There’s more to see in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney than the iconic Three Sisters.
Located just 2 hours from Sydney, the Blue Mountains are a natural wonderland offering a myriad of things to see and do. Lucky for you, we’ve narrowed it down to the top 5 must-visit attractions - so clear your weekend plans, because your next Blue Mountains trip is sorted.
1. Mount Annan Botanic Garden
This garden devoted to the diversity of Australian flora is the largest botanic garden in Australia, covering over 416ha. It is made up on several individual gardens. The 4.5ha Connections Garden is set on a hillside and has a series of terraces dedicated to the evolution of Australian native plants. Cottage-style plantings of perennials and annuals are the focus of an annual wildflower display.
The Lakeside and Federation Maze consists of two ornamental lakes surrounded by reeds and water plants with a selection of rainforest trees, making it a haven for a variety of birds. The What’s the Big Idea Garden was developed with the home gardener in mind, with displays of Australian plants readily available from nurseries.
In all there are 13 gardens devoted to many types of flora, as well as picnic and barbeque areas, an education centre, a shop and a restaurant. Take some time here and perhaps make a day of it because there is so much to see.
2. Thirlmere Rail Heritage Centre
Just beyond Picton is Thirlmere, in the foothills of the Southern Highlands, and home to Thirlmere Rail Heritage Centre. This is the oldest and largest railway museum in Australia, with a wonderful collection of over 40 locomotives and 80 carriages dating back to 1865.
The beautifully and lovingly restored displays include a couple of horse boxes used to transport horses to racecourses – the famous Phar Lap was a high profile traveller. There’s also a range of train rides available.
3. Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum
From Thirlmere take an about-turn and head north to Faulconbridge, just west of Springwood on the Great Western Highway between Penrith and Katoomba. The destination is the Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum, housed in the property bought by the great artist and his wife, Rose, in 1913 and acquired by the National Trust after his death in 1969.
Always controversial (especially for his depictions of nudes), Lindsay’s works consisted of paintings, drawings, sculptures and etchings, but he was also a prolific writer and is most famous perhaps for his beloved children’s book, The Magic Pudding, which he also illustrated.
The museum contains many examples of his work but the lovely gardens are a gallery in themselves, with many of his sculptures on display. An annual jazz festival, children’s literature festival and many other musical and family events are staged here.
4. Scenic World
One of the most exhilarating experiences in the Blue Mountains is Scenic World in Katoomba, less than two hours west of Sydney. After you’ve visited the obligatory lookout point to marvel at the sandstone pinnacles known as the Three Sisters, make your way up the road to Scenic World for four distinctive ways to experience the grandeur surroundings even more fully.
Scenic Skyway is a cable ‘bus’ that takes you over ravines and waterfalls with stunning views of the Three Sisters, Katoomba Falls and Mount Solitary. Look 270m down through the glass floor as you glide across the sky.
Scenic Cableway, the steepest aerial cable car in Australia, carries you down into (or up out of) the Jamison Valley rainforest below. Once there, a 2km Scenic Walkway boardwalk meanders through the rainforest, with interpretive signage and strategically placed seating. There’s also an exhibit with an audio-visual display on the coal mining that used to take place down here.
The old cable railway that transported the coal miners up and down the cliff has been turned into a thrilling Scenic Railway, the steepest incline railway in the world, which plunges 415 m down through a cliff tunnel into the rainforest. A combined ticket lets you sample both the railway and cableway, and we suggest taking the railway down for maximum effect.
5. Dharug National Park
Dharug National Park is east of Wisemans Ferry on the Hawkesbury River north-west of Sydney. This spectacular park with its striking, multi-coloured sandstone landscape is bisected by the historic Old Great North Road.
Constructed by convicts between 1826 and 1836, the road was supposed to connect Sydney with Newcastle and the Upper Hunter Valley but was never completed. Vast amounts of sandstone were carved for the road’s retaining walls, most of which you can still see today, including convict graffiti engravings. The road is closed to motorised traffic but you can walk or cycle it all the way north to Mogo Creek in Yengo National Park.
Dharug NP has many great walking trails, camping sites, picnic areas and barbeques.