A Guide to Summer Weekends in the Blue Mountains

This will get some fresh mountain air into your lungs.
Jasmine Crittenden
Published on September 21, 2015

The wildflowers are a-blooming, the sun is a-shining and the air is clear. Now that summer has stolen the cooler weather away for keeps, it's time to make a beeline for the Blueys.

The days are warm enough for walking, but the evenings still cool enough to get cosy before a log fire (bushfire warnings permitting). So don't forget your walking boots or your whiskey. Here's our guide for squeezing the most out of a mountains weekender this summer.




The Three Sisters and Katoomba Falls are bound to be high on your list. For the most magical views (and the fewest tourists), visit by night. Or try checking them out from a new angle at Sublime Point Lookout (Sublime Point Rd, Leura). Other lookouts worth visiting include Cahills (258-276 Cliff Drive, Katoomba), Evans (Evans Lookout Rd, Blackheath) and Govetts Leap (Govetts Leap Road, Blackheath).

For more water, head to Wentworth, where you can picnic while watching the most majestic waterfalls in the mountains, and Leura, to explore cascades of more fairy-like dimensions. If you feel like a dip, take on the 1 kilometre walk to Minnehaha Falls.

Image: Gary P. Hayes.




The quintessential Blue Mountains experience is to be had at Scenic World (corner Violet St and Cliff Drive, Katoomba; (02) 4780 0200). Your adventure starts with an invigorating ride on the 270-metre high Scenic Skyway, taking in some of the mountains' most spectacular vistas, including Jamison Valley and Katoomba Falls. Once you're safely back on land, jump on the Scenic Railway (the steepest railway in the world), which descends 310 metres, dropping you on the valley floor, where the Scenic Walkway takes you on a 2.4 kilometre stroll through ancient rainforest, passing local lyrebirds. Make a gentle return via the Scenic Cableway's slow, 545 metre climb.

If you're after some more intensive hiking, leave time for an all-day walk. Two of the best are the 6 kilometre Grand Canyon track and the relentlessly scenic Mount Banks trail.

Alternatively, get into some local culture. The Blue Mountains have long provided a refuge for Sydney artists, so there's no shortage of galleries and exhibitions. You'll find diverse touring shows of both minor and major varieties at The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre (30 Parke St, Katoomba; (02) 4780 5410; Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-4pm). Or revisit your childhood at the Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum (14 Norman Lindsay Crescent, Faulconbridge; (02) 4751 1067; daily, 10am-4pm) and at Leura's Toy and Railway Museum (36 Olympian Parade, Leura; (02) 4784 1169; daily, 10am-5pm).




At least one (if not all) of your dining experiences should come with dreamy mountain views. Katoomba's Scenic World (corner Violet St and Cliff Drive, Katoomba; (02) 4780 0200) is home to two eateries looking over uninterrupted vistas of Jamison Valley and the Three Sisters. Book at EATS270 (10am-3pm daily) for local produce, craft beers, a killer Angus beef burger and a seat right on the giddy edge of the escarpment. Or, for a casual snack or coffee, there's the Terrace Cafe (10am-5pm daily).

Occupying an equally extraordinary position is the airy, elegant Solitary Restaurant (90 Cliff Drive, Leura Falls; (02) 4782 1164; Wed-Sun, 11am-4.30pm, Fri and Sat, from 6.30pm). On a clear day, you can see as far as the Southern Highlands. The seasonal menu includes dishes like roasted sage spatchcock with Dutch finger carrots, Parma ham, asparagus and carrot puree. More refined dining is on offer at nineteen23 (1 Lake St, Wentworth Falls; 0488 361 923; Thu-Sun, from 6pm, Sat-Sun, from 12pm) and Blackheath's Vesta (33 Govetts Leap, Blackheath; (02) 4787 6899; Wed-Fri, 5pm-10pm, Sat-Sun, from 12pm), where the specialty is slow roast, cooked in a 120-year-old scotch oven, fuelled by good ol' Mudgee vintage ironbark.

For a more casual munch, head to Leura Garage (84 Railway Parade, Leura; (02) 4784 3391; daily from 12pm), an arty, community-minded cafe-restaurant. The menu is hearty and the coffee is a special, Umami-created Ethiopian-Brazilian blend.




After a ten-year closure and $35 million reno, the glamorous Hydromajestic Hotel, built in 1904, reopened in October 2014. Drop by the Shanghai-inspired Salon du The Bar & Lounge (52-88 Great Western Highway, Medlow Bath; (02) 4782 6885; Fri-Sun, 3pm-9pm) for a cocktail, wine or high tea and amazing views of Megalong Valley.

For a more old-school, classic hotel experience, visit Mount Victoria's Imperial Hotel (1 Station St, Mount Victoria; (02) 4787 1878), built in 1878, where you can kick back in front of a crackling fire. Lilianfels Lounge & Bar (5-19 Lilianfels Avenue, Katoomba; (02) 4780 1200; daily, 11am-11pm) offers a long wine and beverage list covering local and international wines, single malt whiskeys and signature cocktails.




Those travelling in a group should explore Airbnb to nab a cracking deal on a private residence. An eco-friendly, passive-solar house, Nagual Retreat in Leura comes with incredible views over Mount Hay and sleeping space for 11 across five bedrooms and two levels. But if you want to go all-out deluxe, check out Katoomba's stunning, architect-designed The Last Straw.

Meanwhile, rowdy crews might consider surrounding themselves with land. There's this gorgeous, four-bedroom timber home on 2 acres at Medlow Bath, this tranquil property on 7 acres at Blackheath with its own tennis court, trampoline and cubby house (yay!), or the immense Dantosa Retreat, which sleeps 16 and is set on 9 acres of landscaped gardens, private lake included.

If you're more in the market for a romantic hideaway, there are loads of rustic mountain cottages to choose from. Stay within walking distance of Leura at the sunny, spacious Little Haven, with its own courtyard, king bed, spa bath and log fire. Or plant yourself in nature at the irresistibly cute Jemby Rinjah Eco Cabin, with its Japanese spa and treetop-level bedroom. And then there's this Enchanted Cave.




By car: The Blue Mountains is 90 minutes from Sydney via the M4 motorway. Alternatively, take the scenic route through the Hawkesbury along Bells Line of Road.

By train: The journey from Sydney's Central Station to Katoomba is two hours on the Blue Mountains Line.

Scenic World: Scenic World is 3km from Katoomba's town centre. Park in the all-day free parking, or hop on either a Blue Mountains Explorer or Trolley Tours bus and disembark at Scenic World main building.

Published on September 21, 2015 by Jasmine Crittenden
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