Driving the Blue Mountains: Great Scenery Along the Open Road
Guest Post by: Haleigh M.
The Blue Mountains is a popular hiking destination from Sydney. Did you know that the Blue Mountains is one of the best road trips in Australia? Cruising through the Greater Blue Mountains you’ll experience the vastness of this beautiful region, with frequent stops for camping, bushwalking and exploring the small country towns you’ll find along the way.
When to Go
You’ll find good conditions for driving along the Greater Blue Mountain Drive year-round, but it’s probably best to aim for trips in the spring or fall, so you can beat the heat in the lowlands. If you’re traveling during school holidays, be sure to arrange your accommodations in the Blue Mountains or find a hotel in advance to take advantage of better deals.
There are a number of festivals that take place in the Blue Mountains throughout the year. Time your trip for October, for example, and you’ll be able to visit the Leura Gardens Festival, the Blue Mountains Festival, and, the Blue Mountains Film Festival.
18 Scenic Drives
Once you pinpoint the time of year you’d like to do the drive, you need to make sure that you schedule in enough time to really enjoy it. Though it’s called the “Greater Drive,” there are actually about 18 segments and offshoots of the trip that you can explore. Each is beautiful in its own way, and each one deserves your attention if you choose to road trip it.
The Sydney to Katoomba leg is one of the most popular, since it connects two towns that are often chosen as tourist destinations themselves. Setting out from the coast, you’ll first drive by the Glenbrook National Park sites, where you’ll discover plenty of walking trails, opportunities to see local wildlife and exciting and informative Aboriginal history sites. Faulconbridge and Hazelbrook are next, with cultural sites devoted to artist Norman Lindsay and the Selwood Science and Puzzles. Another highlight is Sublime Point Lookout Leura, where you’ll see the famous bare rock faces of the Three Sisters.
When you get to Katoomba, don’t miss the Echo Point Lookout and the Blue Mountains Visitor Center. You’ll learn about why the area is called the “blue” mountains (spoiler: it has to do with the mist). For an even better view, ride the cableway and skyway at Scenic World, only a few kilometres from Katoomba’s center.
After Katoomba, continue on to Oberon, a small country town that, at 1,113 metres above sea level, is the highest town in the Blue Mountains. It’s one of the best places in Australia to experience four distinct seasons — so you might find yourself making a return trip, later in the year.
Between Katoomba and Oberon, you’ll find the Megalong Valley a fun place to explore. In addition to stunning views of the escarpments along the valley walls, this breathtakingly beautiful valley has opportunities for horseback riding and a deeper understanding of the outback lifestyle and the stockman’s trade at the Megalong Australian Heritage Center. After Megalong, you’ll come to some dynamite walking trails, including the Mount York Lookout, the Jenolan Caves and the Kanangra Walls. The Hartley Historic Site is a must-see for lovers of turn-of-the-century architecture.
Near Oberon, the lake by the same name offers a peaceful spot for fishing brown and rainbow trout from the stocked waters. You can fish here from the lakeside year round, but stream fishing is only allowed in the spring. Or, if you prefer your recreation on dry land, horseback excursions along the shores of the lake are highly enjoyable for many visitors.
Understanding the National Parks
The Greater Blue Mountains Drive passes through more than 10,000 square kilometres of land that has been set aside for conservation as the Greater Blue Mountains Heritage Area, which was recognized in in year 2000. The drive takes in more than 100 regulated areas including heritage sites, designated wilderness areas, nature reserves and national parks. Camping and bushwalking are allowed in many areas—in fact, those are two of the prime attractions for many visitors—but tourists are well-advised to research the facilities available before heading out. Though the population of the Blue Mountains region is not very dense, even with this many hectares of national park and wilderness, there are very fine accommodation options available, including modern and luxurious resort-style hotels.
If you’ve ever taken a road trip through the Blue Mountains, please leave a comment below and let us know what you enjoyed most.
Three Sisters image by Angela Rutherford from Flickr’s Creative Commons.
Wentworth Falls image by Jenni Frog from Flickr’s Creative Commons.