What are the Blue Mountains?
The Blue Mountains are a rugged, forested mountain range peeling off the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales. They feature towering sandstone cliffs, secluded canyons, dramatic waterfalls, unique rock formations, dense eucalyptus forests, and incredible underground caves.
The foothills of the Blue Mountains start just 50 km west of central Sydney, and the term is generally used to refer to the towns, rural areas, and mountainous wilderness west of Sydney, between Penrith and Bathurst.
What is so special about the Blue Mountains?
The Blue Mountains are special because they combine amazing scenery with some fantastic cultural sites and quirky villages.
Here are the top, must-do Blue Mountains highlights:
The Three Sisters: an iconic sandstone formation with panoramic views and intriguing Aboriginal history.`
Wentworth Falls: a towering, two-tiered waterfall cutting through forested mountainside.
Eucalyptus forests: vast, unspoilt areas of native eucalyptus trees and their ancient animal inhabitants.
Jenolan Caves: a world-renowned underground network of stalactites, stalagmites, and subterranean rivers that also hosts monthly concerts and a heritage-listed hotel. Learn more about the Jenolan Caves here.
Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens: historic estate and garden with thousands of exotic plant species, fantastic views, and the Blue Mountains Area World Heritage Exhibition Centre.
Katoomba Scenic Railway: the world’s steepest train, dropping 400 metres down a narrow gorge escarpment surrounded by trees. A huge hit with kids.
After those, what impresses you about the Blue Mountains will depend on what interests you. For example:
Enjoy award-winning dining in stunning locations
Food-lovers can look forward to eating at one of many exquisite restaurants and enticing eateries located throughout the Blue Mountains.
Established fine dining establishments include the old-world elegance of Darleys Restaurant at Lilianfels Resort, Wintergarden at the Hydro Majestic, set in a spectacular mountainside spot.
The modern Australian degustation at Embers, in Leura, and cutting-edge Fumo, in Blackheath, are among the Blue Mountains’ brightest contemporary culinary stars.
There are also award-winning cafes like the family-run Basil Nut, innovative Vincent Diner in Glenbrook, and industrial modern Boiler House at Medlow Bath.
Rare flora and fauna in the Blue Mountains UNESCO World Heritage Area
The Greater Blue Mountains Area is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, mainly due to its rare eucalyptus forests. Species from all four eucalypt plant groups live here, including 114 endemic species and 120 rare or endangered species.
Over 400 animals also call the Blue Mountains home, from endangered reptiles like the Blue Mountain water skink to dingoes and wild predators. Rare marsupials include the spotted-tailed quoll and long-nosed potoroo, as well as resident koalas and kangaroos.
The historical Blue Mountains: taking a look back in time
As well as being a pristine natural area, the Blue Mountains are rich in culture and history.
If you want to learn about Aboriginal heritage and the traditional landowners of this region, the Gundungurra and Darug people, take a Blue Mountains Walkabout tour from Faulconbridge.
If you’d like to see what Blue Mountains towns were like during their 19th-century mining heyday, head to Yerranderie, an abandoned silver-mining town that has been well preserved.
And if you or your kids are mad about engines, don’t miss the hands-on displays of the Leuralla Toy and Railway Museum, or the historical holdings of the Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum.
The Blue Mountains have the best views in town
If you consider the Blue Mountains as an extension of Greater Sydney, then it’s undoubtedly where you get the best views in town – trust us, the Opera House can’t compete with this.
From Katoomba and the Three Sisters viewpoint at Echo Point, you get amazing views over the endless eucalyptus forests. But to get an even better vantage point of the Blue Mountains’ beauty, head to Scenic World and take the Scenic Skyway cable-car, Australia’s only glass-bottomed gondola.
If you’re really keen to get a bird’s-eye view, you can skydive in the Blue Mountains. Although it’s not the most relaxing way to take in the views, it’s certainly one of the most memorable.