The Blue Mountains are absolutely stunning and a complete must if you are visiting Sydney. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to experience some of that famous Australian nature – especially if you’re not planning on visiting some of the other national parks in Australia, but still want to experience a bit of what the Australian nature has to offer. There are a lot of expensive tours and HOHO busses to go on if you’re not really interested in hiking or going by yourself. However, I love hiking and exploring without a million tourists around. If you do too or if you’re on a budget, you can easily go on a day trip to The Blue Mountains for under 3 AUD ($2) – and that includes visiting 3 of the small towns in the mountains.
This is how we did The Blue Mountains for under 3 AUD.
First of all, you’ll want to get an early start to get the most out of your day. We took one of the first trains from Central towards Mount Victoria at 7:24 and then we got off at Wentworth Falls Station at around 9:22. This train goes all the way to Katoomba if you decide to go directly there. However, we preferred to see more than just Katoomba and therefore we started our day in Wentworth Falls and spent the day hiking to Katoomba via Leura.
You’re going to need an Opal card if you don’t already have one. The Opal card is free to get, you just have to put a minimum of 10 AUD on it for your travels. You don’t have to worry about spending it all, because you can always put more money on the card on the stations. You can get the Opal card plenty of places, but if you are flying into Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport you can pick it up at the WHSmith in the arrival hall. You should also know that the card reader (that lets you enter the station) will not let you through if you have under 5 AUD on the card. Then you have to refill the card before entering. You can use this card on trains, busses and ferries all over Sydney.
The key to do this day for under 3 AUD is to go on a sunday. All Opal travel on a sunday is going to cost you a maximum of 2.70 AUD. For the entire day. This means that you can take the train all the way to The Blue Mountains and between the towns and then all the way back to Sydney for 2.70 AUD. After you hit the 2.70 AUD mark, the card reader is just going to say 0 AUD after the rest of your trips that day. This is simply amazing for a traveler on a budget.
After we arrived at the Wentworth Falls Station, we walked the 2 km. down to the starting point. We had decided that we wanted to hike the National Pass. However, when we got to the starting point at the Wentworth Falls picnic area we soon realized that the National Pass walk is closed due to rocks falling onto the path. Luckily, there are multiple hikes starting at the same spot. We took a closer look and found out that the Undercliff/Overcliff walk was the one that was the most similar to the National Pass walk in the geographical placement of the hike. We made a decision to do this one instead and then we began our first hike of the day. The Undercliff/Overcliff walk is a 3.5 km. loop. You end up close to where you started. It is suggested that you spend 2-3 hours on this hike if you do it at a comfortable pace. We made it to the end after about 3 hours, which included multiple detours to lookout points and waterfalls and also a couple of mini photoshoots here and there. We even did the start of the Wentworth Falls Track which is a completely different walk, just to see the waterfall and take a picture from a really cool spot. I was hiking all day with my camera in my hand to make it possible for me to take photos whenever I wanted to, without slowing us down too much. It’s just not convenient to stop to get my camera out of my camera bag (which is in my backpack) every two seconds to take one photo and then put it all back again. Also, the extra weight on my arm made for a great arm workout when the day was over.
The Undercliff/Overcliff was an amazing hike. The view is great from the start and you have several options along the path to go to waterfalls and lookout points. This hike is – as the name suggests – split up in two parts. Undercliff and Overcliff. I personally liked the undercliff part, which I found very cool as it is literally under a cliff most of the way. Once you get to the overcliff part, you have the sun in your face along the way. If you’re someone that doesn’t burn, that’s great. But if you’re like me and you look like a tomato after 2 seconds in the sun, I would definitely bring some SPF 50 sunscreen for your face. You’re going to end up at the Conservation Hut once you’re done. This is just a short walk from where you started.
From the Conservation Hut we walked the 2 km. down to the station in Wentworth Falls. From there we took the same train we came on to the next station in the town of Leura. If you want to, you can just walk to Leura. But as the fare was free, we decided to save our legs and energy a bit and just take the train.
Once we were in Leura, we then again walked about 2 km. to get to the starting point of our next hike. Our next hike was the Prince Henry Cliff Walk starting at the Gordon Falls picnic area. This hike is 7 km. one way. It goes from Leura through the mountains all the way to Katoomba, with the Three Sisters along the way. You’re going to end up at Echo Point. We had about 2.5-3 hours to get there just in time for the sunset, which was our plan from the start. We wanted to see the sunset over the Three Sisters from Echo Point as a great end to an active day. We were then greatly disappointed, but more on that later. It is recommended that you do this hike in 3-4 hours. As we were in bit of a hurry, it took us a surprisingly 2,5 hours. I felt like I was in a race the entire time, but that was part of the fun. And again, great exercise! I found this hike a bit harder than the other one. Especially when we came to a point where the path split in three. There were only two signs. One pointing the way back to where we came from and one pointing to an experienced walker path. The third path didn’t have a sign, and it sounded like there was a road that way, which would take us out of the track entirely. Along the way, there were short cuts to Katoomba, which we avoided, because we wanted to do the full hike in the terrain we were already in. Therefore the only choice we thought we had was the experienced walker path to stay on track. I would make the same choice if I did it again. However, I felt like I wasn’t going to make it all the way to the end before the dark would come and I would be alone in the mountains with all the dangerous animals, left to die. Maybe a bit dramatic, but that is how I felt at the time.
The experienced walker path is definitely for experienced walkers. We could do it if we had time, but fighting the sun just made it that more difficult to complete. Also, this path had a lot of stairs, and I mean A LOT. Up and down, up and down, and then up and down again. At some point we were further down that we thought and then we had to make our way all the way up again, and it felt like the stairs would never end. Now, my body thanks me for it, but it was a killer at the time. We even had to cross a waterfall at some point during this hike – which you probably can imagine was difficult with only one hand free and a camera that wouldn’t survive getting wet in the other. And then also in nike shoes. I was wishing for a pair of hiking boots when I was at the waterfalls. However, as hard as this hike was, it was twice as beautiful. We even passed the Leura Cascades and got another point of view of the Three Sisters. If you have done a few hikes before, and don’t mind stairs, I would definitely recommend you do this one.
If we had the time, there were many detours along the way that would have been fun to do. Like the Giant Stairway or getting up close to the Three Sisters. But we made it in time for the sunset. However, we were very disappointed as mentioned before. We thought the sun would go down behind the Three Sisters creating a beautiful sky and view of the sunset. That was not the case. The sun went down at the opposite side, behind a mountain, which wasn’t very picturesque or colorful at all. But it’s the journey, not the destination that matters as someone once said. And the journey was pretty amazing I must say.
You can walk to the station in Katoomba if you still have more energy to burn, but we ended up being exhausted and then when a bus drove by us, we couldn’t resist. And of course, it was free! We then took the train back at 18:22, which had us back at Central Station in Sydney around 20:20. That means that we took 3 train rides (roughly 4,5 hours in total) and a bus ride for just 2.70 AUD.
Compared to the tours and HOHO busses for over 100 AUD, I think we did a pretty good job at experiencing The Blue Mountains on our own. Of course, food was not part of the 3 AUD, but you can easily bring some from home or buy some cheap options in the small towns before or after your hikes. There are even water posts along the way to refill your water bottle for free too. We tried the local bakery in Wentworth Falls which was pretty cute. And then for dinner we got a Subway sandwich on the way to the train in Katoomba.
That was our day trip to Katoomba and how to do it on a budget. Have you been? If so, I would love to hear about your experience and your best tips!
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