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Free scenic attractions on the Blue Mountains

Tourism is all about fun. But there are also places where you find yourself caught in a tourist trap. Everything is expensive. And sometimes you would think everyone likes to syphon the money off and the blood out of you. Well, that’s a reality in tourism trade. Do you want a good feeling or a wonderful view? You pay.


Travel to the Blue Mountains National Park, although you still have to pay for some stuff, there are places and things to do that are for free. That’s right. You don’t have to pay fees. And it’s more fun. 


The Three Sisters in Katoomba


The Three Sisters – Meenhi, Wimlah, and Gunnedoo – want you to view them for free. This unique rock formation doesn’t want anybody to collect money from you. But of course, you have to pay parking fees first — $3.80 for the first hour and then $4.40 per hour after that. Still expensive, mate!


But the charm of the Three Sisters and spectacular views on Echo Point are for your eyes to feast on without taking out a dollar from your pocket. Millions of tourists come to see the iconic Three Sisters every year. So the profits of some enterprising folks must have come from somewhere else.   


Govetts Leap in Blackheath


One of the most impressive waterfalls on the Blue Mountains, Govetts Leap provides you with a wonderful accent to the spectacular landscape of the Grose Valley. And yes, the views are for free. Walking down the track leading to the outlook is also for free. Govetts Leap is always accessible.


But you may have to pay the parking fees though. And if you want to buy some souvenirs in the town of Blackheath, you have to open up your purse for some cash. 


The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden in Mount Tomah


Focusing on the conservation of cool climate plants, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden offers you some great views to feast on and it showcases over 900 species of plants including the endemic ones. You can have a family picnic with the botanical garden as a backdrop without paying a single cent. You don’t have to pay for entry fees. And yes, guided tours are also for free. The guides are volunteers and they have great programs and workshops for families and children.


The National Pass to Wentworth Falls


Track the trail that Charles Darwin used to walk on to Wentworth Falls. And yes, the National Pass connecting to Charles Darwin Walk for you to have a wonderful view of Wentworth Falls is for free. No entry fees collected. So you can save some dollars for a beer later in the night.  


Leura Cascades


I would not advise you to visit Leura Mall because it is guaranteed you won’t save money. Visit instead Leura Cascades and have a calm and relaxing family picnic. From there you can follow the trails to other waterfalls nearby — Bridal Veil, Linda, Lila, and Leura Falls. Leura Cascades is easily accessible by car since its located along Leura’s Cliff Drive. Yes, it’s also free.


Take a virtual tour of the Blue Mountains through this blog: Exploring Sydney’s Blue Mountains

Crossing the Great Dividing Range

Crossing some parts of the Great Dividing Range would be an interesting road trip. From the Hunter Region, Putty Road cuts through the mountain ranges. It leads you to the picturesque Blue Mountains National Park located 50 kilometres west of Sydney.   


The trip enables you to traverse a section between the national parks of Wollemi and Yengo. The final destination must be the tourist town of Katoomba. Upon reaching Katoomba, spectacular views of the Blue Mountains await. At a lookout on Echo Point, you can view the storied Three Sisters, Mount Solitary, Narrow Neck Plateau, and the Jamison Valley. Take an hour or two of bushwalk you will reach the base of Katoomba Falls.


The Blue Mountains is a part of the Great Dividing Range, a series of mountain ranges, ridges, and plateaus. The Great Dividing Range is also called the Eastern Highlands. It is the world’s third longest mountain range. Starting from Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula in the north down south to New South Wales it bends westward to Victoria, finally dissolving in the Grampians. That’s 3,700 kilometres of rugged mountainous terrains and highlands.


Lying parallel to the eastern coasts of Australia, the Great Dividing Range comprises Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, and Victoria. The highest peak is the 2,228-metre high Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s tallest mountain peak.


Dotted with waterfalls and waterways, it is the headwaters of Australia’s main rivers. Covered with verdure ancient rainforests, it also showcases a diverse flora and fauna. Eucalyptus forests make the Blue Mountains, a portion of the Great Dividing Range, blue seen from a distance. The azure hue gives you a sense of awe, mystery, and fascination.     


Within the Great Dividing Range are many clusters of mountain ranges declared as national parks and conservation reserves including the Grampians, the Blue Mountains, the Dandenong Ranges, Wollemi, and Alpine National Parks among many others. 


Along the way, while crossing the highlands, wild kangaroos and other wild animals can be spotted playfully grazing on the roadsides. On the forks and branches of eucalyptus trees above, there’s a chance to see some koalas. But because of the speed of the bus, you could hardly see them.


It would also be a challenging adventure to explore the Great Dividing Range from Queensland to Victoria. But that is a dream for now. One could only imagine the spectacular views of mountains, ridges, plateaus, escarpments, and valleys. Impressive landscapes, waterfalls, waterways, and wildflowers await as well as wild animals and extreme weather. Getting lost in the wilds is easy though. Getting back on track, however, is not. Let’s stick to the road trip.


Drunk last night with friends over a few bottles of wine or of vodka in the Hunter Valley, the journey to the Blue Mountains is justified. Well, the scenic views of the mountain ranges are more than enough to give you a sense of calm and serenity. The sound of the waters falling off the gorge of Wentworth Falls takes your hangover away. Or better yet, just drink plenty of water or fruit juices and enjoy the experience of the Great Dividing Range.


For more information and tour insight on Blue Mountains, please see our blog post: The iconic Three Sisters of the Blue Mountains

The iconic Three Sisters of the Blue Mountains

Under the azure sky stand the three pillars of stone, the Three Sisters is naturally formed by soil erosion throughout time. Sunlight coats them golden and glittering. The spots of green vegetation on the rocky cliffs and the surrounding valley provide a picturesque backdrop, like a masterful work of art, painted by the hand of nature.


When in Sydney, travel 50 kilometres northwest, to the rugged mountain ranges of the Blue Mountains. Then head straight to Jamison Valley, to an escarpment on the north. There, at Echo Point, you have a magnificent vantage point to view up close the storied Three Sisters.


Three towering rock pillars standing on a sandstone bedrock are named Three Sisters: Meehni, Wimlah, and Gunnedoo. The strange looking sandstone rock formation has been a cultural and iconic landmark of the tourist town of Katoomba in the heart of the Blue Mountains.   


Natural elements such as wind, rain, and the waterways of Jamison Valley caused the wearing away of the soft sandstone. As time passed by, there gradually formed the three stone pillars of which the tallest is Meehni at 922 metres. The shortest is Gunnedoo, standing 906 metres tall and in the middle stands Wimlah at 918 metres high.  


Aboriginal myths, legends, and stories shrouded the Three Sisters. Some stories were created to arouse the interest of the visitors to the locality of Katoomba.


It was said a witch doctor turned the three sisters into stone. They’re supposed to marry the young men from another tribe. But traditional tribal laws had forbidden them. Out of youthful passion, the young men abducted the sisters which stirred a violent war between tribes. A Katoomba witch doctor wanted to protect the ladies by petrifying them. Unfortunately, the witch was killed in the war.


Today, the three sisters stand as a reminder to both the locals and tourists alike regarding the futility of wars. Of course, the story is made up by a Katoomba local circulated in the 1920s and 1930s. Whatever the legends tell, these rocks were formed by nature for millions of years.


You can have a bush walk on the trail connecting Echo Point and the Three Sisters down into the valley floor. They call the trail Giant Stairway. Upon reaching the valley floor, stroll down a little further via the Federal Pass for around an hour and a half to reach the Katoomba Falls.


If you feel climbing back to the escarpment would be too much, you can opt to take the Katoomba Scenic Railway for some extra dollars.  


Reflect on the mysteriously fascinating beauty of the Three Sisters. By day, the sun gives them colour. By night, floodlights are projected against the rocks. The result is a spectacular view of the sisters against the backdrop of a dark night sky.


Behind the Three Sisters, Mount Solitary stands in solitude surrounded by the verdure rainforests and the rugged canyons of the Blue Mountains.


A trip to Katoomba to see the iconic landmark is sure a magical experience.

Exploring Sydney’s Blue Mountains

At Echo Point, an escarpment and a lookout in Jamison Valley, you get an incredible vantage point to view the storied Three Sisters. Standing proudly on the sandstone bedrock of the Blue Mountains, this rock formation is one of the iconic landmarks of New South Wales.


On the same location, the impressive Mount Solitary, a table-like mountain standing 950 metres high can be seen not far away. Pan out a little farther to the right. Under the azure sky, lies the Narrowneck Plateau within a viewing distance. The plateau consists of a 1,000-metre high canyon and a rugged terrain surrounded by verdure rainforests. 


Covering over 11,000 square kilometers of land, the Blue Mountains is a Cordillera region in New South Wales. It is located 50 kilometers west of the metropolitan city of Sydney.


The Blue Mountains area consists of mountain ranges, plateaus, and rocky peaks founded on the sandstone bedrock of Sydney Basin. The highest unnamed peak stands 1,189 metres high and the lowest is Mount Irvine at 850 metres.   


Listed as a World Heritage Site, the Blue Mountains is a national park and a conservation reserve region hosting hundreds of varieties of Australia’s endemic fauna and flora. The verdant vegetation of gums and eucalyptus forests made the mountains blue emitting a blue haze, creating a dramatic hue of the mountain ranges.


The rainforests and waterways are home to rare native wild animal species including the elusive platypus, spotted-tailed quoll, yellow-bellied glider, long-nosed potoroo, a variety of reptiles, crustaceans, etc. Koalas and kangaroos are a common sight in the wilds as well as the many different species of colourful and lovely birds.   


Other than the amazing views from the lookout, you can also take a bush walk on the Giant Stairway, a walking track connecting Echo Point and the Three Sisters descending into the valley floor.


At the quaint and tourist township of KatoombaScenic World, a tourism complex, operates Scenic Railway, Scenic Skyway, and Scenic Cableway.


Conquer your fears by taking a ride of the world’s steepest funicular railway, the Katoomba Scenic Railway. It was built in 1878-1900 as part of the series of interconnected mining tramways.


Try the Scenic Skyway, too. It is an aerial cable car that follows a line connecting one sandstone cliff to another. Or the Scenic Cableway which is Australia’s steepest aerial cable car.


At the heart of the Blue Mountains, there are some picturesque waterfalls such as the magnificent Katoomba Falls. You can view the waterfall from a cable car over 270 metres above Jamison Valley.


The most impressive of the region’s waterfalls is Wentworth Falls, also near Katoomba. Then there are also other equally impressive waterfalls in Govetts Leap Falls, Minnehaha Falls, Vera Falls, Gordon Falls, Leura Falls, and Empress Falls.


Head southwest of Katoomba and follow the trail to the limestone caves of the Jenolan Caves. 


Exploring the Blue Mountains is a memorable experience where, other than its stirring hues and fascinating views, there’s a lot of opportunities to learn more about the aboriginal people — their heritage, history, culture, and arts.


We are all travelers in this life. We are not supposed to be stationary or be stuck in a place forever. Exploring the Blue would be a fun start. Well, Australia is a beautiful country and there’s more fun exploring its scenic treasures.