It’s a common misconception that Sydney’s appeal lies solely in the heart of the city. While iconic sights like the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are undeniably worthwhile places to visit, there is much more to Sydney than meets the eye. Venture to one of a plethora of suburbs and you can find idyllic beaches whilst still within the city boundaries. A short drive or train ride away, you’ll find the breathtakingly beautiful Otford to Bundeena track in the Royal National Park. But one of the most popular attractions in the vicinity of Sydney is the Blue Mountains range – and with good reason.
Characterised by sandstone peaks and deep gorges swathed in vegetation, the Blue Mountains border Sydney’s metropolitan area to the west. It is thought that the blue haze that engulfs the Blue Mountains is caused by dispersed droplets of eucalyptus oil, which refract blue light, and the effect is spellbinding.
Activity Tours run daily trips to the Blue Mountains from central Sydney. Included in their tour are a visit to Featherdale Wildlife Park, a few hours’ exploration of the Blue Mountains, a drive-through tour of the Olympic Park and a cruise on the Parramatta River from Homebush to Circular Quay.
FEATHERDALE WILDLIFE PARK
MEET A KOALA
One of the top reasons to stop off at Featherdale Wildlife Park is to have the chance to give a koala a quick belly rub. The other is to feed the kangaroos and wallabies that roam free throughout the premises. Koalas make great subjects for photos because they move so slowly. You’re also guaranteed to find one or two awake long enough to pull an adorable facial expression.
As part of the tour, you have about one hour to explore Featherdale. All of the animals are native species to Australia. There are the usual tasmanian devils, wallabies and wombats, as well as a large selection of birds, including penguins.
One of the most interesting and, at the same time, ugly creatures is the shingleback lizard, famous for appearing to have two heads to confuse predators. On the other end of the spectrum is the Quokka – a ridiculously cute marsupial that could give the koala a run for its money in the stakes for most adorable and photogenic Australian animal.
Depending on your group size, you might end up having quite a large influence on which part of the Blue Mountains you visit. If your group is more inclined towards hiking, there are plenty of great footpaths through the mountains, including lookouts from the ridge path and steep climbs into the gorge with views of some stunning waterfalls.
While the Blue Mountains tend to be a few degrees cooler than Sydney – and you should come prepared with extra layers – you will soon warm up again as you negotiate the cliffside footpaths in the humid air.
Another option is to visit Scenic World – a cableway, skyway and incredibly steep railway that each provide great panoramic views and a much less exhausting means of exploration.
One spot that you can pretty much guarantee your tour guide will take you to is Echo Point – the view point for the famous Three Sisters rock formation at Katoomba. Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky with the weather and it’s possible to arrive there when the entire view is completely shrouded in mist…
While most people experience Sydney ferries in the harbour, especially if they spend any time up in the Northern Beaches, it’s much less common for tourists or Sydneysiders to go inland much further than Cockatoo Island. The ferry ride back into the city is a thoughtful and enjoyable addition to this day trip.
If you take the trip in winter, you should be aware that it will be dark by the time you board the ferry, so views are limited. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. It is quite pretty viewing the shoreline at night as the lights of all the buildings are reflected in the water. This is especially apparent as you enter Darling Harbour, pass under the Harbour Bridge and approach Circular Quay and the Opera House. Also, look out for Luna Park. The old fairground looks especially inviting at night.
Even if you’re unlucky with the weather, there’s plenty to keep you entertained on a day trip to the Blue Mountains. While it is possible to make your own way there using public transport, you can fit so much more into your day on a tour like this one and the wealth of information your guide can provide on Australian history, geology, flora and fauna makes the experience even more special and memorable.
COMPARE ACCOMMODATION DEALS
HotelsCombined aggregates the results of hotel searches from over 40 travel sites to bring you the best deals in the quickest time.
CONTINUE THE ADVENTURE
Sydney is the first stop on the fantastic BEACHES AND REEFS tour run by Contiki. This two-week trip is filled with fun and adventure and includes surfing, kayaking, skydiving, bungy jumps, scuba, a dracula show, barn dance karaoke, whip cracking, overnight sailing, plenty of parties and, of course, a trip to the Blue Mountains.