Back in May 2015 I had the opportunity to visit Sydney for the very first time. Like most eager and excited tourists, I was armed with a pretty long list of cool places to visit and things to do during my holiday. At the time I was living in Perth and had never ventured outside of Western Australia. So I was keen to see how New South Wales compared and what the state had to offer.
Top of my to-do-list was a trip out to the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains, home to approximately one million hectares of beautiful bushland and eucalyptus forests, mesmerising waterfalls and rugged sandstone cliffs. Not to mention some of the most spectacular views New South Wales, and Australia, has to offer.
The Blue Mountains National Park is located around 75 km west of Sydney. How you explore the area will depend on your budget. You can hire a vehicle and drive yourself – it takes around 90 minutes to two hours by car. Alternatively, catch the train from Sydney’s Central Station to Katoomba and use the hop-on-hop-off big red sightseeing bus, or book yourself onto a private tour. We opted to give the big impersonal group tours a miss and decided to look for a smaller tour operator. After doing a little bit of research (thanks Google!) we came across Blue Mountains Eco Tours.
Owned and operated by Paul and Jenny, Blue Mountains Eco Tours offer friendly and informative bespoke tours for small groups of people, usually no more than five or six. Paul has over 15 years of industry experience as a tour guide. He’s very passionate and knowledgeable, knows the Blue Mountains inside and out and is great at getting to off-the-beaten-track places most tour companies don’t go to.
Customer satisfaction is very important to Blue Mountains Eco Tours, and Paul prides himself on making sure his guests are happy. He will tailor the day to meet your needs to provide the best possible experience. Special interests are also catered for, whether you’re into photography, hiking or bird and wildlife spotting. One of Paul’s most popular tours is the Twilight Wildlife Tour, which combines the stunning scenery of the Blue Mountains with kangaroo and wallaby spotting.
Ours was a very last minute booking. But being late May (off peak) luck was on our side and we were able to book Paul for the day at relatively short notice. And better still, it was just the two of us taking the tour. It was like having our very own personal tour guide!
Our day started around 10am, when Paul picked us up from our Sydney CBD hotel. We opted to set off slightly later (7-7.30am is the usual pick up time) because we wanted to be in the Blue Mountains for sunset. We settled back into the plush leather seats of Paul’s very swish and comfortable Land Rover Discovery and started our journey to the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Paul was keen to discover what we wanted from our tour, and being amateur photographers, we asked Paul to take us to the best locations for landscape photography. A keen photographer himself, Paul had first hand knowledge of all the best spots.
Our first stop was for morning tea and Tim Tams at Lincoln’s Rock. Also known as Flat Rock, here we were treated to some of the most spectacular views of the vast and rugged landscape going. Lincoln’s Rock is essentially a big rock jutting out from the Kings Tableland in Wentworth Falls. From here the views of the Jamison Valley are nothing short of breathtaking.
Katoomba Falls was another highlight. Around 800 ft high in three sections, we enjoyed a hike to the middle section, stopping off at various lookouts and vantage points to photograph mini waterfalls and take in the best views of Wentworth Falls and the several million years old sandstone structure, The Three Sisters – perhaps the most famous landmark in the whole of the Blue Mountains.
There are many lookout points scattered throughout the Blue Mountains National Park, all offering incredible vistas. One of my personal favourites was Anvil Rock at Blackheath, which you can only get to by driving down a long unsealed road. It’s a perfect example of an off-the-beaten-track hidden gem, which you’ll miss if you take one of the big coach tours. Here you get to feast upon the most stunning views of the Grose Valley, Mount Banks and Mount Hay. Wind Eroded Cave, a large 20 metre high overhang in the cliffs, is just 400 meters to the west of Anvil Rock car park, and also worth a visit.
Before we left, we made sure to sample one of the area’s famous meat pies. On Paul’s recommendation we popped into one of the best local pie shops, The Bakehouse on Wentworth in Leura. Known for their generous fillings and flaky pastry that melts in the mouth, it was probably the best pie I have ever tasted, and excellent value for money too. I do wish we’d had a little more time to explore Leura though, a charming little town adjacent to Katoomba. But there’s only so many hours in a day.
Our day ended watching the sun set over the magnificent valleys before Paul drove us back to our hotel, tired but buzzing from our wonderful Blue Mountains adventure.
We packed a lot into our five day Sydney trip and the Blue Mountains was everything we could have hoped for and more. Paul was a brilliant tour guide, and he went above and beyond to make sure we had the best day possible. If you’re in Sydney, and you can only book one tour, book this one. It was the highlight of a short-but-sweet trip.
9 Reasons to Book with Blue Mountains Eco Tours
- Paul has been a tour guide for over 15 years
- Excellent Trip Advisor reviews
- Friendly and informative
- Small, intimate groups
- In depth knowledge of the area
- Comfortable and luxurious vehicle
- Special interests catered for
- Go where tour buses cannot
- Personal pick up and drop off
If you’d like to know a little bit more about Blue Mountains Eco Tours, please take a look at their website.