Australia's Blue Mountains are known for their dramatic scenery, with artsy villages tucked in between cliffs, waterfalls, caves and forests. Located to the west of Sydney in New South Wales, the Blue Mountains have been home to Indigenous peoples for thousands of years, particularly those of the Gundungurra and Darug tribes. There’s a lot to see in this area, so one day is not ideal but is definitely still doable!
If you're coming from Sydney, I would definitely recommend doing part of your journey the night before, to maximize your one day spent in the Blue Mountains. My partner and I stayed at an Airbnb in Blacktown, a suburb located about 45 minutes outside of downtown Sydney in the sprawling western suburbs. The drive to Katoomba, the heart of the Blue Mountains, was still another hour away, but this at least broke up the journey. It was also quite a bit cheaper to stay in Blacktown than in Katoomba or even Penrith, another western Sydney suburb. On the morning of our day spent in the Blue Mountains, we were up with the sun and energised for a hike along the Grand Canyon Walking Track. One of my go-to travel tips is to get going early -- this way, you avoid the crowds and the heat of the day and get to see the sights when your energy is at its height.
The Grand Canyon Walking Track is a 6km trail that dips deep down into the Blue Mountains’ Grand Canyon and then takes its hikers back up a steep ascent at the conclusion of the loop. While there are three different places to start the hike, we began at Evans Lookout, a vantage point from the top of the canyon that shows the vast expanse of trees forming a valley below. The view from the top gives a preview of where you'll be going, but it isn't until you start immersing yourself deeper and deeper into the forest that you truly experience the canyon walk.
On either side of us were towering green ferns, grey boulders covered in moss, and layers of rock reaching far above our heads. Wooden or stone steps guided our way up and down the contours of the canyon. We were alone for the first leg of the hike and eventually passed a few solitary hikers doing the loop in the opposite direction. This meant it was eerily quiet for most of the trip and we could hear every trickle of water on rocks above, every bird fluttering in the bushes, and every footstep, whether on rocks, through grass, or in mud. In parts, the path went into complete darkness as we made our way through a mini-cave and out the other side. The sprouting ferns and tall thin trees above shaded us from the sun, so by the time we emerged from the canyon at the end of a steep climb, we welcomed the sparkling sun on our shoulders.
Take plenty of water and snacks and give yourself at least 2 hours to complete this hike. We are pretty active so didn't have any trouble finishing the hike, although I was definitely huffing and puffing at some points.
After two hours of navigating steep trails through the canyon, it's time for a relaxing lunch in nearby Katoomba. This town is the typical starting point for many hikers and tourists visiting the Blue Mountains region. We replenished our energy with lattes, smoothies and pancakes at a cafe called Plantbased Wholefoods. Located along one of the main streets of Katoomba, the cafe is nestled between an assortment of op shops, gift shops featuring work of local artists, natural food stores and secondhand book shops.
The next stop is Echo Point lookout and a view of the Three Sisters, a famous rock formation. Prepare to go bumper to bumper with tour buses en route to Echo Point. Luckily there is plenty of free parking a short walk from the lookout point. In comparison to our earlier hike, these two spots were swarming with tourists from all over the world. As we followed the track down to one of the rocks forming the Three Sisters, we heard snippets of Russian, German, French, and Mandarin.
To finish off the day in the Blue Mountains, make a visit to the equally-quaint town of Leura and go for a view of Wentworth Falls. In Leura, we stopped by a bright pink vegetarian cafe called Little Niche Nosh for a slice of passionfruit cake. This delightful town is filled with homewares stores, art galleries, and vintage clothing shops. A few minutes away is Wentworth Falls. After the Grand Canyon Walking Track, your calves will probably be starting to hurt at this point. Luckily the walk to a view of the falls is only about fifteen minutes from the car park. It's well worth the trip, and depending on when you visit, the falls may show off a brilliant rainbow!
Explore the outer coast of Pohatu Marine Reserve and marvel at its spectacular towering cliffs, rock stacks, reefs, and deep sea caves. Observe the diverse wildlife and marine species such as penguins, seals, various sea birds and possibly the world’s smallest dolphin!