The scenically stunning Blue Mountains are absolutely worth a visit should you come Sydney and I recommend, in your planning, that you allow more than a day, especially if you enjoy hiking or want to visit, and get to appreciate, the many small townships in the mountains.
Having said that, I am acutely aware that the vast majority of visitors to the Blue Mountains come here on a day trip, on one of the countless buses that make the almost two hour journey (each way) from Sydney, on a daily basis. Living where I do I have never taken one of these commercial day trips. The closest I have come to so doing was a private bus trip as part with a group of friends from the now defunct Virtualtourist. This was as much about spending time with fellow VT members as it was about the trip itself.
I don’t wish to knock the commercial trips but they really do try (competition!) to pack in so much in a day that there is insufficient time, in my reckoning, to properly appreciate anything. Add to this that they are expensive. By all means take a commercial trip but read what you are signing up for and remember that sometimes ‘less is more’. In addition to considering what stops are included check carefully to see if lunch and the Scenic World rides are included in the price (the latter cost $A39 if not included). If your day trip costs much less than $A150 you need to be checking inclusions very carefully and remember that you will be on a big and full bus.
What I am going to suggest here is a day trip, using public transport, which focuses on a small part of the Blue Mountains (the most visited part) and leaves out peripheral and unnecessary (in my view) things like morning tea in Leura, the Wentworth Falls (typically only a lunch stop), Featherdale Wildlife Park and the ‘legendary Aussie Folk music’ offered by at least one tour group, to entertain (or infuriate) you on your return trip to Sydney. As you return to Sydney you can opt to take the ferry from Parramatta to Circular Quay, or not, (it won’t cost any more, if you do). Most commercial tours give you this option.
In terms of cost – my suggestion will cost (Dec 2016) $15 plus $39 ($54) if you do it Monday to Saturday and $2.50 plus $39 ($41.50) if you do it on a Sunday. This amounts to the daily Sydney transport cap amount plus $39 for a Scenic World day pass. Transport is via train to Katoomba and then a local bus within Katoomba (Opal Card – transport card in Sydney – valid on both). To plan your transport, enter ‘Central Station’ and ‘Scenic World’ into the Trip Planner on the Sydney Transport website, (http://www.transportnsw.info/). Food, which is readily available at various points, is extra.
The make the most of your day you should leave Sydney’s Central Station as early as possible for a two hour scenic train trip to Katoomba. I would suggest the 7.22am or 8.18am trains. For those that think this early – tour buses leave earlier. On arrival in Katoomba, catch the local bus (No 686) to Scenic World (about 15 mins). At Scenic World buy a day pass and spend the next few (up to you) hours enjoying the rides (the world’s steepest railway, a cableway and a skyway), walks, and spectacular views accessible there-from.
(Note that a hop-on-hop-off bus and an old converted trolley bus offering similar can be taken from the train station. If you are up for walking as outlined below (lots of other walks also available) then forget these options. If you are not up to some walking and just want to enjoy Echo Point, the rides at Scenic World and see a bit more of the Blue Mountains then these options can be considered).
The Scenic World website (http://www.scenicworld.com.au/) provides a number of useful suggestions, combining their rides and walks, to help you make the most of your time. Their suggestions range from those requiring minimal walking to some with fairly strenuous hikes. You can, of course, mix and match from these suggestions or create your own itinerary. What recently worked for me, having arrived at Scenic World at around 10am, was:-
• Railway down
• Walk to Katoomba Falls – a nice walk but you see basically nothing of the Falls
• Railway up
• Early lunch
• Cableway down
• 50 minutes rainforest boardwalk option (note some steps)
• Cableway up
• Skyway to East Station (fantastic views – Echo Point/Three Sisters, Katoomba Falls, the Jamison Valley and more
• Walk to Katoomba Cascades and then to Echo Point and the amazing Three Sisters rock formation – my main picture above – (30mins).
Having spent a bit of time at Echo Point (all facilities available – eating, toilets, tourist information, etc) you can walk out onto the first of the Three Sisters. Having completed this, or not, you have a few options:-
• Catch the No 686 bus back into Katoomba where you can spend as much time as you like prior to taking the train back to Sydney
• Return to Scenic World retracing your steps to East Station and taking the Skyway again (or take the bus No 686)
• Return to Scenic World by taking the Giant Stairway (1000 steps!) down into the Jamison Valley from Echo Point and then walking though the rainforest back to Scenic World’s Railway which you can take back up to Scenic World. This 4.7km walk will take a couple of hours – remember that the last train to Scenic World leaves at 4.50pm.
When finished at Scenic World catch the No 686 bus back into Katoomba where you can spend as much time as you like prior to taking the train back to Sydney.
Most commercial tours offer patrons the option of leaving the bus at Parramatta and taking a ferry from there back to Circular Quay. You can likewise depart the train at Parramatta and take a ferry (10mins walk from the train station) to Circular Quay completing what will have been a most enjoyable day – done at your own pace and concentrating on the key, not to be missed, attractions for someone with only a day to spare.
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