The Blue Mountains’ crowning urban glory manages to be bohemian and bourgeois, embracing and menacing all at once. Its steep streets are lined with Art Deco buildings and bathed in swirling mists. Right in town there are astonishing valley views and a quirky miscellany of brilliant restaurants, buskers, artists, galleries, homeless people, bawdy pubs and classy hotels. Everyone seems to be smoking, growing a beard and wearing a beanie. And, despite its burgeoning tourist industry, it retains a friendly and otherworldly ambience.
Katoomba’s big-ticket drawcard is Echo Point, where a series of sensational viewing platforms transport your gaze out over the Jamison Valley. The impressive Three Sisters rock formation towers over the scene. The story goes that the Three Sisters were turned to stone by a sorcerer to protect them from the unwanted advances of three young men, but the sorcerer died before he could turn them back into humans.
Echo Point draws profuse serenity-spoiling tourists and idling buses farting fumes – arrive early before they do.
To the west of town is Scenic World (4782 2699; www.scenicworld.com.au; cnr Cliff Dr & Violet St; cable-car return adult/child $19/10; 9am-5pm), with a megaplex vibe and an 1880s railway descending the 52-degree incline to the valley floor. It also has a glass-floored Scenic Skyway cable car floating out across the valley.