‘Once a year go someplace you’ve never been before.’
As the saying goes, I decided to embark on a whirlwind (36 hour trip) to Sydney, New South Wales just recently to cross another destination off my (seemingly never-ending) travel bucket list.
Since returning to Australia after my six months in Canada, I’ve found myself missing the mountains and landscape that was the Canadian Rockies. With that in mind, I decided to book a day trip to the Blue Mountains.
I jumped on the Experience Oz website and booked a day tour through to this stunning natural landscape.
This tour was described as my tour guide, Adam as a ‘touristy tour’ but as an interstate traveler who has never visited Sydney, I found that the tour offered enough flexibility and information to be enjoyable and memorable.
The tour costs $79 and then you can opt to purchase additional tours/activities throughout the day. With complimentary pick up from hotels in the CBD and surrounding suburbs, your day will start around 8:30am (depending on the pre arranged pickup time.) The night is yours for the taking after a scenic ferry ride aboard one of Fantasea’s vessels along the Paramatta River with stops at Circular Quay or Darling Harbour around 6/6:30pm.
This flexibility is great because you can choose the activities you want to participate in on the day and you’re not forced to stick to a strict schedule. The optional (paid) activities include a visit to the Koala Park, an Indigenous Aboriginal informative show and admission to Scenic World.
If you chose to skip one of the above activities, you won’t have to worry about sitting on the bus, you can get out and stretch your legs, breathe in the fresh air and immerse yourself in the beauty of what are, the Blue Mountains.
While a few members of the group took a stroll through the Koala Park to see some Australian wildlife, I joined the tour guide and a few other members of the group on a walk through Cucumberland State Forest to indulge in a freshly made coffee.
The drive up to the mountains is scenic so if you have a steady hand, you can get some great photos (or glimpses depending on how you prefer to capture the moment) on board the bus.
Our next stop was for a brief morning tea at a local spot, Nepean Dam. I went for a quick walk down to the edge of the lake and found a tyre swing tied to a large tree. It would be make a beautiful backdrop for a spring picnic.
Our tour guide took us to Leura, a picturesque town nestled in the Blue Mountains. On the main street, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice with a number of bakeries, cafes and boutique shops selling gourmet produce, chocolates and home wares (amongst other things). The streets are lined with blossoming trees and on the side streets/little walk ways, you’ll have the chance to admire the beautiful wall murals.
Depending on where you stop in to dine for lunch, you can spend anywhere from $5-$30 a person for a main dish. It just depends on your budget and food preferences. I opted for a mixed salad at a gourmet deli so I could take my meal and sit at a bench in the park and watch the world go by for a short time.
Once we satisfied our taste buds with some fresh meals, we headed up to the Echo Point Lookout and took in a breathtaking view of the Three Sisters mountains. Even though the lookouts were filled with people, it was a moment to remember. I recommend taking your photos and then just standing there for a few minutes just to savour the moment and beauty of the landscape. (At this point of the tour, you can either spend 30 minutes walking around the lookout or paying for an Aboriginal Cultural Show just up the road.)
Back on the road and we were driven up to Scenic World in Katoomba. For $39 per person, you can enter the park and travel via cable car across and then down (270m) into a part of the Blue Mountains. It is a family own and operated business and attracts visitors from across the nation as well as international travellers. Just a tip, if you visit Scenic World as part of a tour group, you will get to avoid the lines for tickets and to get up and down via the cable car system (on a weekend or during school holidays, the queues are extremely long with some visitors waiting over an hour so if you’re short on time, keep this in mind.)
Once you take the carriage down into the heart of the forest, there a few walking trails to embark on (of different difficulties and time). Our tour guide advised us to go on the 20 minute trail and it lead us back to the carriage which makes the 270m incline back up to the hub of Scenic World.
As our tour was running ahead of time, the tour guide treated us to two additional extras- breathtaking views of the Blue Mountains from the Cliff Drive Lookout and Cahill Lookout. Located just minutes up the road from Scenic World, the panoramic views from each location will leave you breathless. (Just goes to show that the best things in life are free..)
On the 1.5 hour drive back into the inner part of Sydney for our final tour activity, I opted to have a power nap. When I woke up, our bus arrived at the ferry port and it was time to say goodbye to our tour guide and set sail along the beautiful Parramatta River.
It was a windy and cold end to a glorious spring day but myself and a few others on board ventured out to the front of the ferry to breathe in the fresh air and gaze out at the water front properties which lined the river. The highlight was travelling underneath a bridge and being able to see the Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay and the Sydney Harbour Bridge lit up at sunset.
If (unlike myself), you have energy left at the end of the day which was bursting at the seems with activities, view points and ample opportunity to embark on your own cultural/natural landscape/gourmet adventure, Circular Quay and the CBD offer ample dining options from casual to fine dining depending on your palette and budget.
All in all, I couldn’t recommend this tour enough for international tourists or even interstate travellers who are up for a high paced day adventure without a strict schedule or hefty price tag.