The incomparable beauty of the Blue Mountains is no secret to tourists and Sydneysiders alike. Tess Gibney
The NSW World Heritage listed area has long been revered for its breathtaking panorama of blue; and has since become a thriving enclave for creative types wishing to escape the more claustrophobic atmosphere of the inner-city. It’s no surprise that come the winter months, many Sydney locals pack up and head west to soak in the sights and indulge in quality home-grown food and wine.
Though Leura, known for its “olde wordy” charm, and Katoomba, home of the world-famous Three Sisters, are stock standard visitor favourites and there’s more to this natural wonderland than meets the eye. Such a diverse and distinct environment lends itself harmoniously to a range of exciting ventures; from visiting art studios to experimenting with outdoor adventure sports. Sydney Observer has banded together to provide you with some tips to get you off the tourist trail, and on your way to uncovering some of the more artisan gems of the region.
Make your way along the Bells Line of Road
Running from North Richmond in the north western outskirts of Sydney to Bell in the Blue Mountains, Bells Line of Road is notorious for its steep and winding ascent. Providing stunning visuals, the road is home to Bilpin’s famous fruit orchards. Though typically a summer activity, the orchards are open to visit – and pick from – in periods throughout the year for a small fee. Regardless of the season, the drive through Sydney’s apple country is still worthwhile as nestled on either side of the road are orchards stretching as far as the eye can see. If you prefer your apples alcoholic, head to Bilpin’s own Apple Bar, a bar-style restaurant situated in leafy surrounds that serves local apple ciders – the “Bilpin” and “Hillbilly”.
If you’re heading to the Blue Mountains on the weekend, don’t miss the Bilpin Markets. Held at the Community Hall on Bells Line of Road, the markets run from 10am to noon every Saturday, and display some of the finest produce the Bilpin region has to offer
Bells Line of Road isn’t all about apples. In fact, just 40 kilometres along the road from Richmond lie the captivating Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah. Australia’s premier cool-climate botanic garden, the garden at Mount Tomah covers 28 hectares on the summit of a basalt-capped peak, 1000 metres above sea level. Open every day from 9:30am to 5:30pm, entry to the Botanic Garden is free of charge. Boasting colourful garden displays from all over the world, winter is the best time to get lost in the misty beauty of this mountain paradise – there’s even a Winter Wonderland self-guided adventure trail to keep any youngsters occupied.
For the garden lovers amongst us, Wildwood Garden – situated in the heart of Bilpin – is further grounds to explore the wonder of the Bilpin region along Bells Line of Road. Owned by plant enthusiasts Wayne and Sue Tapping, Wildwood Garden is spread over 25 acres and features a collection of diverse flora – from cool climate perennials and shrubs to vibrant magnolias and hydrangeas. Though it is closed through the middle of winter from June 9, Wildwood reopens at the end of August for late winter and early spring – just in time for the magnificent blooming of camellias and spring blossoms!
Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah: Bells Line of Road, Mt Tomah NSW 2758, ph: (02) 4567 3000
Wildwood Garden: 29 Powell Road, Bilpin NSW 2758, ph: (02) 4567 2194
Adventure time in the wild Blue Mountains
Keen for something more adrenalin inducing than a slow meander down country roads? The unique environment of the Blue Mountains is a natural facilitator of adventure sports such as horse riding and extreme segwaying. If you’re interested in something more fast-paced to act as an aside to the serenity of eating, drinking, sight-seeing and gallery-going, look no further.
Megalong Valley is a sprawling expanse of green, snuggled at the bottom of the rocky precipices the Blue Mountains are so famous for. Accessible via car from the Great Western Highway, the drive down to the valley alone is unforgettably transfixing. ‘Megalong’ literally means ‘valley below the cliffs’ in the Aboriginal dialect and the descending road winds through a lush rainforest glen sporting a canopy of tree ferns, caves and towering gum trees. Primarily the precinct of local farmers, the valley has recently become popular with tourists looking for an authentic bush experience. Horse riding is a favourite way to explore the expansive valley; with trails taking you along rocky ridges and gullies. Transported to a time where men and women used horses as their main mode of transport, this is an ideal way to take in the breathtaking sights of the majestic Megalong Valley. Horse riding packages can be booked through the Megalong Valley Heritage Centre and the Megalong Valley Farm.
Horse riding not extreme enough for you? Segwaying through the Blue Mountains’ dense forest and bushland should do the trick. The latest transport craze, segwaying is certainly an alternative way to sight-see, and one that will most definitely get you off the beaten track. An ideal activity for families, Segway packages can be booked through Segway Blue Mountains; with tours including safety training and group trail riding.
Megalong Valley horse-riding: Megalong Valley Rd, Megalong NSW 2785, ph: (02) 4787 8818
Segway Blue Mountains: 1 Sublime Point Road, Leura NSW 2780, ph: 0418 229 539