So you are planning your own Blue Mountains day trip, but you do not know where to start. So much to see, so much to do, but so little time, and not to mention budget constraints. That is why your local I’m Free Tours guides have come together to answer the most common questions they get asked about the Sydney to Blue Mountains day trip.
Before heading off
Before leaving, here are some things you should be considering.
Are the Blue Mountains a day trip, or should I stay overnight?
With so much to do in the Blue Mountains you will inevitably find yourself sacrificing one great thing for another for the sake of time. You can do a lot in the mountains in one day, but you sure cannot do everything. There are plenty of Bed and Breakfasts, Airbnb, hostels, and hotels in Katoomba and Leura. If a day trip will lead to too many compromises, then staying overnight is a no brainer.
What day should I go on?
The Blue Mountains is rather weather dependent! Many times people travel there only to return saying, ‘I could not see the three sisters!’. So, be sure to check the weather forecast as there can be fog, thus obscuring your view.
Also, there will be less crowds on the weekdays, but depending on your mode of transport to and from the Blue Mountains, going then could make the travel more expensive. This consideration will be discussed in more detail below.
Local Tip: The Blue Mountains host several festivals throughout the year. Checkout our month-to-month guide for some examples!
What must I see?
No Blue mountains day trip is complete without visiting and taking a picture at The Three Sisters. The Three Sisters are an unusual rock formation, approximately 200 million years old, and of huge significance to local Indigenous Australians.
Great free views of The Three Sisters can be found at Echo Point. From here, there are some short walks along the top of the ridge, as well as walks taking you down to the beautiful Katoomba Falls!
What else is there to see in the Blue Mountains?
Well, that entirely depends on you! There are many things for hikers, those liking rides, hipsters, and photographers.
|Name and location||Description|
|Wentworth Falls Lookout / Walk, Wentworth||Beautiful hike down to the bottom of Wentworth Waterfalls, with numerous vantage points along the way.|
|Evans Lookout / Rodriguez Pass, Blackheath||Difficult walking track, thus really for experienced hikers. Includes waterfalls, great views, and swimming spots in Summer.|
|Scenic World, Katoomba||Collection of cable rides, lookouts, and walkways that provide stellar views of the Katoomba area and its natural beauty.|
|Minnehaha Falls, Katoomba||Beautiful swimming spot.|
|Grand Canyon Hike, Blackheath||A 2.5 hour circuit that takes you through the 1 million-years-old Gondwana Rainforest. Considered by many to be the Blue Mountains’ best bush walk!|
|Japanese Bath House, South Bowenfels||Japanese-style hot springs and bathhouses, which include five different types of baths, as well as tea rooms|
|The Yellow Deli, Katoomba Town||A popular rustic cafe that serves up delicious locally grown organic food. The cafe is well known for being run by a local “Commune” called “The Twelve Tribes”|
Meet us in real life.
Join a free walking tour.
How should I travel to/from the Blue Mountains?
Here is a breakdown of all the main options.
|Train||$16.10 on weekdays, and $8.10 on weekends.||Flexibility, that is, you choose what to see and when.|
Accessible by train is:
|Not every Blue Mountains attraction is accessible by train. It also will take some time to get to and from each place, such as:|
|(Bus) Tours||Somewhere between $100 and $200.||You are guided the whole time, thus hassle-free.|
Most bus tours include:
|You cannot decide what to see and when, which is especially annoying for those who like hiking.|
Please know each Blue Mountains bus tour includes different stops, group size, and inclusions. Check what you want to see before booking.
|Car||Usually $50 – $100 (plus fuel)||You will be able to see whatever you like within the time you have!||Not guided, so it is harder to understand the history and culture of where you are visiting/what you are doing.|
We at I’m Free Tours certainly know how important local guides are 😛
A day trip to the Blue Mountains is as simple as hopping on a train from Central Station. One 2 hour 15 minute train and you have arrived! Given a Blue Mountains day trip from Sydney would not be complete without stopping at Echo Point (i.e., the Three Sisters), the following is focused on trains that include stopping at Katoomba Station.
When to catch the train and where?
To get to the Blue Mountains, we recommend catching a train from Central Station to Katoomba Station, which departs hourly from 4:22am on weekdays, and 4:24am on weekends and public holidays. To get home, trains bound for Central station depart Katoomba Station every hour, with the last train at 10:20pm on weekdays, and 11:08pm on weekends and public holidays. These trains are part of the Sydney network, so all you need is an Opal Card, or a contactless debit/credit card (i.e., one with a wifi symbol).
How long does the train take?
Strap yourself in for an approximately 2-hour ride. The ‘express’ trains run 4 times a day, saving you a whopping … 16 minutes! Please know the ‘express’ trains only stop at Springwood and Katoomba Stations.
How much does the train cost?
If you use an Opal card, or a contactless debit/credit card, a Blue Mountains day trip from Sydney maxes out the daily fare for an adult, which is $16.10 on weekdays and $8.05 on weekends. The cost of a return trip without an Opal card or contactless card is over $20, so if you are planning a Blue Mountains day trip, make sure you have one of these cards first!
What can I see?
Katoomba Station is the closest one to Echo Point, where you can view the Three Sisters. Once at Katoomba station, catch the public bus, 686, which is included in the Opal card network, or begin an approximately 30-minute walk. The Katoomba township is a lovely hippy village filled with cafes and second-hand shops.
One of the most commonly trekked hikes that is accessible from the train line is Wentworth Falls. The hike is again approximately 30-minutes from Wentworth Falls Train Station, and it includes many lookouts, such as Princes Rock lookout, Rocky Point lookout, and the National Pass.
One of the main downfalls of catching the train means you are limited to lookouts, hikes, and sights that are close to stations. This makes Featherdale Wildlife park, Evans lookout, Grand Canyon hike, and Minnehaha Falls out of reach.
I’m Free Tours’ local tip:
- Weekdays are much quieter, with less packed trains and attractions. This, however, should be weighed up against cheaper train fares on the weekends.
- Start your train journey early! Given that it takes approximately 2.5 hours each way, getting up early will help you make the most out of your day trip to the Blue Mountains. This is even more important on the weekends.
- Views while on the train are best from the left-hand side of the upper level.
- Echo Point can get VERY BUSY. We recommend staying until sunset because after then all the bus tours leave, giving you the whole canyon to yourself!
We have all experienced how annoying it is to organise an outing for more than just ourselves. So, why not let someone else organise your Blue Mountains day trip from Sydney! When it comes to tours of the Blue Mountains, there are a plethora of options, many of which include transportation to and from Sydney’s CBD, and some from where you are staying!
How long does a bus tour take?
All up, your tour will take approximately 10-11 hours, with it often commencing in/around Sydney between 7 and 8:30am, and returning between 5:30 and 6:30pm.
How much will it cost?
A Sydney to Blue Mountains day trip bus tour will cost you at least $89, with the average somewhere between $100 and $150. While the cost is often inclusive of food/drink, many of the main attractions along the route require another hit to your bank account. For example, purchasing a ticket to all of Scenic World’s attractions sets you back a further $49.90.
What can I see?
The bus will drop you off in front of Echo Point (i.e., the Three Sisters), but along with every other one, so be prepared for busyness! Drivers are aware of timings, so they try their best to scatter the various groups out across the morning.
Featherdale Wildlife Park – Most bus tours to the Blue Mountains include a stop at Featherdale Wildlife Park where you can pet and feed Aussie native animals. This is the best wildlife park in the Greater Sydney area, and can be quite hard to access if you are not on a tour. Please note, not all tours include the entry fee into Featherdale Wildlife Park.
Scenic World – Although the free views from Echo Point are spectacular, there is an option to experience these views at a much more exhilarating proximity: Scenic World. This attraction consists of three cable-based rail cars (very much like a fancy amusement park ride) that will take you up the mountains and through the sky for some breathtaking views. Also included is a 2.4km boardwalk walkway in the Jamison Valley. If you are lucky, the cost of this will be included in the cost of your tour.
I’m Free Tours’ local tip:
- A massive benefit of the bus tours is the knowledge of the local and/or professional guide showing you around the Blue Mountains. They can give you insight into the history, culture, indigenous history, and flora/fauna, and guide you through the lesser known locations, avoiding the crowds and staying safe along the way.
- Echo Point does get busy and a more boutique tour will try and avoid the crowds and have better lunch locations.
The third option to consider when deciding how to travel to and from the Blue Mountains is via your car, or a rental. Driving means you are in control of where you go, when you go there, and for how long. You are the director!
How much will driving cost?
The usual rental car aggregators show it is possible to rent a vehicle for between $50 and $100 per day (plus fuel on top) depending on the make and model of the car, and the time of year you are renting. This is quite cost effective considering the freedom and flexibility you are afforded. City driving can be a bit hectic, even for locals, but once out of the city driving becomes a lot more relaxed. And yes, Australians do drive on the left hand side of the road!
What can I see?
The sky’s the limit! In fact, driving yourself means you could even get to see some of the more out of the way attractions scattered throughout the Blue Mountains, such as Jenolan Caves.
I’m Free Tours’ local tip:
- Cheap car rentals can be found on William Street, between Kings Cross and Hyde Park
- We recommend only renting a car for day trips out of Sydney. Parking within the centre of Sydney, as well as the Eastern and Northern suburbs, is costly and downright painful.