This iconic World Heritage region doesn’t do things by halves. The mountains soar, the waterfalls thunder, and pockets and nooks of adventure pop up when you least expect it – where you may find yourself entirely alone.
One of Australia’s most bewildering sights, the Blue Mountains takes its name from the vast eucaplyt forests branching out across this solitary landscape, whose natural oils give off a distinctive blueish haze. From the foothills, just 65km from Sydney, to awe-inspiring rock formations, it stretches over 4,000 square miles, stirring adventure-seekers with peace and isolation.
Day trips from Sydney are possible, but to truly grasp the enormity and its pristine nature, head here for several days to explore its forested valleys, cliffs and walking trails. Catch the train from the city to Katoomba, where buses can drop you at a handful of key sights, or ride the hop on, hop off Blue Mountains Explorer Bus, which loops round the region’s major attractions.
If you truly want to feel like a pioneer, hire a car and drive the 90mins from Sydney to the Blue Mountains’ fringes, pulling in to a mountain hideaway and heading out each day on a different adventure. Tick off the Three Sisters at Echo Point – the famous rock formations said to be three sisters turned to stone, according to Aboriginal legend – where a particular light frolics on the landmark, transforming its colour from dawn until dusk. Test your head for heights and abseil down sharp rock faces; descend through shadowy canyons that’ll make you giddy; wade, scramble and swim through hidden pools; and camp overnight amongst the mountains with stargazing that’ll leave you dumbfounded. For a greater sense of paradise, soar above the region in a helicopter or a glass-floored cable car. Serene, mysterious and thrilling, the Blue Mountains deserves all the hype.
Three more mountain icons in Oz…
Snowy Mountains: Australia’s ski and snowboard mecca, the ‘Snowies’ lie on the New South Wales and Victoria border and draw an outdoorsy crowd with the promise hiking, horse riding and cycling during summer and a cracking ski season from June to October. Australia’s highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko, also lures walkers to its summit at 2,228m.
Mount Wollumbin (Tweed Region): A sacred site steeped in Aboriginal lore, this iconic peak was also named Mount Warning by Captain James Cook after he encountered dangerous offshore reefs along the coast. The Bundjalung people ask visitors not to ascend, though many do make the hardy three-hour trip to the top.
Mount Gower (LHI): Tackle Lord Howe’s highest mountain (875m) on a challenging eight-hour return trek with a localguide and you’ll come across some of the island’s rarest flora and fauna. The summit view will leave you speechless: from the island’s sapphire waters to verdant rainforests, you could be looking at a clandestine cay, straight out of a Bond movie.