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Blue Mountains News

Nicole's Blue Mountains Road Trip

By Nicole Smith
Bitten by the Travel Bug
Archived 22 Jan 2015 - Posted: 1 Oct 2014
Image: bittenbythetravelbug
A visit to Australia’s largest city, Sydney, is always an experience but there comes a time when you begin to wonder what’s outside the sprawling metropolitan area. Only a 90-minute drive from the city, the Blue Mountains offer the perfect road trip that gives you the chance to spend time in the city but also see another side to the state in a place full of natural beauty.

When planning my road trip I knew exactly where I wanted to go; I wanted to see the Blue Mountains, the mountainous region that borders Sydney’s outer metropolitan area, that my trip onboard the Indian Pacific had slowly navigated through a year earlier.

The plan was set. We would spend two nights in Sydney – I couldn’t resist the chance to explore the growing small bar scene! – and set off early on our road trip so we could spend nearly a full day in the mountains, a night in Leura – a boutique town known for its growing food scene – before heading back into the city to take the last flight home.

Into the Blue Mountains...

Leaving early the next morning we beat the traffic and headed towards the Blue Mountains, just a 90 minute drive away from the city. If you have time, and choose to take the M4, be sure to make a stop at Zumbo’s Patisserie, Australian’s master macaroon maker. His hole-in-the-wall store on Balmain’s Darling Street is the flagship store offering the greatest variety of cakes and treats. Of course, I couldn’t resist picking up my favourite – a passionfruit tart!

Being such an easy drive along the highway we didn’t stop in any of the towns we passed by, instead wanting to spend as much time as we could in Mountains.

We decided to check-in to our hotel a little later and instead begin with a tour of the National Park. Being a bit of a bush newbie I decided it was better to go with an expert from Tread Lightly Eco Tours. I chose to do the two-hour easy Wilderness Walk to get a taster of the World Heritage area.

Led by Tim, we followed the Charles Darwin Track and I was blown away at the knowledge he had of the area. We saw suspected dinosaur footprints, cave paintings left by the Indigenous people, and plenty of gorgeous native plants. We even had a lunch in a cave with a beautiful view across the valley. I had to ask Tim the question “why are the Blue Mountains called the Blue Mountains” and he didn’t miss a beat; Explaining that the dense forest of eucalyptus trees will release a mist of eucalyptus oil when they get warm and when the mist refracts the light it looks blue from a distance.

While we were out here we decided to head to Scenic World which gives guests four unique ways to experience the Blue Mountains. The first, and of course the one we started with, is the Scenic Railway that boasts it is the steepest passenger railway in the world with a 52º incline. I don’t doubt it after clinging onto my seat as we descended through a passage between two rocks and into the rainforest. It’s well worth the trip down, if not for a bit of an adrenaline rush but to see the Scenic Walkway.

Wandering around the Scenic Walkway, 2.4 kilometres of boardwalk and valley floor, the rainforest just towers above you. Amongst the Jurassic Rainforest is information about the mines and miners who worked in this place and had to get the coal up that crazy incline. If you’re lucky you might see lyrebirds, though I wasn’t quite so lucky on the day we visited.

Back up the Scenic Railway we were next ushered onto the Scenic Cableway, a large glass cable car that travels the stretch across the Jamison Valley. The cable operator shared information about the area and pointed out the Three Sisters, Orphan Rock, Mt Solitary and Katoomba Falls as we slowly crossed the 545 metre expanse, though you’ll be able to get a better view from the Scenic Skyway.

By the time we had finished experiencing all we could at Scenic World, and buying locally made products like the honey from the gift shop, we were ready to check-in to our hotel.We were staying at the Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains, located just outside of Leura, which better resembled a luxury country club than a hotel as we drove down the winding driveway. The Deluxe Rooms were something special. It was a place that perfectly suits summer or winter weathers, though amongst the rich colours, light woods, and huge comfortable bed I could imagine snuggling up and watching snow fall across the Jamison Valley, the panoramic view that I could see from my window.

I was pretty tired after our day adventuring and suggested we have an early night after dining at the hotel. After a cheeky drink at the newly renovated Sublime Lounge we headed to the Eucalypt Restaurant for a taste of the local fare.

While my friend slept in and enjoyed the pool, I took a walk around the property, past the adjoining Leura Golf Club and the stables to the segway track. Yes, that’s right I was going on a Segway Tour in the Blue Mountains.

Okay, it’s not quite as hardcore as I make it sound. There are two specially designed segway tracks around the property, including a small obstacle course, that takes you around the hotel, past the golf course as well as the rock climbing area and into the scrub. Best of all, you don’t have to be a hotel guest to take a tour!

After packing up the car and saying goodbye to the Fairmont Resort all too soon we decided to make a stop by the town centre to see what all the buzz was about.

Leura’s über cute main street – aptly named the Leura Mall – is the home of dozens of locally run produce stores. Most notably is the artisan chocolate store, Josophan’s Fine Chocolates. Be sure to stop by Teddy Sinclair if you need anything leather. The store sells unique leather goods but the original titles say that a food store needs to be set-up on the premises. To get around this the leather store now sells delicious locally made meat pies at the back of the store!

Unfortunately my weekend getaway to Sydney and the Blue Mountains was almost at an end but there was one last stop we wanted to make to fuel up before the drive back to Sydney.

The Leura Garage is something of an icon. Incorporating features of – yes, you guessed it – a garage, you’ll find an automotive lift raised high displaying pretty glassware, rusting exhausts above the wine collection and plenty of ‘rough and ready’-style charm throughout the cafe and restaurant. The food is tasty and filling, though top pick were the wood oven pizza and don’t say no to a plate of their amazing shoestring potatoes topped with rosemary salt and with a side of aioli. Mmm… I think they nearly had to roll me back to Sydney!

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This article archived 22 Jan 2015

Image: bittenbythetravelbug
Image: bittenbythetravelbug
Image: Fairmont Resort
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