Blue Mountains Accommodation

Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia

The characteristic blue haze that envelopes the sandstone cliffs and valleys of this beautiful area is said to come from the oil suspended in the atmosphere from the ubiquitous eucalyptus trees. The Blue Mountains are indeed blue, at least when seen from a distance. The overall effect with the warm sandstone cliffs and the dull green eucalypts is uniquely Australian, and the subject of many an artist's work.

This is one of the most picturesque areas of Australia and, because it was established as a holiday destination by early settlers, it has a sense of history not usual in wilderness areas. The extraordinary vertical cliffs, innumerable waterfalls, suspended lookouts and quaint walking tracks make it an ideal destination for bushwalkers and hikers, as well as the more adrenalin-addicted who like to go canyoning or rock climbing. Of course, it's also ideally suited to those who like classy hotels, a gin-and-tonic and a nice view! It is, however, so special that it has fulfilled the criteria necessary to be listed under World Heritage

Even though Aborigines had lived in this area for millennia before the arrival of Europeans, the mountains were so steep and inaccessible that they prevented the development of the interior for farming and pastoralism until Lawson, Blaxland and Wentworth discovered a way through in 1813. This route, along with the Bell's Line of Road, is still one of only two ways through the mountains to the west. Some reminders of Aboriginal occupation survive, notably in the name Katoomba, which means 'shiny, falling waters'. So abundant is water and wildlife here that the native people would have had a relatively comfortable life, and traces of their existence can be seen in rock shelters, burial grounds, middens, carved trees and rock art.

Now just a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Sydney, the Blue Mountains offer visitors dozens of spectacular views and lookouts, outdoor adventures, creative pursuits, and gastronomic and intellectual pleasures, all within a relatively compact area. If rarity is your thing, the story of the Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis) will astound you. Recently discovered, this tree was a cohabitant of dinosaurs of the Jurassic period. Only a handful of specimens survived in isolated pockets, but there has since been great success in germinating seeds, and the trees are now readily seen at Mt Tomah botanic gardens, and are even available commercially.

Katoomba is the regional capital of the Blue Mountains, and there are several towns and villages within short distances, including Leura, Blackheath, Springwood, Mt Victoria and Medlow Bath. These little towns are strung out along the ridge, some looking west down the Megalong Valley. All have their own charm, from big Victorian hotels to teashops, from fine art galleries to handcraft shops, and from sumptuous gilded parlours to cosy cottage hideaways.

The genteel arts are well represented in the Blue Mountains. Victorian ladies keen on watercolours and gardening gathered here in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, establishing native and exotic gardens which still flourish today, and engendering a love of the arts which is evident in the numerous shops and galleries specialising in creative wares, not to mention the hundreds of talented people who, inspired by the history and the landscape, have chosen to make the mountains their home and workplace.

If you are here in the spring you will see the fabled waratah, (Telopea speciosissima), the floral emblem of New South Wales and the name of the state's rugby union team. The waratah grows in the eucalypt woodlands, standing 1-2m tall in the forests, a red spiky flower at the end of a long stem. Aborigines from this area used the flower as the source of a rich nectar, while the flower features prolifically in art of all kinds. The waratah is one of those extraordinary Australian plants that actually likes a bushfire, being able to regenerate from rootstock after being burnt.

You need a few days, at least, to see the Blue Mountains, and more if you are planning some canyoning or bushwalking. These trips can take the best part of a day, and because they are so numerous and varied you will be dazzled for choice and want to do more than a few. Then you might need rest days in between where you can cruise the galleries and arty shops in Leura, take a Devonshire tea at Mt Victoria, or a classy drink at Medlow Bath.

If you like high-flying rides, you can take a scenic trip on the Skyway or Cableway at Katoomba to see the amazing scenery from on high. You can even avoid walking up the steep inclines, by taking the downward route on one of the several pathways to the valley floor and taking the little funicular train (which used to carry coal up the mountainside) back up to the visitor centre. This is the world's steepest railway.

Time Zone

The Blue Mountains time zone is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) + 10 hours. This is Australian Eastern Standard Time and is the same as Sydney and Melbourne, half an hour ahead of Adelaide and two hours ahead of Perth. Some states in Australia, including New South Wales, have daylight saving during summer, meaning that from October to late March time in the Blue Mountains is GMT + 11 hours. During summer (October to end March) there are five time zones in Australia, and three during winter.

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