. There aren’t many major cities around the globe which have a World Heritage listed wilderness literally in their very own backyard, but that’s exactly what Sydney, Australia has in the breathtaking Blue Mountains. Between the Blue Mountains and the other national parks that connect them, you will find over a million hectares of natural wilderness to discover, all within an hour’s commuter train ride of Australia’s biggest city.
Traveling in the other direction is like being teleported into another dimension. One minute you’re in the bustling financial center of Sydney and suddenly you’re in the middle of an awe inspiring wilderness, staring across endless ranges of blue-green forests, down the dizzying face of a sheer 300 foot cliff face or up at the cascading waterfall. The Blue Mountains are an out of doors and adventure lover’s paradise. There are such a lot of trails crisscrossing the hills and canyons of those ranges that avid hikers (or bush walkers, as we say in Australia) can undoubtedly spend weeks exploring just those around Katoomba or adjoining Leura and never take a similar trail twice. The cliffs of the Blue Mountains enjoy legendary status among rock climbers the world over and mountain bike enthusiasts flock there to take advantage of the many winding trails that have been created just for their enjoyment.
The majority first time visitors to the Blue Mountains go to the charming town of Katoomba and come first straight down the main street of town to Echo Point and the Three Sisters Lookout. The three sandstone peaks which are the Three Sisters together comprise probably the most photographed landmarks in Australia, but no photograph can do them and their surroundings justice. Standing against the railing and looking down may give even seasoned rock climbers vertigo, but that does not stop them from taking the Giant Staircase down the side of the Sisters towards the valley below and testing their skills on among the many dozens of established climbing routes scattered for miles deep within the canyons on the foot of the Sisters.
Hikers, too, love to take this staircase and “go bush.” If you want to get away from it all but have only a day to do it in, by the time you’ve reached the bottom of the stairs you really have gotten away from it all. Surrounded by nature at its finest, from the valley floor the only signs of civilization you see are the helpful signs which are posted discreetly along Federal Pass, which skirts the fringe of the cliffs between Katoomba and nearby Leura. After a day of hiking or climbing, the lazy or the exhausted can take the world’s steepest railway line up to the top of the cliffs and back to civilization.
While it is definitely possible to do all of this in a single day and be back in Sydney in time for bed, after you have arrived in the Blue Mountains, you won’t want to leave. Luckily, finding a snug Katoomba accommodation is easy. You’ll be able to choose from one of the many reasonably priced backpackers hostels in town, a quaint bed and breakfast or a cliffside motel. Katoomba residents are all outdoor lovers themselves and know the way to look after weary hikers and climbers. Wander up Katoomba Street after dark and revel in a hearty and well earned meal at one of many cafes and restaurants that line the streets. You’ve earned it.