A region with more gorges, gum trees and gourmet restaurants than seem viable, the spectacular Blue Mountains was an obvious contender when Unesco called for Australian nominations to the World Heritage List, and its inclusion was ratified in 2000. The slate-coloured haze that gives the mountains their name comes from a fine mist of oil exuded by the huge eucalyptus gums that form a dense canopy across the landscape of deep, often-inaccessible valleys and chiselled sandstone outcrops. The landscape has an extraordinary beauty and biodiversity, making the area one of Australia’s most popular bushwalking destinations.
The foothills begin 65km inland from Sydney, rising to an 1100m-high sandstone plateau riddled with valleys eroded into the stone over thousands of years. There are eight connected conservation areas in the region, including the Blue Mountains National Park, which has some truly fantastic scenery, excellent bushwalks, Aboriginal engravings and all the canyons and cliffs you could ask for. It’s the most popular and accessible of the three national parks in the area. Great lookouts include the Evan’s and Govett’s Leap lookouts near Blackheath and Echo Point in Katoomba.
Wollemi National Park, north of the Bells Line of Rd, is NSW’s largest forested wilderness area, stretching all the way to Denman in the Hunter Valley.
Six Aboriginal language groups treasure connections with the area that reach back into ancient time: the Dharawal and Gundungurra people in the south, the Wiradjuri in the west and northwest and the Wanaruah, Darkinjung and Darug in the northeast.
Although it’s possible to visit on a day trip from Sydney, we strongly recommend that you stay at least one night so that you can explore a few of the towns, do at least one bushwalk and enjoy a dinner at one of the excellent restaurants in Blackheath or Leura.
After the beaches of Bondi, you may find the hills surprisingly cool, so bring a coat or wrap.