Two hours out of Sydney you’ll find marvelous mountain ranges, abundant hikes and amazing wineries. If you’re looking for day or weekend adventures out of the city, look no further. With a week in Sydney, we escaped to the Blue Mountains for a day of hiking and a relaxing evening in the mountains and the Hunter Valley wine region for an afternoon wine tasting.
The Blue Mountains is a scenic mountain range 40 miles west of Sydney. The mountains aren’t actually blue but are named as such because of the blue haze that can be seen above the mountain range. It is believed the haze comes from oil in the eucalyptus trees in the area. A combination of the oils, as well as dust and vapor, give the mountains a hazy blue color.
The park is home to many hiking trails and beautiful viewpoints. The most famous view in the park is the Three Sisters, a trio formation of rocks. There are many activities to keep you busy here such as hiking, camping, canyoning, climbing and mountain biking activities. You can also visit Scenic World, an attraction that allows you to easily get across the mountain and into the valley. We visited Scenic World to experience the world’s steepest incline railway and ride it down into the Jamison Valley.
Three Sisters in the distance - a trio rock formation
There are a few ways to experience the Blue Mountains at Scenic World. Take a ride on the Scenic Skyway across the mountain to trails leading to Echo Point. In the Skyway, look out in the rainforest valley below, and take in the views of Katoomba Falls. The hike to Echo Point is easy, with the only challenge being a few hundred steps up and down. You can drive to Echo Point without paying the attraction fee, but you don’t have the advantage of the views offered on the Skyway. Although not for those with fears of heights, the best part of the Skyway is the glass floor which gives you a full 360 experience.
After a return hike to Echo Point, take the Skyway back to the main station and embark on the Scenic Cableway into the valley. This ride provides unique views of the Three Sisters and the Jamison Valley. Once you reach the bottom, there is an easy 2.4 km walk among the eucalyptus trees and rainforest valley floor. To get back to the main station, catch the Scenic Railway up the mountain. This is a thrill as you ascend at a 52-degree incline.
The Skyway with the panoramic Jamison Valley in the background
A picturesque viewpoint on the hike to Echo Point
The view of Katoomba Falls from the Skyway. The region hadn't had a lot of rain when we were visiting, thus the minimal amount of water flowing
Views of the Three Sisters the valley
There are caves and old mining artifacts to see on the 2.4 km walk in the valley
The region is also a host to dozens of hikes and walking tracks. Most tracks can be accessed free of charge (compared to paying a fee at Scenic World). Katoombaa Falls Round Walk is an easy roundtrip walking track that leads to the Katoomba River and Katoomba Falls. The track is 4km and takes 2 hours. Bring your bathing suit for a dip in the river, especially on a warm day. One of the more notables hikes is the Grand Canyon Walk. The hike guides you through the rainforest, across creeks and alongside waterfalls and rock walls. This moderate hike is 6km and takes around 2.5 hours.
Snapping a photo on our hike to Katoomba Falls
Getting to the Blue Mountains is easy. According to Google, the 40mi drive takes a little over an hour. Expect the trip to take two hours if you’re traveling at rush hour when traffic is heavier. If you’re not up for renting a car, catch a train from Sydney’s Central Station to Katoomba. Katoomba is the entry point into the Blue Mountains.
WHERE TO STAY
There are hotels in the region but we opted to rent an Airbnb in Katoomba. We like Airbnb because it’s more affordable (especially with four people) and we have the opportunity to stay in unique homes, sometimes with amazing views, that we wouldn’t experience in a hotel. We rented an adorable cottage in Katoomba situated on the edge of the mountains. We loved it’s charming feel and spectacular mountain views.
The incredible views from our Airbnb
HUNTER VALLEY WINE REGION
Having lived so close to Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley the last several years, we both have turned into wine lovers. After spending an afternoon wine tasting at the beginning of our journey through Australia, we were excited to close out our trip with an afternoon at the vineyards.
Located 2.5 hours north of Sydney, Hunter Valley is home to Australia’s oldest wine region. The region produces wine from a variety of grapes and is most known for it’s Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Verdelho blends.
There are a few ways to get to Hunter Valley. You can rent a car or catch the train. However, most travelers choose to book a guided tour departing from Sydney. This leaves the planning to the wine experts and ensures you make it back to Sydney safely after a fun afternoon wine tasting. We found several tour companies taking guests to Hunter Valley and after a bit of research we decided to book with Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tours.
To allow enough time to get to Hunter Valley, the tour picked us up near our Airbnb around 6:30am. Throughout the course of the day we visited four boutique wineries, a chocolate factory for a chocolate tasting, enjoyed a cheese pairing at one the wineries and ate an appetizing lunch at a brewery.
The setting at each winery was different, yet unique in their own way. Our first winery had two house dogs that greeted us on our arrival. They continued to run around and play with guests as we tasted a variety of whites and reds on their outdoor patio. We were lucky enough to spot a kangaroo hopping by as we arrived to our second tasting. Our final winery offered picturesque views with rolling hills of vineyards across the horizon. It was perfect backdrop for capturing photos with our group and the perfect way to end the day.
It is a long day and you won’t arrive back home until 6:30pm but if you like wine and are looking for something to do outside of Sydney, we recommend Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tours.
Playing with the dogs at our first winery of the day
We enjoyed having my parents in Sydney with us for this hiking and wine tasting adventure
Beautiful backdrop with my mom to close out our day wine tasting
Did you know?
The Blue Mountains are part of the third longest land-based mountain range in the world, called the Great Dividing Range, aka the Great Divide. These mountains stretch over 3,500 kilometers from the northeastern tip of Queensland to New South Whales. Up north, you'll find the climate of the mountain range to be quite tropical while down south it is more temperate. You'll also find that this range divides the regions of dry and precipitous environments where the cause is heavily dependent on the existence of the Great Divide and lack of any mountains or land elevations west of the Great Divide.
When visiting Scenic World, we recommend visiting early in the morning or during the week. If you can, avoid weekends otherwise you'll experience longer wait times for the attractions and be surrounded by bus loads of tourists.