With its breathtaking views, charming mountain villages and gourmet dining spots, the NSW Blue Mountains could just be your ideal destination.
Whether you’re looking for a day trip with friends, a romantic weekend, or a family holiday; there’s enough fresh air, local produce and pristine wilderness for everyone to enjoy.
Here are are our top picks for your next Blue mountains getaway.
Visit cider factories and enjoy farm-fresh produce in Bilpin
After the devastation caused by the horrendous summer bushfires, Bilpin is finally back on its feet. In contrast to the crowded landmarks of Katoomba and Leura, Bilpin is both unassuming and spectacular at the same time. Surrounded by the breathtaking Wollomi and Blue Mountains National Parks, this quiet mountain village might be one of the best kept secrets in the region.
While Bilpin had previously been a quiet pit stop for passers-by, in recent years the presence of farm to table icon Sean Moran (Sean’s Panorama) and the growth of the local cider industry has seen Bilpin come into its own.
If you feel like going slow, Bilpin will make you feel like there’s nowhere else you need to be. Grab a coffee and a pastry at The Grumpy Baker, enjoy local produce at High Hopes Roadhouse, or go hiking on one of the many wilderness trails offering glimpses across the Blue Mountains National Park. Make a pit stop in at Hillbilly Cider to sample local apples on tap, or you can go straight to the source and pick them from one of the nearby orchards.
Cool off in a hidden swimming hole
Located near the town of Clarence in the Blue Mountains, this magnificent water-filled quarry, Clarence Dam, is a disused railway built in the 1860s, now used mostly for public recreation.
Swimmers are in for a treat. Huge pieces of ironstone protrude out of the water in soft shapes of all sizes, like artful, abstract sculptures. It’s not the water that makes this swimming hole great, it’s the rock. Some have an architectural quality, which starts to make a lot of sense when we remember we were brought here by an architect.
Editor’s note: This above is an edited extract from Places We Swim by Caroline Clements and Dillion Seitchick-Reardon.
Reconnect with nature at an eco-lodge
If you’re taking all the other steps to reconnect with nature, why not try and stay somewhere eco-friendly as well? The Blue Mountains have some stunning eco lodges where the accommodation is an attraction in itself.
If you’re looking for something private and scenic, then these rustic eco-cabins could be just the escape you need. Situated on 250 acres and tucked away in the tranquil Kanimbla Valley, they were designed to have a low impact on the environment while still being completely comfortable for guests. The design of these unique Blue Mountain cabins mirrors classic bush architecture, and they feature materials from the old shearing shed.
For something more mid-range, you can stay at the homely Old Leura Dairy, with picturesque straw construction and vintage dwellings, you can do a bit of time travelling in between your other activities.
If you’ve got a bit of spare cash to splash on a luxury escape, you’ll find the tranquility you’re seeking at Spicers Sangoma Retreat. Immersed in the natural bushland of the Blue Mountains, this all-inclusive retreat offering rejuvenation and true reconnection with nature. Spicers Sangoma Retreat was also Eco-Certified by Tourism Australia in 2016. The retreat uses composting, rain water harvesting, and generates a proportion of their power from solar.
Hike to a waterfall
The Blue Mountains have some of the best hiking and bushland in all of Australia. While sometimes the word ‘hike’ can sound intimidating, all you really need for a jaw-droppingly beautiful walk in the Blue Mountains is some sneakers, sunscreen and food and water.
If you haven’t been to the Blue Mountains before or aren’t a super experienced hiker, a couple of great waterfalls to check out are Wentworth Falls and Empress Falls. Both walks are accessible by train or by parking at The Conservation Hut, a café in Wentworth Falls.
If you’re looking for a truly magical walk, look no further than Wentworth Pass and the Seven Waterfalls walk. Aside from boasting epic views, you’ll find a season’s worth of waterfalls packed into one half-day walk.
Savour local produce at the award-winning Leura Garage
Chasing waterfalls can be thirsty work. Make a pit stop at local favourite Leura Garage, where you can refuel and enjoy an extensive food and wine menu sourced from local suppliers. This transformed auto-shop has won awards for both the take of its food and its sustainable practices, a must-visit if you pass through Leura.
Owner James Howarth is aware that many people choose to live and visit the Blue Mountains because of its proximity to pristine wilderness. It was a given that the development of Leura Garage be as environmentally friendly and energy efficient as possible. Joe Mercieca, director of Blue Eco Homes, came on board with a similar mindset.
“I love a challenge and when the idea came along for a restaurant on the site I thought it was fantastic,” Joe says. “It has a lovely northerly aspect and sure enough, now that the restaurant is open and the weather is cooling down, as soon as there is a bit of sun everybody is out enjoying it.”
Camp under the stars in a dreamy Bubbletent
Or if camping is more your thing, there are loads of great camp spots (and many are free). Spend the night at Ingar Campground on Kings Tableland. This is a popular camping spot on the Wentworth Falls to Woodford trail and you can enjoy a post hike swim at the nearby dam on Ingar Creek.
Surrounded by sandstone cliffs, eucalypt trees and positioned alongside the Wolgan River, Newnes Campground is a beautiful free camping spot. It’s a great base for exploring Newnes Shale Oil Ruins and the nearby Glow Worm Tunnel.
Otherwise, why not stay in a clear and inflatable Bubbletent overlooking Capertee Valley, the world’s second biggest canyon? With sweeping views across the rolling hills of Capertree Valley, you can be a step closer to the heavens while soaking your weary bones in your very own wood-fired hot tub.
Visit The Instagram Ready Botanic Gardens
Just a 90 minute drive from the Sydney CBD is the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden. With more than 5000 species of plants, enjoy the kaleidoscopic colours and entrancing environment as you sit at 1000 metres above sea level.
The Gardens are fully committed to sustainability in their day to day operations. They currently run off their own water source and generate around 50% of their electricity from solar. Furthermore, they are actively doing their own bit to conserve endangered flora and your entry fee will be partially put towards the critical conservation of these species.
Explore the Jenolan Caves
For those who don’t mind following the tourist trail, the Jenolan Caves are as spectacular as they are important to the local tourism economy. Experience what it feels like following a river to the centre of the earth. There are tours you can take, all of which will run you through unique limestone formations and underground rivers.
Hydro-electric power and LED technology greatly reduce the carbon footprint of tourism on the area, they work closely with the National Parks & Wildlife Service to help endangered animals and repel invasive species and there is an extensive waste management program in place.
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