The Blue Mountains is a natural adventure playground and a popular place for the city dwellers to get out of Sydney. The Blue Mountains form part of the Great Dividing Range and about 65km inland from Sydney and they rise to 1200 meters. The scenery in the Blue Mountains is stunning from National Parks, mountain ranges and waterfalls.
The reason for the name Blue Mountains soon becomes apparent, for the distant ranges do indeed appear to be covered in a blue haze. One theory is that this is caused by the evaporation of eucalyptus vapour, but it is only a theory.
Aboriginal people were living in the Blue Mountains over 22,000 years ago and evidence is seen in the rock engravings and other ochre drawings in the area. The first European crossing of the Blue Mountains was made by Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson in May 1813 and the first road built in 1815 to open up the plains to the west of the Blue Mountains.
The sandstone which forms the mountain plateau's upper crust was formed from sandy sediments deposited by a giant river system over a period of 250 million years. About 90 million years the area was pushed up from the coastal plains and rivers and creeks then eroded the landscape and formed the characteristic steep cliffs and escarpments.
Blackheath is the highest town in the Blue Mountains and is located on the edge of the national park. It boasts breathtaking views and classy eateries. The Blue Mountains Heritage Centre is located just east of Blackheath, there are many displays on the geology and history of the area. From the centre you can go on the Fairfax Heritage Walk, this 4km return walk takes in Govetts Leap Lookout which offers stunning views of the valleys and gorges.
Echo Point is close to Katoomba and the site of the Three Sisters and provides views across the Jamison Valley. The blue haze seen is due to the finely dispersed droplets of Eucalyptus oil which combine with water and dust and send short wave length rays of light which are mainly blue in colour. From Echo Point it is possible to walk down the Giant Stairway of the Three Sisters, a total of 800 steps in total into the valley floor where there are a number of walks along the valley floor. It is then possible to take the scenic railway back to the top and will bring you out at Scenic World.
This pretty town located 16 kilometres northwest of Glenbrook, features the natural attraction, the Corridor of Oaks. Each tree in the line was planted to represent an Australian prime minister. The grave of Sir Henry Parkes, the father of federation, is located in the cemetery here, as well as a museum and gallery that honors the works of one of Australia's famous authors, Norman Lindsay.
This lovely village is located on the edge of the Blue Mountains. A good walk here is the Lapstone Zig Zag Walking track, this 2.5km trail traces the original train line from Lapstone to Glenbrook.
The Hartley Valley sits on the Great Western Highway at the foothills of the Blue Mountains on the western side.
Hazelbook is a small town in the lower Blue Mountains with open gardens and the historic Selwood house now a Science and Puzzle workshop.
These impressive underground limestone caves are one of the most extensive underground cave systems in the world. They were formed over 400 million years ago and consist of over 300 rooms however, only nine are open to the public. Jenolan State Forest (1300 76 3311).
Katoomba, the largest town in the Blue Mountains is the favourite destination in the area of the Blue Mountains National Park. Built on the the escarpments and characterized by heritage buildings. It is 110 kilometres west of Sydney by CityRail train, a journey which takes two hours. The railway line runs through the Blue Mountains National Park from Lapstone onwards and offers some splendid views. The Katoomba trolley tour is a hop hop off service that runs all day and a good way to see all the attractions in the area. The Edge Cinema is a 6 storey high screen that shows the Edge and brings the Blue Mountains to life.
Katoomba Skyway and Scenic Railway
A ride on both or at least one of these attractions should not be missed. The Scenic Railway is the world's steepest, and is quite a thrilling ride. It drops some 415metres and only takes a few minutes, once at the bottom of the Jamison Valley you can explore the forest area. The Skyway is a cable car that takes you over the Jamison Valley on a round trip that takes 6 minutes, another stunning way to see the landscape. 1 Violet Street (02 4782 2699).
A small attractive village.
Lithgow is on the western slopes of the Blue Mountains and the start of the Zig Zag railway. Lithgow developed as coal mining town.
Mt Victoria is the highest settlement in the Blue Mountains and a small rural vilalge about 16km west of Katoomba.
Another popular destination in the Blue Mountains is Wentworth Falls, two stations from Katoomba in the direction of Sydney. Originally named 'Weatherboard' after the 'Weatherboard Hut'' built in 1814. It is also possible to walk between Katoomba and Wentworth, part of the walk being along the edge of the escarpment, as described above. The falls are triple-tiered and 180 metres high in total.
Located just above the Wentworth Falls are these stunning landscaped gardens. The house dates back to the 1870s and is a well restored Victorian era homestead. Here you will find a museum, art gallery and tearooms, and of course a killer view.
Zig Zag railway
One of the great railways of the 19th Century and takes the Greaster Western Line down from the top of the Blue Mountains into Lithgow valley. Steam and diesel trains depart every day. The Zig Zag Railway was built between 1866 and 1869, and acclaimed a major engineering feat of its time. It was constructed to enable produce to be taken to Sydney from the prosperous farming areas beyond the Blue Mountains and to develop the coal and iron ore deposits found in the Lithgow Valley.
The prodigious feat of bringing the railway from the top of the mountains to the valley below was accomplished by John Whitton, Chief Engineer of the NSW Government Railways. At the time The Great Zig Zag was regarded as one of the engineering wonders of the Victorian age.
A by-product of such construction was the development of locomotive boilers which could cope with steep slopes and this led to the construction of mountain railways in other parts of the world, particularly the Americas.
The Zig Zag consists of a series of sloping tracks forming the letter "Z" with reversing stations at Top and Bottom Points. The Top part of the 'Z' is Top Road, the middle part is Middle Road. Bottom Road is now only a short section leading to the Depot; the rest remains part of NSW State Rail network.
The track passes over three magnificent sandstone viaducts, through two tunnels. There are striking views over the surrounding countryside.
Zig Zag Railway, Clarence Station is 150 km west of Sydney in the Blue Mountains, 10 km East of Lithgow on Chifley Road. Travel time from central Sydney is approximately 2.5 - 3 hours. The Railway is signposted at Mount Victoria on the Gt. Western Highway and at Bell on Chifley Road. There is plenty of parking space at Clarence.
The railway lies on the western side of the Blue Mountains and runs between Clarence Station at the highest point and Bottom Points Station at the lowest point. Clarence Station has no main line railway connection; it is the access point for passengers arriving by road. Passengers arriving by main line train alight at the Zig Zag platform beside the Zig Zag Railway depot. Bells of Line of Road, Clarence (02 6355 2955).