When asking for suggestions for what to do in Sydney Josi adamantly told me I had to visit the Blue Mountains. More than once. So from the beginning of my time in Sydney I planned for a day trip out there. She was right to tell me to go.
As I’ve mentioned before, I love cities that have easy access to nature. This adventure, in addition to all the beaches, solidified Sydney’s place in that category.
The Blue Mountains are so easy to get to from Sydney, contrary to what it may seem like from the tourist information center. When I asked the Sydney info center about going there I was presented with day trips that would take me and a bus full of other tourists around to the highlights for the reasonable price of about AUD 100. No thanks. When I asked about taking the train out myself they said it was possible and my best option then would be to do a AUD 40 hop on hop off bus to the sites. I didn’t do this either.
Here’s how to do the Blue Mountains the backpacker way: take a train out to Katoomba and walk about half an hour to the information center at Echo Point, at the edge of the Blue Mountains. This info center is actually super helpful – the woman there helped me plan my day, showing me the different routes on maps and explaining how long they would take. If you want to continue in my footsteps, from there, hike your way to Leura, a small town where you can take a not-so-cheap lunch break (your most affordable option is a $7 gourmet bakery pie), jump back on the train heading in the Sydney direction for no extra cost, and get off at the next stop, Wentworth Falls, for a short walk. Then back on the train to return to Sydney. (A good thing to know: you can go back to Sydney from any of these stations with your return ticket or just use your Opal card.) It’s as easy as that, no tour needed. And this way you can hike at your own pace, choose to stay on the Katoomba/Leura side or go to the Wentworth side like I did, and just have a wonderful nature day without spending an exorbitant amount of money to be herded around with the rest of the tourist cattle.
As for the Blue Mountains themselves: gorgeous, of course. There really is a blue sheen over the treetops, which look like a foresty blanket stretching for miles over the valley. The surrounding cliffs add to the majestic appearance. At almost every viewpoint I stopped and let out a jaw-dropped “wow,” occasionally accompanied by “so fucking pretty.”
I definitely recommend hiking down into the valley. The views are amazing, but descending 1,000 steps into the forest surrounded by towering cliffs, giant trees, and random bird noises made the whole experience even better. The only problem with descending 1,000 steps into the valley is that you have to climb back up to get out. At least the trail planners were nice in putting these paths next to waterfalls, providing a pretty and cooling distraction.
The whole hike down, up and around from Katoomba to Leura took about 3 hours and was just strenuous enough to feel like I got in some good exercise. The decision to do a short Wentworth Falls hike again came from Josi’s suggestion. She said it was her favorite side because it was quieter; she was right. I did a simple 2 hour return hike out to the top of the falls and back for one final view. It was easier but a pleasant way to end the day.
I went back to Sydney happily tired and a little sunburnt from a great day in nature.