Blue Mountains Day Trip – How to Enjoy a Self-Guided Tour

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While the state of New South Wales in South-East Australia is primarily renowned for the iconic city of Sydney (and other urban areas), there is another area which is equally spectacular yet frequently lies in the shadow of the urban counterpart. The Blue Mountains are a mountainous region in New South Wales that are the perfect location to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life in Sydney and enjoy an epic guided our self-guided experience. Whether you are an avid hiker or simply enjoy admiring breathtaking scenery, taking a Blue Mountains day trip from Sydney (or other nearby city) is undoubtedly an experience you won’t want to miss.

blue mountains new south wales

During our visit to Australia in 2019, we unfortunately faced the tragic bushfires that were ravaging through not only New South Wales but also many other areas of this beautiful country. For much of our trip, we were confined to experiences indoors, simply because the air quality was so poor that we didn’t want to risk being outside for long. We took a day trip from Sydney to Canberra to explore the Australian capital but in the back of our minds, we were so ready to head deep into the Blue Mountains to explore the inherent beauty of Australia’s natural landscape.

echo point blue mountains

Towards the end of our trip, we opted to head into the mountains and as you can see from the images below, many of our photos were hindered by the air quality but we still had an epic experience that makes us want to return to truly capture the beauty of the Blue Mountains. Researching the Blue Mountains will likely leave you with plenty of recommendations of “guided tours” and while this is certainly an option, we truly believe you can appreciate the beauty here on your own. Let’s take a look at why a day trip into the Blue Mountains will turn into an unforgettable experience!

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Blue Mountains Day Trip from Sydney

In less than one hour, you can take the short drive from Sydney into the heart of the Blue Mountains. Whether you are following our self-guided itinerary with a rental car, or opting for an organized guided tour, you will quickly move from the urban surroundings to the spectacular mountainous region that overlooks the city of Sydney.

sydney to blue mountains map

The Blue Mountains region of New South Wales covers over 4,400 square miles, so even after you drive a hour, you are only at the start of this adventure…what you choose to explore after that is all down to personal preference.

Click here for directions using Google Maps from Sydney to the Blue Mountains.

Let’s take a look at some of the must-see attractions and places to visit while exploring the Blue Mountains. If you are only taking a day trip from Sydney, there are plenty of things to experience but you may also consider opting to stay overnight to enjoy a longer, relaxing experience away from city life.

Some of the highlight attractions and places to experience include the following, but as always, we always encourage you to allow spontaneity to take over as you never know what gem you may uncover as you begin your journey into exploring the heart of the Blue Mountains region of Australia.

  • Three Sisters
  • Scenic World
  • Wentworth Falls
  • Katoomba
  • Prince Henry Cliff Walk
  • The Giant Stairway

Three Sisters

Let’s start with the pièce de résistance in the Blue Mountains – the iconic Three Sisters rock formation that is one of the most infamous natural attractions, not only in this region of New South Wales, but also throughout Australia. This unusual, yet spectacular formation is located close to the town of Katoomba and has been transformed into perhaps the most popular tourist attraction in the Blue Mountains…and certainly, for very good reason! It was this attraction alone that inspired us to head deep into the Blue Mountains, despite the bushfires that were ravaging throughout the region during our visit to New South Wales.

three sisters blue mountains

Legend has it according to Aboriginal folklore is that these three rocks represent three sisters that were turned to stone, and each one stands beside the other at just under 1000 meters in height. The legend suggests that three sisters, ‘Meehni’, ‘Wimlah’ and ‘Gunnedoo’ lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe and fell in love with members of a competing tribe – as tribal law prohibited them marrying across tribes, a witchdoctor turned the three sisters into stone to prevent any harm coming to them.

three sisters trail

The inherent beauty of the Three Sisters is primarily because of the way sunlight creates unique, spectacular views across the Blue Mountains landscape. The collection of breathtaking colors can be seen throughout the day as the sun changes position and regardless of the viewpoint you choose to admire this natural attraction, this is a real sight to behold and one you won’t quickly forget.

three sisters blue mountains

The Echo Point Lookout is the most popular and spectacular overlook close to the town of Katoomba. Ample parking is available with a small fee, and it’s well worth taking the various trails to experience not only breathtaking views of this natural attraction but also of the panoramic Blue Mountains landscape.

echo point lookout blue mountains

For those of you that are a little more adventurous and want a close up look of the Three Sisters, take the Three Sisters walk that will lead you down a relatively steep staircase to the stone turrets. Cross the Honeymoon Bridge and you will step foot on the first of the three sisters.

Scenic World

Visitors to the Blue Mountains will likely want to experience the inherent beauty of this landscape and what better way to achieve this than by exploring Scenic World, a tourist attraction that offers both the steepest passenger railway in the world, an epic cablecar experience, a scenic walkway and much more. You could easily spend a full day experiencing all of the amazing attractions available at Scenic World but for those that want to experience as many of our recommendations as possible, you may be forgiven for just picking one of the following activities.

blue mountains day trip

Explore the beauty of the Blue Mountains by discovering the thrill of a 52-degree gradient in open terrain as you venture deep into the mountains onboard the train. Passengers have the ability to adjust their seats for the ultimate experience and the modern day railway was transformed to what visitors can see today in 2013. However, the history of this railway dates back much further to the late 19th century when the locals of Katoomba utilized this for coal mining.

blue mountains scenic world

For those that prefer to stay above the Blue Mountains Range, the Scenic Skyway is a great way to hop on a cablecar and experience breathtaking panoramic views overlooking New South Wales. Undoubtedly, this experience provides the best views of the Blue Mountains’ most infamous landmarks including the Three Sisters, Katoomba Falls and Jamison Valley. The cablecar here was the first to go into use in Australia, dating back to 1958.

Wentworth Falls

A trip to the Blue Mountains wouldn’t be the same without visiting Wentworth Falls, not only to experience the town but also the spectacular waterfall that follows this namesake. A three-tiered waterfall that stands at 614 feet in height, the top of the falls is easily accessible from the Wentworth Falls Lookout which can be accessed from the car park along a sloping paved footpath. On your way to Wentworth Falls, you will want to stop at Jamison Lookout to admire the panoramic scenes across the Jamison Valley.

wentworth falls blue mountains

For those that are wanting the ultimate experience, follow the steep winding trail that runs beside the waterfall until you reach the valley floor – the views looking up the three tiers of the waterfall are epic but you will need plenty of energy to make your way back to the summit.

Katoomba

Visitors to the Blue Mountains are going to be inundated with opportunities to explore the incredible views and landscapes throughout this area of New South Wales. However, if you are ready to grab a bite to eat or ready to explore a historic part of this region, head into the town of Katoomba to enjoy rich, cultural heritage along with a myriad of additional spectacular walks and lookouts.

Whether you are inspired by the idea of sampling local cuisine or perhaps contemporary options at Pins on Lurlene inside a 19th-century property, the collection of restaurants and local establishments is endless. Don’t forget to wander inside the various souvenir shops, showcasing local products that are the perfect gift or item to take away to create perfect memories of your trip into the Blue Mountains.

Prince Henry Cliff Walk

A scenic walk through the Blue Mountains is a great way to experience the true beauty of this region and one of the iconic trails is the Prince Henry Cliff Walk. The walk along the cliff path takes visitors from Katoomba to Leura, and goes past the Three Sisters and Echo Point landmarks en route to Leura. If you love breathtaking scenery, there are not many better ways to accomplish the best sights around the Blue Mountains than by taking a leisurely stroll along this Cliff Walk.

prince henry cliff walk

The route between Katoomba and Leura is approximately 7km in each direction and will likely take anywhere from 3-4 hours. However, there are ample opportunities to stop along the route to admire the breathtaking scenery and we highly recommend packing your lunch to enjoy along the way as you will be presented with a myriad of epic views that you likely won’t want to leave behind.

blue mountains new south wales

The Giant Stairway

If you visited Echo Point to experience the quintessential overlook of the Three Sisters, you may have decided to take the trail to this iconic attraction and the stairway. This is the start of the Giant Stairway which descends into the valley with 800+ steps and has a myriad of breathtaking vistas across the Blue Mountains. This stairway certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted but it’s one of the most rewarding experiences in the Blue Mountains.

giant stairway blue mountains

One of the great benefits of taking the Giant Stairway, except for the amazing views, is the ability to access a myriad of other attractions around the Blue Mountains – Echo Point is obviously at the summit and then as you descend, you can quickly access Katoomba Falls and Scenic World is an alternative option to climb back to the top rather than having to face the prospect of climbing those 800 steps.

giant stairway new south wales

Summary

The Blue Mountains are the perfect day trip destination from Sydney, not only if you are looking to get away from life in the city but also because it’s such an incredible landscape waiting to be explored. While the iconic Three Sisters landmark is a “must-see” for everyone visiting the region, there are plenty of other attractions that you cannot afford to miss. Whether you are inspired to explore the historic town of Katoomba or simply head out on a long hike along Prince Henry Cliff Walk, the opportunities for exploring are endless.

blue mountains australia

Have you visited the Blue Mountains previously?

5 COMMENTS

  1. We so want to visit the Blue Mountains! It’s been on our To Do list for quite a while – granted, sort of on the back burner since we have yet to get to Australia in the first place. 😉 Such great photos, and that scenery!! On the other hand, there are those stairs. Gotta say, there’s a lot of them. Kinda intimidating. 😉

  2. I have been to Sydney a number of times but always find so much to do in the city that I have never made it to the Blue Mountains. The scenery and rock structures are quite amazing. Perhaps next time, I’ll venture further than Manly.

  3. Travel is one of the favorite hobbies for most people. To start a self-guided tour is not easy but it is full of adventures. I read the above article about your self-guided tour, its amazing . Thanks

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