While visiting Sydney, Australia, taking a Blue Mountains day trip was at the top of our must-do list. The Blue Mountains National Park lies just west of the city and is easily accessible by train, car or tour. The spectacular nature retreat features scenic landscapes, picturesque waterfalls, sheer cliffs and a network of hiking trails.
Additionally, an aerial cable car and steep railway at Scenic World allow park guests to enjoy unique experiences. Because of the numerous Blue Mountains attractions, Sydney day tours are popular excursions from the city. With so much to see and do, how do you plan to visit the Blue Mountains in a day?
We carefully considered our options for a Blue Mountains trip from Sydney – from what to see in Blue Mountains to whether or not we should take a tour to the best way to get there from Sydney. We are sharing what we learned (and our detailed Blue Mountains Itinerary) to help other travelers plan their perfect One-Day Blue Mountains Australia Tour.
How to Plan a Blue Mountains Day Trip from Sydney
When creating a Blue Mountains trip plan, these are the most important factors to consider:
- What to see in Blue Mountains NSW?
- Self-Guided or Organized Tours to Blue Mountains from Sydney?
- How to travel to Blue Mountains from Sydney?
- Get organized for your Vacation to Australia by using our Trip Planning Printables!
Deciding Which Places to Visit in Blue Mountains
With many Blue Mountains places to visit, you’ll need to decide what to include in a Sydney one-day trip. In addition, you also need to consider what kind of experiences you want and how much you want to spend. It is free to enter most of the park – including top Blue Mountain hiking trails and the best viewpoints – but there is a cost for tours and Scenic World attractions.
While a multitude of sights appealed to us (and I’m the kind of person who always wants to do everything! ), it simply isn’t feasible to partake in all the park attractions on a Sydney one-day tour. The main reason we wanted to visit the Blue Mountains was to escape the city and immerse ourselves in nature. On our trip, we decided to limit our Blue Mountains sightseeing to the natural aspects of the park.
At the end of the article, we include detailed information on top attractions and tips on where to go in Blue Mountains and what to see.
Blue Mountains 1-Day Tour: Organized or DIY?
After determining which Blue Mountain sights to include in your one-day itinerary, you need to decide whether you want to take one of the organized Sydney day tours or plan your own Blue Mountains self-tour.
There are many benefits to joining an organized Blue Mountains tour bus excursion. The obvious advantage is that tours require little-to-no planning. Tour participants won’t need to sort the details of getting to Blue Mountains or wonder how much time to allot at each sight. And, without having to worry about the details of a Blue Mountains one-day trip, guests can simply sit back and enjoy the day.
On the other hand, there are a few reasons you might not want to join an organized tour from Sydney to Blue Mountains. It’s important to consider cost, limited time at sights and group dynamics before booking a tour.
We weighed the pros and cons of the organized Sydney, Australia day trips, focusing on our personal interests. Many of the Sydney day tours package together the best Blue Mountains tourist attractions with other nearby sights and activities, which means the experience will include much more than a visit to the park.
However, for us, hiking along the Blue Mountains walking tracks was one of the top reasons we wanted to visit Blue Mountains – so if we were going to take a tour, we needed to find one that allowed time for bush walks.
At the end of the post, we include detailed information on the best Blue Mountain tours from Sydney.
How To Get To Blue Mountains?
If foregoing the organized Blue Mountains Australia tour option, visitors need to figure out how to go to Blue Mountains from Sydney on their own. Self-driving allows for the most flexibility in planning a trip to the national park. However, for us, we prefer not to drive when abroad – especially in countries where they drive on the left side of the road. Fortunately, there is a viable Blue Mountains public transport option: the train to Blue Mountains from Sydney. To go to Blue Mountains by train takes about 2 hours and costs about $10 AUD each way. Note: There is no Sydney to Blue Mountains bus.
Our Perfect Blue Mountains Day Trip
After thoroughly researching our options, we decided to dedicate our one-day Blue Mountains trip to nature and bush walking. We debated between booking an organized Blue Mountains day tour that focused on hiking or planning our own trip via train from Sydney to Blue Mountains.
Highlights of the trail are the stellar viewpoints and tumbling waterfalls – and although it is technically a one-way trail, we discovered a way to create a loop so that we didn’t have to backtrack. The Blue Mountains hike was the exact nature experience we wanted: incredible scenery, but not overly strenuous. Although the Sydney day tours to Blue Mountains offer a good value, we determined it was best for us to plan a DIY Blue Mountains day trip from Sydney by train.
Detailed Blue Mountains Day Trip Itinerary
Creating our own Blue Mountains one-day itinerary from Sydney, meant we had to sort all of the excursion details on our own. Our Blue Mountains in One Day Itinerary outlines everything you need to know – from how to get to Blue Mountains from Sydney to the must-see viewpoints to how to coordinate your timeline for the day. Follow in our footsteps or use the information as a guide to plan your own ideal trip from Sydney to Blue Mountains.
Getting to Blue Mountains via the Sydney to Katoomba Train
Planning a Blue Mountains day trip by train is actually quite simple! The Blue Mountains Train Line (from Central Station to Katoomba Station), which is part of the Intercity Trains Network, covers the distance from Sydney to Blue Mountains in about two hours. To make the most of your trip, hop on a Central Station to Blue Mountains Train that departs early in the morning.
We took the morning Blue Mountain Express Train, not because it’s a big time-saver (it’s only 15 minutes quicker), but because it got us to Katoomba by mid-morning. The day of our Blue Mountains day trip, we arrived at Sydney Central Station about 20 minutes before departure – and the train was already at the platform. Right on schedule, the train slowly chugged out of the city toward Parramatta and then on from Paramatta to the Blue Mountains.
Blue Mountains from Sydney by Train (2023)
- Express Train Departure Time from Sydney Central to Katoomba: 8:48am
- Arrival Time to Katoomba Station: 10:32am
- Sydney to Blue Mountains Train Fare: $9.31 AUD
- The Blue Mountains Train ticket can be paid with an Opal or Contactless Credit Card
Find more Sydney Central to Blue Mountains Train details – including timetables and fares – at the end of the post.
Arrive in Katoomba
Katoomba, which has a population of about 8,000 residents, is the charming main town in Blue Mountains. Many of the top places to see in Blue Mountains NP are accessible from Katoomba, which makes it a great starting point for a day of exploration.
To get from the Katoomba Station to Blue Mountains Park, it is an easy 2km (1.2 mile) downhill walk along Katoomba Street. The street, which is lined with tourist shops, cafes and eateries, provides a direct path south from the station to the national park.
Getting from Katoomba to Blue Mountains National Park
From Katoomba Station, walk south on Katoomba Street. Pass Echoes Boutique Hotel and Restaurant, then merge onto Panorama Drive, which curves to the east. At Echo Point Road, turn south and enter the park at Echo Point Lookout.
Top Tip: Make a stop at a grocery store on Katoomba Street to pick up hiking snacks and items for a picnic lunch. We like Woolworth’s, which is located on Waratah Street, just west of Katoomba Street. There’s also an ALDI in Katoomba, just across the street.
Katoomba to Blue Mountains Bus: The Blue Mountains Explorer Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus transports passengers from Katoomba to area attractions, including Echo Point, Scenic World and Leura Cascades. More info about this bus at the end of the post.
Take in the Views at Echo Point Lookout
Offering panoramic views of the park’s most iconic landscape, Echo Point Lookout is a must for every visitor of Blue Mountains NP. Ranking as the “Best Lookouts Blue Mountains,” the spacious Echo Point platform provides stunning views of the famous Three Sisters rock formation and Jamison Valley.
One level lower than Echo Point is Queen Elizabeth Lookout, which allows for an accessible secondary vantage point. In addition to the informational plaques found at the railings, visitors can obtain Blue Mountains info at the on-site Echo Point Information Center.
Blue Mountains Hikes from Echo Point
Many Katoomba hikes commence at Echo Point Lookout. Hikers can hop on a trail that travels west to complete the Blue Mountains waterfall walk to Katoomba Falls (and on to Scenic World). Ambitious trekkers can take the Katoomba walking tracks that lead south to the Three Sisters and down to the valley floor. Viewpoint-seekers – like ourselves – will want to find the Katoomba walks trail to the east, Prince Henry Cliff Walk, that follows the mountain’s edge to Leura Cascades and beyond.
Top Tip: A Blue Mountains hiking map can be purchased from the Echo Point Information Center. We opted, however, to use the Blue Mountains tourist map included in the free magazine (available at the entrance of the info center). It was not the best Blue Mountains walking map and shouldn’t be used for more difficult Katoomba bush walks. However, it served its purpose for our day of hiking Blue Mountains Australia. Serious hikers should consider purchasing a trail book, which includes a complete map of Blue Mountains NSW.
Gaze at Three Sisters Blue Mountains
The Three Sisters is the most recognizable rock formation in the national park – and a must-see when you visit Blue Mountains from Sydney. Thousands of years of erosion paired with aboriginal fables make Three Sisters a landmark destination in the national park.
According to the indigenous legend, three sisters were turned to stone when they wanted to marry men outside their tribe. Consequently, a battle occurred between the two tribes and the only elder who had the power to return the sisters to human form was killed in the fight. Thus, the sisters remain stone for eternity.
Blue Mountains Bush Walks: Three Sisters Walk and the Giant Stairs Blue Mountains
From Echo Point, there is a short .8km (1/2 mile) Three Sisters Walk that allows visitors to access the first ‘sister’ via the Honeymoon Bridge. Hikers can loop back to Echo Point or opt to continue to the valley floor via the Giant Stairway. Detailed information on both of these hikes is provided at the end of the post.
Three Sisters to Elysian Rock via Prince Henry Cliff Walk
When we were planning our trip to Blue Mountains in a day, we were seeking out the best hikes in Blue Mountains – and we found it on the trek from Three Sisters to Elysian Rock via the Prince Henry Cliff Walk. Most of the natural path is enveloped in lush forest. Hugging the edge of the cliff, the easy-to-moderate trail offers more than 20 incredible lookout points. The entire length of the Prince Henry Cliff Walk is about 7km, of which we walked about 4.5km from Three Sisters to Elysian Rock, via Leura Cascades. Below, we break down the hike into sections.
Bush Walk from Three Sisters to Leura Cascades
From Echo Point Lookout, the Prince Henry Cliff Walk to Leura Cascades begins behind the Echo Point Info Center. The trail joins the Three Sisters Walking Track, which leads to an up-close view of the first ‘sister’ and the top of the Giant Stairway. If time allows, make the out-and-back detour to the lookout point and take the stairs down to the bridge and cross over to the iconic rock formation.
Follow the signs for the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, which roughly follows the ridgeline road, Cliff Drive. The dirt trail is enveloped in a forest of eucalyptus and other natural vegetation. Listen for the shriek of the Wild Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos as they fly overhead and above the vast valley. From the trail, there are numerous lookout points, each offering breathtaking views of the valley. We recommend venturing out to each viewpoint, but be certain not to miss Burrabarroo Lookout (one of our favorites!) and Bridal Veil Lookout for an awesome vantage point of the waterfall.
Top Tip: Wooden benches are found sporadically along the path. Great for a rest, but if you packed a picnic lunch, we suggest waiting to eat until you get to Burrabarroo Lookout.
Blue Mountains Waterfalls: Leura Cascades and Bridal Veil Falls
The gently flowing Leura Falls Creek tumbles down stairstep rocks before streaming over the cliff’s edge into the valley below, creating what is better known as Bridal Veil Falls. Follow the path along the stream and across bridges for the best views of the Leura Cascades.
Top Tip: At Leura Cascades, there is a picnic area, bathroom facilities, parking and an Explorer Bus Hop-On-Hop-Off bus stop.
Leura Cascades to Elysian Rock
Just past the falls, hike along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk to the Bridal Veil View path. Take this detour for the absolute best viewpoint of the Bridal Veil Falls, then retrace your steps to reconnect with the main path. Shortly after the Tarpeian Rock lookout, the Olympian Rock Lookout is not too far – and the views are spectacular! Hiking on from Olympian Rock, you will arrive at Elysian Rock Lookout in less than 5 minutes.
Top Tip: We continued for another 10 minutes on the Blue Mountains hiking trail past Elysian Rock to Gordon Falls Lookout, but the view of the waterfall was a bit disappointing – especially after Leura Falls. On the other hand, this portion of the Prince Henry Trail was vacant of people, so if you are seeking a bit of solitude in the forest, you might want to continue on to Gordon Falls.
Conclude Your Blue Mountains Hike in Leura
From Elysian Rock Lookout (or Gordon Falls), make your way up to Olympian Parade; turn left (west) and walk to Leura Mall. Turn right (north) and follow the pleasant residential street for about 2km (1.2 miles) into the center of Leura, where there are a handful of shops, cafes and restaurants. At the top of the street is Leura Station.
Travel from Blue Mountains to Sydney
From the Leura Train Station, hop on the next Blue Mountains to Sydney train. We were aiming to be on the 3:54pm train – the last train before peak pricing begins – but arrived at the station earlier than we anticipated…and just in time for the 3:24pm train back to Sydney.