I recently discovered it is easier than I thought to get there by public transport. If you are staying in the Sydney CBD/downtown, simply catch the train on the Blue Mountains train line (BMT line) from Central station to Katoomba station. The whole commute is roughly 2 hours (one way). From Katoomba, I bought a ticket to the Blue Mountains Explorer Hop On/Hop Off bus. Their office is right next to the train station, very easy to spot. If you don’t have a car, or you like the convenience of a tour guide and being driven to the main attractions, then I recommend the Explorer Bus. I thought it was amazing and I got more out of my experience than I expected. The bus operates all day and you can hop on and hop off as many times as you like. The drivers are so lovely too. They are super knowledgeable, helpful and friendly.
There are 29 stops on the Explorer Bus and you could defintely knock them all out in one day. I chose a handful of stops and spent at least 30 mins to an hour at each stop. These were the stops that I made:
Katoomba Cascades (stop 7) & Katoomba Falls (stop 8)
I wasn’t really prepared for too much walking, which was a mistake! The moment I arrived at Katoomba Cascades, I realised I should’ve worn my runners instead of my sneakers. The casades were a refreshing start to the day. The paths will lead you to a number of lookout points, and some of them will present you with a view of the Katoomba Falls. This is were the real adventure started! I decided to walk to Scenic World (stop 9) and catch the Explorer Bus from there (side note – Scenic World is where you can jump on the railway or cable cart for unique views). However, I got completely lost and it took me at least 40 minutes to find my way. Along the way, two German travellers asked me for help with directions, and I thought to myself, “they’ve asked the wrong person today!” But when life throws you lemons, make lemonade! They were also heading to Scenic World/stop 9 so the three of us worked together to find our way back – and we did!
Narrow Neck Lookout (stop 10)
This was a surprise stop. The wonderful bus driver stopped here and spent 5mins taking photos of each of the passengers! This is not part of the deal when you buy a bus ticket – this is above and beyond customer service! We were all so grateful.
Honeymoon Lookout (stop 15)
Now, Honeymoon Lookout comes after the Echo Point/Three Sisters. But the bus driver recommended getting off here and walking up to Echo Point, which is what I did. It’s a lovely stroll and makes the views from Echo Point even more rewarding.
Echo Point/Three Sisters (stop 14)
This is pretty much one of the main reasons why people come to the Blue Mountains – to see the Three Sisters, and Echo Point has one of the best, if not the best, and accesible, view points. There are so many tourists here, more than I expected (shows how much I know!). The Three Sisters is not only a unique rock formation but also an Aboriginal Legend. Although, there are multiple versions of this legend, and you can read a couple of them here. It was crazy windy when I was there, I was scared it would blow my phone away as I took photos! But the views are certainly spectacular!
Leura Cascades (stop 17)
A perfectly paved path will take you down the Leura Cascades. Also fairly easy to get to, the cascades are small and sparkly. If you want, you could walk from here to the next stop (Gordon Falls Lookout), or you can return to the bus stop.
Gordon Falls Lookout (stop 18)
This lookout point is visited less but ended up being my favourite! I was the only one there for a solid 20 minutes. It was peaceful and fresh and the view was the best, in my personal opinon. Gordon Falls was trickling down the mountains – maybe on rainier days, the water is heavier. Either way, just the view is amazing.
Everglades House & Gardens (stop 25)
SO MUCH YES! Despite exploring a fair amount of the Blue Mountains, my highlight of the day was the Everglades House & Gardens. I loved it so much! From the start, I was greeted by a friendly man who sold me my entry ticket (discounted if you have an Explorer Bus ticket). It was 2:30pm so he advised me to rush to Everglades House (it closed at 3pm), which is also a museum and cafe. If you have time (which I didn’t), you could stop here for a classic Devonshire Tea.
From the Everglades House, I explored every inch of the gardens, wandering between the Cherry and Lilac and Agapanthus terraces’ before reaching the gorgeous Garden Theatre. This led me through Wisteria Way, the Rhododendron Gardens and then to my favourite spot – the Azalea Drifts. It was SO PRETTY!!
Then there’s The Glades, a huge garden space including the Watercourse, the Grotto Pool and Terrace View.
Needless to say, I love Everglades House & Gardens!
What I missed…
If I had more time, or wasn’t so exhuasted from walking all day, I would have stopped at Leura Village (stop 21). From the window of the Explorer Bus, the village looked absolutely charming! The road was treelined, the streets were busy with people, and local businesses were thriving.
Choose your own adventure…
If you’re really into walking or hiking, you could totally do the Blue Mountains on foot. All the walking tracks are connected. For example, the Prince Henry Cliff Walk can take you from Leura Cascades to Echo Point (or vice versa). You would encounter all the best look out points if you followed this track – it’s something I wouldn’t mind trying one day. If you wanted to extend that walk, you could start from Gordon Falls, which connects to Leura Cascades. Just a heads up – having done some of those sections already, I can confirm there are a lot of stairs!
After 6 hours of exploring, it was time for me to head back to Sydney exactly the same way I came – from Katoomba train station on the BMT line. I got the Explorer Bus from Everglades Gardens to Katoomba Station and the bus driver recognised me from the amount of times I hopped on and off the bus. “You must be exhausted!” were his words – he wasn’t wrong. It was a long but worthwhile day. I like to think I did my first Blue Mountains adventure right!
My top 3 tips (during warmer weather):
- Be sun smart! Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. At least 2 litres.
- Wear appropriate, comfortable walking shoes.