A Long Weekend Road Trip to Sydney and the Blue Mountains

A Weekend Getaway in Sydney and the Blue Mountains

A visit to Australia’s largest city, Sydney, is always an experience but there comes a time when you begin to wonder what’s outside the sprawling metropolitan area. Only a 90-minute drive from the city, the Blue Mountains offer the perfect road trip that gives you the chance to spend time in the city but also see another side to the state in a place full of natural beauty.

When planning my road trip I knew exactly where I wanted to go; I wanted to see the Blue Mountains, the mountainous region that borders Sydney’s outer metropolitan area, that my trip onboard the Indian Pacific had slowly navigated through a year earlier.

The plan was set. We would spend two nights in Sydney – I couldn’t resist the chance to explore the growing small bar scene! – and set off early on our road trip so we could spend nearly a full day in the mountains, a night in Leura – a boutique town known for its growing food scene – before heading back into the city to take the last flight home.


Day 1: Sydney

Heading into Sydney I checked into Ovolo 1888, a boutique hotel most commonly referred to as the ‘Instagram Hotel’, located just a block from bustling Pyrmont.

With no time to waste I was back out on the streets and taking the ferry to Circular Quay for our first stop, the Museum of Contemporary Arts. Alongside their permanent collection is a revolving collection of exhibitions which has included Yoko Ono’s War Is Over! (if you want it), works from the Biennale of Sydney, and Christian Marclay’s The Clock. 

Strolling around the gallery made me hungry and as breakfast was a distant memory we headed to The Argyle. Known for its nightlife, The Argyle has recently been taking a new approach to entertainment offering pop-up canteen food options. While there we experienced their yum cha menu which is now unfortunately not available. In place, The Argyle Canteen now serves a new menu featuring authentic Italian and diner-style food. Think Napoli inspired pizzas, thick juicy burgers and Italian sweets for dessert – yum!

After a spot of shopping along Pitt Street Mall – a girl can’t resist! – we dropped our bags and headed out again, this time with our car and walking shoes, to take on the Hermitage Foreshore Walk. It’s a walk with million dollar views between Rose Bay and Watsons Bay where Sydney’s CBD and the Harbour Bridge seem to never leave your field of vision. There are a few steep parts and sets of stairs but for the most part it’s an easy walk. Highlights included stopping by Strickland House. Explore the gardens and grounds of the home-built in 1854, or just admire the view of the Harbour from the green. If it’s warm enough bring your bathers and a towel and have a swim in one of the two small harbourside beaches, my favourite being picturesque Hermit Bay where you can see Sydney’s CBD before you and the Harbour Bridge stretched out across the waters. If it’s chilly both Watsons Bay and Rose Bay have some small cafes perfect for warming up before returning home.

After a quick shower it was time to head out again and take on Sydney’s nightlife. Teaming up with local friends we were taken to a few of their favourite places. First up was dinner at El Loco, located in super trendy Surrey Hills, one of the most talked about Mexican restaurants in Sydney at the moment. Think sharing plates, big portions, and some pretty amazing (not quite Mexican) hot dogs. If you’re feeling like something a little more upmarket Sepia, one of the best seafood restaurants in Sydney is a great alternative but we just wanted something fresh and fun!

After laws were changed late 2013, Sydney’s small bar scene has exploded and I wanted to explore some of the best with a mini bar crawl. After returning to two old favourites, Rook and Stitch we went to Grandma’s Bar, a suggestion from my friend Lawrence. Kitch and mix-matched, Grandma’s Bar is a cool place to hang out no matter the time. Things get really busy after 9pm but never fear, there’s plenty of Tiki mugs and jaffles to share with everyone.


Image owned by Hotel 1888

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Day 2: Into the Blue Mountains

Leaving early the next morning we beat the traffic and headed towards the Blue Mountains, just a 90-minute drive away from the city. If you have time and choose to take the M4, be sure to make a stop at Zumbo’s Patisserie, Australian’s master macaroon maker. His hole-in-the-wall store on Balmain’s Darling Street is the flagship store offering the greatest variety of cakes and treats. Of course, I couldn’t resist picking up my favourite – a passionfruit tart!

Being such an easy drive along the highway we didn’t stop in any of the towns we passed by, instead wanting to spend as much time as we could in Mountains.

We decided to check-in to our hotel a little later and instead begin with a tour of the National Park. Being a bit of a bush newbie I decided it was better to go with an expert from Treadlightly Eco Tours. I chose to do the two-hour easy Wilderness Walk to get a taster of the World Heritage area.

Led by Tim, we followed the Charles Darwin Track and I was blown away at the knowledge he had of the area. We saw suspected dinosaur footprints, cave paintings left by the Indigenous people, and plenty of gorgeous native plants. We even had a lunch in a cave with a beautiful view across the valley. I had to ask Tim the question “why are the Blue Mountains called the Blue Mountains” and he didn’t miss a beat; Explaining that the dense forest of eucalyptus trees will release a mist of eucalyptus oil when they get warm and when the mist refracts the light it looks blue from a distance.

While we were out here we decided to head to Scenic World which gives guests four unique ways to experience the Blue Mountains. The first, and of course the one we started with, is the Scenic Railway that boasts it is the steepest passenger railway in the world with a 52º incline. I don’t doubt it after clinging onto my seat as we descended through a passage between two rocks and into the rainforest. It’s well worth the trip down, if not for a bit of an adrenaline rush but to see the Scenic Walkway.

Wandering around the Scenic Walkway, 2.4 kilometres of boardwalk and valley floor, the rainforest just towers above you. Amongst the Jurassic Rainforest is information about the mines and miners who worked in this place and had to get the coal up that crazy incline. If you’re lucky you might see lyrebirds, though I wasn’t quite so lucky on the day we visited.

Back up the Scenic Railway, we were next ushered onto the Scenic Cableway, a large glass cable car that travels the stretch across the Jamison Valley. The cable operator shared information about the area and pointed out the Three Sisters, Orphan Rock, Mt Solitary and Katoomba Falls as we slowly crossed the 545 metre expanse, though you’ll be able to get a better view from the Scenic Skyway.

By the time we had finished experiencing all we could at Scenic World, and buying locally made products like the honey from the gift shop, we were ready to check-in to our hotel.We were staying at the Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains, located just outside of Leura, which better resembled a luxury country club than a hotel as we drove down the winding driveway. The Deluxe Rooms were something special. It was a place that perfectly suits summer or winter weathers, though amongst the rich colours, light woods, and huge comfortable bed I could imagine snuggling up and watching snow fall across the Jamison Valley, the panoramic view that I could see from my window.

I was pretty tired after our day adventuring and suggested we have an early night after dining at the hotel. After a cheeky drink at the newly renovated Sublime Lounge we headed to the Eucalypt Restaurant for a taste of the local fare.


The sign reads “Charles Darwin passed this way 1836”

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Image owned by Fairmont Resort

Road-Trip-from-Sydney-to-Blue-Mountains-Leura-Garage Day 3: Back to Sydney, Back Home

While my friend slept in and enjoyed the pool, I took a walk around the property, past the adjoining Leura Golf Club and the stables to the segway track. Yes, that’s right I was going on a Segway Tour in the Blue Mountains.

Okay, it’s not quite as hardcore as I make it sound. There are two specially designed segway tracks around the property, including a small obstacle course, that takes you around the hotel, past the golf course as well as the rock climbing area and into the scrub. Best of all, you don’t have to be a hotel guest to take a tour!

After packing up the car and saying goodbye to the Fairmont Resort all too soon we decided to make a stop by the town centre to see what all the buzz was about.

Leura’s über cute main street – aptly named the Leura Mall – is the home of dozens of locally run produce stores. Most notably is the artisan chocolate store, Josophan’s Fine Chocolates. Be sure to stop by Teddy Sinclair if you need anything leather. The store sells unique leather goods but the original titles say that a food store needs to be set-up on the premises. To get around this the leather store now sells delicious locally made meat pies at the back of the store!

Unfortunately, my weekend getaway to Sydney and the Blue Mountains was almost at an end but there was one last stop we wanted to make to fuel up before the drive back to Sydney.

The Leura Garage is something of an icon. Incorporating features of – yes, you guessed it – a garage, you’ll find an automotive lift raised high displaying pretty glassware, rusting exhausts above the wine collection and plenty of ‘rough and ready’-style charm throughout the cafe and restaurant. The food is tasty and filling, though top pick were the wood oven pizza and don’t say no to a plate of their amazing shoestring potatoes topped with rosemary salt and with a side of aioli. Mmm… I think they nearly had to roll me back to Sydney!


Now it’s over to you

Which great Australian road trips would you like to take?

What are your road trip essentials?


PS: I’d also be really interested to know what you think of this day-by-day breakdown! 🙂

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This post has been created with the support of Shell V-Power.
All thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.

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  • Reply
    September 15, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    It’s been so long since Ive ventured back to the Blue Mountains, there is so much to see & the food is always amazing. Great pics too.

    • Reply
      October 1, 2014 at 12:18 am

      Thanks Anna. 🙂

      What’s your favourite things to do in the Blue Mountains? I’ve only been there once and would LOVE to explore more of the area.

  • Reply
    Caroline Eubanks
    September 20, 2014 at 6:00 am

    LOVE Stitch! Such a cool spot. And I went back to the Blue Mountains on my most recent trip and did a hike, but only stayed for the day. I also had my favorite meal of the trip, a brunch of poached eggs, grilled haloumi and Turkish bread at a cafe in Katoomba! Lovely post.

    • Reply
      October 1, 2014 at 12:19 am

      Mmmm grilled haloumi. Sounds delicious!

      Love Stitch! Do you have any other Sydney bar recommendations from your trip?

  • Reply
    September 21, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Blue mountains great place to do some hiking and camping if possible. Nice pics as well.

    • Reply
      October 1, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Thanks De’Jav! 🙂

  • Reply
    September 23, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Something for non Australians reading this:

    The Blue Mountains are not actually mountains, but a series of plateaus, steep ravines and cliffs. While they occasionally get some snow in winter, they are not mountains for skiing on.

    • Reply
      October 1, 2014 at 12:20 am

      Thanks for the extra information for readers Jane. 🙂

  • Reply
    Nick Porter
    September 24, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Hmm interesting…. I always find myself going on beach holidays on the Sunshine Coast or perhaps Bali. After this article it certainly motivates me to try and see more of whats in the aussie backyard. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Reply
      October 20, 2014 at 5:28 am

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Nick 🙂

  • Reply
    September 26, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    you certainly made the most of your trip… well done for squeezing things in nicely

    • Reply
      October 1, 2014 at 12:19 am

      Thanks Rebecca! It was short but sweet. 🙂

  • Reply
    September 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    We loved our visit to the Blue Mountains when we were in Australia! We lucked out with beautiful weather and just enough mist that the mountains gave us that blue hue that makes them famous. Unforgettable experience.

    • Reply
      October 1, 2014 at 12:20 am

      Sounds beautiful! Do you have any photos Lina?!

  • Reply
    October 1, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    As I live in WA, it has been a long, long time since I was up in the Blue Mountains. However I do remember the magnificent scenery, steep gorges and amazing smell of the bush. Sometime I will go back and do some hiking.

    • Reply
      October 20, 2014 at 5:27 am

      Hi Richard,
      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.
      Hope you can make it back to the Blue Mountains soon. The hikes are beautiful – I can’t wait to go back and do another!

  • Reply
    October 8, 2014 at 6:12 am

    Everything in this post makes me miss Australia SO. FRIGGIN. MUCH.

    The Hermitage Foreshore Walk is definitely one of my favourite Sydney things!

    • Reply
      October 14, 2014 at 4:37 am

      I’m sorry Beatrice!
      Hope you can come back to Australia soon. Australia misses you!

  • Reply
    October 9, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Actually, Nicole, there is a more interesting story about what makes the Blue Mountains blue. When renowned U. Sydney physics professor Harry Messel was asked that question in 1995, he responded with a detailed scientific explanation – “it is quite certain that the haze which appears to surround any distant object is due to an optical phenomenon called ‘Rayleigh scattering’.This effect which was first investigated theoretically by Lord Rayleigh causes the rays of light which impinge on small particles to scattered in various directions… Since the atmosphere is always laden with small dust particles, water droplets and the like and since even the air molecules themselves contributed to some extent to the scattering… if an observer looks at a distant object with the intervening atmosphere illuminated by sunlight eyes will receive the, blue scattered rays of sunlight to reflect he object itself. Therefore any distant object will always appear to display some shade of blue.”
    Most relevant is that his explanation was accepted without question. Harry was a much valued and innovative thinker. However, as far as I know, it has never been tested, and it doesn’t take much to realise that nothing about this explanation that is unique to the Blue Mountains. But Prof. Messel went on to explain that light is scattered most effectively off very small droplets of oil. He argued that the most plausible explanation of why the Blue Mountains are blue is to be found in the vegetation of the region. Fine oil droplets are dispersed into the atmosphere from such indigenous oil bearing trees as the eucalypts. But the final doubt was sown by Harry himself; “I must emphasise that this is merely a guess and that this possibility has to my knowledge not been investigated”.
    It seems that we have been blinded blue by science…

  • Reply
    October 19, 2014 at 10:54 am

    The perfect Blue Mountains road trip is the Great Circle Drive the takes you west off the M2 motorway from Richmond through Kurrajong and Bilpin apple orchards around to Mt Victoria and across the top to Katoomba and Leura. Return east to Sydney via the famous Norman Lindsay Gallery at Faulconbridge and see the kangaroos at Glenbrook National Park then join the M4 for a straight shot to the city. There are many brilliant mountains B&Bs for accommodation if hotels get boring.

    • Reply
      May 17, 2015 at 10:19 pm

      Danny, the drive that you suggested, can you do that in a day?

  • Reply
    Aaron Schubert
    November 3, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    I’ve not been to the blue mountains, but have them on the bucket list. They look like an incredible place!

  • Reply
    November 23, 2014 at 3:48 am

    Very nice article. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Reply
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    April 8, 2019 at 9:32 am

    Instagram hotels…
    Your trip could be anywhere – bland homogeony for the iphone. Safe touristic choices.
    The spa hotel, the bars the cocktails, the guided walk all played out for online like clockwork
    I rail at the beige of it all.

    • Reply
      April 8, 2019 at 9:43 am

      Of course, she works in advertising.
      An ‘industry’ that has reduced human culture to the lowest common denominator.
      And explains the precise similarity to those glossy free mags that are essentially shopping brochures, no matter the city or country they pupport to be about, its just copy and promo.
      But what none of this is about, is travel writing.

    • Reply
      April 8, 2019 at 1:33 pm

      With a finite amount of time to see see Sydney with one of my good friends, this is exactly what I did. I got a taste of it. From the harbour to the suburbs, and the incredible Blue Mountains. Three days in any state is not enough to truly tap into everything the places have to offer, but with a local by my side it sure helped.

      I don’t see how my trip could be anywhere. The hotel could be (almost) anywhere, yes; in fact, it exudes cool New York City loft more than Sydney-side hotel. But the secret beaches, touring in an ICONIC vintage Australian car with THOSE views could be no where but Sydney. Even my beloved Melbourne could not cut the mustard on this one.

      This is travel writing: a helpful overview of some of the fun things you can do with just a short stopover, long weekend or few days in Sydney. It’s not perfect – and considering this article is about 5-years old, I need to update it.

      As for your comments about the industry I work in (advertising/marketing/digital), we do not reduce people down to the common denominator. Sure, sure agencies and brands do; but where I work we don’t. I work for a sports team and trust me – every shitty comment we get on there, I read and try to respond to in order to ensure everyone has the best experience. We take that feedback from fans and apply it to our work across all digital platforms and fan experience at the games. So I think you should shut your mouth on things you are unqualified to talk about and go troll some other blogger who does not give a shit about the single denominators (I’m happy to share names) and instead work on improving yourself.

      I think you need to check your perspective and attitude ‘Aqua’ (aka: Troll). For a person with such a colourful name you sure have a bland personality and beige outlook on life.

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