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Australian Northern Territories School Holidays
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Day Trips From Sydney; A Short Tour of the Blue Mountains
By Roz Andrews
As you breathe in the lovely aroma of eucalyptus and admire the steep, tree-covered Blue Mountains, the hustle and bustle of Sydney seems far away. It is hard to believe that you are only about one-and-a-half hours away from Sydney because the two places seem like a world apart. Here is a suggested short tour of the Blue Mountains that you can easily follow in a day from your base in Sydney.
The Blue Mountains are not actually blue in colour.
They take their name from the blue haze that hangs in the air. This is caused by the evaporation of eucalyptus from the myriad gum trees that grow in the Blue Mountains. The aroma produced by the evaporated eucalyptus perfumes the whole of the area.
From the center of Sydney, head towards Parramatta and join the M4 highway at Strathfield. After you leave the highway at Lapstone, you will drive through a series of small towns. Each town displays its height above sea level on its signpost, so that you can see that you are climbing higher and higher as you travel through each settlement, from Blaxland at 234 metres (767 feet) to Katoomba, which is more than one kilometer (3,280 feet) above sea level.
Stop at Sublime Point, near the town of Leura.
There is short, steep climb down to the lookout point. You need to walk carefully, as there is just enough space for two people to pass on the uneven steps that border a very sharp drop down the mountain. There is no barrier between the path and the mountain, so you need to take care.
When you reach the lookout at Sublime Point, you are rewarded for the somewhat scary walk by the most wonderful, breath-taking panoramic view of the mountains. The Aborigines apparently designated this area as “sacred women’s country” where no men were allowed. It would appear that the men truly missed out!
After Sublime Point, you can continue to the major tourist attraction of the area: The Three Sisters at Echo Point, near the town of Katoomba. The Three Sisters is a rock formation with three separate peaks side-by-side. At the top of each peak, the rock formation seems to resemble a woman’s face.
There is an Aboriginal legend of three sisters who fell in love with three brothers from a neighbouring tribe. A tribal battle ensued as inter-marriage was forbidden between the two tribes. During the battle, the three sisters were turned into stone by a witchdoctor to protect them from harm. However, the witchdoctor died during the battle and no one else to this day has been able to turn the three sisters back into human beings. They remain, immortalized in rock, for all to admire.
Take a ride on the aerial cable car for a more close-up view of the Three Sisters and to appreciate just how steep and rugged the mountains are. You can also experience the world’s steepest railway incline by taking the scenic railway that ends up in Jurassic rainforest in the Jamison Valley floor. Walk through the rainforest on the scenic walkway’s elevated boardwalk, surrounded by lush green ferns.
Visit Katoomba Waterfall
Katoomba is a good place to stop for lunch. There are several cafes and restaurants in its long main street. Katoomba also has a few parks and picnic areas where you can eat outside and, if you have children, they can play in the open air.
On the outskirts of Katoomba, visit Katoomba Falls where a waterfall cascades down the steep, tree-covered mountain. The Katoomba Falls Kiosk is a good place to sit on a sofa and relax with a cup of coffee.
After Katoomba Falls, drive through Medlow Bath, a spa town, and Blackheath. Blackheath is well-known for its rhododendron gardens and its annual rhododendron festival held each November.
Outside Blackheath, head for Hargraves Lookout.
The road becomes a bumpy, dirt track for a few miles but when you arrive at Hargraves Lookout you are rewarded with spectacular views of the mountains and the green Megalong Valley below. You will also see beautiful purple and yellow wild flowers growing in the mountain terrain.
Hargraves Lookout is a good place to visit because there are very few tourists. Unlike Sublime Point, there are no steep drops on the way from the car park to the lookout point, although there is a walk from the lower lookout point into the bush that looks very steep and precarious. There is no fencing to create a barrier and the warning signs tend to warn you at the last-minute. A sign, which says, “Danger: Cliff Edge” is about an inch away from the edge!
Once you have visited Hargraves Lookout, you could either head back to Sydney or stay in the Blue Mountains for dinner. Although restaurants are dotted throughout the area, you will find a lot of them in Katoomba, including contemporary Australian, Italian, Chinese, Indian, and Thai.
The restaurants in the Blue Mountains tend to close fairly early in the evening. It is not unusual for last orders to be taken at 8.30 pm. Another reason to dine early is that some restaurants have beautiful views that can be admired before it gets dark.
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