The Blue Mountains are somewhere we recommend all visitors to Australia go to. This national park just two hours west of Sydney CBD is incredible; mountains, waterfalls and wildlife and quaint villages. It is known for its world-class hiking, but also has plenty to do for non hikers too.
Here are the best things to do on a Blue Mountains day trip.
Blue Mountains day trips
Whilst we’d advise spending a couple of days there if you can, it is very easy to visit on a day trip from Sydney. Whether you’re into hiking or want to take in the views, you’ll enjoy the cooler mountain air.
If you’re not a hiker, Katoomba is pretty much the only place you’ll want to go if you don’t have a car. Katoomba has plenty of world class views and things to do which are easily accessed on foot once you get there.
Blue Mountains day trips by train
To go to the Blue Mountains by train you’ll need to leave early. The journey is about two hours each way (to get the best spots), so you’ll want to be leaving Sydney no later than 8am.
All trains to the Blue Mountains leave from Central Station. There are plenty every hour and they stop at Katoomba, Blackheath, Wentworth Falls, Mount Victoria and a few other places.
Once there you can get the Explorer Bus from Katoomba which stops at a lot of major sights, lookouts and the start of a couple of walking trails. Alternatively there are quite a few trails and lookouts you can reach on foot if you don’t mind adding on a few kilometres.
1. Scenic World & Views (Katoomba)
Katoomba is the heart of the Blue Mountains and there is no viewpoint more iconic than the three Sisters. This day trip is by far the most popular and it covers off the most famous parts of the Blue Mountains.
Getting to Katoomba
You can take either the train or drive yourself to Katoomba for this itinerary. Allow at least 1.5 hours each way to get there (longer if you choose to return/leave in rush hour traffic).
Graze on Main Street: Our favourite café survives a beautiful porridge! Perfect to warm up on a cold day and great pre hiking fuel. They also serve all your Aussie faves, such as corn fritters.
Head straight to Scenic World, the earlier the better. This place gets seriously crowded (especially at weekends and public holidays), so go early to avoid spending all your time in queues. You can book tickets in advance on their website so that you will at least miss the entry queue.
Scenic World is a great introduction to the Blue Mountains, offering beautiful views across the Jamison Valley. The skyway is the best place to start, taking you to a great lookout point and provides excellent views over the valley.
After this, head down to the valley floor on the steepest railway in the world. Take the leisurely boardwalk which winds around the forest. If you walk all the trails and take some time for photographs you could be down here for around one hour. You may even get lucky and see a Lyre Bird, we’ve seen one every time we’ve been here (it’s the one that mimics other birds and sounds, you may have seen them mimic a chainsaw on a David Attenborough documentary).
Head back into Katoomba and go to the Elephant Café for some delicious toasties (location on the map below).
Head to Echo Point for the iconic view of the Three Sisters, the most famous landmark in the Blue Mountains. Not only are the Three Sisters impressive, but the whole view of the Jamison Valley is one of the best in the Blue Mountains.
There is a short path out to the Three Sisters, so you can get up close.
After this, you can either take the path to Katoomba Falls (flat and around 20 minutes each way).
After this treat yourself to a hot chocolate or a coffee at the Blue Mountains Chocolate co.
You can either get on the Explorer Bus or walk for ten minutes from Echo Point.
2. Jenolan Caves
Jenolan Caves is one of the must-do sights in the Blue Mountains (even Queen Victoria wanted a picture of these famous caves sent back for her to see). There are a number of caves to choose from and it's all set in a stunningly beautiful area.
You could easily spend a few days exploring the caves but even seeing only one is worth the trip. Book your cave tours in advance as it can get busy and they do sell out! All the show caves are by guided tour only, however, a less spectacular but still interesting cave can be visited independently. Click here to check out all the tours and there difficulty level.
Jenolan Caves is at the further end of the Blue Mountains. The best way to get there is to drive (taking nearly three hours from Sydney).
The only way to get here by public transport is by getting the train to Katoomba and catching the bus that leaves at 10.30am. This bus then leaves Jenolan Caves at 3.30pm to go back to Katoomba so you can only view one show cave if using public transport.
Start off with the River Cave, a huge system that - you guessed it - has a river running through it. What makes it even more impressive is the perfect reflection created by the still water in the cave.
The tour through this cave will take about two hours. The minimum age for this tour is 10 and it is marked strenuous. Personally given how steep many of the hikes in the area can be I wouldn’t call it strenuous, though there are a couple of ladders to climb.
After this head over to Lucas Cave. Here you'll find some incredible stalactites and rock formations in the biggest chamber at Jenolan Caves. The tour for this takes about 1.5 hours. No minimum age and also marked as strenuous.
To give perspective though, we did this cave with our niece and nephew, aged four and seven. If this is full the Orient Cave is equally beautiful.
After the tours, have a look at the stunning blue pool near the entrance of the caves. If you're lucky, you may see a wild platypus! They love overcast and silent conditions, so fingers crossed you get lucky. Here is more information on our platypus sighting.
On the way back to Sydney, you can continue your wildlife spotting adventures by stopping at the Jenolan Caves Cottages. There is a resident mob of Eastern Grey Kangaroos that love to hang out here. It’s one of the best places to spot wild kangaroos close to Sydney.
3. Short and scenic walks
Creating an itinerary for hikers in the Blue Mountains was a pretty tricky task! So we decided to list our favourite short walks in the area. If you're feeling particularly fit, we'd highly recommend the hike down the Furber Steps all the way to the Ruined Castle (or even further to Mount Solitary).
Katoomba is just over an hour and a half from the centre of Sydney and you can easily do this itinerary by either public transport (train from Central Station in Sydney to Katoomba) or by driving.
Prince Henry Clifftop Walk (Katoomba)
The Prince Henry Clifftop Walk goes all the way from Scenic World to Leura, taking in Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters and views of the Jamison Valley along the way. It's a pretty straightforward walk to do, relatively flat and the path is in very good condition.
The track starts at Scenic World and is well marked. You can choose to walk back into Katoomba after Echo Point or when it veers towards Cliff Drive (about 4.6km) or even continue onto Leura (6.8km).
For full track notes, check out Wild Walks' guide.
The Furber Steps (Katoomba)
If you fancy doing the boardwalk at Scenic World, but don't fancy paying the $30+ entrance fee, then head down the Furber Steps. It's a pretty steep walk (and almost entirely steps) but it's a fun track with many viewpoints and waterfalls along the way.
At the bottom you can explore the beautiful bushland and mining history of Katoomba on the boardwalk (allow 40 minutes to an hour to explore, this allows a lot of time for photographs and looking out for bird life) before hiking back up.
The return journey is quite a work out, there are around 1000 steps back up. The track starts at Scenic World with a path that leads straight to the Furber Steps.
The Charles Darwin Walk (Wentworth Falls)
The Charles Darwin Walk is a very popular and easy walk to do in the Blue Mountains and is easily accessible from Wentworth Falls train station. It follows alongside a river and takes you through quiet bushland before ending at Wentworth Falls for some epic views.
It's a flat and easy walk, and is only 5.6km long (return). It should take a maximum of two hours, allowing for a leisurely pace. The track starts on Falls Road by the public park.
The Clifftop Walk (Blackheath)
For the best views of the Grose Valley head to Govetts Leap to start the Clifftop Walk. Though the closest train station is Blackheath, when we made this trip by train it was easier to get off at Katoomba and take the trolley bus to close by the trail head.
You could walk from Blackheath station but it adds on an extra 3km each way. The trail here undulates and can be pretty steep in places, but offers some incredible views and is a great introduction to the Grose Valley.
The track ends at Evans Lookout where you can either return the same way or take a very long but fabulous loop back (via the Braeside Track and Pope's Glen - you can connect them all).
The Clifftop Walk takes an hour and 45 minutes each way (just over 3.2km) and a lot longer with the alternative loop!
4. Our favourite walk in NSW
You can do this itinerary by public transport, getting the train from Central Station in Sydney to Blackheath or Katoomba as above.
If you drive, allow two hours to drive from Sydney to Evans Lookout - the start of the trail.
The Grand Canyon Loop
The Grand Canyon Loop is a beautiful walk that quickly goes from rivers and rainforest, to dry, deep canyons within just over 5km. Allow yourself a couple of hours to hike this trail as there are steep sections and you'll want to have breaks to take in the quiet beauty of this walk.
Starting at Evans Lookout, follow the track down what feels like several hundred steps! The path has recently been upgraded with really good stone steps put in. The track goes down through a beautiful moss covered canyon to a river. From here stepping stones take you through the bottom of the Aussie "Grand Canyon".
Soon the path heads upwards and as soon as you're round the corner the damp and luscious green scenery of the start feels a mile away! The path runs halfway up the canyon and you'll frequently hear the river below and even some intrepid canyoners.
Soon the track loops back to the top. It’s a fairly steep climb but doable for most people if you take your time.
It's a stunning track and one worth going to the Blue Mountains for alone.
Blue Mountains self-drive day trips
We highly recommend hiring a car for your day trip to the Blue Mountains. Car hire in Sydney is generally cheap and the roads are pretty straight forward if you are used to driving on the left!
After a little driving through the CBD, the roads to the Blue Mountains are Freeways and relatively quiet, especially early morning. There are a few tracks which require a 4WD but if you are only making a day trip it’s unlikely you’ll be targeting these.
Epic views and afternoon tea
If you like an epic view, than the Blue Mountains has plenty for you (we love them too). The great thing about this day trip is that a lot of the viewpoints will have few people at them as most people choose to go to Echo Point to see the Three Sisters.
We've also added an afternoon tea because we could! :)
This itinerary requires a car. The journey from Sydney to Govett’s Leap in Blackheath (where it starts) takes approximately two hours.
Head straight to Govett's Leap, one of the best introductory viewpoints in the Blue Mountains. From here you'll see the magnificent Grose Valley and the mountain tops for miles in all directions.
There are some short trails that lead from Govett's Leap, including the flat Fairfax Heritage Track and the slightly more challenging Cliff Top Walk, detailed above.
After this, drive over to Pulpit Rock (you can also walk to this lookout from Govett's Leap, 7.6km return), a stunning viewpoint and one of our favourites in the Blue Mountains.
It's hard to underestimate how incredible the views are, especially when you are standing on the view point jutting out from the valley. It's particularly gorgeous at sunrise if you have longer than a day trip to the Blue Mountains.
If that hasn't quenched your thirst for views, head over to the Hydro Majestic to take in the views of the Jamison Valley. From up here you can see down to the Megalong Valley, your next stop!
Head down to the Megalong Valley for a unique Blue Mountains experience! The road to the valley floor is incredibly twisty and not one for those who suffer from car sickness. But the road is beautiful, descending through what looks like a rainforest with huge ferns along the way.
At the bottom you'll come across the Megalong Valley Tea Rooms. Situated on the floor of the valley, they serve a delicious afternoon tea (other meals are also on offer) with a great view of the mountains. If you get lucky, you may see a roo or two.
Before heading back to Sydney, head over to Lincoln's Rock for sunset (location on the map below).
There are few better places in the whole of New South Wales to see the sky change colour than here.
2. Waterfalls and valleys in Wentworth Falls
Driving is the best way to get to Wentworth Falls and this itinerary. Allow two hours to drive from Sydney to the start of the Charles Darwin walk.
Start with the Charles Darwin walk: a short track that will take you alongside a river through beautiful bushland. The track is flat all the way and 2.5km each way (making it one of the easiest in the Blue Mountains). It will finish at the top of Wentworth Falls.
Here you'll see a few viewpoints of Wentworth Falls and the Jamison Valley, offering sweeping views of this beautiful landscape. On a good day, you'll see the blue haze coming off the gum trees which give this area its name.
After taking in the views, head over to the Conservation Hut for some lunch. Whilst it's not gourmet food, it's tasty and offers up some more exceptional views. The fire is lovely in winter. You can get here by the shortcut track from Wentworth Falls (which takes about 15 minutes) or drive round.
After lunch, head back to the viewpoints at Wentworth Falls and take the National Pass track - sadly the whole track is currently closed, but when it opens again we highly recommend doing the hike as it is stunning.
The start of the National Pass will give you every view of the waterfall, starting at the pools at the top and taking you all the way down to the foot of the falls. Here you can take a dip if you want.
Given that the pass is currently closed you could take the 4km easy - moderate Overcliff/Undercliff loop track which takes you to some lovely viewpoints.
Finish the day with sunset at Sublime Point in Leura. It’s a pretty lookout, particularly when the sun slowly sinks behind the mountain tops.
You can find the location for Sublime Point below. There’s plenty of parking for free, so you won’t need to worry about getting there early.
3. Kanagra-Boyd National Park
So technically this isn't in the Blue Mountains, but it's well worth mentioning! Half an hour further on from Jenolan Caves is Kanagra-Boyd National Park with one of the best lookouts in New South Wales.
The other great thing is that very few people venture here! Plus you'll probably see a wallaby or two when you're there. :-)
Kanangra-Boyd is a bit of a mission to get to, so be prepared for a long and bumpy journey! You'll need your own car for this day trip (there is no public transport) and an early start. Kanangra-Boyd is 3.5 hours away from Sydney and a long some windy roads.
The last 30 km is a dirt track, so be prepared for slow, bumpy drive into the national park. Ideally you want a SUV or something with a bit of clearance as we popped a tyre on our small car here due to the potholes and rocks.
The main attraction on this day trip is the Kanagra-Boyd Walls and the Plateau walking trail there. The walk is up to 10km (return, so 5km each way, you quickly lose any signs and it becomes more of a wander for as long as you want type affair.
The best part of the walking trail is the view in the photo below. This incredible ledge juts out over endless forest covered mountains, a perfect photography spot.
You’ll have no trouble finding this ledge on the Plateau Walk, it is very early on and to be honest the star. If you stop walking after this bit you haven’t missed out.
If this isn't enough, you can add in a trip to Jenolan Caves (itinerary above) or pop into Oberon for coffee and cake. Whilst you can visit Kanagra-Boyd as a day trip, you'll spend a lot of time in the car, so we recommend spending a night in either Katoomba (2 hours) or Oberon (1 hour).
Other day trips for the adventurous
The Blue Mountains offers a few canyoning trips which take you into areas you can’t get to alone. The best are the ones which go through the Grand Canyon and Empress Falls (at Wentworth Falls) for beginners as no experience is required. There are often special offers for these trips on Groupon and Scoopon so check them out before you go.
Another favourite activity of people going to the Mountains is cycling. You can choose to do some of the mountain bike tracks or take on the road cycling routes. There is a particularly beautiful route which goes through Oberon and Jenolan Caves. More information on various cycling routes can be found here.
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Are you planning a trip to the Blue Mountains? Have you been and think we missed something? Let us know in the comments below!