Travel Bucket List with a Twist #2
Sydney + Blue Mountains
Sydney is famous for a reason: it’s beautiful. I spent my 30th birthday weekend there with a best friend; we took a ferry down the estuary to eye the fabulous waterside homes, we walked along the sunny boardwalk of the Royal Botanic Gardens to get the classic view of the Opera House from across the bay, we attended a Carrie Underwood concert at the Opera House itself, we sipped sun-downers on the top floor of the Shangri-La Hotel where we had a wide view of the harbour, and finally we ate huge bowls of pasta in the open air in the historic Rocks area. It would take skill to not enjoy such a lovely city!
But don’t stop there. Just an hour inland from Sydney is the Blue Mountains, a World Heritage site.
The Blue Mountains could keep you busy for weeks, but let me mention just three highlights:
This is a majestic valley near the mountain town of Katoomba. It’s descended into by way of one of the steepest funiculars in the world; you sit fastened into your seat and then (to the sound of Indiana Jones’s theme tune!) pass through a natural tunnel before having the valley floor open up before you. You quickly drop down into a thick canopy of trees.
Once on the valley floor, you walk along raised boardwalks through rainforest, with displays showing 19th-century mining activities and plaques describing the natural history. Australia truly does have some of the most innovative museums in the world.
A cable car takes you back up to the valley’s rim. The glass-bottomed Skyway will carry you horizontally over one arm of the valley, offering views of Katoomba Falls and the Three Sisters.
Jenolan Caves is in an isolated, hard-to-reach valley. But once there, it is a hub of tourists. There are several guided walking tours as well as day-long adventure caving tours.
Electricity was introduced to the caves in 1880 (years before Sydney had it) as conservationists wanted to alleviate the damage of torch smoke. It was known by the Aborigines as Binoomea, meaning ‘dark places’. When our guide turned off the lights for a while, the blackness was more complete and disorienting than anything I’d ever experienced. Cave explorers are brave to say the least.
Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens
It was ridiculously cold when we visited the gardens in July, and I got horribly sick as a result, but I don’t regret it! We stamped our feet, puffed into the air, and soaked up the beauty of the place. The gardens are very remote, and I loved the feeling of being far from almost everything. Resting on the side of a mountain, the gardens aren’t big, but they are a beautiful oasis in a dry region, and afford great panoramic views.
I recommend adding the Blue Mountains to your Sydney plans to make it a bucket list with a twist!
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