With the promise of magnificent roads and breathtaking Australian native scenery, the Blue Mountains is one of the most spectacular day trips (or weekenders) one can do out of Sydney. Just two hours from the CBD, this destination is as well-known for its bushwalks as it is for indulgent getaway properties.
And like Ojai and Joshua Tree National Park in the United States, the windy Scottish coastal isle of Iona, Boudhanath in Nepal and Uluru in our very own Alice Springs, the Blue Mountains has a mystical reputation. Named so because of the blue vapour radiating off its mass eucalyptus forests, this peaceful destination's ancient feel is amplified by enormous, prehistoric trees that tower over even older rock formations and many a treasured and sacred indigenous site. Blue Mountains towns are dotted with local art, classic colonial tea houses and antique shops en masse. A conversation with a local may spark the phrase “the veil [between heaven and earth] is thin here”… something often said in this area of NSW, alluding to its spiritual appeal. Whether you believe that or not, it still makes for a compelling thought while driving through the misty mountains and tall ghost gums, and even more as a place to escape to when the urban jungle gets too much.
In Episode 11 of the first season of Which Car TV, we took the new Jaguar I-Pace, in all its silent, environmentally thoughtful glory, into the wilderness. Aside from the fact our road trip highlighted many of the pitfalls that await performance EV owners in Australia wanting to take the road less travelled, we also found some of the best kept (and some not at all) secret stops.
Here’s five to consider next time you’re thinking of taking off into the mountains.
Bells Line of Road
Coming out of Sydney, most drivers will opt to take the popular and more direct Great Western Highway; big mistake. Because what those drivers miss out on is a winding, undulant and idyllic stretch of road that passes tall paperbark trees, beautiful sandstone cliffs and rises above the canopy. The Bells Line of Road starts in Richmond and ends in Lithgow, and is one of the most historic roads in the Blue Mountains.
Bilpin Cider Co.
Situated on Bells Line of Road, this craft cider brewery is one of a handful in the area, which is rich in orchards and fruit farms thanks to the location’s microclimate and biodiversity. Pop into the cellar door to taste one of Bilpin’s six apple and pear ciders, learn about the history of the area or take a wander through the orchard.
2369 Bells Line of Rd,
Bilpin NSW 2758
Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Tomah
Featuring more than 21,000 species of cool climate plants, this huge garden of ferns and flowers sits 1,000 metres above sea level, making it Australia’s highest botanic garden. With walking tours, picnic areas, workshops and local flora for sale, the gardens make for a quick break or an elongated lunch stop and way to stretch the legs. Overlooking the garden is The Potager restaurant, which brags a delicious menu and fantastic coffee, best enjoyed while taking in the valley views.
Bells Line of Road,
Mount Tomah, NSW, 2758
Grand Canyon Rainforest Walk
If you’ve not yet ventured into the forest, consider one of the lesser-known walks (compared to those around Katoomba and the Three Sisters). This rainforest walk is a meditative 2-2.5 hours of mossy, peaceful wandering through ancient paths and sunlit canopies.
Grand Canyon Car Park,
Blue Mountains National Park,
Evans Lookout Road,
Blackheath, NSW 2785
The Hydro Majestic Hotel
This historic hotel is known for its grand dining room (pictured here) and famous high tea services and sits atop a cliff overlooking the often foggy Megalong Valley. The heritage listed hotel is a mix of Edwardian and Art Deco architecture and boasts a beautiful garden and vintage design cues throughout. If you’re just passing through, consider stopping in here for lunch at the property’s Boiler House Restaurant or simply enjoy a refreshment on one of the hotel’s balconies at sunset.
52-88 Great Western Hwy,
Medlow Bath, NSW 2780