The Blue Mountains in Australia are one of the best day trips from Sydney. They’re a magnificent ancient landscape, a plateau with immense deep wide valleys.
The Blue Mountains National Park extends from the western suburbs of Sydney to cover a vast area of wilderness to the west and south. I had visited years before and loved the bushwalking. We thought about taking our Little Man there, wondering what there was to do in the Blue Mountains with kids.
We planned this trip strategically. We wanted to show him the amazing Blue Mountains landscapes, and also break things up. This was possible booking hop on hop off bus tickets. So we were able to take him on some short bushwalks, and to several attractions. The more time we spent there, the more our Blue Mountains to do list seemed to grow.
You may be planning a few nights’ Blue Mountains getaway or a quick day trip from Sydney. Whichever way you do it, it pays to have a plan for the little ones. Here’s our guide to what there is to see and do in the Blue Mountains for kids.
- 1 Travelling the Blue Mountains With Kids: the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus
- 2 Blue Mountains Bushwalking
- 3 Echo Point Katoomba
- 4 Scenic World Blue Mountains
- 5 Leura Cascades
- 6 Leura Toy & Railway Museum
- 7 Jenolan Caves
- 8 When is the best time to visit Blue Mountains?
- 9 Getting to the Blue Mountains
- 10 Accommodation in the Blue Mountains
- 11 Blue Mountains Tours from Sydney
Travelling the Blue Mountains With Kids: the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus
We opted to leave the car at home for our recent Blue Mountains visit. We decided to base ourselves in the Katoomba and Leura area, and use the hop on hop off Blue Mountains buses as much as possible.
It turned out to be a wonderful idea, as the buses got us everywhere we wanted to go, and the short trips we took broke up the day nicely for our little fellow, who loved sitting on the back seat every time.
The Blue Mountains tour bus route starts at the top of Katoomba, opposite the Carrington Hotel. It continues down through Katoomba, eventually turning off for Scenic World and one of the best lookouts in the area. It then heads back to Echo Point and the Three Sisters viewpoint before running into and around Leura. Eventually it finishes back where it starts, at the top of Katoomba.
We found the Blue Mountains buses to be very convenient, and the drivers were all most helpful. On our first journey, we were asked where we were from, and Faye responded that we had recently moved over from Wales. The driver, Jimmy, wrote this down. Soon after the journey started, he began greeting passengers in their native languages. He must have gone through twenty different languages, including Bahasa Indonesia, Tagalog, Mandarin, Korean, Hindi, Spanish, German and Welsh! Everybody on board was flabbergasted. In all our years of travelling the world we had never encountered anyone or anything like this. Hats off to Jimmy – incredible.
Blue Mountains Bushwalking
There are many wonderful bushwalks in the Blue Mountains, including plenty around Katoomba and Leura. On our recent visit, our Little Man was on the threshold of turning 4 years old. We were looking for easy grade Blue Mountains walks so he could enjoy them and not tire himself out too much.
We went on a couple of wonderful bush walks while visiting Scenic World. You descend from the clifftops to the forest floor on the cableway and railway, and there is a network of boardwalks at the bottom. These turned out to be perfect for him.
The Scenic Walkway takes you on an undulating journey around the floor of the Jamison Valley. This was Sam’s first rainforest walk, and he threw all of his boundless energy into exploring it. There are a few sculptures along the way. His favourite was the pit pony at the mountain entrance – he mounted it and called out, ”Take my photo!”
He also loved the replica miner’s hut, and was amazed that it was there, hidden in the forest wilderness. The last section back to the cable car proved quite a challenge, and he only made it under his own steam because he wanted to race Mama and Dad back to the top.
We also wanted to explore at least one of the Blue Mountains tracks along the top of the mountain ridge. The catch was that we also wanted to take the stroller, knowing he would be exhausted later in the day. We sought advice from several people, who all suggested the same thing. They suggested getting off the bus at the Honeymoon Lookout stop and walking the mile back to Echo Point. This is part of the Prince Henry Cliff Walk which I had completed nine years previously.
We had a wonderful time there. He was fascinated by everything he saw, especially the sticks and stones he found along the pathway. We stopped for a picnic at one of the lookouts, where he loved clambering over the boulders. He kept going to the end of the walk, gleefully climbing the rocks on the side of the walk and jumping the metre or so down onto the path. The wildlife sculptures near Echo Point also greatly intrigued him.
As for doing the walk with the stroller, it wasn’t easy. One of my roles is the family packhorse, carrying improbably large loads on awkward journeys. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk and manoeuvring the stroller on a path not designed to take it. However, many parents wouldn’t feel the same way, especially when confronted by the sight of a flight of 50 or so steps.
Echo Point Katoomba
Katoomba is the main Blue Mountains resort, and home to Echo Point, its most popular vantage point. The most iconic feature of the Blue Mountains, the Three Sisters rock formation, is off to the left. They preside over the vast Jamison Valley, a vast forest-covered wilderness bounded by sheer rock ridges. It’s hardly surprising that the British settlers thought the Blue Mountains were an insurmountable barrier to westward exploration.
I was blown away the first time I visited Echo Point, nine years previously. If you walk to the bottom of the viewing area, you have a view of over 180°: the landscape is immense, and absolutely awe-inspiring.
Many gravitate towards the viewing area for the Three Sisters, to the left. Various legends circulate about their origin. The most popular one is that three sisters were turned to stone to protect them from the advances of three men from a neighbouring people. However, the person who turned them to stone was killed, and nobody was able to reverse the spell. It’s a place of significance to the local Aboriginal people, the Gundungurra.
It was very busy when we took Sam there, with coach loads of visitors on day trips from Sydney out exploring. There’s also a visitor centre and several cafes and shops around the viewpoint. It’s the place in which he showed least interest while we were there.
Scenic World Blue Mountains
I had been looking forward to visiting Scenic World in Katoomba for a very long time.
For me, it’s one of the best Blue Mountains attractions, both for adults and kids. The beauty of it is that you can go on the rides as many times as you want.
They have three rides, one running above the Jamison Valley, the other two down into it.
We went on the Scenic Skyway several times. It’s the largest cable car in the southern hemisphere, and a section of glass floor shows the 270 metre drop to the forest below. The views are outstanding, especially towards the Three Sisters rock formation.
The first ride we went on was the Scenic Cableway, which takes you deep down into the Jamison Valley. After a brief walk in the forest we took the Scenic Railway back up to the top. It’s the steepest passenger railway in the world, with a 52° incline. You can alter the setting of your seats, from ‘laid back’ to ‘original’ to ‘cliffhanger’. The latter setting is at 64°, which was somewhat hair-raising. I knew it might be a bit scary going down, but found myself clinging on going up!
Later in the day, we braved the journey back down into the valley on the railway. All our seats were set to ‘laid back’ for the precipitous plunge back into the forest. It was an incredible experience. The original railway on the site was used to ferry miners down into the valley to work in the mine there.
The half-hour Leura Cascades walk is one of the best Blue Mountains walks for families. We had to leave the stroller behind for this, and it was still there when we returned.
You gradually descend a partly stepped path, eventually running parallel to a stream. It then cascades down a section of rocks, finally emerging from the shade of the forest to plunge down into the Jamison Valley. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place, with the only sounds the flow of water and birdsong.
At the end of the walk you arrive at the Majestic Lookout, which is the lead shot for this feature. It’s one of my favourite Blue Mountains lookouts. The rock face to the left and forest to the right frame the ridge of Mount Solitary beautifully.
Leura Toy & Railway Museum
This turned out to be one of the best museums in Australia that we’ve visited.
The toy collection is outstanding. Sam spent a long time looking at the vintage dolls and teddy bears.
He was also intrigued by some of the toy cars and the collection of early Buck Rogers books. It was amazing how many different toys he recognised. I was always into books and music as a child so I never got to accumulate many toys. However, the sight of a collection of toy Trabants – the much-mocked car that was greatly prized in the former East Germany – had quite an effect. I would have loved to have bought one, and with ebay, you never know.
Sam made shorter work of the Railway Museum in the gardens. There’s a beautiful old locomotive in a siding beneath a tree, and a reconstructed station with all the old signage. It’s wonderfully romantic, whether you’re a rail enthusiast or just a nostalgic like us.
While waiting for our onward bus, Sam and I had a quick look in the public garden across the road. We noticed two large cartoon figures enjoying the view of the Blue Mountains, so paid our $2 at the turnstile and investigated. They turned out to be Olive Oyl (of Popeye fame) and Boofhead, an Aussie cartoon character. There’s also a small amphitheatre with a grandstand view of the valley.
One of the best Blue Mountains day trips from Katoomba is to the magnificent Jenolan Caves. You can get a coach and tour package from Katoomba with CDC Tours. You can also book Jenolan Caves tours from Sydney which include coach travel to the caves complex.
We didn’t visit the Caves on this trip, having opted to stick to Katoomba and Leura and leave the car at home.
They are among the best caves in Australia, and a very extensive system which still hasn’t been fully explored. In all, eleven different show caves are open to visitors. It’s a stunning underground environment, beautifully lit, and a world of wonder for kids.
There’s a minimum age of 10 on some of the more physically demanding tours, such as the River Cave tour and the Chifley’s Secret Chambers route. The Lucas and Imperial Caves have the easiest access.
If you’re travelling there independently by car, you can get the best Jenolan Caves deals online. Typical Jenolan Caves prices are between $42-$47 per adult per cave tour. If you want to see more than one cave, you can get the second cave tour at half price.
When is the best time to visit Blue Mountains?
The Blue Mountains weather varies greatly from season to season. In summer it can be unpleasantly hot, with temperatures often in the high 30s, far too hot to attempt any of the longer Blue Mountains bushwalks.
If this is what you’re planning to do during your visit, it’s much better to consider the Blue Mountains in winter instead. It’s much cooler, with daytime temperatures barely reaching 10°C, and dropping well below zero at night. Hiking is much more comfortable in winter – and you’re not accompanied by the swarms of bushflies that follow you in the heat.
We also loved the smells of winter in the Blue Mountains – especially the wood fires burning at the end of every day. They also celebrate a Blue Mountains Christmas in July, to give a taste of a traditional cold European Christmas rather than the hot ones you usually get in Australia.
On balance, spring is probably the best time to visit the Blue Mountains, when the temperatures are a happy medium and the wildflowers are in abundance.
Getting to the Blue Mountains
The easiest way is to travel to the Blue Mountains from Sydney is by train. The Blue Mountains train line runs from Sydney’s Central station, taking around two hours through the city’s western suburbs. The main Blue Mountains train station is Katoomba. Regular buses run from the station to Echo Point, around 3 km (2 miles) away.
Several other Blue Mountains towns are also reachable if you’re visiting the Blue Mountains by train. Wentworth Falls and Leura are very popular stops before Katoomba. Blackheath is 15 minutes beyond Katoomba, and the starting point for some great bushwalks in the Grose Valley. Beyond there, Mount Victoria is a lovely historic town with some fine heritage buildings.
Driving means that more places and bushwalks are readily accessible. The M4 Great Western Highway runs from Parramatta through Western Sydney up onto the Blue Mountains plateau, running parallel to the Blue Mountains train line for much of the way.
Accommodation in the Blue Mountains
There’s a fantastic range of places to stay in the Blue Mountains. At the top end of the range, there are some wonderful old hotels in Katoomba. There is also a good selection of mid-range and cheap accommodation in the Blue Mountains.
This time we opted to stay in the Blue Mountains Backpacker Hostel. We thought it would be a good place for Sam to spend some downtime, with plenty of things for him to play. It turned out to be an inspired choice. It’s very family-friendly, and he loved spending time there, playing his versions of pool and table tennis.
There’s another Blue Mountains backpackers option halfway down Katoomba Street, the Blue Mountains YHA. They also cater to everyone from backpackers to families, and also have excellent room rates.
One of the best places to stay in the Blue Mountains if you want to be close to bushwalks is the Echo Point Discovery Motel. It’s only 200 metres up the hill from Echo Point, so it’s ideal if, like me, you like to go for an early morning walk. It’s a 4 star with very good rates – it’s definitely among the better cheap accommodation in the Blue Mountains. The Prince Henry Cliff Walk passes through Echo Point, and the Giant Stairway descends 800 steps to the forest floor.
When Little Man’s a little older we plan to show him the merits of the Carrington Hotel, one of the best Blue Mountains hotels. It’s a beautiful, elegant heritage-listed hotel that originally opened in 1883. It was known far and wide, and early 20th century newspapers would sometimes compare it with the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. They have several room categories. Plush suites and gorgeous premier balcony rooms are at the top end of the scale. Meanwhile, you have the original Carrington experience in a traditional room with shared bathroom for as little as $135 a night.
Blue Mountains Tours from Sydney
It’s often more convenient to book yourself on a Blue Mountains tour from Sydney than do it all by yourself. You often lose time waiting for connecting buses, so if your time is limited you can make the most of it.
The Blue Mountains are among the most popular Sydney day trips, but the most you can realistically do is get around the main viewpoints in Katoomba, including Echo Point.
There are various permutations of the Blue Mountains day tour from Sydney. All include a stop at Echo Point. Some include a ticket for the Blue Mountains hop on hop off bus and/or Scenic World. Some also visit the Featherdale Wildlife Park, where you can pat a koala and see lots of other Australian wildlife. And there are also combined Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves tours, which take an hour or two longer than the others.
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing the world for over 25 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times. His images are frequently used throughout the world by tourism bodies such as Visit Britain and Visit Wales.