Into the Wild Blue Yonder
The Blue Mountains and Penrith are eternally upping their adventurous outdoor offerings – but some of the golden oldie attractions also keep families and couples coming back to relax, unwind and explore.
TrueBlue Magazine - December 2018/January 2019
Words by: Michelle Hespe
There are so many places in the Blue Mountains where you can literally feel on top of the world. After only a two-hour drive from Sydney you can be gazing across 250,000 hectares of blue-tinged dense bushland indented by gorges and valleys, dramatic sandstone escarpments rising towards the heavens.
A world above
Getting high on life and nature is what it’s all about in the Blue Mountains, and with $3 million having recently been spent upgrading Scenic World’s offerings, there’s no better place to experience it. Offering the best views of Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters and Jamison Valley, the Scenic Skyway is suspended 270 metres above ancient gorges. The Scenic Cableway offers views that are just as outstanding, but you stand in a large open-plan room that slowly ascends from the depths of the valley, where the Scenic Railway (the world’s steepest passenger railway) drops passengers off after a 52-degree incline ride down the cliff face. Go for a wander around the forest floor on the 2.4 kilometre Scenic Walkway and delve into the fascinating mining history of the area, while also spotting some Jurassic-era trees.
Post-mountaintop and valley adventure, relax and indulge your culinary cravings at The Lookout at Echo Point, where you’ll find the delightfully rustic BAR NSW, which serves delicious food and drink only from NSW. Craft beers and ciders and top wines can be paired with casual meals such as burgers, fried chicken drumettes and arancini balls, and the chefs dish up awesome, over-sized platters of meats such as soy braised beef brisket, buttermilk chicken Maryland, sticky lamb spare ribs and smoked Louisiana pork sausage. The lip-smackingly delicious offerings come served with pickles, slaw and bread. You’ll want to hang out here all day, but you really should get outside once you’ve had your fill and marvel at the Three Sisters. It’s something that people travel across the world to see, and the viewing platform is only a stone’s throw away. So roll yourself on over.
The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah celebrated its 30th birthday in 2017. Sprawling majestically over 252 hectares of land and with 28 hectares open to the public, the garden's focus is on the conservation of cool climate plants. Don’t be mistaken: this is not an attraction just for adults. The garden’s staff offer kiddies quests to fulfill while exploring the gardens, and recently introduced a fun app called Jurassic Garden. Families are given a map of the gardens, and at marked points they can aim their camera and take photos of their kids or loved ones alongside a roving dinosaur. It’s a lot of fun and it means the kids are thoroughly entertained while the adults can take in the more mature attractions such as some of the oldest trees in the Southern Hemisphere, a bower bird nest brimming with blue treasures, a garden devoted to African species and a herbarium with over 10,000 types of specimens.
cider tasting and Fun on the farm
Who says cider tasting is just for adults? At Bilpin Cider the kids can also test the alcohol-free cider, and then do a tour of the farm to meet the resident alpacas and friendly black-and-white sheep. Grown-up ciders include the original Bilpin Cider made from Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples, Bilpin Blush made from only Pink Ladies, a pear cider made from Packham pears, and Bilpin Archibald, which is a dry, traditionally cloudy apple cider. No sugar, artificial flavours or concentrates are added, and owner and founder of Bilpin Cider, Sean Prendergast, swears his ciders are some of the best on the market because the apples and pears are mountain-grown at high elevation in such fertile soil with a mild climate. A rustic bar-cum-shed means that visitors can linger longer in charming surrounds, and Sean’s latest addition to his picture-perfect property is a caravan serving delicious picnics (cheese and barbecued chicken with salad and rolls) and some of the region’s best hot apple pies – also made without any extra sugar. Put aside a day for this wonderful experience, and the staff will even provide you with a picnic blanket so you can sit in a paddock and admire the farm and orchards.
Time to get higher
Trees Adventure has six locations in Australia and has been dubbed the no. 1 tree ropes and ziplining adventure in the country. The set-up in Grose River Park is built on more than 70 Sydney Blue Gums and includes over 110 challenges and 20-plus flying foxes, and each session goes for two hours. Fun for adults and of course the kids, it’s another way to simultaneously enjoy nature and adventure while getting high on life in the mountains.
And higher still…
Most of us have dreamt of being able to fly – and some of us pursue that dream by flying planes or microlites, hooking up to a hang glider or jumping out of a plane and skydiving. But to be able to simply pull on a suit, take a brief lesson with an instructor, then step into a wind tunnel that blows you up in the air so you really are flying, is something else. And you can do it at iFLY Downunder in Penrith. It’s not easy at first to do anything in that tunnel gracefully, but before you know it you’re experiencing what it’s like to freefall like an outdoor skydiver from 14,000 feet, without having to jump out of a plane or worry about the weather. It’s something that everyone should do in their lives, as it’s one of those experiences that makes every other thought disappear. When you’re flying you’re simply thinking: I’m flying! What a way to start or end a day – or, indeed, to wrap up an awesome mountain adventure.
The Lookout at Echo Point
The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah
Trees Adventures, Grose River Park
These hotel rooms and serviced apartments next to the new train station in
Penrith are as cool as they are convenient. Every detail has been considered, and the palette of pale grey, black and white, with touches of blue and green, gives the space a modern yet comfortable feel, making it ideal for leisure or business stays, or blending the two.
Leisure Inn Spires
Right in the middle of Leura (one of the best places to shop in the Blue Mountains) these cosy yet spacious apartments are surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens. Plus, some of the mountain’s best restaurants and cafes are right on your doorstep.
King Island: With the locals
King Island is renowned for its award-winning beef and cheese, however its stunning vistas and the warmth of welcoming residents will also steal your heart.
Diverse Griffith offers a symphonic food and wine blend of regional Australian produce fused with a local history of European immigration and culinary traditions.
These Guys Give a Crap
Who Gives a Crap knows that toilet paper can be funny – and powerful. They’re using it to help both the planet and people in need.