Saturday, 17 January 2015

To the Blue Mountains -- with public transport!

Planning a trip to the Blue Mountains from Sydney, but don't have a set of wheels (or can't drive)? Personally, I was in two minds about making a visit because of the perceived inconvenience. But despite what most people tell you, accessing this site is very easy by public transport (they're just being lazy). But first, a little background.

The Blue Mountains is a mountainous range in New South Wales, Australia. It's close to Sydney, and borders its metropolitan area. According to Wikipedia (and based on what I saw), the Mountains are a dissected plateau carved in sandstock bedrock. They are now a series of ridge lines separated by gorges up to 760 metres deep. One of the region's best-known attractions is The Three Sisters rock formation (left). There's an Aboriginal story behind it which I cannot remember right now. The Blue Mountains is not a particularly high mountain range, but that hasn't stopped countless from making trips here for its majestic scenery. It helps that the region was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 2000.

What to see/do

The most popular attraction is Echo Point in the town of Katoomba, a major lookout with amazing views of the Three Sisters and Jamison Valley. It's a good point to start your visit, and there are information panels/displays about the surrounding environment. From here you can set off on one of many, many treks to while away the hours (and days) and check out what nature has to offer you in these parts -- including some gorgeous waterfalls. If you feel you're not fit enough, try the short walks of about a kilometre or so. The more adventurous can of course set off on multi-day treks. Mountain biking opportunities also abound.

In the mountains you'll also find a number of towns including:

Katoomba (right) -- the largest of the lot and main jump-off point for the Mountains. You can shop and fill your tummies in this area known for its hippie and artsy people.
Leura -- this one's right next to Katoomba and more quaint

So how do I get there?

Hop onto the Blue Mountains Line at Sydney's Central Station and get off at Katoomba. The trip should take you around 2 hours. When you exit the station, there's an office for a hop on/hop off service to the mountains. It makes 29 stops across Katoomba and Leura, giving you the flexibility to explore the area comfortably.

the road from Katoomba down to Echo Point;
yes, it's right at the end
Or you could do what I did -- walk from Katoomba station down to Echo Point (the lookout). It's a relatively easy 2-kilometre walk if the weather is pleasant (I walked back to Katoomba after my trek too). If you do intend to walk the whole way, get a map from the hop on/hop off office. It would help a great deal, especially if you don't trust your sense of direction. Or just ask around.

How much time to spend here?

It really depends on you. The Blue Mountains can be done as an easy day trip from Sydney, but keep in mind that the journey to and fro takes about 2 hours each. At the Mountains itself, I trekked for about 3-4 hours before deciding I'd had enough. I was told Sydneysiders do weekend trips here to mountain bike, trek or simply camp out (accommodation options are available in the area of course). So if you want to avoid the crowds, try planning your trip during the week.


Do note that the temperatures up here can be up to 10 degrees lower than on the coast during the day, and much lower at night, so bringing a jacket along isn't being overly cautious. Oh yes, it does snow sometimes in winter. During my trip there was a bit of a drizzle but it did little to dampen the experience.