Explore the Blue Mountains, as a Local

Explore the Blue Mountains, as a local with these insider tips.

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Instead of a day tour, explore the The Blue Mountains as a local. Most tourists head straight for the famous lookouts that rival the Grand Canyon, along with easy access bush walks, found on the National Parks Site.

Clifftop lookout at Leura. Image by Jade Jackson.

However most visitors overlook the eateries and attractions found in other towns and instead head straight for Katoomba, wander down to Echo Point before catching the scenic railway ticking off the Blue Mountains as being done. Though there are equally spectacular lookouts elsewhere—without the crowds. The Blue Mountains City is actually made up of almost 20 towns. Most worth exploring on their own.

Every weekend road trip requires a pie stop and the Blue Mountains has some excellent bakeries. Explore an unvisited town, with one of these delicious pies. I’ve done all the hard work for you by taste-testing every pie shop up here so you can head straight to the best pie shops in the Blue Mountains.

There’s plenty of awesome cafe’s throughout the Blue Mountains but few tourists know there’s also a local coffee roaster, Cassiopeia Coffee which has it’s own hole-in-the-wall barista in Springwood and also serves some of the noted cafe’s like the Local Nomad. which is in Dargan, just past Bell (on the other road to Lithgow) and offers incredible views.

What goes perfectly with a coffee on a cosy misty mountain day? A good book and on your drive up, there’s a bunch of awesome second-hand book shops to peruse throughout the mountains. Some are found in antique shops, others are dedicated to only used books, and some also have new book shops adjacent. Regardless you can still find a bargain and occasionally a rare out of print book from the best secondhand bookshops in the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains Library network which includes the beautiful Katoomba library has lots of books on local history and flora.


Gingerbread Latte at the Gingerbread House, Katoomba. Image by Jade Jackson.

If you find yourself in the Blue Mountains on a rainy weekend, then fear not, I’ve also compiled a list of the best Blue Mountains lookouts for a rainy day. These also work well for parents with kids asleep in the car, elderly or less mobile people, or the non-outdoorsy type.

Count yourself lucky if it’s misty. It’s one of my favourite times to be in the mountains. Mt Wilson becomes other-worldly. My post on the Blue Mountains in Mist. is useful for discovering the best places to photograph the mist and fog.

Cabin in the mist. Purchase this print from my shop. Image by Jade Jackson.

There’s no better way to finish a day of exploring than with a sugar rush, and the Lolly Bug. in Little Hartley (just over the hill, past Mt Victoria) provides an eclectic selection of lollies and chocolates from around the world, and freshly made fudge. There’s also a Lolly shop in Leura but it’s smaller and often crowded.

Just past Mt Victoria in Mt Irvine (though there’s no real town) there’s a couple of farms you can pick-your-own chestnuts and walnuts. It’s best to phone ahead (number at the bottom of the article) to check the stock and ripeness. You can pick as much as you like, and pay for what you take out.

At some point, you’ll find yourself in Katoomba, it’s unavoidable but there’s three good reasons to stay. 8 Things. is like taking your tastebuds on a round the world trip with globally inspired street-food. Cheap eats, fast service and open later than most.

Pho Moi. offers authentic Vietnamese, freshly batch-cooked each day. Once it’s sold out, that’s it!

Lastly Aunty Jack’s. is a combination cafe/bar/restaurant where everything is retro, from the furniture, to the plates to the menu and music. It’s as close to time travel as you’ll get.

If you’re after an easy to follow bush walk, then the Lake Woodford Walk at Linden, follows a sealed road for the first part and then follows a fire trail. But you don’t need to walk the full trail to get nice views.

Frederica Falls at Lawson takes approximately 30 minutes each way, and follows a fire trail that loops around from Queens Road to Lawson Library (which is opposite the train station).

No trip to the mountains would be complete without a cosy cabin. There’s plenty in Wentworth Falls, Leura and Blackheath.

However, just over an hour from Katoomba is an off-the-grid tiny house complete with kitchen (including fridge and gas-cooker), hot water rainfall showerhead, air-conditioning and panoramic ceiling windows to watch the stars from bed. With no television, internet or cell-phone reception you can truly escape from it all; for a night or two. You’ll need to book in advance and take your own food but you’re surrounded by nature, without roughing it too much.

If you’re wondering what treasures are hidden in the towns you pass through on the drive up, here’s a quick summary:

Excellent Cafe’s, women’s and children’s clothes shops and a huge park along with Jelly Bean natural swimming hole.

Main street of shops, cafe’s and a performance hub space which features musicals, concerts and markets and Also nice walks through the gulley.
Start of an epic mountain bike trail and the 20 Mile Cafe has a fantastic wraparound balcony with excellent coffee and reasonably priced food.

A handful of cafe’s like The Hasty Tiger and antique shops (across the railway) plus a bush walk to a nice terraced waterfall.
American style cheesesteak and burger place, an old-school bakery and monthly markets plus several pleasant, well marked walks virtually empty, like the waterfall circuit.
Wentworth Falls
Picturesque lake, great for a picnic, with an awesome playground for kids and a short family-friendly bush walk. There’s several waterfall walks including Wentworth Falls and Weeping Rock, as well as the insta-famous Lincoln’s Rock.
Pretty street of boutique homewares shops, a teapot museum and quiet lookouts joined by a cliff top walk.

Medlow Bath
Famous for the Hydro Majestic Hotel with it’s spectacular views, however there’s a little known lookout on the other side of the railway station, past the airfield (where it becomes dirt road).
Spectacular lookouts equal to Echo Point, lots of cliff-top and valley bush walks and a huge antique shop.
Mt Victoria
Nice cafe with good pies (Piccolo), beautiful classic cinema and an annual train festival.
Little Hartley
Famous for The Lolly Bug (Lolly shop) and an historical village. Koalas have also been spotted here.
Mt Wilson
Gardens galore, famous in Autumn and spring and a pretty drive through the rainforest. No shops so bring a picnic, though some gardens (paid entry) offer tea and scones.
Mt Tomah
A 40 Minute drive from Katoomba is Mt Tomah Botanical Gardens. Beautiful in Autumn and Spring and there’s a pleasant (though pricey) cafe looking over the gardens. If you’ve made it this far then you may as well continue to Bilpin for a slice of apple pie.

Of course, like most things Australian, many towns have nicknames, feel free to use them but only if you want to be mistaken for a local. Common abbreviations include:
Wentworth Falls is referred to as ‘Wenty’
Springwood I usually call ‘Springers’ (though that might be just me)
Hazelbrook is of course ‘Hazo’
Lawson though remains as ‘Lawson’ (go figure) unless you go to the Bowling Club which has excellent Chinese food, in which case you’d be going to the ‘Lawson Bowlo’
Katoomba is usually referred to as ‘K-town’

If you really want to be mistaken for a local, then you’ll refrain from cliff-top selfies because it’s mostly tourists that fall off cliffs and need to be rescued, every other weekend. Borrow an Emergency Personal Beacon (EPB) from Springwood or Katoomba police station if you’re doing any long hikes and don’t leave rubbish, which includes cigarette butts and confetti.

Of course there are other places known only to locals. We have to keep some places secret but if you ever move here permanently, you’ll find them soon enough. Do you want to know what it’s like to actually escape the city and live within the Blue Mountains?Do you have any secret places you’d like to share? Please comment below.

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Cabin in the mist. Purchase this print from my shop or sign up below and receive a free copy. Image by Jade Jackson.

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