The Blue Mountains - Royal Scenery

Blue like the blood of their human counterparts, these mountains are tourism royalty. They preside over a kingdom of Australian attractions that cannot quite topple this remarkable National Park off its throne, although many come close.

Just a short drive from Sydney, the rainforests, canyons and sandstone cliffs of the Blue Mountains are the antithesis to the clamour of Sydney- they are the yin to its yang. As a result visitors pour into the one million hectare expanse of the park in droves, keen for a slice of this serene and tranquil pie.

They leave inspired, refreshed and awestruck, full of promises to return and complete everything they never quite had time for.

The entrance to the park is at Glenbrook, which is just a 60 kilometre drive away from Sydney. The visitor information centre here is the first port of call for most people, who are advised by the friendly staff where to go and what to see.

From there most people move on to Katoomba which is historically regarded as the heart of the Blue Mountains and is in close proximity to many of the main attractions.

Perched on the edge of a 170 metre cliff and standing a kilometre above sea level there is no smog or pollution here, and the views from the town are simply incredible.

Close to Katoomba is Echo Point, a viewing point from where the most photographed feature in the park, the Three Sisters, is clearly visible. The Jamison Valley rolls out below you here for many kilometres, and in the distance the Ruined Castle can be made out.

Echo Point has just undergone an immense upgrade to make it more harmonious with its surrounds, and the system of boardwalks and platforms are safe and unobtrusive. If you want to venture away from the platforms there are plenty of designated bushwalks that take you through the bush to amazing views of the valley and the cliffs surrounding it.

The rugged slopes of the mountains and the immeasurably beautiful vistas make this a bushwalkers paradise, and all across the park there are trails to suit all levels of fitness or mobility, not just at Katoomba.

You can find out at the Echo Point Visitor Centre where the bushwalks are, but experienced walkers may like to head to the Ruined Castle and undertake the 12 kilometre round trip that takes you up Mt Solitary and to the castle. Its a day trip and requires a good level of fitness!

For those who would rather just take in the scenery than exert themselves the Scenic Skyway and the Scenic Railway at Katoomba are a thrilling adventure that take very little effort. The Skyway is an aerial cable car floating 275 metres across the valley floor, from where you have commanding views of the Katoomba Falls and Orphan Rock.

The Railway was originally part of the mining tramways built well over a hundred years ago. It descends down through sandstone cliffs via a rock tunnel, emerging into the fern filled rainforest.

It is actually in the Guinness Book of World Records as the steepest railway in the world, so you have an opportunity to experience a record breaking attraction!

If you are equally interested in attractions beneath the earths surface as those above it, then consider taking a look at the Jenolan Caves. These are the oldest discovered open caves in the world, and the stalactites that fall from the roof have been enchanting visitors for years.

Many of the stalactites are pure white in colour, and in the ten of the caves that have been developed for tourism there is extensive lighting that illuminates these features remarkably.

Whatever kind of holiday you are looking for in the Blue Mountains, you will find the accommodation style that suits. A romantic getaway at a luxurious spa, a business retreat at a classy hotel or a family holiday in a lodge - its all covered.

Such is the closeness of the Park to Sydney if you only have a day free an early start could see you enjoying a full day taking in the magnificence of the Blue Mountains.

Remember it is going to be slightly chillier here due to the height above sea level, so pack some warm clothes! It doesnt really matter what time of year you visit, because as the climate changes different aspects of the Park come into prominence.

So whenever that urge for a break comes along, the Blue Mountains should be on top of your destination list!

Gavin Wyatt

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