Expert Tips for Visiting the Blue Mountains by Train in 2024
Over the last few months, I have been visiting the Blue Mountains by train every couple of weeks, discovering new things to see and places to eat. So today I thought I would share with you my experience of visiting the Blue Mountains by train and what you can expect to see in just one day.
The UNESCO listed Blue Mountains are one of the most special places in New South Wales and just under two hours from Sydney Central Station by train. With its natural beauty and breathtaking views, this is a must-do day trip for travellers visiting Sydney.
This page may contain affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy for more information.
Getting to the Blue Mountains
Getting to the Blue Mountains by train couldn’t be easier. Services depart from Sydney’s Central Train Station and you will find there are at least two trains per hour. Most trips taking two hours although there are some express services in peak hours.
There is a fast service which takes 1hr 45 minutes. It departs at 8.58am, reaching Katoomba at 10.38am.
Most of the train journey is not especially picturesque, however it is interesting watching suburban Sydney come to life as you travel west. Once you reach the bottom of the mountains at Springwood, the views get a lot greener.
Making your way to the Blue Mountains by train is a good choice for budget travellers or independent explorers who enjoy being in total control of their itinerary.
Once you arrive in the mountains, you can either join the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus, a hop on hop off route of 37 stops, or use the local buses to visit the main mountains towns.
Alternatively, you can book a local tour which will get you off the beaten track to locations that most of the tours from Sydney don’t visit. You may also like to try one mountain many adrenalin activities like abseiling or canyoning.
Getting around the Blue Mountains
One of the best ways to get around the area is on foot. For those who enjoy a walk, you can make your way from Katoomba Station to Echo Point on foot. It’s a flat walk from the station to the Three Sisters lookout and there is a relatively easy track that will get you to Katoomba Falls or Leura from here.
Katoomba Main Street and Leura Mall are also brilliant spots for a leisurely window shopping stroll, with plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants to explore.
Local Public Buses
Local buses are another option for getting around the Blue Mountains. These buses are run by Blue Mountains Transit and connect several towns and villages in the region, including Katoomba, Leura, Blackheath and Wentworth Falls. The services are frequent and run seven days a week, making it easy to get around and explore the area on a tight budget. This is a great option if you plan to spend a few days here.
Blue Mountains Explorer – Hop on Hop Off Bus
For those wanting a more guided experience, the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus is a brilliant choice. The hop-on, hop-off service stops at over 37 locations, including major attractions such as Scenic World, Echo Point, and the Katoomba Falls Lookout.
The HOHO bus operates daily and runs in a continuous loop from Katoomba Station, making it a convenient way to explore the area.
If you’re planning a trip to the Blue Mountains and are looking for a convenient way to get around, the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus is a great choice. The bus driver provides a live commentary and the staff are knowledgeable and friendly. If you are not sure what stops to get off at they have lots of expert advice and will happily will help you plan your day.
One of the biggest benefits of the bus service is its flexibility. With the hop-on, hop-off system, you can spend as little or as long as you want at each attraction, allowing you to tailor your itinerary to your interests.
You can also choose to skip attractions that don’t interest you and spend more time at those that do. Additionally, the bus stops at some locations that may be hard to get to otherwise, such as the Katoomba Cascades and Cahill Lookout.
However, like any HOHO bus service, it has its limitations. You’ll need to keep track of the bus schedule to avoid missing a bus and potentially waiting extra for the next one. Planning out your day using their handy guidebook at the start of the day or once you book your ticket is worth the effort.
Overall, the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus is a convenient and flexible way to explore the area, especially if you’re short on time and want to see as many attractions as possible.
Got a question we haven’t answered? Pop over to the Australia Travel Tips Facebook Group and ask for help.
Must See Blue mountains sites
As someone who has recently experienced the beauty of the Blue Mountains by train, I highly recommend planning your itinerary carefully so you don’t run out of time and miss any of the must-see sites in the area.
Resist the urge to stuff your itinerary with lookouts and walks if you only have one day. Shortlist your top 10 places, work out your pace, and pick a few.
The top sites are for a one-day visit are:
The Three Sisters
The Three Sisters at Echo Point are one of the most iconic landmarks in the Blue Mountains. These unique rock formations are best viewed early in the morning or later in the day. They don’t photograph as well in the harsh midday sun.
Pop into the visitors’ centre and learn more about the Three Sisters story before you make your way down the track and out onto one sister by walking across Honeymoon Bridge.
You can start the Prince Henry Cliff Walk from here and make your way around the mountain’s edge to Katoomba Cascades.
Visiting the Three Sisters at sunset is particularly stunning, so consider ending your day here and taking a late train back to Sydney.
If you’re planning a trip to the Blue Mountains, you have probably heard about Scenic World and maybe you are wondering if you should add this to your list of things to see and do.
So what can you do at Scenic World? Well, you can ride on the steepest railway in the world, which takes you down into the valley, stroll through the rainforest below and then take the cableway back to the top. Finish up with a ride across the valley in the Skyway car ride across the valley past Katoomba Falls.
The 360-degree views from the skyway are breathtaking, and the glass bottom floor provides an extra thrill for those who dare to look down. If you have anyone in your group who is not too steady on their feet, this is a fantastic option. Much of Scenic World is also wheelchair accessible.
Scenic World offers views that are hard to experience without a few hours of hiking, so on a one-day visit it can be a worthy addition. The fantastic views of the famous rock formation are hard to beat.
Tip: Position yourself on the front left-hand side of the cable car to get the best photos of the waterfall.
To make sure you have the best time at Scenic World, try to arrive early in the day to beat the crowds. It’s a smart idea to pre-book your tickets online to avoid any queues at the entry and save some time. Finally, if you can visit Mondays or Tuesdays, you will probably have a more relaxed and enjoyable experience.
Katoomba Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the mountains and is definitely worth seeing. There are a few ways to see the falls, but on a day visit you probably won’t have too much time, so you might want to take the view quick walk to Vaniman’s Lookout.
If you are not afraid of stairs, continue on here to Juliet’s Balcony. Alternatively, if you have an hour to spare the 3km Katoomba Falls Round Walk, which includes these first two spots, is a splendid choice and one of our favourite easy bush walks in the Blue Mountains.
There is also an official Katoomba Falls Lookout, which provides incredible views of the valley and waterfall.
The town of Leura is one of the prettiest in the mountains. From its main street shops to the lovely large homes and gardens that fill the surrounding streets, this is a delightful place to explore.
Leura also makes a great spot to stop for lunch – we love The Bunker up on the hill as you come into town (turn left when you get off the train). In warm weather, choose a seat in the garden where you can enjoy the flowers and the distant mountain views.
There are also dozens of cafes along the main street. Leura Deli is another favourite. Afternoon tea at Bygone Beauty’s is also an excellent choice.
If you have a sweet tooth, pop into Josophan’s Fine Chocolates for a little treat for the train ride home.
If you have made good time, consider taking the Leura Story walking tour with Sue from Mountain Tales. This 2-hour tour explores the history of Leura and even as someone who has visited the town countless times, I learnt a lot.!
The walk, which begins at Leura Station, is offered every day except Tuesday (some mornings, some afternoons – Check here). There is no better way to discover the secrets of Leura Village.
Finally, no visit to the Blue Mountains is complete without a visit to Katoomba. Perhaps start your day here with a walk down the main street, Katoomba Street, past the glorious Carrington Hotel.
Pick up a coffee and one of the many coffee shops or some treats from Cockatoo Bakery. We think they make the best croissants in the mountains!
Once you have some caffeine under your belt, spend a few minutes checking out the array of street art in the laneways off Katoomba Street and around the corner in Beverley Place. It’s a pleasant contrast to the mountains’ natural beauty.
If you keep walking down Katoomba Street to the bottom, you will eventually reach Echo Point.
Tips for your Blue Mountains visit
Here are a few of our best tips for a stress-free public transport trip to the mountains.
- Plan your itinerary in advance and allow enough time to travel between attractions. Winging it up here will likely see you miss some of the best sites.
- Consider alternate options if there is trackwork on the weekend you are visiting.
- Dress for the weather. It can get really cold here in spring and autumn and below zero in winter. Even in summer, you might want a light jacket by the end of the day.
- If you plan on hiking, wear comfortable walking shoes with some decent grip on the sole. It can be muddy on the steps and on the valley floor.
- Grab some picnic items from Carrington Cellars & Deli or from Aldi (in Katoomba Street) if you are on a budget. There are plenty of picnic tables at Katoomba Falls Lookout or at Gordon Falls Lookout (both stops on the HOHO bus route) which are perfect for a mid-afternoon lunch stop.
- If you decide against the train, you can see a list of recommended Blue Mountains tours here