The Blue Mountains – a World Heritage listed site, and one of the most picturesque and iconic places to visit in NSW, if not Australia. It’s been a popular destination for travellers since the turn of the century, with many people flocking to Katoomba to escape summer in the city and enjoy fresh mountain air and indulge in a bit of rest and relaxation.
Just 90 minutes from Sydney by car, and with its quaint café culture, boutique shops, historic guesthouses and delicious restaurants, it’s the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.
How to get there
If you’re driving to the Mountains from Sydney, it will probably take you around 90 minutes. Follow the signs to Parramatta and you’ll end up on the M4 Motorway. Alternatively, take Bell’s Line of Road, which starts at Richmond (we came home this way, making it a true round trip!).
You can also take a train (the fastest taking around 100 minutes) that stops at all stations in the Blue Mountains. It’s perhaps the most relaxing way to travel, as you can just sit back, relax and watch the city fall away into the trees.
There are also coach companies that offer shuttle to the Mountains, and many companies offer day trips from Sydney.
For more information and to help plan your trip, check out visitnsw.com/destinations/blue-mountains/getting-to-the-blue-mountains
I Ate My Way Through was invited to spend a weekend in the Blue Mountains as a guest of Destination NSW. And what a weekend it was! Follow our itinerary for a delicious couple of days in the Mountains.
Stay: Kurrara Historic Guesthouse, Katoomba
Sleep in history! Kurrara, meaning ‘high campsite’, first opened its doors as a guesthouse in 1902, making it one of the first accommodation options in the area. Here you’ll enjoy old-fashioned comfort and friendly service, surrounded by beautifully maintained gardens in a quiet and leafy street of Katoomba.
There are 8 beautiful rooms on offer: 3 large spa suites with 4 poster beds; and 5 upstairs rooms with private en suites. All are individually (and charmingly!) decorated. Once you’ve finished exploring the shops and sites of Katoomba, there’s plenty to keep you occupied at Kurrara. There is a welcoming lounge room for guests to enjoy, complete with leather chesterfields and tea & coffee facilities. Or you might like to cosy up to the fire and watch a movie in the library, or play a board game.
Owners Iain & Evelyn have been on site since 2012, and it’s obvious to see their commitment to preserving a bit of Katoomba’s history. The rooms are beautiful furnished, with thoughtful touches like electric blankets and a decanter of port making our stay extra special. When we visited, a yoga studio was in construction off the side of the house, with Evelyn explaining that they’d like to hold weekend or weekly yoga retreats here in the future.
For more information or to book, visit kurraraguesthouse.com.au
Dinner: Avalon, Katoomba
Dinner with a bit of theatrical flair. Set in the dress circle of the historic Savoy picture theatre, Avalon Restaurant & Cocktail Bar is all charm and whimsy. Enter into the foyer, wander past the ticket booth and up the stairs…and enter into a truly unique venue. It’s eclectic, vintage, retro and art-deco all at the same time, with so many intriguing curios to discover.
The food is hearty and soulful, taking inspiration from around the world but utilising local produce and producers. The kitchen is located in the old projection room, behind the dining room. You can relax with a drink or two in the former refreshment room, now a cosy bar complete with roaring fireplace and more curiosities to enjoy. With a focus on local producers, the bar showcases more than 80 Australian wines are craft beers.
If you’re there on a Friday night you’ll enjoy live music as part of their Friday Supper Club, where local artists with serenade you as you sip and savour the delicious fare.
Avalon is widely considered a ‘must see’ by locals and tourists alike. For more info and to book, visit avalonkatoomba.com.au
Breakfast: Milkbar at the Lookout, Echo Point, Katoomba
Can’t wait to get out and explore? The Milkbar is your perfect grab-and-go option. They serve breakfast, lunch and some sweet treats to get your through the afternoon, as well as coffee, smoothies and juices. Grab some smashed avocado, a latte and some freshly baked doughnuts (try the lemon myrtle flavour) and head outside onto the terrace to take in the views while you fuel up for the day’s activities!
You’ll find Milkbar inside The Lookout building right next to the Echo Point lookout spot. There’s also a bar and a restaurant upstairs, and a couple of souvenir shops downstairs where you can grab a little something to take home with you.
Reservations for the Milkbar aren’t necessary. For more info or to check out the menu, visit thelookoutechopoint.com.au/venues/milkbar
See: Blue Mountains Explorer bus
You can’t come to the Blue Mountains and not see the views! From Milk Bar you can walk right up to Echo Point and take in the breathtaking views out over the valley. Pop into the Visitor Information for maps and more info if you’re going to do a more extensive hike, and wander down to the Three Sisters lookout point – a majestic and iconic rock formation that is just the beginning of the beautiful sights to be seen.
Another great way to take it all in is on the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus! Here, you can explore the Blue Mountains your own way – by hopping on and off at your leisure, so you can make your own adventure. Buses run every 30 minutes, making it easy to get to all the famous landmarks and lookout spots. It goes through Katoomba and Leura, picking up at most of the big hotels and restaurants, and does a full loop. It’s a fully narrated trip, with drivers proving themselves knowledgeable local guides of the area.
For more info, visit explorerbus.com.au – you can’t miss the big red bus!
Afternoon tea: Lilianfels Resort and Spa
What better way to kick back after a long morning of sightseeing than by indulging in a luxurious high tea? Lilianfels offers one of the best in the area, with stunning views over Jamison Valley and the courtyard of the hotel.
Nibble on a delectable selection of finger sandwiches, petit sweets and homemade scones with jam and clotted cream, and sip on your choice of tea, coffee, sparkling wine or champagne in the lush, elegant surroundings of The Lounge, with plenty of cosy armchairs to choose from. It really is a little slice of high tea heaven.
Visit lilianfels.com.au/dining/lilianfels-high-tea for more information, and to book.
Relax: Lilianfels Resort and Spa
Take your relaxing afternoon to the next level by booking in for a treatment or two at Lilianfels Day Spa! Whether you go for a hot stone massage, a facial, a body wrap, manicure or all of the above, you’re guaranteed to enjoy. Staff are cheery and helpful, and will leave you feeling blissful after your treatment.
Make sure you give yourself enough time before or after your appointment to spend some time in the pool, and indulge in a spa and sauna in the luxurious bathrooms. Sorry couples, bathrooms are separate!
Go on, treat yourself. To book, and for more info, visit lilianfels.com.au/day-spa
Stay: Parklands Country Garden and Lodges, Blackheath
Enjoy a little bit more luxury at Parklands. It’s a 4 1/2 star secluded retreat in the tree-lined avenues of Blackheath, standing upon 28 acres of manicured grounds. If you love a good English manor house, you’ll adore Parklands. Here you’ll get a more modern approach to accommodation, with gorgeous cottages complete with sleek furniture and amenities, and a very inviting gas fireplace to welcome you.
With an aim to provide peace and tranquility, Parklands offers 7 cottages, each containing 2 elegant Garden Suites downstairs, and 2 Loft Rooms – all of which have beautiful views of the grounds.
There are a range of facilities on site, such as a luxurious day spa and an extensive kitchen garden. In 1897, founder John Pop employed a professional gardener to help tend to the grounds, Thomas Kerslake. One of the main attractions at the time was the vegetable garden which was said to span four acres with red gravel paths through the rectangular beds, and was immaculately kept by Kerslake. Following Kerslake’s vision, Parklands has developed their own version of this kitchen garden, covering an area of 4000 sqm. It provides seasonal fruit and veggies to the Parklands kitchen, and also various other properties associated with it.
Parklands Country Garden and Lodges is part of the Escarpment Group, a unique collection of luxury escapes in the Blue Mountains.
For more information or to book, visit parklands.com.au
Dinner: Fumo, Blackheath
A short walk from Parklands is your dinner spot for tonight. Fumo is a favourite among locals and outsiders alike, and was awarded One Hat in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide 2019. It’s not hard to see why.
It’s an almost hole-in-the-wall institution, able to sit just 35 people at a time and only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday for lunch and dinner. It glows with a welcoming warmth from the street outside. Inside, it’s all hustle and bustle, with mouthwatering smells wafting in from the kitchen.
At Fumo the food is Asian fusion, with the team drawing inspiration from their own travels in Asia. Only the best seasonal produce is used, and the food is a stunning mix of modern Australian and Asian influences. It’s warming and comforting, but light and fresh. The vegetables are cooked to perfection, and the sauces beg to be slurped.
Check out their website here for more info: fumorestaurant.com.au
Breakfast: The Potager, Mount Tomah
A café with a view! The Potager is situated in the middle of the gorgeous Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens, in Mount Tomah. It’s a lovely stop for breakfast or brunch before a wonder through the gardens to see some local flora and fauna.
Its rustic interiors give way to an outside deck with stunning views over the Mountains and gardens below. No matter the weather, it’s a good spot for views and eats. The menu is decent, and uses fresh local produce where possible.
The Potager is open for breakfast & lunch on Wednesday through to Sunday, and is fully licensed and available for event hire. For more info, visit potagermounttomah.com.au
Nature: Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah
The Gardens here have a long and interesting history, but in 2017, they celebrated their 30th birthday, marking 30 years since the Gardens were open to the public. Prior to that they were a flower farm and a frequently visited site for notable botanists.
Today, the Gardens cover 252 hectares of land, 28 of which are open to the public. They sit within the World Heritage area, and focus on the conservation of cool climate plants. Educational, cultural and artistic events are often held here, set against the breathtaking drop of native flora. They’re beautiful at any time of year, and well worth a visit after breakfast.
For more info, visit bluemountainsbotanicgarden.com.au
Drink: Bilpin Cider Co., Bilpin
A must-do on your way back to Sydney! Don’t miss your opportunity to try some stunningly fresh and pure apple & pear cider from Bilpin Cider Co.
The area of Bilpin was discovered in 1823 by a young Archibald Bell, as a secondary pass through the Blue Mountains. The area’s fertile soil, mountain elevation and cool climate quickly attracted settlers, and it soon became known as a premium apple growing region of Australia.
Today, many of the local and surrounding businesses use apples and other fruit from Bilpin on their menus, but none more so than the gorgeous little cider brewery just off the main road. The delightfully hospitable Sean Prendergast formed Bilpin Cider Co. in 2011, and was only too happy to show us around the property. We wandered through the orchard, met some of the family (a brand new little calf!) and got to try some of his delicious cider.
There’s a tipple for every taste, ranging from their sweeter Blush Pink Lady Cider through to their Archibald cloudy apple cider, and they’ve even got a spectacular non-alcoholic drop, too. Step into their rustic cellar door and let the knowledgeable staff walk you through a tasting. Then head outside into their newly renovated bar area, pull up a pew, order some food from the food truck and sip on some cider in the shade of the apple trees from which it was made.
On the third Sunday of every month, drop into the cellar door for their Thirsty Third Sundays – grab a picnic basket & blanket (provided by the venue), find a spot on the grass and enjoy live music from local bands and indulge in a pig on the spit. And wash it all down with some cider, of course!
For more information and to plan your visit, go to bilpincider.com
Lunch: Lochiel House, Kurrajong Heights
Hungry? The only place you should stop for lunch on your way home is Lochiel House. Run by husband & wife team Nathan and Tayla, it’s an absolute gem of a restaurant. The setting: a charmingly rustic old farmhouse, complete with gorgeous garden and extensive vegetable garden out the back. The food: a stunning combination of fresh local produce (mostly harvested from their own gardens) intertwined with Asian influences. It’s not uncommon to see the staff walking to the vegetable garden and coming back with armfuls of leafy greens that you know are going straight onto your plate.
The Nori Fries with seaweed salt and the Fried Brussel Sprouts with sensational sweet & sour seasoning were highlights. But please, PLEASE do us (and yourselves!!) a favour – when you go, you must order the Sourdough with Smoked Paprika Butter. It’s heaven on earth, and will leave you begging for the recipe.
The service was a little slow that afternoon, but we were in no hurry at all, so we hunkered down with our bottle of wine and enjoyed the sunshine and live music in the courtyard.
To drool over the menu, head to lochielhouse.com.au
Sip: Ironbark Distillery
Last, but certainly not least…a drink or two for the drive home! Ironbark Distillery is a true-blue outfit, with the aim of producing handcrafted Australian spirits with pride, passion and perfection. It’s a boutique company taking on the big dogs, using only the finest Aussie ingredients and materials.
Grab a spot at their bar and be taken on a spirit-ful journey, tasting their entire range both neat and with some thoughtful mixers. For a surprising drop don’t miss their Chai Spirit.
A fairly young player in the spirit game, Ironbark are already making a name for themselves, with both national and international acclaim. They were named Gin Distillery of the Year in 2015, and have a slew of medals for their Gins.
For more info and cellar door times, visit ironbarkdistillery.com.au
…and then home, with lungs full of fresh mountain air, hearts brimming with joy and a camera chockablock full of photos.