Wanting to get out of Sydney to see more of the countryside of New South Wales, we researched our options for day trips. After flirting with the idea of a wine tour to the Hunter Valley, we decided instead on a trip to the Blue Mountains. We booked a small group guided tour with Anderson’s Tours for $160 per person. Although it seemed somewhat expensive, the 11-hour tour included several stops in the Blue Mountains, Scenic World, a guided walk, Featherdale Wildlife Park, a river cruise, lunch, and all entrance fees.
Our guide, Kunal, picked us up at the nearby Intercontinental Hotel at 7:20 a.m. on Day 4 of our trip down under.
Ours was the last pickup point and seats were nearly full so Jim sat in the front with Kunal, beginning a thoroughly enjoyable ride. As he drove us through the countryside, Kunal shared his considerable knowledge about Australia, New South Wales, and the Blue Mountains with us.
The Blue Mountains received their name eponymously from the blue haze of the eucalyptus forests covering the mountains. The blue haze is caused by a phenomenon called Rayleigh Scattering, a molecular scattering of light. Incidentally, this Rayleigh Scattering also causes the sky to look blue.
After driving through Glenbrook and Katoomba, we stopped first at Scenic World. A privately owned tourist attraction, it offers several worthwhile experiences. As we entered, we were told to take the Scenic Skyway and meet our group on the other side before boarding the Scenic Railway. The Scenic Skyway, the largest aerial cablecar in the southern hemisphere, with 360-degree windows and a glass floor, provided some amazing views.
As is sometimes the case, several of our tour group didn’t listen to the instructions and couldn’t be found at the meeting point so we wasted about 45 minutes waiting for them. This is why I’ve come to appreciate private tours whenever they are cost-effective.
Advertised as the steepest passenger railway in the world, the Scenic Railway with its 128% incline descends 310 meters (1017 ft.) to the floor of the Jamison Valley. Originally built to transport coal and miners, the incline railway began carrying tourists on weekends and holidays to supplement their income. When the coal mine closed, Harry Hammon and his sister bought the lease in 1945 and developed Scenic Railway as the centerpiece of Scenic World.
When we reached the bottom, we enjoyed the Scenic Walkway through several coal mining exhibits and an environmentally responsible 2.4 km trail through the Jurassic rainforest.
The thick vines in the photo below supply water and nutrients to the foliage high above in the canopy.
Following our leisurely stroll through the rainforest, we boarded the Scenic Cableway for our return to the top of the cliff while enjoying more spectacular views of the Three Sisters, a rock formation created by erosion.
We stopped at several more lookouts with relatively short trails leading to them. Even in the mountains, the day was oppressively hot so we were grateful not to hike too far.
Following a tasty lunch at the elegant Alexandra Hotel in Leura, we had a little free time to explore the town before continuing on to several more lookouts in the Blue Mountains.
The view from Sublime Point lived up to its name.
Featherdale Wildlife Park was like most zoos—a somewhat sad place to see wild animals in captivity. Because of the heat, we departed from the air-con in the van somewhat apathetically to visit the animals.
I was eager, however, to see native Australian wildlife and especially keen to see koalas up close. Koalas are nocturnal and sleep 18-20 hours a day and none of them were awake but it was fun, nonetheless. You can hold koalas only in the state of Queensland (we were in New South Wales) so we didn’t bother to stand in the short line to get a photo merely petting a koala. I would later regret that decision but more on that in a future post.
Koalas are endangered; there are currently estimated to be only 43,000-80,000 koalas left in Australia due to loss of habitat. The koala eats eucalyptus leaves and while there are 700 varieties of the plant in Australia, the koala eats only 60 of them. Efforts are underway to try to save and restore the habitat to ensure the survival of this adorable marsupial.
Lori and I took turns taking photos of one another petting the kangaroos that roamed freely around the park.
The park charges a fee to take photos of dingos but I captured this one as one of the staff walked it through.
These adorable little penguins are native to Australia and we enjoyed watching them clamor for food at feeding time.
The echidna, also known as the spiny anteater, is native only to Australia and New Guinea. They and the platypus are the only mammals to lay eggs.
Following our visit at Featherdale Wildlife Park, Kunal delivered us to the marina on the Parramatta River where our ride soon arrived to deliver us back to Circular Quay.
It was a long, sweltering, exhausting, but satisfying day.
Based on events from February 2019.