A Sydney Tour Guide’s Tips For The Perfect Blue Mountains Day Trip
A Blue Mountains day trip is one of the most popular Sydney day tour options, and for good reason. I am a seasoned Sydney tour guide and have lived in the Blue Mountains and personally guided hundreds of day tours to this beautiful destination. In the blog post below I share some insider tips and answer the top 10 questions to help you choose the tour option that best suits you.
(Before I start, let me be up front and let you know that I am a private Sydney tour guide and that the Blue Mountains are one of my favourite places to take my guests. My own opinion is that they are best enjoyed on a small private tour with an experienced local guide so that you can get the best value out of your day and get beyond just visiting the more touristy locations. If that sounds interesting to you then we would be delighted to discuss the possibilities in more detail with you or you can simply make a booking to secure your personal driver and guide.)
Where are the Blue Mountains and are they worth visiting?
The Blue Mountains are due west from Sydney and they start about 60 kilometres away with the main tourist region of Katoomba and Leura being about 90 kilometres away. In my own opinion, yes they are definitely worth visiting if you have time during your visit. Their close proximity to Sydney and the unique natural beauty and diversity of this region makes them a perfect day trip.
What can I expect to see if I decide to visit?
The Blue Mountains region is made up of 7 separate national parks and is about 10,000 square kilometres in size, so it is quite vast. It was recognised in the year 2000 as a Unesco Heritage site due to its unique natural diversity. Rather than being pointy glacial mountains, you can expect to see more rounded peaks with deep valleys and towering cliffs, often with sparkling waterfalls plummeting over them. The sheer scale of the soaring sandstone cliffs and vistas frequently induces elated “WOW” responses and many guests make excited comparisons to the Grand Canyon. If you are on a smaller tour that can access the less visited spots then you may also find yourself enjoying ancient Aboriginal rock carvings and towering cool climate rainforests. All tours should take you to the iconic Three Sisters, which is closest to the township of Katoomba and is one of the most recognised rock formations in Australia. You will also enjoy crisp mountain air, abundant local bird life, ornate gardens and charming local villages like Leura.
Should we visit Scenic World on our tour? Is it worth visiting?
The short answer for this in my opinion is yes. Scenic World gives you the opportunity to experience an entirely different aspect of the Blue Mountains. It allows you to descend from the clifftops down into the deep Jamison Valley below and enjoy its unique micro climate. You may or may not find the coal mining history interesting but for me the real reason to add this into your itinerary is for the cool climate rainforest below, for the chance to enjoy some beautiful short walks (on boardwalks or on trails for the more adventurous) and to potentially meet one of the most intriguing local creatures, the Superb Lyrebird. When the weather closes in, which being mountains it can do, it also provides an opportunity to get you under the clouds and into some better visibility.
Should we visit Jenolan Caves as well on our tour?
This is a harder one to answer, as it will have an impact on the timing of your Blue Mountains day trip. The reason is that the Jenolan Caves add at least another 1.5 hours of travel time to your day and may limit you from experiencing other aspects of the region. If you absolutely love caving or the weather is rainy when you visit, then you may want to ask for this to be included in your itinerary.
What about Featherdale Wildlife Park? Should we include this in our tour?
Many Blue Mountains day trip itineraries will offer this as part of the day as it is en route to the Blue Mountains and can be easily visited on the way there or the way back to Sydney. Personally I like to ask my own guests whether they plan to visit other similar zoos during their stay and make the decision based on that. For anyone with limited time during their visit, Featherdale is a great inclusion and gives access to an array of Australian native animals such as koalas, kangaroos, emus, crocodiles, wombats and many others. If you plan on visiting Taronga Zoo or other zoos during your stay then you may prefer to spend more of your day enjoying being immersed in the mountains.
I heard about the Waradah Aboriginal Show in Katoomba, is it worth including?
In my opinion, absolutely. This is an excellent presentation that only goes for 25 minutes yet gives you an excellent introduction to Aboriginal culture and history, with music, dance, story. The local tribes are thought to have been in the Blue Mountains area for over 20,000 years so this is a great inclusion for anyone who wants to have a well informed experience. Great option especially if the weather is wet or wild during your visit. You can read more by clicking Waradah Aboriginal Show.
Are all of the itineraries and tour operators the same?
Not at all. There are operators of all shapes and sizes and many of them have very little experience with the Blue Mountains as a destination. If you choose a bigger bus or coach to tour in then you can expect that your visit will be limited to only the very touristy areas, as these are the only places that larger vehicles can access. If you want to enjoy a well balanced itinerary that shows you the best of the busier spots but also gets you away from the crowds to discover the lesser known secret spots then the best option is to choose a small or private tour. Private tours particularly can be tailored to suit your interests, tastes and fitness levels and will always give you the best experience. Click the following link to book a Blue Mountains private tour with me.
Many itineraries offer a river cruise return to the city, is this worth doing?
This is an inclusion that I like to offer when the weather is fine and when my guests are staying close to the city centre. At the end of your Blue Mountains day tour it can be perfect to sit back on a river cat (ferry service that accesses shallow regions of Sydney Harbour) and gently cruise back to Circular Quay in the city. I would generally recommend including this unless the weather is really bad. There are two options for this, one is a public ferry service and the other is a private operator which offers drinks and snacks for purchase on board. Both take around 35 minutes to get you into the city.
Can I visit the Blue Mountains as a self drive tour?
Of course this is always an option, providing you are comfortable with local driving conditions but I would only usually suggest this if you have more than one day set aside to explore. If you are limited to one day only, then you will see more and learn more by choosing a Blue Mountains day trip. Also be aware that most car rental companies in Sydney will not allow any driving on unsealed roads and this will greatly limit your ability to see the best views that the area has to offer.
What should I take with me on the day?
Whatever time of year you visit you should include closed walking shoes or runners, a light rain/wind jacket, hat, warm jacket, sunscreen and plenty of water. Temperatures in Summer (Dec – Feb) can get well over 30 degrees celsius and in Winter (Jun – Aug) temps can drop to below zero, so it’s best to be prepared.
You sound like you know what you’re talking about it, can we hire you as our guide?
I never thought you would ask 😉 Absolutely, having lived and studied outdoor recreation in the Blue Mountains and having guided hundreds of day tours to the region, I would be delighted to share this special place with you. We work with families, couples, business travellers, senior travellers and travel groups and can work with groups from 1 pax through to 20 pax and everything in between. We tailor our tours to suit our clients’ tastes and fitness levels and include premium refreshments and complimentary wifi on board during the tour. Please feel free to email us for any further advice or you can secure our services by making a secure online booking.