Located a short drive from Sydney is the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Greater Blue Mountains Area. With so much to do, you could easily spend a few days traveling to the different towns and seeing the beautiful scenery from multiple perspectives. In saying this, however, the mountains are also a perfect day trip. I was fortunate enough to have a friend/local guide, Emily, show me some of the highlights. This post will be divided into two segments: why the Blue Mountains are heritage listed and how you could spend a day exploring the sites.
Why are they listed?
In a previous blog post I discussed the various criteria a place is essentially judged against in order to become World Heritage Listed. For those who would like a refresh you can find all the criteria here:
The Blue Mountains tick criterion ix and criterion x.
Criterion (ix): to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.
This criterion links nicely to explaining why the region is called the Blue Mountains. The entire area is populated by Eucalyptus trees that fill the atmosphere with droplets of oil. Combine this with dust particles and water vapour and you have yourself a scattering of blue rays of light. Because of this incredible environment, the mountains are representative of a well-balanced eucalypt habitat with a great range of flora and fauna.
Criterion (x): to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
The Blue Mountains have been listed under this criteria because of its diverse natural habitat that contains 114 endemic species and 177 threatened species of flora. This, in turn, supports a great diversity of fauna.
While its entry on the UNESCO World Heritage List stresses the natural beauty and value of the mountains, it is also important to note that they do have significant cultural value. For example, you can read the Indigenous stories behind the famous Three Sisters rock formation here:
How Should I Spend my Day?
There are many ways in which you could spend a day in the Blue Mountains. If you’re looking for some inspiration then you’ve come to the right place. A huge thank you again to Emily for being a superb guide. I would also like to mention that there is public transport in the mountains. We, however, drove from place to place.
I arrived at Blaxland train station and was greeted by my friend. On our way to the picturesque town of Leura, we stopped at the Corridor of Oaks in Faulconbridge. Since Federation, every Prime Minister, or a representative from their family, has planted an oak tree in this park, known as Jackson Park. It is literally combining a history lesson with a pleasant walk.
We arrive in the town of Leura and spend some time exploring the main street and a cute little Sunday market. Tucked in an arcade is The Candy Store. True to its name, you can find a very wide variety of candy inside. After our visit, we headed to the Wayzgoose Cafe for lunch. I was very tempted to buy their specialty, a scone in a flowerpot. I did, however, settle for their fish ‘n chips.
We drove for a few minutes to reach the town of Katoomba. Our first stop was the viewing platform for the Three Sisters at The Lookout Echo Point. I was very impressed with how this place has been managed. There is a visitors centre with a gift shop where you can buy hiking maps, vintage posters, and anything you could possibly imagine decorated with koalas or kangaroos.
The lookout has some seating available and a huge platform overlooking the Three Sisters and the Jamison Valley. Selfie sticks were out in force. After taking a few photos and, I’ll admit it, a couple of selfies, we headed off for some afternoon tea.
Combining heritage and chocolate is too good to be true. Luckily, it can happen and it can be a magical experience. The Blue Mountains Chocolate Company is located very close to the lookout and makes the most phenomenal hot chocolates. Visit soon, thank me later.
Filled with chocolate, we headed to Scenic World. Here you can explore the mountains in a variety of ways. There is a skyway gondola, a scenic railway, a cableway, and good old-fashioned walking trails. Because walking down a mountain sounded more appealing than walking up a mountain, we decided to follow the trail into the valley and return via the railway.
The walk was about 45 minutes and included a few areas to stop and take photographs.
I highly recommend returning to the top on the scenic railway. It is the world’s steepest railway and was originally used to transport miners down the mountains. If you continue past the entrance to the railway, you will find some interpretative panels and what remains of the mines. I found the panels to be quite informative and they blended into the environment quite nicely.
So the train is steep. Super, super steep. You are essentially traveling vertically up the mountain hoping that nothing malfunctions. It was a lot of fun even though when I first saw the tracks I felt a bit ill.
After a full day of exploring the mountains it was time to head home!
If you are spending a day in the Blue Mountains then I hope this post provides you with some inspiration. Why not escape the city for a day and see some truly remarkable natural wonders!