13 March 2014
In contrast with the buzzing and vibrant city life that Sydney offers, the Greater Blue Mountains Area, is a World Heritage natural wonder and peaceful retreat. Interacting with nature feels new every single time and for me, some of the experiences I had in the Blue Mountains were firsts. I’ve said before that New South Wales is characterized by its diversity, but also its proximity. You have hundreds of different experiences at your disposal with only a short distance between them.
To kick things off, I twisted through holes underground in pitch black darkness in a guided plughole tour of the Jenolan Caves. What an incredible experience. The tour’s adventure experience is interwoven with a history lesson about the brave souls that mapped the cave by mere candlelight. Our journey in the caves was lit by LED headlamps rather than candles, but it retains a primal feeling. There’s a fine line between peace and awe in the cave where you realise how vast nature can be both above and below ground. Skidding down natural slides, climbing down cracks and scrambling across smooth calcium deposits are things you just don’t get to do everyday. I couldn’t recommend it more.
Emerging back above ground, there are other natural wonders to explore. Blue Mountains Adventure Company specialises in turning nature into a complete playground. Abseiling waterfalls, bushwalking, scrambling wet boulders and doing waterjumps are all in the itinerary. I felt like a little kid exploring outside again. The impulse to jump off things into the water rushed over me quickly, and guess what? It’s okay. Scratch that––it’s encouraged! At the end of the canyon, the Empress Falls pour 30 metres down into a ravine. Water gracefully falls through what feels like a scene out of Avatar. In this movie, however, you’re the hero as you abseil down the waterfall. Check it out:
Award winning tour operator, Life’s An Adventure, is aptly named. Every possible way to traverse the Blue Mountains’ scenery is an option with them. Our bike ride through the trails led us to the legendary Hanging Rock. Every time you hop on a bike here you are so handsomely rewarded for your travels, and this was gold. I could’ve spent all day there doing nothing but admiring the view. If you look closely enough, there are bolts lodged into various places along the cliffs, exposing the paths of daredevil climbers that also love the region. For a vista with brilliantly easy access, head to Scenic World for their view of the iconic Three Sisters rock formation, Mount Solitary, Katoomba Falls and the Jamison Valley.
All this activity definitely leaves you with an appetite. Fortunately, the Blue Mountains have perfect establishments to whet your appetite. In Katoomba, the famous Carrington Hotel has so many options within its facilities including a brasserie & bar, hotel restaurant Irish pub, and a welcoming rooftop beer garden. Cassiopeia Specialty Coffee on Lurline Street has all the enthusiasm for the bean that you’d find in the most dedicated shop in the city. And for a night out, Leura Garage just down the road is a converted car garage that boasts an incredible vibe of modern architecture, fusion dishes and local wines. The staff at Leura Garage are completely accessible and genuinely interested in providing you with the best experience. So much time and effort has gone into each facet of their restaurant. When you’re finally ready to wind down, head over to the Carrington Hotel or the Palais Royale for a night in Katoomba’s architectural history. More simply, the Blue Mountains YHA hostel is an affordable stay that will leave you wondering if you actually checked into a hotel and not a hostel.
Whatever you choose to do in the Blue Mountains, it will be a choice well made. It’s almost impossible to not enjoy your time amidst one of the most beautiful landscapes Australia has to offer. Hop on a train or jump in the car to see this spectacular region – it will be one of the best choices you make of late.