Golden West Experience

Explore the Blue Mountains before or after a Vintage Rail Journeys Tour

It’s time to marvel at impressive rock formations, potter around in quaint villages and explore epic wilderness – yes that’s right today we are recommending the Blue Mountains!

This area of Greater Sydney is so beautiful, we recommend that our guests either go for a visit before our rail tours – or take the opportunity to leave the train early and stay a few days at the end of a rail tour. (NOTE: the Riverina and Golden West Rail Tours both travel through the Blue Mountains on the way home to Sydney).

This season on the Riverina Rail Tour we are spending time at the Zig Zag Railway, so we have slightly reduced the time we spend in the villages and towns of the Blue Mountains. There’s no need for you to reduce the time though – add a day or two and do the mountains right!

These suggestions are self-directed, and are not part of our organised tour. They reflect some of the things Simon and Danielle have enjoyed on their visits to the Blue Mountains in recent years.

Golden West Experience
The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains hop on hop off coach

Those of you who have been on tour with us, would know that one of our bus partners is Fantastic Aussie Tours, based in the Blue Mountains. You will remember the beautiful 1947 Flxible Clipper we have on tour – well their other famous product is the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus

We think that one of the easiest ways to see and get around the Blue Mountains is with a full day hop on hop off Explorer Bus pass. There are just under 40 stops on the Explorer Bus, so you can design your day based on the timetable and hop on and off at your leisure to explore what you like and in your own time.

We recommend a few things:

Stop at Echo Point and see the Three Sisters (if they are in residence). The weather in the Blue Mountains can be changeable. So, sometimes in the fog, it can be hard to see the ladies! But when they are there – it’s an amazing sight and great photo opportunity. While you may have already stopped at Echo Point on tour with us – it is always on our list of things to do in the Blue Mountains. Each time we visit there is something new to see or experience.

Keep going around the route on Cliff Drive where the views are spectacular and the fun and knowledgeable coach drivers makes it an enjoyable tour. Perhaps stop at Scenic World (more below) before making your way to visit the villages of Leura and Katoomba.  

Streetscapes, Katoomba
The Blue Mountains Explorer bus passing through Katoomba.

Scenic World

Why not combine your Explorer Bus ticket with Scenic World tickets? Scenic World is a great place to visit in the Blue Mountains. 

At Scenic World you can do the following: 

  • the Scenic Skyway – they say you can dance on air when you spend time on this highest single span cable car in the world;
  • the Scenic Railway – this is the steepest incline passenger train in the world;
  • the Scenic Cableway – you can float high above the valley on the largest and steepest cable car in the Southern Hemisphere;
  • the Scenic Walkway – take a gentle walk and experience true tranquillity among Jurassic rainforest on the longest elevated boardwalk in Australia.

So why not take advantage of the Explorer Bus which stops at Scenic World on its route. 

Villages and Towns 

The Blue Mountains is known for its beautiful villages and towns, we recommend Katoomba and Leura for shopping and meandering along the streets. Here are a few things you can do while in the Blue Mountains.


Katoomba is the main town of the Blue Mountains and you will find that many of the sights we have already mentioned are located in the town. Here are some more specific things we recommend in Katoomba:

Blue Mountains Cultural Centre – the cultural centre is centrally located on Parke Street, Katoomba. The gallery showcases innovative, diverse, distinctive and creative cultural programs and features major touring, curated, regional and local exhibitions. We think that it is well worth a visit.

Street Art Walk – If you are looking for a reason to take a walk through Katoomba the community-driven street art walk project might be just what you are looking for. Maps are available at the Cultural Centre or the artwork is easy to find as you walk through the shopping precinct. These larger-than-life murals are created by some of Australia’s, and the world’s, most talented street artists. So, take your camera or just delight in the enormous butterflies, waterfalls, oversized apes and prehistoric lizards.


Leura is probably the prettiest of the Blue Mountains villages and our favourite to walk around, have coffee or lunch. There are still a few places we especially recommend:

Josophan’s – extraordinary chocolates are created using Fair Trade certified Callebaut Belgian couverture chocolate. You can visit Josophan’s chocolate boutique down the hill in the old church, have lunch in their cafe, try their delicious ice cream and buy some chocolates to take home!

Everglades – is a must-see for lovers of Art Deco architecture and natural scenery! The gardens were constructed in the 1930s by Danish-born landscape gardener Paul Sorensen in conjunction with owner Henri van de Velde. We think the 1930s Val de Velde house with the fantastic art deco features as well as the sweeping staircase is amazing. And a stroll along the formal European-style terraces and winding paths is a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Of course, Leura is also known for its shopping – so you can certainly spend a great deal of time searching for eclectic homew, fashion and even a treasure or two in the many antique shops. 

Medlow Bath

Hydro Majestic – we highly recommend visiting the Hydro Majestic and if your budget can stretch to it, staying there as well! Located a little distance out of town, they have a few great places to have a meal or drink (the Wintergarden, the Boiler House or the Salon du The) and enjoy the panoramic views.

Hydro Majestic
Hydro Majestic


There are walks for every fitness level in the Blue Mountains – and all are focussed on fresh air, wildlife galore, and incredible views! We suggest you pop into the Visitors Information Centre at Echo Point or search the many Destination NSW websites to tell you the type of walk best suited for you. There are some great resources on the Explorer Bus website for you to check out as well.

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Where to stay

We have already mentioned the Hydro Majestic, located in Medlow Bath, just out of Katoomba. The Hydro Majestic has a great history, founded by Mark Foy in 1901 and opened in 1904, it quickly became a haven for celebrities, including Dame Nellie Melba and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. More recently, the hotel was restored back to its former glory and is well worth a visit if for nothing else than the views!

The Carrington, is our recommendation for your stay in the Blue Mountains. Opened in 1883, it is Australia’s oldest remaining resort-style hotel and is also heritage-listed. But what we love about it is its timeless elegance and that no two rooms are configured alike! Situated centrally in Katoomba and just a short walk to the railway station, even if you don’t stay here, we recommend a meal in the restaurant or drink in one of the bars. 

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And, if you are planning on a picnic while in the Blue Mountains, we recommend a visit  to Carrington Cellars and Deli on Parke Street, directly behind the Carrington Hotel! There are so many yummy local products to purchase and take with you for a picnic or even to have when you get home.

And then when your stay is over? Head back into Sydney on the train. With trains running from Katoomba regularly, it really is one of the easiest ways to tack a few days onto the start or end of your Vintage Rail Journeys Rail Tour. You don’t need an opal card – you can just tap on (and tap off) with your credit card/phone/apple watch at either end of your journey.

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