For me, exploring the stunning nature is the highlight. But, with so many things to do in the Blue Mountains, other people prefer to focus on the food, the coffee scene, the wellness, or the heritage.
But that’s one of the wonderful things about the Blue Mountains – and one of the reasons it’s such a popular destination. There’s something for everyone and there’s lots of options for people looking for a bit of variety.
At first glance, the Blue Mountains can seem a bit confusing because there are so many different locations within it. You might be wondering where is the best place to visit in Blue Mountains?
Well, in my opinion, there is no simple answer because I think the best approach is to sample a little of many of the towns in the mountains because each has their own personality. Perhaps you base yourself in Leura or Katoomba, but go for lunch in Glenbrook or do a hike near Blackheath, for example.
It’s very easy to travel in the Blue Mountains because everything is basically along the one main road that passes from Sydney to the Central West. And you don’t even need to drive because the train passes through all the main towns as well (although it tends to come only once an hour during the day, so it’s a good idea to plan a little).
The Blue Mountains are a World Heritage Site and it’s easily the most accessible natural one in Australia, so it makes sense to do some hiking and see the incredible landscapes that the region is famous for.
The sandstone escarpments are so striking and any of the walks along the cliffs will give you a great perspective. But there are also walks that take you through the variance of flora, from the dry eucalyptus forests to almost-tropical ferns. There are also quite a few walks that involve beautiful waterfalls.
The food scene has also boomed in the Blue Mountains over the past decade and there are excellent dining options for any style. From small hip cafes, to great pub food, some famous modern Australia, and even luxurious restaurants that are a destination in themselves.
And with all of this, there is also excellent coffee throughout the mountains and some very cool new bars – particularly around lively Katoomba (many of the other towns are more about the local pubs).
The main road and the location of the towns roughly follows the path that the three explorers Blaxland, Wentworth, and Lawson took when they found a way across the Blue Mountains. And you’ll find some heritage in the mountains from those days.
But there are also historical buildings from other period – including the National Trust properties of the Norman Lindsay Museum in Faulconbridge, Everglades Gardens in Leura, and the Woodford Academy (in Woodford).
Plus, depending on your interests, there are all sorts of different museums and other smaller attractions – there are definitely plenty of things to do in the Blue Mountains.
If you are interested in art, there are lots of galleries, particularly in Katoomba (where you’ll also find the interesting Street Art Walk), and there’s no shortage of antique stores in Leura or other boutique shopping throughout the mountains.
Anyway, rather than going on about how much there is to do in the Blue Mountains, how about I give you some specifics.
Here are some of my top tips for the best things to do in the Blue Mountains by town, starting at the eastern end and heading west.
Heading to the Blue Mountains from Sydney, Glenbrook is the first town you’ll come to. It’s not large but it has a friendly atmosphere and is a popular spot for locals and visitors to meet up for a coffee or a meal. It’s also got good access to some attractions in the Blue Mountains National Park.
- If you’re looking for somewhere for a meal, Vincent Diner is a great choice. 2773 is another option and it has a lot more space for groups or families.
- Heading into the national park, you can do a long walk that will take about two hours return to Red Hands Cave to see an incredible collage of Indigenous hand prints and stencils from up to 1600 years ago.
- Or it’s just a short walk to Jellybean Pool, which is a beautiful swimming that’s very popular in the warmer months.
Springwood is the second largest town in the Blue Mountains and feels a bit like the eastern counterpart to Katoomba. It’s quite lively and has a few of the major mountain institutions.
- Although Springwood doesn’t have any iconic bush walks, there are a few decent trails here that you can do. There’s the easy Birdwood Gully trail, the longer 10km-loop Blue Gum Swamp Circuit Track, or the difficult Sassafras Gully Loop with great waterfalls.
- For some art, you can check out the Braemar Historic Gallery to see the current exhibition, which features local and regional artists.
- The Blue Mountains Theatre normally has a wonderful range of entertainment throughout the year, so it’s worth having a look to see what’s on when you’re planning to visit.
- And when it comes to food, The Bunker is a bit of a local institution, but there’s also a new vegan cafe called 1Two1 Organic Grocer.
Lawson is quite small and, to be honest, it’s easy to miss when you’re driving through. There’s not a lot here and it’s probably not somewhere to base yourself, but there are a couple of interesting things to do that I think are worth mentioning.
- The Black Cockatoo Bakery is relatively new but has already made a name for itself as one of the best in the Blue Mountains .It’s famous for the sourdough bread, but I would also recommend trying the almond croissant.
- You can also access the South Lawson Waterfall Circuit here, which is a favourite local walk. It’s only about three kilometres long but it takes you to four small but lovely waterfalls. One of the reasons it’s so popular with locals is because it’s not in the Blue Mountains National Park so you can take your dog with you.
I feel like Wentworth Falls is often ignored by visitors because it’s so close to the large towns of Leura and Katoomba, but it has a lot to offer visitors, especially when it comes to hikes.
- The hiking here is the reason to stop in Wentworth Falls and the trails offer some of the best views in the Blue Mountains. There are lots of different options to choose from, but I would recommend doing the Wentworth Path walk (5km) or the slightly shorter and easier Overcliff Undercliff walk.
- For food, the Conservation Hut is a bit of an institution because of its location right at the start (or end) of some of the bush walks, but the food is pretty simple. In town, you’ll get decent meals at La Famiglia Pizzeria or the Grand View Hotel.
Leura is one of the most popular places to visit in the Blue Mountains – and for good reason. It’s a beautiful town near wonderful scenery and there are lots of things to do in Leura. There is also an excellent range of accommodation, so it’s a good base.
- Doing a bit of shopping in Leura is a popular thing to do and you’ll find a number of boutique shops along Leura Mall. You’ll find stores selling books, toys, gadgets, clothes, and much more.
- The National Trust property of Everglades Gardens is worth visiting. It combines the Blue Mountains bush with a European-style of garden landscaping, plus an Art Deco building in the middle.
- Leura is home to a few quirky little museums and institutions. For something a bit different, check out the enormous collection of teapots (and have a high tea) at Bygone Beautys Teapot Museum and have a chat to owner Maurice Cooper. There’s also the Leuralla Toy & Railway Museum, a large collection in an early 20th century mansion.
- There are lots of bush walks from Leura that you can do and it’s a great base for hiking because you can do short trails, longer trails, or stitch together a combination to do just what you want. There’s the short Prince Henry Cliff Walk, you can do a great combination of the Leura Cascades, Leura Forest and Fern Bower Circuit, or head out for the more challenging Federal Pass.
- There are great places to eat in Leura and I would recommend Lily’s Pad Cafe, Leura Garage, or Madame Wangs.
Now it’s time to talk about Katoomba – the biggest town in the Blue Mountains. In the past, Katoomba had a bit of a tricky reputation because it had some great sights (including the famous Echo Point) but could be a bit rough (relatively speaking) because it’s where some of the less savoury types from the other towns would come to cause a bit of trouble.
Anyway, I think it’s become a lot better in recent years and this is evidenced by the cool new bars, cafes, and other places to hang that have popped up in town. Katoomba feels young and funky, which offers a nice counterpoint to Leura, which feels a bit older and traditional.
- To see a bit of the area, a good option is the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus. It’ll take you between some of the main sights around Katoomba and Leura which is useful if you came up on the train or don’t want to worry about constantly finding parking.
- The main attraction in Katoomba is Echo Point and the view of the Three Sisters. It’s certainly pretty but just remember there are lots of other amazing viewpoints around here (and they don’t have the crowds).
- For bushwalking, you can connect to most of the tracks I mentioned in the Leura section, such as the Prince Henry Cliff Walk or the Federal Pass. There are also some other options that will take you in different directions, such as the Ruined Castle walk (although it’s currently closed because of fire damage).
- To learn more about the area’s World Heritage Site status, there’s an excellent exhibition at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre. While you’re there, you’ll find a gallery space that always has interesting exhibitions of local artists.
- Speaking of local artists, there’s a vibrant art scene in Katoomba and you’ll notice lots of small independent galleries. You might like to have a look at Lost Bear Gallery and Gallery One88, for example.
- I also really like the Katoomba Street Art Walk at Beverly Place, which you’ll find in a small alley behind some of the galleries. Local and international artists have decorated the walls here with beautiful large murals, along with smaller types of street art.
- There are some great restaurants in Katoomba. I would recommend Hominy Bakery for pies and pastries, Station Bar for woodfired pizza, and Pins on Lurline for something more upmarket.
- For coffee, I like Frankly My Dear Coffee. For something a bit harder, there’s the cool The Bootlegger or Aunty Ed’s. And there’s also the awesome craft brewery at Mountain Culture Beer Co.
And finally there’s Blackheath which has a lot to offer but can sometimes feel a bit quieter because it’s just that little bit extra distance from Sydney. But there’s a lot of heritage in town and some of the most dramatic views of the landscape.
- I think one of the best things to do in Blackheath is pop into the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre, which is run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. You’ll get a great overview of the nature and the indigenous heritage of the mountains.
- You’ll find quite a few interesting shops in Blackheath Village, which is the kind of place treasure-hunters come looking for some classic gems, particularly at the Victory Theatre Antique Centre.
- For hiking, you can’t miss Govetts Leap, which has amazing views. From there, you’ll find the relatively easy Fairfax Heritage walking track. There’s also the more challenging – but stunning – Grand Canyon track.
- For food, the Bakehouse on Wentworth is a famous stop, while you can also get good food at New Ivanhoe Hotel bistro and Gardiners Inn Restaurant.
As you can see, there are so many things to do in the Blue Mountains. I recommend experiencing a bit of the variety the mountains offer because you really do get different atmospheres in the different towns. Or, if you are able to, why not make a few trips to the Blue Mountains and base yourself in different places each time!