region’s main hub and while it’s quite touristy, the town has some beautiful historic accommodations like the Carrington Hotel.  For a more luxurious experience, splurge on the chic Echoes Boutique Hotel, which overlooks a breathtaking valley. For our next stay, we’re going to book a room in the romantically rustic town of Wentworth Falls.

What To See

All the towns are relatively close to one another, so taking the train or a bus is easy.  Just make sure to pay attention to departure and arrival times as they run infrequently.

To see the major sites quickly, I recommend boarding a Blue Mountains Trolley Tour that lets you hop on and off at 29 different sites near Katoomba, including the famous Three Sisters lookout.  Kitschy stops like Bygone Beauties (a museum of antique teacups that also serves afternoon tea), the Leuralla Rail and Toy Museum, and Blue Mountains Chocolate Company are all on the way.  Stop by the latter and pick up some delicious house-made chocolates or order their Real Hot Chocolate, made fresh on the spot with chocolate chips and piping hot milk.

From Left: Entrance to the Blue Mountains in Blackheath; Selection of handmade truffles from Blue Mountains Chocolate Company; Misty vista point from Govetts Leap

The main reason, however, to go to the Blue Mountains is for the outdoor adventure activities and hiking.  Just make sure you have good knees because there are lots of stairs!  From Glenella Guest House, we were in walking distance to one of the most incredible viewing platforms of our entire trip – Govetts Leap.  Bridal Veil Falls (the highest in the Blue Mountains) is nearby, and a quick 30-minute hike brings you to a gorgeous vista point where you’re surrounded by sandstone cliffs and feel like you’re soaring over the lush canopies covering the valley floor below, which is a looooong way down.

Though the Three Sisters is cool to see, I felt it was a bit overrated.  The hikes in Blackheath and Wentworth Falls are just as incredible, if not more so.  In Wentworth Falls, take the Charles Darwin Trail out of town and choose one of the many walking tracks around the sublime Valley of the Waters.  You won’t regret it!  Not comfortable exploring on your own?  Many tour companies, like Tread Lightly Eco Tours, offer well-priced bushwalking tours.

For a less strenuous experience of the Blue Mountains, Scenic World near Katoomba is a must.  You can take the Scenic Cableway, a cable car that descends down to the valley floor, and then walk along the Scenic Walkway, a lifted wooden path that takes you through the rainforest and offers a completely different view of the Blue Mountains.

From Left: Calcified deposits and limestone in the Jenolan Caves; Me on the "Plughole Adventure" tour; Devil's Coach House

A unique day trip from Blackheath is exploring the Jenolan Caves.  Originally named “Dark Places” by the aboriginal Gundungurra people, the extensive maze of limestone caves is more than 400 million years old and absolutely mind-boggling.  We donned spelunking overalls and headlamps and ventured deep inside the pitch-black caves on the “Plughole Adventure.” Our tour guide was in his late 70s and had the coolest stories about spending his life caving and abseiling in the area.  It was fun, dirty, tiring and challenging – and the most memorable part of our getaway!  If squeezing through tiny spaces isn’t your thing, there are other easier Show Cave Tours available.  I have my eye on the sparkly Jewels of Jenolan tour for next time…

Check back later this week for Part II: Where to Shop and Where to Eat in the Blue Mountains.

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  1. […] recently got a second chance to visit the Blue Mountains when one of my best friends flew out to Sydney.  This time we stayed in Wentworth Falls (the […]

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