We suggest doing a circular route – driving out of Sydney along the M4 onto the Great Western Highway through Leura, Katoomba and Blackheath. When you reach Mount Victoria we recommend returning to Sydney via the Bells Line of Road. It is a big day out but you will certainly see a lot.
Driving time to Katoomba is about two hours from Sydney.
Check before you go for any special festivals or open gardens. Stop at the Blue Mountains Visitor Information Centre at Glenbrook on the Great Western Highway for maps and information on the area.
The Blue Mountains is a World Heritage listed area where you will breathe crisp, clean air and experience breathtaking views of sandstone cliffs and Australian blue gum forests. The drive we recommend will give you just a glimpse of life in the Blue Mountains. It is a place you can spend a weekend or a couple of weeks. In the Mountains there is plenty to experience – from sophisticated hotels, cosy B&Bs, restaurants and shopping to bushwalking, horse riding and camping. However, we will recommend what to do in just one day.
First stop is Leura, which in our opinion, is one of the prettiest town in the mountains. The main shopping street is called The Mall and you will find very good quality shops there. Our favourites are Elizabeth Rosa Fine Stationery, Cicero and Circus for women’s fashion and Moontree Candle Shop.
There are plenty of good places to eat in Leura. On this occasion we chose to have lunch at a new venue - the Garage Café at 82 Railway Parade - but do arrive early on weekends as it is very busy. When we were there in June 2011, the Garage Café had only been open for 10 weeks. It was already a very popular place.
From Leura, take Cliff Drive around to Katoomba. You may not realise it but you are on top of an escarpment. Stop at Honeymoon Lookout and you can see the valley below. Continue around to Echo Point, Katoomba – a busy spot on weekends – where you will see the Three Sisters and have breathtaking views as far as the eye can see.
A short drive (2 kms) from Echo Point you will find Scenic World at the corner of Cliff Drive and Violet Street. Scenic World can be very busy on weekends so be prepared for queues. There are a few experiences here to choose from. We recommend taking the Scenic Railway down to the Scenic Walkway.
The Scenic Railway is a steep, cable-driven funicular railway and is supposed to be the steepest of its kind in the world. The experience can best be described as a roller coaster ride but just downhill. It is only a 415m descent, is over in moments and operates every 10 minutes.
Once at the bottom, you can take a short stroll along the Scenic Walkway, a boardwalk that leads around to the Scenic Cableway. The walkway is a quick and easy way to get an idea of the beautiful rain forest of the Jamison Valley. Take the Cableway to the top.
If you wish, you can do the whole thing in reverse taking the Cableway down and the Railway up.
Another experience at Scenic World is the Scenic Skyway, which is a cable car that travels across the gorge and back again, 270 metres above the valley below. Part-way across, the floor of the cable car opens to reveal a glass floor.
Before leaving Katoomba, take a drive along the main street, Katoomba Street. There are a couple of places of interest. If you have time you might like to visit the Paragon Café, listed with the National Trust and worth seeing for its lovely Art Deco interiors. Also the Carrington Hotel is worth a stop. The Carrington has operated as a hotel since 1882. In the 1990’s the building underwent eight years of restoration opening again in 1991.
Leaving Katoomba take the Great Western Highway towards Blackheath. If the timing is right for lunch or afternoon tea, make a stop at Brown’s Siding Store and Cafe at Meadlow Bath (opposite the Hydro Majestic), open 7 days, 8am-4.30pm.
About a kilometre past the Hydro Majestic Hotel (which is being restored) turn right into Evans Lookout Road. At the end of that road you will arrive at the lookout where there are spectacular views over the Grose Valley.
For similar views, go back to the Great Western Highway, turn right and after just over a kilometre, turn right onto Govetts Leap Road, the main street of Blackheath. At the end you will be rewarded with another spectacular view at Govetts Leap Lookout.
If you have the opportunity to stay a night in the Mountains, along Govetts Leap Road you will see Glenella Guest House which offers bed & breakfast accommodation. We stayed there many years ago and it was charming. We see that it has been renovated and under new ownership and it still looks like a wonderful place to stay. For other accommodation options in the Blue Mountains have a look at our Blue Mountains accommodation options.
Return to the Great Western Highway and continue to Mount Victoria, the highest point in the Blue Mountains. Turn right off the highway into this small village. There are some historic buildings here which are worth a look if you have time.
Continue on through the village, past the railway station along the Darling Causeway which will take you to a T junction with the Bells Line of Road. Turn right onto the historic Bells Line of Road and you will be heading back towards Sydney.
We like to stop at Mt Tomah Gardens, a cool-climate garden which looks good at any time of the year. There are wonderful views from the Visitor Centre and it is worthwhile taking a walk through the gardens.
The drive through Bilpin is very pretty – lots of orchards – especially apples. There are many roadside fruit stalls, the most well-known being the Bilpin Fruit Bowl, which has been owned by the same family for 25 years.
On summer weekends, if we make it before the 5pm closing time, we like to stop at Tutti Fruitti for a real fruit ice-cream (fresh berries are blended with vanilla ice-cream).
At Kurrajong Heights, you will see Bellbird Hill Lookout with fabulous views across the Sydney basin.
Richmond to Sydney
Continue onto Richmond. Take Blacktown Road and Richmond Road towards the M7 motorway which takes you to the M2 motorway and back into Sydney.
You might also like to visit the Greater Blue Mountains Drive website - www.greaterbluemountainsdrive.com.au - for suggested itineraries and excellent maps and details on drives in the Blue Mountains area.
This scenic 2-day scenic appears on the Jenolan Caves website. It begins and ends in Sydney, taking in Featherdale Wildlife Park, Katoomba's Waradah Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Scenic World, Blackheath, Hartley village, an overnight stop at Jenolan Caves, Tarana, the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens Mt Tomah and the Bilpin Fruit Bowl. See details and map at - www.jenolancaves.org.au/visitor-info/exciting-selfdrive-itineraries