Australia’s Blue Mountains

KATOOMBA, Australia — Australia’s Blue Mountains, with its famous landmark the Three Sisters, have long been a favoriate tourist destination and weekend getaway for Sydneysiders.

Blue Mountains Australia
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Australia has some incredible landscapes, but its mountains don’t hold a candle to those on other continents. At only 7,310 feet, Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko, is less than half the height of the next continental highest peak (Western Europe’s Mont Blanc at 15,771 feet). And it’s positively squat compared Asia’s Mount Everest (29,035 feet) or even Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 feet).

The Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney, have long been a favoriate tourist destination and weekend getaway for Sydneysiders (it’s often cooler in the mountains, so a good place to escape the summer heat). They’re part of a long string of mountain ranges running almost the entire east coast of Australia known as the Great Dividing Range.

The most famous landmark in the Blue Mountains is a trio of rocky spires known as the Three Sisters. Standing next to Katoomba and clearly seen from Echo Point, they look out over a scenic landscape of thick eucalyptus forest (or, as Australian’s would call it, the bush), dramatic gorges, and rolling mountain ridges. Mountain ranges in the distance often look blue thanks to haze (and thanks to a phenomenon known to scientists as Rayleigh scattering), the effect is amplified here by the dense gum tree forests with their blue-green leaves.

Interestingly, finding a way through the mountains was a very difficult challenge for early white settlers of Sydney. Conventional exploring wisdom at the time held that to find a way through mountains you followed the waterways. But that doesn’t work here because so many dead-end into cliffs and waterfalls–instead, they had to learn to follow the ridges. But once a way was found through, usually credited (probably erroneously) to Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson, and William Charles Wentworth, the vast plains of western New South Wales could be exploited for farming (at the expense of the native wildlife, flora, and indigenous peoples, of course).

Photos of the Blue Mountains

Here’s a few photos I’ve taken of the Blue Mountains.

Blue Mountains Three Sisters
This famous rock formation is known as the Three Sisters. There’s a clear view of it from Echo Point in Katoomba. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Blue Mountains with Gum Trees
Blue Mountains Three Sisters Echo Point
The Echo Point lookout at Katoomba. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Blue Mountains George Phillips Lookout
Blue Mountains Three Sisters Panorama
A panoramic shot with the Three Sisters at left. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel

About Australia’s Blue Mountains

  • Located in New South Wales: The Blue Mountains are a mountainous region in New South Wales, Australia, approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Sydney.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site: The Greater Blue Mountains Area was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000, recognizing its exceptional biodiversity and geological features.
  • Eucalyptus forests: The region is predominantly covered by eucalyptus forests, which emit volatile organic compounds, giving the mountains a blue haze and the name “Blue Mountains.”
  • Three Sisters: The Three Sisters, a famous rock formation consisting of three sandstone peaks, is one of the most iconic landmarks in the Blue Mountains.
  • Extensive walking trails: The Blue Mountains offers over 140 kilometers (87 miles) of walking trails, catering to various skill levels, including the popular Grand Canyon Walk and Wentworth Falls Track.
  • Jenolan Caves: The Jenolan Caves are a series of limestone caves in the Blue Mountains, featuring stunning formations, underground rivers, and guided tours.
  • Aboriginal heritage: The region is rich in Aboriginal history and culture, with evidence of the Gundungurra and Darug peoples inhabiting the area for thousands of years.
  • Varied flora and fauna: The Blue Mountains are home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, including the Wollemi Pine, a “living fossil” tree species, and the endangered Blue Mountains Water Skink.
  • Katoomba Scenic Railway: The Katoomba Scenic Railway is the world’s steepest passenger railway, offering a unique way to explore the Jamison Valley’s rainforest.
  • Scenic World: Scenic World is a popular tourist attraction featuring the Scenic Railway, Scenic Skyway, Scenic Cableway, and Scenic Walkway, providing visitors with breathtaking views of the Blue Mountains.
  • Adventure activities: In addition to bushwalking, the Blue Mountains offer various adventure activities such as rock climbing, abseiling, and canyoning.
  • Blue Mountains National Park: Established in 1959, the Blue Mountains National Park encompasses 2,690 square kilometers (1,040 square miles) of protected land, preserving the region’s natural beauty and ecological significance.

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David Coleman / Photographer

David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my gear reviews and tips here. More »