Blue Mountains, a scenically dramatic region of forested ravines and pristine bushland that has a World Heritage listing. The Blue Mountains also offer a wealth of adventure activities, art and craft galleries, and romantic escapes in grand country lodges or cosy bed and breakfasts.
This viewpoint offers a fabulous close-up of the Three Sisters
The name ‘Blue Mountains’ derives from the mountains’ distinctive blue haze, produced by eucalyptus oil evaporating from millions of gum trees. Well-marked walking trails criss-cross Blue Mountains National Park, passing streams and waterfalls, descending into cool, impressive gorges. and sneaking around sheer cliffs. This breathtaking environment is easily reached from Sydney, either by road or on a two-hour rail journey.
Trains nut there several times daily from Central Station. The region’s best-known rock formation is The Three Sisters, a trio of pinnacles best viewed from Katoomba, the largest of 26 mountain towns. Katoomba Scenic Rail, the world’s steepest railway, descends from the cliff-top at Katoomba down into the Jamison Valley. You can walk down a series of steps by the Three Sisters, stroll along a cool and refreshing trail and catch the Katoomba Scenic Rail to the top. Above, the Skyway carries passengers along a cableway 206m (67511) above the valley floor. Katoomba Maxvision giant screen is a relatively recent Blue Mountains innovation.
It shows The Edge-Tire Movie, a gripping presentation of Blue Mountains environment, history and ecology. You’ll learn about the Wollemi Pine, the world’s oldest species of tree. Unique to the Blue Mountains, this ancient genus of pine was discovered in 1994 by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service. The tree’s closest relations became extinct during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods between 65 and 200 million years ago. As one Sydney-based botanist exclaimed at the time, ‘This is like finding a living dinosaur in your backyard.’
For more than a century, spelunkers, hikers and ordinary tourists have admired the Jenolan Caves, at the end of a long, steep drive down the mountains from Katoomba. Guided tours through the spooky but awesome limestone caverns last about an hour and a half. The atmosphere is cool in summer, warm in winter, and always damp (for information. Ku-ring-gai Chase North of Sydney is Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. This compact area of unspoiled forests, cliffs and heathland fringing the Hawkesbury River. is home base for numerous species of animals and birds. But you have to find them for yourself; its not a zoo.
There are also many good walking trails through untouched bushland. West Head Lookout, on top of a headland, gives outstanding The new Skyway (see page 63) views of the river and ocean. The Aborigines who lived in this area long before the foundation of New South Wales left hundreds of rock carvings — mostly pictures of animals and supernatural beings. The information centre has maps pinpointing the locations of the most interesting carvings, as well as showing the park’s network of trails.
Australia is one of the world’s major wine-producing countries. The Hunter Valley, a two-hour drive from Sydney, is the premier wine-growing area of New South Wales. The Hunter’s 60 or so wineries harvest grapes in February and March and welcome visitors throughout the year. The gateway to the Pokolbin region, where the majority of the Lower Hunter
Valley wineries are located, is Cessnock, 195 km (121 miles) north of Sydney. The tourist information centre, in the nearby town of Pokolbin. supplies touring maps and brochures. Most of the Hunter wineries arc open for cellar-door tastings. Some of the major establishments include Tyrell’s, Lindemans, Wyndham Estate. Rosemount Estate, the Roth-bury Estate and the McWilliams Estate.
Heading North Newcastle, the commercial centre of The Hunter, is located approximately 170km (106 miles) to the north of Sydney. It’s a coal mining and shipbuilding centre, and also offers well-developed recreational possibilities on the Pacific. the Hunter River and the saltwater Lake Macquarie.
The lake, which is popular with weekend sailors and fishermen from far afield, is said to be the largest seaboard lake in Australia. Further north, Port Stephens offers safe swimming beaches, a range of water activities and good fishing. Its bay is home to dozens of bottlenose dolphins, which can be viewed up close on a cruise. In the far north of New South Wales, 790km (490 miles) from Sydney, Byron Bay provides wonderful beaches and great surf. Whale-watching boat trips offer an opportunity to sec humpback whales when they migrate along the coast here in June/July and September/October. The town is a haven for alternative lifestylers — a few of them very rich.
Lord Howe Island In the South Pacific, 483 km (300 miles) east of Port Macquarie, Lord Howe Island, the state’s off-shore possession, is said to be the world’s most southerly coral isle. This makes for splendid snorkelling and scuba diving. Lord Howe Island has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1982.