One of the easiest day trips you can take from Sydney is to jump on the train to the Blue Mountains. Two hours on the train and you’re there!
The mountains are quite peaceful and there are plenty of walking tracks, cafes and other activities to be had. It’s a popular destination for Sydney-siders and tourists alike, so ignore the incessant urging of bloggers to travel off the beaten path and just go enjoy yourself along with everyone else. The area’s pretty big anyway – I didn’t find it too crowded at all.
There are a number of towns to visit in the Blue Mountains, like Lithgow and Blackheath, but Katoomba is the most popular with tourists. With the train schedules and my plans for the day, I found it easiest to visit Katoomba.
As I went in July, at the height of winter, it was cold. Sydney was about 16 degrees, while the mountains had a high of 4 degrees and a bone-chilling wind that pushed the temperate down to 1 degree. There on a whim, I had a decent jacket but no scarf and gloves, so I (like many other tourists), went to raid the local shops for cold weather gear. I managed to score a scarf but no gloves – according to the woman at the checkout, the whole town was sold out of gloves!
I felt a bit silly, I’d usually be more prepared but I fell into the trap of thinking Australia = warm… despite being well accustomed to the mountains (living in NZ and all)! Embarrassment aside, I shoved my frozen claws -sorry hands- into my pockets and marched off to see the Three Sisters.
There are a number of trails in the Blue Mountains and I just started walking, aiming to reach the Thousand Stairs. Descending into the Jamieson Valley, the wind died off and my hands become slightly less claw-like.
With the signs and some deft Google Maps skills, I found the top of the Thousand Stairs and started walking down and down and down. It’s a bit of a knee-killer but wandering through the rainforest is pretty awesome, there’s even a waterfall or two.
I listened to music for awhile but mostly just walked silently, trying not to get stuck behind a big tour group of American teenagers. Walking alone was a great chance to clear my mind as well, I pretty much didn’t speak to anyone from 9 am to 6 pm, uncommon for me but blissful. The mountains also gave me space from my dorm back in Sydney. I stayed in a (full) 10-bed dorm where I was the only girl for three of my four nights. This shouldn’t have been a problem but unfortunately, it was. There were times where the people in my dorm made me feel very uncomfortable and I pretended to be asleep so they would leave me alone. The Blue Mountains felt a world away from Sydney CBD (and the dorm) and the whole day was a bit of a godsend really!
Obligatory solo traveller selfie
After walking for around four hours it was about 3 pm. I could walk up the Thousand Stairs (which I saw many brave people doing) but by the time I made it to the top, it would be almost dark and even colder, so I decided to take the reverse incline railway out of the valley.
My photos of the railway are pretty appalling given it races backward up a hill, so here’s one from the railway’s website to give you an idea.
After that, I took the train back to Sydney, ate some sushi and played flip cup in the hostel kitchen before attempting to avoid my roommates and failing dismally (that night was awful). All in all, the day (screw the night) was exactly what I needed!
I stayed in central Sydney, within walking distance of the train station so I just walked over and got on one of the hourly trains on the Blue Mountain line. There are buses from the train station to the actual mountains but it was only half an hour to Echo Point so I just walked.
At the end of the day, I bussed back from Scenic World (where the railway is). It’s really easy to find your bus and I had an Opal card so I just tagged on and rode right back to the train station.
I walked for about four hours in the mountains but you can make your walk as long or short as you’d like.