A Blue Mountains day trip is the perfect escape from busy Sydney; however, planning a Blue Mountains itinerary is not an easy task as there is so much to see and do. From the endless wildlife to waterfalls it’s not surprising it’s one of the most popular day trips out of Sydney, so it’s essential you plan each stop to make the most of your day.
Before our day trip, we asked for recommendations from locals as well as researching numerous itineraries to make the most of our short time. We managed to narrow down the best Blue Mountain activities and the stops that are worth it, all of which we have explained in detail below.
WHAT ARE THE BLUE MOUNTAINS?
*Spoiler Alert* The Blue Mountains are not actually blue although they definitely will look blue in your photos and in real life. The blue tint is caused by Eucalyptus trees which release oil into the air. This oil mixes with water vapour and dust which reflects a bluey haze giving these mountains that famous colour.
The Blue Mountains National Park is divided into 6 areas. It would prove quite the mission to explore all 6 areas within your Blue Mountains day trip, but below is the highlights from each one:
Katoomba Area: The most popular day trip from Sydney as this is home to the Three Sisters – one of the most visited Blue Mountains attractions.
Glenbrook Area: The perfect spot for a refreshing wild swim as well as a popular mountain biking destination. You can also see traditional Aboriginal rock art here during your Blue Mountains day trip.
Blackheath: This is home to some of the most epic Blue Mountains walks, including Govett’s Leap and the Grand Canyon. For us, this area was the highlight of our Blue Mountains itinerary.
Lower Grose Valley: if you are a fan of camping in Australia, this is the area for you! It also home to some of the best walks in the Blue Mountains as well as cycling tracks and view points.
Mount Wilson Area: If you want to escape the tour buses, you will welcome the remote area of Mount Wilson. The Mount Banks Summit Walk is one of the best walks in the Blue Mountains and it can be found in the Mount Wilson area.
Southern Blue Mountains: We were unable to explore this area during our Blue Mountains day trip as the majority of roads require 4WD and our wee rental campervan would not cope. Again, it is a popular spot for camping as well as mountain biking. It is worth visiting to explore Yerranderie – an old mining town which is full of history and fascinating buildings.
HOW TO GET TO THE BLUE MOUNTAINS FROM SYDNEY
If you’re wondering how to get to the Blue Mountains from Sydney, there are three options – car, bus or train. It depends on your budget, time limitations and which Blue Mountains attractions you want to visit as to which option you feel is best.
If you’re a keen hiker, there are so many walks in the Blue Mountains you may not want to be limited by a train timetable. If you want to beat the crowds, you may want to drive to leave to start your day trip early as possible. If you want someone else to do all the hard work, a Blue Mountains bus tour may be your best option. Read our advice below to find the best option for you.
Blue Mountains from Sydney by Car
We chose to do our Blue Mountains day trip tour by car, well campervan to be specific. For us, it offered the most freedom and allowed us to stop at only the Blue Mountains attractions we wanted to see as well as spend as much or as little time as we wanted at each stop. It is also the most time effective, as it is only a 90 minute drive from Sydney to the Blue Mountains if you travel via toll roads.
If you can brave camping in Australia as a tip, to begin your Blue Mountains day trip as early as possible, we camped closer to the National Park the night before, so we only had a 40-minute drive in the morning. You could always camp afterwards and spend 2 days exploring the Blue Mountains, with so much to see and do it is one of the most popular weekend getaways from Sydney.
Blue Mountains from Sydney by Train
The second option (and one of the most popular) is to do your Blue Mountains day trip by train. The Sydney to Blue Mountains train is a great option if you’re on a budget or can’t drive. The train costs around AU$10.00 each way and takes 2 hours. If you are planning a Blue Mountains day trip by train, we recommend going on a Sunday, when transport in Sydney is capped at AU$2.70. You can pay the train fare using your Opal card.
There are two types of Sydney to Blue Mountains train – regular or express. The express has fewer stops along the way, although it is only around 15 minutes faster. The train travels from Sydney to Katoomba which is the main hub of the Blue Mountains and home to the landmark, Three Sisters.
From Katoomba, you can also hop on the Blue Mountains Explorer which will drop you at more Blue Mountain attractions such as Scenic World and Leura Cascades. Another option if planning your Blue Mountains day trip by train is to take a train from Sydney to Leura which is an equally popular town in the Blue Mountains national park.
Blue Mountains Bus Tour
If you’re wondering how to get to the Blue Mountains from Sydney by bus, unfortunately, there are no public bus services. However, you can opt for an organised bus tour which will allow you to sit back and relax without arguing over sat nav directions, parking spaces or train time tables.
There are numerous Blue Mountain bus tours to choose from which leave from Sydney, which will take you to the main attractions. An organised Blue Mountains bus tour may prove more cost effective if you consider the price of fuel and car hire; however, it does come with the disadvantage of having someone else dictate your day.
Also, many Blue Mountains bus tours do not offer enough time to enjoy the many Blue Mountains walks, so if hiking is on your agenda, a bus tour may not be the best option. These are the best Blue Mountains bus tours we could find, based on reviews and value for money.
- Sunset Blue Mountains Bus Tour: Avoid the crowds with this day trip from Sydney as it leaves later in the day. This Blue Mountains bus tour means you can enjoy the highlights without the crowds as well as sunset over this beautiful region before returning to Sydney. Book Here.
- 4WD Adventure Tour with local guide: Fancy getting off the beaten track on your Blue Mountains day trip? Then enjoy this adventurous tour with a local guide in a 4WD jeep. Book Here.
- Blue Mountains Bus Tour with River Cruise back to Sydney: Not only does this day trip from Sydney include a guided bushwalk in the Blue Mountains as well as a tour of the highlights, but it also includes a river cruise back to Sydney on the Parramatta River. Book Here.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS
As mentioned above it is easy to travel to the Blue Mountains from Sydney by train or by bus. To start our Blue Mountains day trip earlier, we checked out of our amazing budget accommodation in Sydney and instead found a campsite nearer to the national park called Lake Wallace where we stayed the night before.
During our time camping in Australia, Lake Wallace was one of our favourite free campgrounds as it offered hot showers, flush toilets, huge spacious pitches and beautiful views. All without spending a penny. We recommend staying here the night before your Blue Mountains day trip as it’s only a 40-minute drive from here to our first stop.
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BEFORE YOUR BLUE MOUNTAINS DAY TRIP BEGINS
Remember the Road Trip Essentials
You will not regret hiring a car or taking your campervan as we did, as our Blue Mountains day trip was one of our favourite road trips in Australia, with our Great Ocean Road trip being a very close contender. It allows you the freedom of leaving when you want and ticking of the best Blue Mountain activities before the tour buses & crowds.
However, if you are opting for a self-drive tour of the Blue Mountains, ensure you have all the road trip essentials packed in preparation for a safe, stress-free drive.
Use the Train Schedule Planner
If you are taking the train, make sure to check the current Blue Mountain train schedule as prices vary whether you travel at peak times and if you want an express of regular train. You can use the online Planner to plan your Blue Mountains day trip from Sydney to ensure you’ll make it to all attractions before the last train home.
Best Hikes in the Blue Mountains
Before you plan your Blue Mountains day trip, check the National Park website as certain hiking trails may be closed which happened to us.
The hikes in the Blue Mountains can be closed due to weather, wildlife or path upgrades. There was also significant damage here due to the 2019/2020 bushfires, so the landscape and wildlife needs time to recover and certain parts may be closed.
It would be so disappointing to pack the car and drive all the way there for your hike to not be possible so check before you leave and be a responsible tourist and respect any closed tracks.
BLUE MOUNTAINS ITINERARY
We had our breakfast in the campervan and began our day around 7 am to beat the crowds. From our campsite, at Lake Wallace, it was only a 40-minute drive to the first stop in our Blue Mountains day trip.
Govetts Leap Lookout
- Address: Cliff Top Track, Blue Mountains National Park NSW 2787
- Drive Time: Lake Wallace to Govetts Leap – 40 minutes.
Govetts Leap is located in the Blackheath area of The Blue Mountains National Park and was recommended to us by a local. They explained it was a perfect first stop if you are limited on time as you don’t have to walk for hours to reach incredible views. She was not mistaken, we parked up our campervan, and within 5 minutes we were at the viewing platform. This also makes it a great stop for those with young families as it safe, short walk.
Govetts Leap Lookout provided vast views of the endless gum tree forest (and that incredible blue hue.) It should’ve provided views of a beautiful 180m drop waterfall, but during our Blue Mountains day trip the waterfall was dry.
Our visit to Govetts Leap is a great example of why we recommend starting your Blue Mountains day trip early, as we were the only people there allowing us complete freedom to photograph the insane views and absorb the peaceful atmosphere.
As we were leaving, we bumped into a group of hikers who were away to start one of the best walks in the Blue Mountains – the walk from Govetts Leap to Pulpit Rock. After our experience hiking in Hawaii, we were not quite mentally (or physically) prepared for hikes in the heat any time soon; however, this walk is incredibly popular and rewarding. The hike takes around 2-3 hours and is 7km, for more info we recommend checking the National Parks Site for tips and track status of the Blue Mountains walks.
Instead, we jumped back in the campervan and continued our Blue Mountains day trip with stop number 2 which was only 15-minutes down the road.
Pulpit Rock Lookout
- Address: Pulpit Rock Track, Blackheath NSW 2570
- Drive Time: From Govetts Leap Lookout to Pulpit Rock Look Out is 15 minutes (or you can hike along the Pulpit Rock track.)
Pulpit Rock Lookout was hands down our favourite stop from our entire Blue Mountains day trip. Again, because we were the only ones there and to us, it was one of the best lookouts in the Blue Mountains.
We will warn it is not a stop for the faint-hearted. The first half of the walk was relatively easy with carved steps and a gentle decline downhill. However, you soon arrive at a viewpoint where you can take scarily narrow stairs down to a further viewpoint.
Although the Pulpit Rock Lookout was a highlight from our Blue Mountains day trip, it did require some persuasion to get me down those steps as it was a tad terrifying if you’re not a fan of heights because it was very windy.
The views were 100% worth it however and to be honest, you can easily admire the incredible views without the adrenaline-inducing stair climb. Take your time, admire the scenery and enjoy those last few minutes of peace as our next stop on our Blue Mountains itinerary was the busiest.
Tip: If you wanna see if the Pulpit Rock Lookout is for you you can use this Google Maps tool called Trekker (essentially street view for remote areas) which shows what to expect.
Echo Point & The Three Sistsers
- Address: 33/37 Echo Point Rd, Katoomba NSW 2780
- Drive Time: From Pulpit Rock to Echo Point it was a 30-minute drive.
If you are planning your Blue Mountains day trip by train, Echo Point is only a 20-minute walk from Katoomba train station. If you are travelling by car, parking is available directly at Echo Point, but it is expensive.
Echo Point is a viewing platform offering the best view of the famous Three Sisters and Jamison Valley. You will also have access to Queen Elizabeth lookout which is a second viewing platform offering views of The Three Sisters. It’s very likely the reason you are planning this Blue Mountains itinerary is to see the fabulous three but to be honest, we found them a slight anti-climax.
As we drove up to Echo Point, we could count nearly half a dozen buses, and our hearts sank knowing a battle with selfie sticks was away to commence. It was only around 10 am, and we had to queue patiently for the best space along the platform to snap a photo or two. It’s silly to expect such a popular attraction to be empty. However, the endless (very loud) crowds did slightly spoil our experience at Echo Point.
We do still feel it is a worthy stop on your Blue Mountains itinerary as the Echo Point visitor centre offered an interesting insight into the history of the rocks as well as hikes and maps of the area.
We learned the legend behind the landmark is that there were three sisters from the Katoomba tribe who fell in love with three warriors from the rival Nepean tribe. According to Aboriginal folklore, a fierce battle broke out when the Nepean men tried to capture the sisters, so as a method of protection a witch doctor turned them into stone. Unfortunately, he was then killed in the battle, and so the sisters remained as stone forever.
Fast forward to today, Echo Point is the starting point to some of the best hikes in the Blue Mountains. You can take The Three Sisters track and hike down The Giant Stairway to reach the famous three up close. Although be warned, you will then need to hike The Giant Stairway back up which is quite a challenging climb. For an easier but equally rewarding hike, take The Prince Henry Cliff Walk from Katoomba which will take you Leura Cascades.
Lunch with a View
Now is time for a wee break in your Blue Mountains itinerary, depending on your budget there are numerous options for where to have lunch. If you are on a budget, Katoomba is a great spot to buy picnic supplies as there are supermarkets such as Woolworths as well as numerous bakeries.
This is what we did and enjoyed lunch in the campervan at Echo Point (to make the most of the expensive parking!) Alternatively you can check out the best restaurants in Katoomba here.
Alternatively, had we not been driving we would’ve taken advantage of this lunch with a view. Not only does it include an antipasti platter, but also a wine or beer flight – so you can enjoy wine tasting with the incredible view at Echo Point. To us, alfresco dining with wine in hand sounds like the perfect escape from the crowds at Echo Point. More details here.
- Address: Violet St &, Cliff Dr, Katoomba NSW 2780
- Drive Time: From Echo Point to Scenic World is just a 5 minute drive.
We prefer to explore nature through hikes or trails simply because it’s cheaper and usually less crowded/touristy. However, we couldn’t mention Echo Point without mentioning Scenic World, which is an incredibly popular thing to do on a Blue Mountains day trip.
Scenic World offers four ways (literally) to view the Blue Mountains – a skyway, walkway, cableway and railway.
- The Railway is one of the steepest in the world with an incline of 52 degrees.
- The Skyway is 270m high, travelling from Echo Point, over Jamison Valley with views of Katoomba Falls.
- The Cableway travels 545m to the valley floor – all the way to the rainforest.
- The Walkway is a 1.5-mile walkway which also takes you through the rainforest.
Ticket prices vary depending on if you want to explore one or all “ways”. You can also purchase combo tickets, which include an unlimited Scenic world pass & the Blue Mountains Explorer bus so you can hop on and off all day.
- Address: Violet St &, Cliff Dr, Katoomba NSW 2780
- Drive Time: From Scenic World to Wentworth Falls is a 12 minute drive.
There are numerous waterfalls within the Blue Mountains National Park. However, Wentworth Falls was our favourite. The Wentworth Falls Track is one of the best walks in the Blue Mountains, but unfortunately, a recent storm had damaged parts of the path during our visit. To be honest, the parts of the walk we did manage were incredible, and it was a definite highlight of our Blue Mountains day trip.
The track takes you to three lookouts – Jamison & Wentworth with the finale being Fletchers lookout. Again, it was nerve-wracking at times if you’re not a fan of heights as occasionally, the path is incredibly narrow, and you are literally on the edge of the cliff face. This does provide some incredible photo opportunities however and a walk not to be missed from your Blue Mountains itinerary.
Our Blue Mountains day trip was in early February, therefore the water in the falls was not overly impressive as there hadn’t been heavy rainfall for some time. Wentworth Falls usually cascade down a 100m drop into the valley, but the wind kept whisking the water away. This did create impressive rainbows over the water that was flowing which we could’ve stood and watched all day.
Mountain High Pies – Wentworth
- Address: 293 Great Western Hwy, Wentworth Falls NSW 2782
- Drive Time: Literally round the corner from Wentworth Falls carpark.
You maybe were not expecting your Blue Mountains day trip to include a bakery; however, the “number one pie in Australia” is in fact from Wentworth, in the Blue Mountains.
During our time in Australia, we sampled an embarrassing number of pies and loved stopping at local bakeries as the owners always gave us friendly advice and hidden gems for where to explore next in our campervan.
When we arrived at Mountain High Pies, we had high expectations (excuse the pun), and the pies definitely exceeded expectation. I had a lamb, rosemary and shiraz pie and Darren managed two, including a delicious lemon meringue pie. A stop here is the perfect way to end your Blue Mountains day trip, before heading back to Sydney or continuing your NSW tour.
We hope our Blue Mountains itinerary will help you see the highlights of the Blue Mountains in one day. Whether you choose to make it an epic road trip or prefer a Blue Mountains day trip by train, we would love to hear what you got up to, if you managed to see everything on our list or if you find some hidden gems along the way – let us know in the comments.
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What a fab guide! I haven’t made it to the Blue Mountains yet but I’d love to visit – and I’ll definitely keep this bookmarked for when I make it there!
One of our favourite road trips in Australia – I hope you get to visit one day!