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NSW Country Trips, “The Blue Mountains”

Mountains, wineries, rainforest, scenery, antiques, small towns and more…  

HEADING WEST to the Blue Mountains, or further west to Mudgee wineries and Bathurst
 
SOUTH along the coast, or inland to cool climate villages and Canberra

AND NORTH to the Central Coast, Newcastle and Hunter Valley wineries

One and two day trips away.
 
Sydney is an exciting place to visit, but there are also places outside of Sydney that are worth seeing too – and most of the larger hotels will have bus tours, and different itineraries on their brochure stands giving you details of the tours that are available to you.
 
Car hire is also available – and travelling by car enables you to stop where and when you want to.
Here we present some of information that will help you choose the area or areas you want to visit.
 
ALSO see SERVICES for Tourist Bus companies – that run tours to the Blue Mountains and other destinations.
 
HEADING WEST ‘The Blue Mountains’ and beyond
 
The ‘Blue Mountains’  has a bluish colour – and can be seen in the far west from the most high vantage points in the CBD. It takes around 2 hours to travel by road or train to Katoomba – one of the small towns that are located in the Blue Mountains, and Katoomba is central to a number of tourist attractions.
By car or bus, you will be heading west along the M2 Motorway, which leads directly onto the Great Western Highway A32. Places on interest along the way include the Wet’n Wild water fun park, and also the Blacktown Drive-in theatre, with its retro café serving milk shakes, spiders and other foods to go with the movies. Further west is Featherdale Wildlife Park (217 Kildare Rd Doonside) www.featherdale.com.au about 2 km to the right of the M2 which has kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, wombats, dingos, Tasmanian Devils, Owls, Parrots and other Australian animals and birds to see. You can also buy food to feed the animals and yourself, or picnic in the grounds. It is easy to walk around, flat ground and really a great place to get up close to Australian wildlife.
 
At the base of the mountains, is the city of Penrith which has a large sporting club called ‘Penrith Panthers’ – with restaurants, poker machines, nightly shows, hotel accommodation, aqua Golf, iFly skydiving, cable ski runs, markets and regular events. The Penrith Rugby League Football stadium is nearby with weekly matches played there – the Penrith Panthers being one of Sydney’s top rugby league teams.
 
The ifly skydiving lets you experience the thrill of sky diving, in a vertical air chamber, especially built for this activity, and the cable ski run – outdoors is on a lake – where you are towed by a cable, and not a speedboat. Great  just to watch others and enjoy a coffee here too!
 
Next to the Nepean River there is a great park with walkways, and a café nearby – Head to Jamieson Street and the Nepean River off Mulgoa Rd. There are also cabins at Nepean Shores, where you can stay here close to the River.
 
Sydney’s international Regatta Centre is also located in Penrith – for white water canoeing and kayaking as well as rowing (off Castlereagh Road). It is also possible to take a cruise on the Nepean River on the Nepean Belle or Penrith Platypus Tel: 4733 1274(see www.nepeanbelle.com.au ). The Joan Sutherland theatre is also located in Penrith next to the Westfield Shopping Centre, and also the Museum of Fire on the other side of the rail line.
 
Emu Plains over the river from Penrith also has a farm museum and the Lewers Art Gallery at 86 River Rd (Tel: 4735 1100) www.penrithregionalgallery.org.au is open on Thursdays.
For swimming, there is the Penrith Public Pool, and also for something a little more adventurous, head to Bents Basin – a popular swimming hole in the river in the National Park, off Silverdale Rd near Wallacia.
Wallacia is also where the Warragamba Dam is located on the Nepean River. The Dam holds the water that supplies Sydney.
As you leave Penrith and travel up the mountains on the A32, the first small town is Glenbrook which also has a National Park – where there are roads to different parts of the Park, bush walking tracks and the Jellybean Pool – which is a secluded picnic spot and depending on the amount of rainfall a place where you can swim. In Glenbrook there are other attractions, including the amazing Australian Painted Panorama and weekend markets and even a reunion for garden gnomes once a year! The town has a small Village shopping centre with a number of coffee and craft shops too, making it good to just walk or wander along.
Heading higher up the Blue Mountains there are then a series of small towns or villages that you will travel past – Blaxland, Valley Heights and Springwood. Blaxland has a McDonalds, and also a good bread shop, and supermarket. Springwood has bakeries, pubs, banks, supermarkets and quite a few shops in its main street and you need to turn off the main highway to get to the shopping centre, just a few minutes away. One of the most interesting shops is ‘The New Age Markets’ (also known as the Hippie Shop) opposite the Railway station – definitely one of the most amazing shops anywhere in Sydney.  Also in Springwood, or more correctly Valley Heights there is a Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum, with working old restored engines and carriages. It is mostly open on weekends and public holidays.
 
Next small town is Faulconbridge – where there is a famous Norman Lindsay Art Gallery
(See www.normanlindsay.com.au Tel: 4751 1067) – located in the artist’s original home. Norman Lindsay is one of Australia’s most famous artists and illustrators creating sculptures, paintings and children’s stories, including ‘The Magic Pudding’ and all its characters. Faulconbridge was also the home of Sir Henry Parkes – a politician called ‘The father of Federation’. Also in Faulconbridge is a well stocked Antique shop, next to the shops and service station, and up the highway is the UGG Boot shop , and further along a large fruit shop, where many tourist buses stop too.
 
Travel further on to Hazelbrook and visit the Selwood Science & Puzzles (See www.selwoodscience.com.au ) and then Wentworth Falls – which has a spectacular waterfall and walking tracks (head left off the highway on Falls Road), as well as a small shopping centre. Close by is Wentworth Lake which is an ideal place to have a picnic.
 
The next town up is Leura – which is very much a tourist town – with lots of small cafes, restaurants, antique and craft shops. The main street has a great atmosphere, with Cherry Trees planted up the middle of the street. There are lots of Bed and Breakfast places to stay, a golf course and the town has many picturesque houses and gardens to see, with some of these open to the public, including Everglades. Everglades has over 12 acres of gardens and overlooks the Jamieson Valley. It was designed in the 1930’s by Paul Sorenson. (See www.evergladesgarden.org.au ). One of the best known resort/hotel/lounge/bars is Fairmont Resort where you can enjoy a Devonshire Tea or High Tea. See www.fairmontresort.com.au  Tel: 4785 0000. There are many small shops selling crafts, gifts, plants and antiques. One of these is Bygone Beautys which has one the biggest teapot collections in the world. Another place worth seeing is the Toy & Railway Museum with dolls, teddy bears and other toys on the corner of Olympian Parade and Balmoral Road. (See www.toyandrailwaymuseum.com.au ). Follow Cliff Drive to see Leura Cascades and great views over the cliffs and valleys below.
 
Leura and Katoomba are very close to each other – and Katoomba also has a number of historic hotels – the most famous being ‘The Carrington’ which serves High Tea, lunches and dinner as well as having a great wine cellar and providing accommodation and bar service in its lounges. See www.thecarrington.com.au
 
People come to Leura and Katoomba for the cool climate and atmosphere, as well as the spectacular scenery – as the towns are both located next to spectacular cliff top views overlooking the valleys and rainforest below. To see a great waterfalls at the Cascades – walk down past the first waterfalls along the track to the tiny sandy beach area (about 5 metres long) and a few metres further to look out over the Valley and upwards to the cliffs above you.
 
The most famous rock formation is ‘The Three Sisters’ – at Echo Point where there is ‘the Giant Stairway’ and walking tracks that lead from the top of the cliffs to the rainforest and Jamison valley below. There are various tracks with different levels of steepness and length – so it is important to wear good shoes and remember that going down is easier to climbing up! Further around the escarpment you will also find Scenic World – (www.scenicworld.com.au ) which has an almost perpendicular ‘funicular train’ that travels from the top of the cliff top to the base of the cliffs – where there are walkways through the rainforest in the Valley. There is also a Skyway and Cableway that travels across the valley too, as well as restaurants, cafes, picnic grounds, and gift shop all located here.
 
In Katoomba’s main street you can catch a red Trolley Bus or Double Decker bus that travels from the centre of town to the main tourist spots including Echo Point and Scenic World. Katoomba also has lots of places to stay including YHA Youth Hostel. Worth visiting is the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre at 30 Parke St in Katoomba (www.bluemountainsculturalcentre.com.au Tel: 4780 5410) The Centre contains the City Art Gallery and panoramic photos of the mountains and valleys. It is very close to the Carrington Hotel – an olde world style hotel – with a great ambience, bars, fireplaces, lounges, veranda and gardens around it.
 
Further to the west and higher up the mountains, you will also find the small town of Medlow Bath where the famous Hotel, ‘The Hydro Majestic’ is located. In 2014 it underwent a substantial renovation to restore it to its former glory. This is a historic hotel with great views and an interesting history. Travelling further up the Mountains is the town of Blackheath which is famous for its rhododendron gardens and a Rhododendron Festival held in November each year. There are also lookouts and walking tracks here too, with two of the most spectacular being Evans Lookout (head to the end of Evans Lookout Road) and Govetts Leap (head to the end of Govetts Leap Road). Evans Lookout and Govetts Leap have a walking track along the top of the cliffs that connects the two lookouts together. You can also descend into the valley – what they call the 3 hour Grand Canyon walk. There is also a large Antique Store in Blackheath too, as well as coffee shops, bakeries, Guest Houses and other places to stay. One of these is called a Manor House on Montgomery Street (See www.bluemountainsmanorhouse.com.au Tel: (02) 4787 1369). There are also others.
 
To get to Megalong Valley where there is a great place to go horse riding at one of the Horse Riding properties  set up there, head over the Railway line in the centre of Blackheath and immediately left onto Shipley Road, and follow the signposts to Megalong Road and the valley. If you continued on Shipley Road you would pass by (or stop at) Shipley Gallery and come to Hargraves Lookout, which has spectacular views too. The partly gravel road is quite narrow and you will also pass by Logan Brae Apple Orchard – where you can stop and buy apples, apple juice and apple pies too. There are good views from here too.
Mount Victoria is the highest town in the Blue Mountains, and you will find the historic guesthouses   with log fires in winter and a great ambience. There are also walking tracks here too – look for Mt. Piddington (off Mt Piddington Road), Pulpit Rock (off Kanimbla Innes Road) and Sunset Rock (off Beaufort Avenue). For a great view of the western side of the Blue Mountains, there is a small park area at the top of Victoria Pass – with an obelisk in the centre of it.
To return to Sydney, you could either return via the same Great Western Highway A32 that you travelled along, or take another route back to Sydney from Mount Victoria via Bell and Mount Wilson. Bell is about 10km from Mount Victoria and Mount Wilson is about 26km. Mount Wilson has a number of grand homes built in the early 1900’s with cool climate gardens and tearooms set up for visitors.(See www.mtwilson.com.au ). Mt Wilson has almost a micro-climate, and a number of grand houses are built here with cool climate gardens around them.  By traveling via the Bells line of road back to Sydney– you will be passing the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens at Mount Tomah (www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au ) and Bilpin and its apple orchards, and then on to Kurrajong on the edge of the escarpment and then on to Richmond (an airport base for the Royal Australian Air Force) at the bottom of the escarpment.
 
Richmond also has a Polo field for Polo matches, held mainly at weekends. Closer to Sydney  there is the historic town of Windsor – which also has a great main street atmosphere too with a farmer’s market at weekends, and some nice park/picnic areas beside the Nepean River. The Sebel Resort and Spa is also in Windsor, just out of town at 61 Hawkesbury Valley Way and it has 8 hectares of gardens to enjoy as well as restaurants and accommodation. See www.sebelhawkesbury.com.au
From Windsor – you can either head back to Sydney heading east on the main roads, or head through the countryside to Penrith through the river land areas bordering the Nepean River.
It is also possible to head on the Putty Road to the Colo River and onwards through the mountains heading northwards to the Hunter Valley.

Happy Travelling!  

Geoff Stuart

Happy Traveller

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