If you are planning a visit to Sydney, you might be considering taking one of the many day trips to the Blue Mountains hosted by tour companies. While these day trips can work, you won’t have as much time in the mountains or control over your time there. You might feel rushed from place to place, and that you did not get enough for what you paid. It is entirely possible to take an independent day trip to the Blue Mountains from Sydney (with or without a car). This guide will walk you through a Blue Mountains day trip itinerary, as well as how to get there. If you happen to be interested in extending your time in the Blue Mountains and staying a night or two, I have also included details on this option towards the end of the article.
How to Get to the Blue Mountains from Sydney
Why We Chose Katoomba
We decided not to rent a car during our time in Sydney, and opted for public transportation. While there are many towns you can choose from to visit in the Blue Mountains, we decided on Katoomba as it is easily accessible from Sydney by train and is home to both Scenic World and the famed 3 Sisters.
Getting to Katoomba
Katoomba in the Blue Mountains is a short 2-hour train ride from Sydney’s Central Station. Trains depart regularly throughout the day and are very affordable, making train travel an easy option. The train departs approximately once per hour during the day, and the price varies depending on the time of year (though, it seems to stay somewhere between $6-12 each way). We did not buy our train tickets in advance, and simply showed up to Sydney’s Central Station and purchased tickets from the kiosks there. You can bring luggage on the train (we saw many people with luggage), however, we packed a backpack and had our hotel in Sydney hold our main luggage in their storage area.
If you opt to rent a car, Katoomba is about a 90-minute drive away. I personally recommend taking the train, as it is very easy and you do not have to worry about parking.
Blue Mountains Day Trip Itinerary
During your quick stay in the Blue Mountains, you will want to pack in as much as possible! While there are many trails and options to explore while you are in the Blue Mountains, I would highly recommend making time to enjoy the following activities. If you opted to take the train, there are cabs available from the Katoomba train station, or you can choose to walk (around 20-30 minutes) downhill to the Scenic World skyway.
About Scenic World
Scenic World is a natural amusement park of sorts, which offers views of the Blue Mountains from a variety of transportation options. These options include a skyway which transports you above the valley for epic views, a cableway into the valley, and a steep railway into the valley. Each option offers different views and experiences. The railway is the steepest incline railway in the world, while the scenic skyway is the largest aerial cable car in the Southern Hemisphere. Scenic world will run you approximately $50 AUD (approximately $35 USD at time of writing), which will grant you access to all transportation options for the whole day, as well as their Jamison Valley walkway.
What to Do in Scenic World
While Scenic World might sound like your standard tourist trap, I see it as a way to explore and see as much of the Blue Mountains as you can with limited time. The guides on the rides are very friendly and will provide you with some fun facts and background on the Blue Mountains, which is a bonus. If you choose to take the scenic skyway to the entrance, you can ride it over to Scenic World (without a ticket) and purchase your day ticket upon arrival. My recommendation from here is to take the railway down into the valley and explore. Scenic World has a walkway in the valley which allows you to check out a variety of plant life.
Departing Scenic World
Rather than making our way out of the valley the way we came, we decided to utilize a local trail (outlined in more detail below). If you decide to return the way you came, I would recommend taking the cableway back up from the valley for different views than the railway provided on the way down. From there, you will want to take the skyway back over to where you started, and then walk around 20 minutes to Echo Point to see the 3 Sisters (discussed further down).
While there are many options for trail walks in the Blue Mountains, I would recommend taking the trail between the walkway in Jamison Valley within Scenic World (discussed above) and Echo Point (home of the famous 3 Sisters views). This will make the most of your time, as you will avoid having to back-track by utilizing the scenic world transport one-way. Be sure to wear proper attire, and to bring a water bottle (or two) as there are no opportunities to purchase water or fill up on the way. If you want packing inspiration, I have outlined what to wear in the Blue Mountains in this style guide.
Starting in the Jamison Valley within Scenic World, head to the fence which indicates you are exiting Scenic World. There will be a couple of trail options – be sure to follow the option which will lead you to Echo Point and the 3 Sisters. It will be the shorter path option of the two. This route is entirely uphill, but is incredibly worth it as the further up you go the more stunning the views! It took around 2 hours for us to get out at a moderate pace. As parts of this walk are steep, be absolutely certain to leave yourself enough time to get out of the valley before nightfall.
Once you have made your way out of the valley, you will start seeing more signs leading you to Echo Point. As you walk, there will be other viewpoints to take in (be sure to check them out if you have time)! Echo point is a lookout where you can see the 3 sisters, expansive views of the Jamison Valley, and other Blue Mountain landmarks on clear days. The 3 Sisters are an iconic formation that is a must see, and photos truly won’t do it justice (try as my inner photographer may). I have visited Echo Point at varying times of day, and I found the views to be the most clear around mid-day (2 PM), and the prettiest at sunset! If you are hungry, there are a variety of lovely restaurants with a view nearby Echo Point.
Explore Katoomba‘s Town
After you take in the views, it will likely be getting close to when you should head back toward the train station. Before you go, be sure to check out Katoomba’s town (the main strip is right across from the train station). While many people visiting the Blue Mountains are there to see the epic views (and I don’t blame them), a part I was very excited about was seeing a smaller Australian town and perhaps meeting some locals. We made sure to pop into a local coffee shop and browse some of the small boutiques before leaving town. Everyone we met was so friendly and seemed to really enjoy their lives in the Blue Mountains. After visiting (even for a short time), I can certainly understand why they feel this way – it is truly a magical place.
Head Back to Sydney
After you finish up in Katoomba, you can take the train right back to Sydney (around 2 hours). This goes without saying, but make sure to get there before the last train departs. I hope you enjoyed this Blue Mountains day trip itinerary! Be sure to check out my Sydney itinerary and style guide if you are planning a visit to Sydney. If you are interested in extending your stay in the Blue Mountains, I have included accommodation details below.
Where to Stay in the Blue Mountains
During our 7 days in Australia, we dedicated 2 nights and 1 day to the Blue Mountains. The contrast between the city vibes in Sydney and the more laid-back atmosphere in the Blue Mountains made for a well-balanced trip. Beyond the itinerary listed above, we relaxed at our hotel and took in the breathtaking views from our balcony!
There are many options for places to stay in Katoomba – a quick search on AirBnB or Booking.com will provide you with a wide range of options and price points. I have listed a few options below (including where we stayed).
Higher Price Tag – around $150-$450 per night depending on season
Where We Stayed
As Katoomba was significantly less expensive than Sydney, we decided splurge on a higher end option for our stay in the Blue Mountains. We ended up staying at Echoes Boutique Hotel, which I would highly recommend for numerous reasons. The views, service, and rooms were amazing at Echoes, and it was quite honestly one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in. It was not only the highlight of our time in the Blue Mountains, but the location could not be beat – a 10-minute walk to the scenic world sky tram in one direction, and a 10-minute walk to the 3 Sisters view point in the opposite direction. For a general idea of price, we paid around $250 a night for a room with a balcony and stunning view in March. I would imagine prices vary from one season to another, so I would recommend checking Booking.com to see what the options are for your dates.
If Echoes is booked or you are looking for a slightly fancier option in the same location, Lilianfels is a resort just next door to Echoes. The property has various restaurants, a bar, spa, and pool on-site. Note – if you stay at Echoes, you will still have access to Lilianfels resort amenities as they are sister properties.
Both Echoes and Lilianfels are around a mile walk from the train station – we walked it, however, if you have large luggage you might prefer to grab a cab from the station.
If you would like to stay closer to the main town in Katoomba, as well as the train station, a great option to consider would be Hotel Mountain Heritage Blue Mountains, which is an easy 5-minute walk from the train station, but still offers solid views.
Lower Price Tag – around $65-$200 per night depending on season
There are many affordable options in the Blue Mountains. I would recommend running a search on Booking.com and sorting by price if you are looking for something budget friendly. There are several hotels listed that are less than $100 per night with solid reviews.
I hope this Blue Mountains day trip itinerary will be of help to you in planning. If you have any questions about the Blue Mountains or my itinerary in Sydney, feel free to leave a comment below. You might also want to check out my Sydney Style Guide. Happy travels!