If you've not been to the Blue Mountains for a while, you might like to do what Catriona Rowntree did and rediscover it.
The Blue Mountains is a truly great destination for a fun weekend with the family. There's lots to see and do and Catriona tried out a couple of things on offer.
Buy an all-day pass and do a circuit around Katoomba and the Leura World Heritage area and take in 29 of the best things to see and do. You can hop on and hop off as you please.
You will see the famous Three Sisters at Echo Point, the beautiful rock formation towering above the Jamison Valley. Once thought to be the barrier to freedom, many early settlers believed China was on the other side.
Leura Village is considered to be the most sophisticated of the Blue Mountains villages. It has coffee houses, eateries and gift shops. Its streets are tree-lined and elegant with houses surrounded by English and European-style gardens.
The five-hectare Everglades Gardens has treasures from the 1930s. European-style gardens blend in harmony with native Australian bush and the heritage site has breathtaking views across the valley.
Leuralla Toy and Railway Museum is appealing to serious collectors and children alike. It has Australia's largest Barbie collection can you believe she just turned 50 and looks no older! The all-weather Matterhorn garden railway has a 6m-high replica of the Swiss mountain. Ameralia's Plate World has Australia's largest display of collectible plates.
From Gordon Falls Reserve you will be treated to the best views of the falls and valley and Scenic World has an electro-sceni glass floor.
Catriona's sweet tooth was satisfied at the Candy Store. You'll find lollies from your childhood and there are more than 2000 products from Australia, America, Belgium, England, Germany, New Zealand and Switzerland.
Echo Point Holiday Villas & Cottages has five self-contained villas and four country cottages. Great for a romantic getaway or family break, they are just two minutes from the Three Sisters. Accommodation is comfortable and affordable and have fully equipped kitchens. They have electric blankets, barbecues and undercover parking. It's the perfect place to base your Blue Mountains visit.
Zig Zag Railway
An absolute highlight, the Zig Zag Railway was built in the 1860s as the main transport link between Sydney
and the Western Plains. In 1910 it was replaced by a 10-tunnel deviation and is now purely a tourist attraction highlighting railway heritage. Trains and tracks are maintained and operated by a voluntary not-for- profit cooperative.
While the stretch is just 6km long, it gains 400m of altitude in its 90-minute zig zagging journey from Clarence, the top station, to Bottom Point. It has fantastic scenic views, in particular the three giant sandstone viaducts built to carry the train over valleys. It also passes through two tunnels en route.
Two trains run along the track one steam and one vintage railway motor. The railway operates Harry Potter and Thomas the Tank Engine days and children are delighted to actually meet Hagrid and the Fat Controller.
Papa Dino's Family Restaurant
When you're ready for a filling meal, Papa Dino's Family Restaurant is the place to go. Children love not only the pizza but the glass of dough and rolling pin they are given to make a fun creature, which will be baked and kept as a souvenir.
Food is old-style Italian and the wafting aroma will lead you to Papa Dino's. There are many pizza toppings to choose from, the biggest steaks in town, pasta, bruschetta, salads, crepes and irresistible desserts. They also serve gluten-free and vegetarian options.
The Blue Mountains, about two hours west of Sydney
Blue Mountains Trolley Tours cost $20 for adults and $15 for children. The hour-long trips do a complete tour around Katoomba and Leura with lots of stops. It's a hop-on, hop-off all-day system. They operate every day from the Carrington Hotel starting at 9.15am on weekdays and 9.45am on weekends. The last tours leave at 4.15pm and 3.45pm.
Zig Zag Railway costs $17 for adults one way and $25 return. Children's fares are $10 and $12.50. The train departs every day at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. Steam trains operate on weekends, Wednesdays and every day during school holidays.
Papa Dino's entrees are between $5.50 and $18.50, mains between $13 and $35 and desserts start at $5.50. They open every day from 5pm until late.
Echo Point Holiday Villas & Cottages have a minimum two nights stay. Stay for seven nights and pay for six. Echo Point Villas rates start at $115 per night. Echo Point and Forster cottages start at $160, and Loft on Cliff and Three Sisters cottages start at $180.
Virgin Blue has flights to Sydney.
One-way fares from:
- Brisbane $85
- Melbourne $99
- Adelaide $129
- Darwin $235
- Perth $245
There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the Internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at May 7, 2009 and are subject to change.
Prices correct at May 7, 2009.
For further information
Ph: 136 789
Katoomba Trolley Tours
285 Main Street
Ph: (02) 4782 7999
Toy and Railway Museum
36 Olympian Parade
Ph: (02) 4784 1169
Fax: (02) 4784 2462
The Candy Store
178 The Mall
Ph: (02) 4782 5190
Zig Zag Railway
Ph: (02) 6355 2955
Papa Dino's Family Restaurant
48 Katoomba Street
Ph: (02) 4782 1696
Echo Point Holiday Villas
36 Echo Point Road
Ph: (02) 4782 3275