I had always wanted to visit Katoomba. I wanted to experience the beauty of the Blue Mountains and see for myself this place that so many tourists choose to visit when they come to Australia. It was also a place my mum had lived when she was in her early 20s so I was interested to see this place that she had spent the better part of a year in, only to quit her job to travel solo around Australia. That’s right, my mum did this before it was cool, in a time before Instagram, bloggers and the internet in general made it seem like everyone was doing it. Nice one mum!
Somehow when I eventually packed my bag for our trip I forgot that most of her Katoomba stories revolved around how cold it was. Brisbane was experiencing some relentless heat so without thinking I grabbed a cute summer dress but no jacket. Yeah, that dress didn’t get a wear and I had to borrow one of Jarryds jackets as to not freeze. We visited in late March and while the days might be lovely and warm, the nights and early mornings can get quite cool!
We started our journey in Penrith as we had spent a couple of days there for a family wedding. On Sunday morning we went to pick up our rental car. The pick up time on my booking was specified for 10, and we arrive just late at 13 minutes past 10 only to find the rental car place locked up and a sign saying that they only open from 8-10 on Sundays. Why was this information not communicated at the time of my booking? Especially if my pick up time was at closing time! I called the number on the gate and the very unhelpful man said “15 minutes is a long time, you will just have to pick it up in the morning”. Ah, we have accommodation booked in Katoomba and no way to get there. I was feeling upset, and had no idea what we were going to do.
Luckily Jarryd pulled it together while I was sulking and started calling other rental car places in the area. We hadn’t paid for the first car yet, so could easily just cancel it without penalty. The second place was about 5 minutes down the road and it was open and they had a car we could pick up straight away. While it was a little more expensive than the original one, I didn’t care as we had a car and our adventure could continue!
In our pretty blue rental car we cranked up the tunes and headed off along the Great Western Highway towards Katoomba. It’s about an hours drive from Penrith to Katoomba, passing through all the little mountain towns along the way. We didn’t really plan to but Wentworth Falls caught my attention and we turned off to check out this popular waterfall. My first recommendation? Do not attempt this on the weekend. We literally could not get a park within a few kilometre radius. There were people and cars everywhere! From what I could tell it looked like a spectacular view but there was not a chance we would be able to get out and see it properly. We decided we would just try and visit again on our way back.
On arriving in Katoomba, we checked into our cute little Airbnb cabin which was perfect for our 2 night stay. There are a couple of main reasons why I love staying in Airbnbs. The first being that it always feels more private, and the second is they give you everything you need to feel at home while away. It was so nice to be able to relax, cook a delicious meal and enjoy a glass of wine looking out into the dense bushland in which our accommodation backed onto. It was just the escape we needed and I doubt we would have got this staying in the centre of town in a heavily populated, touristy hotel. It was also so much cheaper which is always a bonus!
Sunset at Cahills Lookout
One of my biggest reasons for wanting to visit the Blue Mountains was to get stuck into some photography and particularly work on my sunset/sunrise shots as I have always struggled with these the most. I wanted the clichéd shot, the classic view from Echo Point of the Three Sisters. So we headed down to see if the earlier crowds had cleared ready for sunset. We got a park, but it was still packed. It felt really chaotic and not what I wanted. We decided to leave, try Echo Point for sunrise instead, and we headed over to Cahills Lookout which was only a few minutes drive away.
This place was just beautiful. No crowds, just one or 2 other groups of people. It had its own spectacular view of the valley and I was very satisfied to set up my gear and watch the sun disappear behind the mountains. It wasn’t the most colourful sunset I have ever seen but it was really beautiful and felt peaceful – I was glad we had decided to come here.
Sunrise at Echo Point
The next morning, we woke up in the dark, cold and tired and headed off to Echo Point to try our luck. I am pleased to say we were about 1 of 3 cars in the area and when we walked out to the lookout felt as though we were the only ones there. As the sun started to rise behind the Three Sisters and illuminate the misty valley below I was in awe at the beauty of the scene in front of me.
The higher the sun rose, the more people joined us on the lookout platform. I didn’t want to leave until the sun was completely up, afraid of missing the ever changing valley before me. I am so glad we went back for sunrise, and 100% recommend this as the best time to visit Echo Point.
A Visit to Scenic World
One of the things I was looking forward to on our visit to Katoomba was checking out Scenic World. All I really knew about it was that there was a crazy incline train and a cable car that took you over the valley below. This sounded really cool so I wanted to experience it for myself.
We arrived at 9 am when it opened, hoping to escape the crowds. We went straight in and over to the Cableway. We had it all to ourselves, and got to experience the views as we descended down into the forest completely uninterrupted. This was probably my favourite of the 3 main ‘rides’ at Scenic World as it gave you time to appreciate your surroundings.
After a short walk around the forest below, we came to the Scenic Railway train station. I knew it was marketed as more of a thrill ride, and with a 52 degree incline it was the steepest passenger train in the world. Still, looking up at the tracks that rose directly up the mountain, I began to realise that this wasn’t your regular train ride! When the train descended into the station, it was full and everyone got off, leaving us the only ones to enjoy the journey back up. Of course we jumped in the front seat which gave us a full glass view in front of us.
As the train began moving (we were going backwards up the hill) and they played the theme song to Indiana Jones. Suddenly the train sped up and we were going up the mountain, looking directly down at the valley below us through the glass wall which had essentially become a glass floor. I was struggling to hold onto my phone (I tried to video it – it did not work) and I was sliding around in my seat thinking the entire time that I would fall off it!
When I got off at the top I was shaking and the adrenaline was pumping through me. I hadn’t actually expected it to be ‘thrilling’. Keep in mind that I am the worst person on roller coasters. That was enough of the train for me, and I decided not to worry about trying the downhill version.
We then headed over to the Scenic Skyway, which was the big cable car that takes you across the valley. By this time, there were a lot more people in the park and we packed on. I made sure to get a spot on the side we would pass by Katoomba Falls at the end with the open window to make sure I could get a photo.
I enjoyed the ride across, and the centre even has a glass floor so you can look all the way down and get a sense of how high you actually are. Probably not great if you are scared of heights, but really cool all the same!
Once on the other side we enjoyed the walk around to the lookouts, ate a snack at Katoomba Cascades and finally made our way back to the Skyway to go back across. Apparently a lot of tour buses drop people at this side of the Skyway so that this is their entrance into the park. What that meant was loooong lines waiting to get back on. It was nearly lunch time and we had plans to visit Jenolan Caves that afternoon and as we had done everything we wanted to at Scenic World, we decided to head off. I think half a day is plenty to do the activities at Scenic World. There are of course so many more walks in the area, but you don’t need the pass into the park to be able to do these.
Waterfalls & Lookouts
One of the things that impressed me the most about the Blue Mountains was the amount of incredible waterfalls and lookouts that are so accessible. This trip was short and the plan was just to check out the area rather than go on any big hikes. So most of the places we visited were just an easy short walk from the car park. I’ve now got a bit more of an idea of the areas I would like to explore more and can’t wait to return with my hiking boots! I also loved the amount of waterfalls and I know I only saw a very select few!
I have already mentioned, Echo Point, Cahills Lookout and Katoomba Falls throughout this post, but here are a few others that I think are worth checking out.
Located on the walk once you get off the Skyway from Scenic World, the Katoomba Cascades sit at the top of Katoomba Falls and are easily accessible via a short walk from the carpark of the Katoomba Reserve picnic area.
Govetts Leap Lookout
About 20 minutes outside of Katoomba is Govetts Leap Lookout. Drive along the Great Western Highway until Blackheath and turn right at the lights. This is another incredible lookout that spans as far as the eye can see and gives you a good taste as to why they are called the Blue Mountains. There is also an incredible waterfall which drops down into the valley 180 metres!
Grab a coffee at Cassiopeia on your way out to Leura Cascades. Drink it while relaxing in the picnic area enjoying the sounds of the rushing falls.
Gordon Falls Lookout
Located in Leura, I will have to believe the internet when I talk about these ones. After 2 beautiful days, on our last it was so foggy that unfortunately the view we received from the Gordon Falls Lookout was that of the inside of a cloud. We could hear the falls though and they sounded impressive. If you have a photo of Gordon Falls, please tag me @sallyslifestylejournal on Instagram so I can see what we missed out on!
Wentworth Falls Waterfall
I bet you were wondering if we ever made it back to Wentworth Falls? We did, but it was on our last day when the visibility was close to zero due to the fog. Located about 10 minutes from Katoomba in the town of Wentworth Falls, this reserve area has many walking tracks and lookouts all of which I can only assume are stunning. We did manage to glimpse the incredible falls enough to know that this place is worth a future visit. There is a walk that takes you along the edge of a cliff and passes under the falls which will be the first walk I do when I return!
Please let me know if there are any other waterfalls or lookouts in the area worth a visit! I am already planning my return trip for whenever I get a chance.