Six Amazing Things We Saw in Australia's Blue Mountains (and Two Disappointing Ones)
This fantastic wilderness area near Sydney is absolutely must-see.
I doubt I ever would’ve come to Australia’s Blue Mountains if Michael hadn’t had a friend here he wanted to visit. This national park and wilderness area is quite famous in Australia, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but I’d never even heard of it.
I’m glad I didn’t miss out, because this area is absolutely spectacular.
Better still, it’s only about two hours from Sydney, on a very easy train line from the city center. Part of the Blue Mountains is even considered “Greater Sydney.” And while there is definitely a summer “high season” — from December through February — the area’s towns and amenities still (mostly) have a charming, local, non-corporate feel.
Technically, the Blue Mountains aren’t “mountains” at all. The area is actually a massive sandstone plateau that has been eroded by water and time into a series of canyons and valleys. The scientific name for this is a “dissected plateau.”
Because of all these different canyons, the area was very difficult for non-Aboriginal people to cross — much less build a rail-line through to the other side. But enterprising engineers eventually managed the feat, building rail tracks and, later, a highway, which both now wind their way along a series of very narrow canyon ridges.
To this day, most of the towns and tourist amenities in the Blue Mountains are clustered right along this narrow, carefully planned route, with the buildings of the various towns’ spilling downhill from the various stations.
But enough with the set-up! Here’s what I most loved about the Blue Mountains area — followed by a couple of things that left me underwhelmed and, in one case, outright annoyed.
(1) The “Blue” Mountains are actually blue — and it’s really cool.
When Michael told me that the Blue Mountains were literally blue, I was skeptical. I mean, don’t all mountains have kind of a bluish tint, at least in a certain light? And when he said the blue color comes from a chemical emitted by the trees, I thought to myself, Uh huh, SURE.
But he was absolutely right! The leaves of the eucalyptus trees emit an oil, which combines with dust and vapor to create a distinctly blue haze.
Don’t believe me? See for yourself:
(2) The canyons are sometimes so narrow that they create their own “pocket” rainforests!
The Blue Mountains are fairly arid — especially on the open rocky areas and along the exposed canyon rims. But the area also has a seemingly endless number of narrow canyons and gullies, often centered around streams and waterfalls.
The result? The moisture from the streams and the shade of the canyons and trees create their own “pocket” environments, resulting in three different kinds of rainforests!