Visit the Blue Mountains, an iconic landscape that perfectly encapsulates the New South Wales bush.
One of Australia's most conveniently located destinations, the Blue Mountains attracts hundreds of travellers per year, as well as Sydney-siders seeking respite from the city. This famous bushland is steeped in local history and boasts dramatic mountain views at every turn. Diverse and lush, this region has something for everyone, from steep inclines and caves to quaint mountain towns.
Katoomba makes a good base for exploration of the Blue Mountains region. Less than two hours west of Sydney, this traveller's hub is the home of the Three Sisters, a famous sandstone formation that overlooks the sweeping Jamison Valley. The sisters are so named for their place in the Aboriginal Dreaming. From Echo Point, take a bushwalk to the Three Sisters and down to the valley floor, via the Giant Stairway.
While you're here, consider a visit to Scenic World. The Scenic Skyway is a cable car which runs over ravines and waterfalls, with spectacular views from 270m in the air through the vehicle's glass floor. The Scenic Cableway, the steepest aerial cable car in Australia, runs in and out of Jamison Valley, and the Scenic Railway, the steepest incline railway in the world, plunges 415m into the rainforest.
For a different view of the Three Sisters and the Jamison Valley, try following the walking trails along the Narrow Neck cliffs. There are a variety of possible walks to suit your mobility and energy levels, but the basic route is the unsealed road that runs the length of Narrow Neck, which connects to Cliff Drive near the Katoomba Falls Caravan Park.
The road is gated 2km out from Cliff Drive, but it provides access to some of the region's most spectacular scenery as well as the site of the Ruined Castle, and the ascent to Castle Head.
Thirlmere Lakes National Park, just south-west of Thirlmere, consists of five reed-fringed freshwater lakes in quiet patches of forest. It’s one of the last undisturbed lake systems close to Sydney. With numerous walking trails, plenty of wildlife and the occasional waterside picnic spot, it makes a great day out. However, camping is not permitted here.
From Thirlmere, head north to Faulconbridge, just west of Springwood on the Great Western Highway. Here you'll find the Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum, housed in the property bought by the great artist and his wife in 1913 and acquired by the National Trust after his death in 1969. Examples of the artist's work and the beautiful gardens surrounding his home are stand-out attractions.
Dharug National Park is east of Wisemans Ferry on the Hawkesbury River. This spectacular park with its striking, multicoloured sandstone landscapes 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 visitors can still see, 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 also has many walking trails, camping sites, picnic areas and barbecues.
At Kurrajong Heights, where the Wollemi and Blue Mountains national parks meet, is the Fernbrook Garden and Gallery. This woodland garden is the life’s work of garden designer and horticulturist Les Musgrave. Meandering pathways lead through mini rainforests and areas designed to display the colours of the seasons.
The gallery here is the working studio of botanical artist Elaine Musgrave, a renowned painter whose extraordinary works depict intricate plants, flowers, nuts and fungi.