With its roller coaster hills, main street lined with art deco buildings and jawdropping views of the mist-filled Jamison Valley, it’s little wonder Katoomba has been luring tourists for more than a century. Today, visitors are well-serviced in this quirky town, with a wide range of accommodation and a burgeoning dining and entertainment scene making it the perfect base for your mountains sojourn.
‘Iconic’ is a well-used term in Katoomba – from truly remarkable landmarks like the Three Sisters teetering over the Jamison Valley, to the world-class thrills of Scenic World with its glass-bottom cable car and the world’s steepest railway that descends into the Jurassic rainforest.
Jump on the red double-decker Explorer Bus to visit the sights dotted along the escarpment; travel in style in a chauffeured vintage car with Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs; or lace up your hiking boots and tackle the Golden Staircase on the Ruined Castle Walking Track.
Art and culture
With outstanding views of the valley, the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre is home to an interactive exhibit of local history and the Blue Mountains Art Gallery. The Street Art Walk reveals an edgier taste of local artistry, with colourful murals adorning Katoomba’s hidden laneways.
Katoomba is also home to some of the mountains’ most vibrant festivals. The Winter Magic Festival packs out the main street as it celebrates winter and a quirky counterculture; while the Blue Mountains Music Festival features roots music from around the world. Check the events calendar for dates.
The restaurant and cafe scene in Katoomba has evolved into one celebrating not only fresh local produce, but also multi-cultural influences. Miss Lilian Teahouse serves Asian comfort food with a modern twist; while 8Things showcases street food from all around the world. Cool bars such as Bootlegger Bar, Aunty Ed’s and the Mountain Culture Beer craft brewery have also injected some oomph into Katoomba’s nightlife, transforming the previously sleepy town into a place to be seen. For a beverage with a view, grab a seat in the al fresco courtyard at The Lookout near Echo Point.
Browse the shops along Katoomba Street for fashion, local handicrafts, antiques and collectibles. Sample handcrafted Blue Mountains treats at the Blue Mountains Chocolate Company, or pop into the Carrington Cellars and Deli to taste the bounty of the Central Ranges region.
Looming regally over the main street is the grand Carrington Hotel, built in 1883 and dazzling with its stain glass Art Nouveau features. Elegant Lilianfels Resort & Spa is another gracious historic building that offers luxury accommodation with spectacular views across the densely-carpeted valley.
Getting there and where to stay
Katoomba is a 90min drive from Sydney via the M4 and the Great Western Highway, or a 2hr train ride from Central if you prefer to leave the car at home. Accommodation is plentiful in Katoomba, but book well ahead. Historic guesthouses such as Kurrara or the Metropole capture the town’s golden years of travel; and there are also countless self-contained cottages available for families and friends to celebrate a special weekend away.