Explore the Blue Mountains, as a Local

Explore the Blue Mountains, as a local with these insider tips.
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Instead of taking a day tour, explore the The Blue Mountains as a local. Most tourists head straight for the famous lookouts like Echo Point, that rival the Grand Canyon, however there is much more to the Blue Mountains than busy lookouts.

Clifftop lookout at Leura. Image by Jade Jackson.

Many visitors overlook the eateries and attractions found in smaller towns and instead head straight for Katoomba, because it’s the closest to Echo Point, before catching the scenic railway into the valley, ticking off the Blue Mountains as being done.

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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. (it’s since changed it’s name, but the cafe is still there), 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.

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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 where 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 only 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!

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Lastly Aunty Jack’s. (another place that has since changed it’s name but the place is still there) 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).

There’s plenty of motels and hotels to stay at in the Blue Mountains but a little further on, (about an hours drive from Katoomba), you can escape to your own private tiny house, in the bush, with no neighbours. The off-the-grid tiny house has a kitchen (including fridge and gas-cooker), hot water rainfall shower head, 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 the Blue Mountains, here’s a quick summary:

Glenbrook
Excellent Cafe’s, women’s and children’s clothes shops and a huge park along with Jelly Bean natural swimming hole.
Springwood
Main street of shops, cafe’s and a performance hub space which features musicals, concerts and markets and Also nice walks through the gulley.
Woodford
Start of an epic mountain bike trail and the 20 Mile Cafe has a fantastic wraparound balcony with excellent coffee and reasonably priced food.
Hazelbrook
A handful of cafe’s like The Hasty Tiger and antique shops (across the railway) plus a bush walk to a nice terraced waterfall.
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Lawson
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.
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Leura
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).
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Blackheath
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.
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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.
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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.

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If you would like a detailed, day by day itinerary of Australia, including how to get there, for all activities, you can find that here. If you need flights to Australia, check the latest travel deals here, or search flights here. You can book any aspect of your Aussie Adventure, all right here.

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 like to escape the city and live in a National Park?

Do you have any secret places you’d like to share? Please comment below.

Recommend reading:

  • Lonely Planet Guidebook: Australia
    Lonely Planet Australia is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Cruise magnificent Sydney Harbour, grab a coffee in a Melbourne laneway or head off on an outback adventure; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Australia and begin your journey now! 
  • Best Bushwalks in the Blue Mountains
    The third edition of the bestselling Blue Mountains Best Bushwalks is the perfect companion for the bushwalking fan. The book features 66 different walks, varying in length from 30 minutes to two days, Accurate, full colour maps and step by step directions.
  • Force of Nature by Jane Harper (fiction)
    From the author of the Sunday Times top ten bestseller, Sunday Times Crime Book of the Year and CWA Gold Dagger Winner, The Dry. Jane Harper’s new novel, The Lost Man, is out now. FIVE WENT OUT. FOUR CAME BACK…Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.
Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository
Cabin in the mist. Purchase this print from my shop. Image by Jade Jackson.

Wondering why you should book via my site? Here’s why.

Thanks for reading!
Happy travels
cheers,
Jade Jackson – Listen to my podcast Jade Talks Travel
Travel Writer | Podcaster | Photographer

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  1. […] in the Blue Mountains, where I live, just a short trip west of Sydney, busloads of Chinese tourists arrive everyday at Echo Point to see […]

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