If you’re a Sydneysider, you probably won’t need to be reminded that the Blue Mountains are literally on your doorstep! And, what better time than winter to take to the road for a bit of (very!) fresh mountain air — you may even find a sprinkling of snow on the ground and some Yulefest activities underway. This month I’m getting my Maxxis tyres rolling through Leura and Katoomba and on to Mt Tomah, so if you’re ready for a wintry weekend getaway – join me for this steep and spectacular mountain ride.
First up – why are the mountains blue?
Often covered in a haze caused by oils from the dense eucalyptus forests combining with water vapour and sunlight – the mountains from afar really appear to be an intriguing misty blue! Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, the Blue Mountains are a ‘Great Outdoors’ wonderland, offering impressively rugged scenery including escarpments, valleys, waterfalls, caves and forests stretching over a vast 10,000km2 area.
A few directions
Taking the M4 and Great Western Highway will get you to Katoomba in the heart of the Blue Mountains (102km away) in about an hour and a half. Katoomba is a perfect base for exploring the Blue Mountains – with Leura just a few minutes away and approximately another 45 minutes to Mt Tomah and the surrounding areas.
A bit of tyre advice
You can get to many of the Blue Mountains’ main sites without needing to go off-road – however, whatever your vehicle, ensuring your tyres are safe and ready for the ride is an absolute must. Always remember to check your tyre pressures while they’re cool, before you set off (including the spare if you have one)!
My team and I’ll be making this trip in our Ford Ranger fitted with tough and versatile RAZR All-Terrain 811’s, giving us the flexibility to take on some off-road tracks if we decide to, while delivering an extra safe and comfortable on-road drive. Maxxis has just the right tyre for almost every vehicle, check out our range online or check in with your local Maxxis dealer to discuss what’s the best one for you!
What to do when you get there – starting with a few favourites
Three Sisters… Everyone should stop in at the remarkable Three Sisters at Echo Point at least once in a lifetime! So, if you haven’t seen them before, make sure you put a visit on your weekend getaway agenda (plan ahead to avoid the crowds). The iconic rock formations can be viewed from a number of vantage points and walkways – and being floodlit ‘til 11pm makes for a magnificent “after sunset” experience.
Scenic World…Surrounded by some of the most picturesque Blue Mountains’ scenery, this is an awesome adventure for kids, big and small. Take a ride on the world’s steepest train on the Scenic Railway, enjoy the majestic views from the dizzy heights of the Scenic Skyway cable car or walk the Scenic Walkway through a rainforest on an elevated boardwalk surrounded by lush vegetation and birdlife.
Katoomba Falls…Another Blue Mountains “must do”, especially after recent rain when the falls are at their best.
When in Leura… Take a walk down Leura’s main street and village and enjoy the country ambience – or browse for a gift or something special to take home from one of the shops selling vintage goods, jewellery and art, home goods and toys. Leura is also home to some great cafes serving yummy mountain-fresh food – so when you’re ready to come in from the cold, this is the perfect place to stop for a coffee, hot chocolate or lunch — I seem find myself at the Wayzgoose Diner whenever I’m in town!
The National Trust’s historic and picture-perfect Everglades House and Gardens is a landmark in Leura – complete with a grotto pool, tearoom and spectacular views of the Jamison Valley. And don’t forget Leuralla Toy and Railway Museum, set in a heritage listed home on 12 acres of gardens, it has a famous collection of toys and model trains on display – a great thing to do on a rainy day!
Blue Mountains Botanic Garden… On Bells Line of Road in Mt Tomah, and covering over 250 hectares, the Botanic Garden is one of its kind, being the only one in the world situated on a UNESECO Heritage site. Enjoy the tranquillity as you explore the different gardens (including the exciting “Bog Garden”), take a guided tour or book in for a Nature Therapy walk – and if you’re a bird lover, be sure to take your binoculars!
Where to stay… What’s extra special about the so many accommodation options here is that whether you go upmarket or prefer a country cottage – there are plenty of picturesque window views along with heaps of Blue Mountains fresh air to go around, whatever your budget!
Before you go…
You can expect it to be pretty chilly at this time of year (often dropping well below 50C at night), so find yourself a hearty log fire, an ale or mulled wine and a corner with a view! It goes without saying that this is a good time to dust off that big winter jacket and hunt out your hiking boots and as always before heading off on a road trip, give your vehicle and those Maxxis tyres a good check over – get an expert to help if in any doubt. Then, all that’s left to do is put on your favourite Spotify playlist, buckle up and have a safe ride!