20 reasons to visit the Blue Mountains

ANDREW TAYLOR
Last updated 05:00 28/07/2014
Blue Mountains

CROWD PLEASERS: the Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters.

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Wowing visitors for millions of years, the Three Sisters have long been guaranteed crowd-pleasers in the Blue Mountains.

1 START YOUR ENGINES

The decor of Leura Garage menu (84 Railway Parade, Leura) pays homage to the site's former life as a car mechanics' workshop, with car tyres and a hydraulic lift, but the menu outshines any grease monkey's lunchbox.

The menu sizzles with pork fennel meatballs, Trunkey Creek pork ribs and a delectable range of pizzas.

The wine menu features local drops alongside some welcome guests from Europe.

Owner James Howarth is a convivial host who may lead guests astray with cocktails such as the martini-based Saffron Accelerator and Bombay and baby basil Smash.

See leuragarage.com.au.

2 SISTER ACT


A column in Lucas Cave.

Wowing visitors for millions of years, the Three Sisters have long been guaranteed crowd-pleasers in the Blue Mountains. Located on the north escarpment of the Jamison Valley, the extraordinary rock formations were sculpted by erosion and appear to change colour throughout the day.

Equally fantastic are the legends surrounding their creation. Tourists are told that the sisters - Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo - fell in love with three chaps from another tribe - a romance forbidden by tribal law - and were turned to stone by an elder who later died in battle.

But that may just be a story as tall as the Sisters themselves. See visitbluemountains.com.au.

3 FOOD WITH A VIEW

With jaw-dropping views stretching as far as the lights of Sydney, it's best to take in the surrounds of Nineteen23 (1 Lake Street, Wentworth Falls) before the first course arrives. Happily, the food dished up by chef Will Cowan-Lunn, formerly head chef at Rockpool Bar and Grill Melbourne, rises to the occasion.

Housed in the dining room of Silvermere Guesthouse, Nineteen23 offers a degustation and a la carte menu matched with fine drops from wineries in the Central West of NSW. See nineteen23.com.au.

Leura Garage restaurant, Leura.

4 WALK ON BY

With lush rainforests, stunning lookouts and surging waterfalls traversed by endless trails, the Blue Mountains is a bushwalkers' paradise. Walks range from the short and scenic - the 800-metre, 45-minute Princes Rock walking track at Wentworth Falls - to more challenging trails like the 1.5-kilometre, two-hour Lyrebird Dell walking track at Leura.

Walkers in their prime should tackle part or all of the 44-kilometre Six Foot walking track that starts near Katoomba and follows an 1884 horse track past waterfalls and rivers into the Megalong Valley before scaling the range and finishing at Jenolan Caves. See visitbluemountains.com.au.

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5 STEP BACK IN TIME

Shop for history at any one of the countless antique and collectible stores in the Blue Mountains.

The Victory Theatre Antique Centre (17 Govetts Leap Road, Blackheath) is a treasure trove of rare china, oddball curios and antique jewellery, while Bygone Beauties (corner Grose and Megalong Streets, Leura) offers shoppers teapots - thousands of them - as well as serving a silver service high tea or Devonshire tea. See victorytheatre.com.au; bygonebeautys.com.au.

6 ROOMS WITH A VIEW

Stay in one of the Blue Mountains' picturesque spots at the five-star Lilianfels Resort and Spa (Lilianfels Ave, Katoomba). The 85-room country house is set in beautiful gardens with a gymnasium, infinity swimming pool and tennis court.

Each room has plush furnishings and is decorated with Wedgwood wallpaper, while the marble bathrooms with full-sized baths are ideal for long, lazy soaks. The Lilianfels Day Spa offers a range of massages, body and facial treatments using Sothys products.

Or replenish energy levels with cakes, sandwiches and a glass of bubbly at the Lilianfels High Tea. See lilianfels.com.au.

7 ELEGANT EATS

Dine judicially at the award-winning, hatted Darleys restaurant in the lovely grounds of Lilianfels Resort and Spa. Named after Sir Frederick Darley, the sixth Chief Justice of NSW, Darley's evokes the style of a more elegant age, with its ornate open fireplaces, crystal chandeliers and leadlight windows.

Executive chef Lee Kwiez uses regional produce to dish up an exquisite menu of dishes starring Moreton Bay bugs, Queensland spanner crab, "Glacier" tooth fish and Cape Grim beef to name a few.

The wait staff are impeccably polite, refreshingly unfussy and always ready to top up glasses. See darleysrestaurant.com.au.

8 CALL OF THE WILD

Swim, jump and abseil like you're Bear Grylls on one of the canyoning tours run by the Blue Mountains Adventure Company (84A Bathurst Street, Katoomba). The World Heritage Area has countless canyons to explore and a guided tour is one of the best ways to get off the beaten track safely and without harming the fragile wilderness.

A good level of fitness is required to abseil, swim, scramble on slippery ground and bushwalk up steep slopes. This company of thrillseekers also runs bushwalking, mountain biking and rockclimbing tours. See bmac.com.au.

9 ARTISTIC RETREAT

Wander through a garden of nudes at Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum (14 Norman Lindsay Crescent, Faulconbridge). Norman Lindsay bought the Maryville property from Sydney department store owner Francis Foy in 1912, renamed it Springwood, and lived his famously debauched life there until his death in 1969.

Lindsay's erotic artwork often ran foul of the censors and the gallery has a selection of his finest watercolours, sketches and oil paintings. See normanlindsay.com.au.

10 TOP VIEWS

Scenic World offers visitors to the Blue Mountains the chance to traipse through rainforest without getting your feet wet along more than two kilometres of boardwalk after a hair-raising descent down the scenic railway.

Or get a bird's-eye view of the Three Sisters, Katoomba Falls and beyond from the scenic cablecar as it crosses the valley, hundreds of metres below. See scenicworld.com.au.

11 RELAX ON A HIGH

Erase the tension caused by so much fine food and scenic views with careful handling from the massage therapists and beauticians at Spa Sublime (9 Penault Avenue, Katoomba).

Princesses are offered their choice of seasonally scented Akorah beauty products before being whisked away for pampering with a range of facials, polishes, mud wraps and massages.

Princes have their own choice of manly maintenance treatments to deal with rough hands, cracked feet and stressed-out skin. See spasublime.com.au.

12 MARKET ECONOMY

Spend a penny under the gaze of a youthful Queen Elizabeth II at the Leura Handmade & Produce Market (137 Megalong Street, Leura). Held every Sunday and second Saturday at Leura's Country Women's Association Hall, the market is an emporium of the freshly baked and picked, homemade and handspun, preloved and preserved.

Other bargains in the Blue Mountains can be discovered at the Magpie Markets at Lawson Public School and Blackheath Community Market at Blackheath Public School. See visitbluemountains .com.au.

13 CULTURE CLUB

Opened in November 2012, the Cultural Centre features the Blue Mountains City Art Gallery, which has an upcoming exhibition Black and Blue in which illustrators and writers explore the unsolved mysteries and myths of the mountains.

The centre also features the World Heritage Exhibition, which aims to educate visitors about the unique environment, history and culture of the Blue Mountains region. See bluemountainsculturalcentre.com.au.

14 TOY STORIES

Exploring one of the region's oldest heritage-listed homes and its five hectares of gardens is reason enough to visit Leuralla (36 Olympian Parade, Leura). But it is the vast collection of toys and model trains amassed by Clive Evatt QC that has to be seen to be believed.

An army of teddy bears face off against Australia's only permanent display of Barbie dolls, while tin toys and NSW Railways memorabilia round out this unique museum. See toyandrailwaymuseum.com.au.

15 GREAT DANES

The stone-terraced gardens of the heritage-listed Everglades (37 Everglades Avenue, Leura) are yet another shining example of Danish ingenuity.

Danish-born landscape designer Paul Sorensen turned five hectares of overgrown orchard and bush overlooking the Jamison Valley into a series of formal European-style gardens interspersed with native flora.

Everglades House is a monument to Art Deco style as well as the latest in 1930s technology like bent glass and Perspex towel rails. See everglades.org.au.

16 FALL IN LOVE

Marvel at the changing colours of the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah. The cool-climate garden of the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust covers 28 hectares of a basalt-capped peak 1000 metres above sea level and specialises in plants from cooler regions of the world.

Autumn transforms the grounds into a kaleidoscope of autumn tones - oranges, yellows, reds and browns. There are daily guided walks, a safari for kids or check out The Breathing Conifer by artist-in-residence Phillippa Carnemolla. See rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/tomah

17 WILD AT ART

Creative types tend to care for the environment so it's no surprise to find a group of artists working and teaching in a self-sustainable eco art village.

The Wild Valley Art Park (321 Blaxland Road, Wentworth Falls) has artist studios, an art gallery, sculpture garden, classes and workshops for the artistic and environmentally aware.

Its calendar of events include a weaving exhibition in August and the Draw on the Mountain festival in September and October. See wildvalley.com.au

18 FESTIVE TIMES

The hills are alive with the sound of festivals. From music, literature and arts to food and flowers, barely a week goes by in the Blue Mountains without a celebration of the good things in life.

With roaring log fires, Christmas fare and the occasional snow fall, Yulefest (yulefest.com) is celebrated from June to August and is one of most popular festivals.

Winter Magic celebrates the solstice on June 21, while music lovers have the choice of the Elvis Festival (August 15 to 17) or Blackheath Choir Festival (August 22 to 24). See visitbluemountains.com.au.

19 THE SOUND OF MUSIC

The Clarendon Guesthouse (68 Lurline Street, Katoomba) is the Blue Mountains' iconic music venue, with its 100-seat theatre hosting everyone from hellraisers Tex Perkins and Tim Rogers to Renee Geyer and Sarah Blasko.

Upcoming gigs include shows by Kav Temperley (Sunday, July 27) and "Van the Man" (Saturday, September 20), while The Goon Show Live plays on Saturday, July 26. See clarendonguesthouse.com.au.

20 CHAMBER MADE

Jenolan Caves (4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves) are a wonderland of limestone formations and underground rivers that can be explored by visitors of varying fitness and daredevilry.

There are 11 caves open to the public, with night tours and adventure caving - dry, dampish and a bit wet - for those seeking thrills, as well as a range of bushwalks for visitors who want to keep their heads above ground.

On most Saturday afternoons, underground performances are held in the Cathedral Chamber of the Lucas Cave, which is reputed to have acoustics as fine as any concert hall. See jenolancaves.org.au.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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