• Countryside Soaring sandstone peaks
  • Country life Natural highs

Sydneysiders have been in the know for years now, hightailing it to the Blue Mountains for indulgent weekends of wildlife spotting, antiques shopping and gallery-hopping.

Virtuous visitors hike along bush paths to breath-catching vantage points or tour the majestic valleys on horseback, while others focus their attention on the stellar food and wine scene. Though tourists flock to the Blue Mountains National Park and the hub towns of Katoomba, Leura and Wentworth Falls, there are plenty of peaceful pockets away from the postcard sights.

Do go/Don’t go

The Blue Mountains’ cool climate makes for a refreshing summer retreat, but chillier winter days can still be sunny with blue skies – plus you’ll find trails and look-outs less crowded. Weekends are busy with city daytrippers, but even during winter when the temperature really drops, it’s still worth visiting to experience Yulefest (aka Christmas in July).

Getting thereView map

  • Planes Fly into Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport (www.sydneyairport.com.au), which handles both domestic and international flights. Don’t fancy the winding drive up the mountains? Charter a chopper through Sydney Heli Tours (www.avta.com.au) for the 45–60-minute flight from Mascot (near Sydney Airport) depending on your destination.
  • Trains Sydney’s CityRail service (www.cityrail.info) runs regularly between Central Station and the Blue Mountains, stopping at most of the towns and villages – including the largest, Katoomba, two hours away.
  • Automobiles To explore areas away from the train-line destinations, a car is a must. Hire one in Sydney or at its airport, where all the major players have a desk. The drive west from Sydney to Katoomba takes two hours, but you can reach the fringes of the mountains in just over an hour.
  • Taxis Several cab companies cover different areas of the Blue Mountains. From Wentworth Falls to Mount Victoria, try Katoomba-Leura Radio Cabs (02 4782 1311); between Hazelbrook and Lawson, call Blue Mountains Taxi Cabs (02 4759 3000).