Introducing Blue Mountains
For more than a century the Blue Mountains have been luring Sydneysiders up from the sweltering plains with promises of cool-climate relief and naughty fireside weekends. Sweetening the invitation are astounding scenery, fabulous bushwalks and more gorges, gum trees and gourmet restaurants than seem viable. The slate-coloured haze that gives the mountains their name comes from a fine mist of oil exuded by eucalyptus trees.
The foothills begin 65km inland from Sydney, rising to a 1100m-high sandstone plateau riddled with valleys eroded into the stone over thousands of years. In 1813, Wentworth, Blaxland and Lawson were the first Europeans to traverse the mountains. Today’s Great Western Hwy follows their route through the laid-back towns of Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth Falls. Katoomba is the King of the Mountain, with Art Deco cafés, an edgy arts scene and active pub life. The Blackheath area is an ideal base from which to explore natural attractions like Bridal Veil Falls, Anvil Rock and the Blue Gum Forest.
There are three national parks in the area, the most accessible of which is the Blue Mountains National Park, protecting large tracts of forest north and south of the Great Western Hwy. Absorb the park’s jaw-dropping scenery at the numerous drive-up lookouts, or get amongst the greenery on established bushwalking trails. Southwest of here is Kanangra Boyd National Park, accessible from Oberon or Jenolan Caves. Launch into a bushwalk, descend into limestone caverns or check out the amazing Kanangra Walls plateau, encircled by sheer cliffs. Wollemi National Park, north of Bells Line of Rd, is the state’s largest forested wilderness area (nearly 500, 000 hectares) with rugged bushwalking and native critters aplenty.
Entry to these national parks is free unless you enter the Blue Mountains National Park at Bruce Rd, Glenbrook (per car $7, walkers free). For more information (including camping), contact the NPWS Visitor Centre (02-4787 8877; www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au; Govetts Leap Rd, Blackheath; 9am-4.30pm), about 2.5km off the Great Western Hwy and 10km north of Katoomba.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009