By Ellen Hill for Fantastic Aussie Tours
Rail riders can experience a great fat look at the Blue Mountains when the Indian Pacific pulls into Mt Victoria each week.
The optional off-train excursion for passengers travelling from Perth is the result of a new partnership between Fantastic Aussie Tours (FAT), Great Southern Rail which owns the iconic Indian Pacific touring train, Scenic World, Blue Mountains Guides and the Trippas White Group which owns The Lookout Restaurant at Echo Point.
FAT managing director Jason Cronshaw said the Blue Mountains excursion would be an option each Wednesday, with passengers alighting the train at Mt Victoria after breakfast.
A FAT bus would then transport them to Scenic World to experience the range of thrilling rides or a trek through awe-inspiring landscapes along Prince Henry Walk with Blue Mountains Guides.
All passengers would then assemble for lunch at The Lookout Restaurant near the Three Sisters rock formation overlooking the Jamison Valley before being returned to the Indian Pacific in a FAT bus and continuing their rail journey to Sydney.
“For many years, Indian Pacific passengers caught glimpses of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area as they hurtled through the bush and the villages,’’ Mr Cronshaw said.
“Now, whatever activity they choose to do here they will experience what we are blessed with every day.’’
The package had taken five years to finalise, with the main challenge reserving a rail pathway in the increasingly busy Blue Mountains rail line timetable.
“This is a fantastic coup for the businesses directly involved in this package including us of course, but it has the potential to bring hundreds of visitors to the region who will hopefully return to stay at least one night in a hotel or B&B, eat out in our cafes and restaurants and visit the attractions and retail outlets throughout the area,’’ Mr Cronshaw said.
Each train had a potential load of 252 passengers.
Indian Pacific manager Penelope Milne said the daytrip option would be expanded to an overnight stay by 2019.
In the meantime, the excursions would encourage longer return visits among passengers.
In fact, one passenger on the inaugural trip on April 4 spent the night in the Blue Mountains before returning home via the public rail network.
- Fantastic Aussie Tours is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill
Respect your elders, celebrate the holidays and begin the Chinese New Year of the Rooster afresh with Asian street food, music, lanterns, lights and lions at the Hydro Majestic Hotel on Sunday, January 29.
The original Blue Mountains party palace will celebrate its Asian heritage past and present with all the sights and sounds of the Orient.
The Hydro Majestic Pavilion at Medlow Bath will be adorned with colourful lanterns, and cherry blossoms and cumquat trees will stand at the doors with lucky red money bags for children to tie to the trees as offerings to respected ancestors.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “Our Lunar New Year will recreate the romance of the East and be reminiscent of Oriental opium dens and cigars, although our guests these days will have to make do with dreamy sunsets and cocktails.
“We will, however, adopt the tradition of respecting our ancestors. In our case, we will pay homage to Louie Goh Mong (nicknamed `Charlie’), who worked as a cook at original owner Mark Foy’s home and managed the mayhem at the Hydro Majestic for 35 years.’’
Charlie Goh Mong was just one of many Chinese workers who reverted to their traditional skills across the Blue Mountains post-Bathurst gold rush era around the turn of the 20th century, with many working as butlers, cooks, nannies, maids and produce suppliers to inns, guesthouses and manor houses during that time.
Decades later, people from all over the world continue to work at the grandest of the grand Blue Mountains hotels.
Chinese New Year celebrations will wrap-up a weekend of celebrations of cultural diversity at the Hydro Majestic, after World Degustation Day revels in the flavours of all continents on Earth with a seven-course feast on Friday, January 27, after Australia Day.
Locals can mingle with international visitors to watch the exciting lion dance troupe performance and nibble on Asian street food such as dumplings, barbecued meat and seafood skewers, Banh Mi, fresh spring rolls, rice paper rolls, fried noodles, roasted corn cobs, Asian desserts and more.
Mr Bruegger encouraged visitors to fully immerse themselves in cultural diversity and stay at least one night to experience World Degustation Day from 5.30pm to 9.30pm Friday, January 27; explore the spectacular Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area on the Saturday; and then attend Chinese New Year celebrations from 12pm to 3pm on Sunday, January 29.
Go to www.escarpmentgroup.com.au to book accommodation and dining options at one of the four Escarpment Group properties in the upper Blue Mountains (the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges, Lilianfels Resort & Spa and Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant).
* Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Blue Mountains Attractions Group
From furry critters and underground caves to enchanted gardens, bushwalks for small people, cool art and Aboriginal culture, the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is one big playground.
Blue Mountains Attractions Group president Louise Clifton said: “Australia’s first tourist destination has had a long time to perfect the visitor experience and the premier attractions of the Greater Blue Mountains cater for the whole family – not just adults and not just children.
“Everyone loves the adorable animals at Featherdale Wildlife Park, the exciting rides at Scenic World and the fascinating indigenous cultural experience at Waradah Aboriginal Centre is tailored to appeal to all ages, while other attractions are multi-tiered.’’
One of the world’s most spectacular cave systems, Jenolan Caves offers a range of guided tours from easy strolls through the Grand Arch to strenuous explorations of the underworld.
Children will be captivated by meeting their favourite Magic Pudding characters and exploring their gardens at Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum while grown-ups sneak into the art gallery to view the famous paintings.
Everglades Historic House & Gardens and Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mt Tomah have open areas for children to let off some steam and run while adults wander the exquisite avenues. Both properties also have activity books for kids.
Like all the premier attractions in Leura and Katoomba, Blue Mountains Cultural Centre can be accessed easily via a vintage-style hop-on/hop-off Trolley Tours bus. Grown-ups will be wowed by the world-class artworks on display in Blue Mountains City Art Gallery while kids will be amazed at the interactive World Heritage Exhibition.
No trip to the Blue Mountains is complete without a visit to Scenic World where the young and the young at heart can experience the thrill of the world’s steepest passenger railway, walk on air on the skyway and take the cable car to the valley floor to stroll through ancient rainforest.
Stay overnight at Hartley Historic Site to fully immerse yourselves in colonial Australia (the Old Trahlee property sleeps six and has a cot for babies). Tour the courthouse, admire the artwork along the sculpture walk and the Kew-Y-Ahn Art Gallery. Visit metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick at Talisman Gallery where adults can browse the art and jewellery while the kids make their very own fire poker.
Families can refuel on any budget when visiting the Greater Blue Mountains. Myriad cafes, kiosks and restaurants including those at Everglades, Hartley Historic Site, Jenolan Caves, the Boiler House Café at the Hydro Majestic Hotel and Blue Mountains Cultural Centre serve the full gamut of treats.
Alternatively, numerous picnic spots in picturesque locations such as Euroka Clearing in Blue Mountains National Park Glenbrook entrance, Jenolan Caves, Wentworth Falls Lake, Hartley Historic Site and Everglades are ideal for home-brought fare.
The Greater Blue Mountains also has a range of other accommodation options suitable for families from caravan parks and self-contained cottages to upmarket hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs including St Raphael (The Convent) at Leura, The Mountain Lodge at Jenolan Caves and The Jungle Lodge at Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mt Tomah.
Go to bluemountainsattractions.com.au for information about where to stay and what to do in the Greater Blue Mountains region or visit the Blue Mountains Attractions Group Facebook page.
- Blue Mountains Attractions Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Everglades Historic House & Gardens Photos: David Hill
Children can learn about heritage conservation and the natural environment in one of the most enchanting historic properties in the Blue Mountains these school holidays – and they won’t even know it’s educational.
My Adventure at Everglades children’s program will begin at Everglades Historic House & Gardens at Leura during the long December/January summer holidays.
Funded with a $25,000 grant from the Ian Potter Foundation through the Alec Prentice Sewell Gift, the program aims to encourage children to care for their natural and historic heritage.
Everglades manager Scott Pollock said the My Adventure at Everglades program would introduce a new generation of history and nature lovers to the Everglades property and others like it.
“We know that about two thousand of the thirty thousand visitors who come through the Everglades gate every year are children. That is two thousand potential future guardians of our nation’s heritage, culture and natural environment.
“For the first time, we have a dedicated program for children at Everglades, one which will spark their curiosity and urge to investigate and explore and help create a magical memory for the rest of their lives of an afternoon spent with Mum and Dad or Gran and Pop at this fairytale property in the Blue Mountains.’’
Surrounded by the spectacular landscape of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, Everglades features many outdoor “rooms’’ where small people can explore grassy slopes, tall trees, tiny flowers, colourful shrubs, outdoor theatre and mystic sculptures, tucked away among the Banksia men with their wicked tales.
The Everglades property at Leura includes 12.5 acres of Paul Sorensen-designed European-style gardens and native Australian bush with breathtaking views over the Jamison Valley, as well as the art deco house created by Henri Van de Velde in the 1930s.
Designed in consultation with expert educators for three to six-year-olds, the My Everglades Adventure program provides learning tools such as the Garden Detective Program, Sculpture Trail, activity book and an array of things to see and do.
Children will set off on their adventure with a pack of tools including a work book, magnifying glasses, garden trail, Play with Parents Guide and instructions for physical activities throughout the property.
Half the activities are for children to do themselves while others are conducted with parents.
A great resource to help children become ready for school, activities will give the opportunity for matching, drawing, colouring, identifying component parts, labelling and drawing from their surrounds along with counting, exploring and contemplating.
The My Everglades Adventure program will start during the 2015 summer school holidays. Everglades Historic House & Gardens, 37 Everglades Ave, Leura, is open from 10am to 5pm daily during daylight savings and from 10am to 4pm during autumn and winter. Entry: $13 adults, $8 concessions, $4 children, National Trust members free.
The children’s activity books cost $10 and $5 per subsequent book. Bookings and information: (02) 4784 1938 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Ellen Hill for Hartley Historic Site Photos: David Hill
Explore one of the best examples of colonial history afresh when Hartley Historic Site holds its annual Back to Hartley family fair on Sunday, October 25.
Be entertained with live music by Lithgow Folk Club; take a trike or pony ride; have a close encounter with a furry friend at the petting zoo; make a fire poker with metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick at Talisman Gallery; and hit a bullseye at the archery.
There will be the Galloping Gumnut travelling playgroup for pre-schoolers, face painting, sheep shearing, a reptile show, locally-made handmade arts and crafts stalls, vintage cars and dancing demonstrations. New this year will be a rock climbing wall.
This year’s Back to Hartley will also commemorate the first 100 mile motorcycle race in the Hartley Valley and motorcyclists are invited to submit their bikes for judging by Lithgow Motorcycle Club with a range of prizes and categories up for grabs.
The Hartley Vale Circuit was originally marked out on public roads in 1915 just south of Lithgow. The circuit was first used by the Sydney-based Canberra Motorcycle Club to hold its first annual 100 mile race. The circuit was 6km long and a gravel surface. Racing was conducted in a clockwise direction and later controlled by Western Suburbs Motorcycle Club. It closed in 1936.
Hartley Historic Site manager Steve Ring said funds raised from the day would go towards Paxton – MPS Journey to help pay for treatment for Lithgow one-year-old Paxton who was diagnosed with the rare and incurable MPS II disease also known as Hunters Syndrome when he was nine months old.
“Back to Hartley is a good chance for NPWS to work with the community to raise funds for a local charity or causes we both feel are important. This year we are pleased to be helping young Paxton.’’
Hartley Historic Site is managed by National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) and buildings tell the story of the village from the 1837 Greek Revival courthouse to Corneys Garage built in 1945 of timber and iron.
Set among pastures, orchards, native plants and 19th and 20th century cottage gardens, the village’s sandstone buildings preserve an important piece of history – the settlement of inland Australia.
The settlement began when a need for a police centre in the Hartley Valley led to the construction of Hartley Court House in 1837.
During the next 50 years a bustling village grew around the courthouse, the judicial and administrative centre surrounded by churches and accommodation, a post office and staging facilities.
The village served travellers and settlers west of the Blue Mountains until it was surpassed by the Great Western Railway in 1887 and became stagnant and fell into decline.
In 1972 the village was declared an historic site under the management of NPWS.
Today, it includes 17 buildings of historical significance, two privately owned, including Old Trahlee (1840), Post Office (1846), St Bernard’s Presbytery and St Bernard’s Church (1842) still operating as a Catholic church, Shamrock Inn Cottage (1841) and the Court House (1837).
“We have recently completed many improvements and added new attractions to the site including an Aboriginal art gallery, café, the Kew-Y-Ahn walk and modern toilet facilities, new gardens and fences,’’ Mr Ring said.
He also encouraged visitors to explore the wider region.
“If you’re coming from Sydney, travel up the Great Western Highway and see the Blue Mountains, spend the day with us at Back to Hartley, then drive into Lithgow and head home via the Bells Line of Road through the Hawkesbury to experience the World Heritage Area from a very different perspective.’’
Visitors can choose from a range of accommodation and dining options in the Lithgow area.
Go to lithgowtourism.com for more information.
Back to Hartley will be held at Hartley Historic Site, Old Bathurst Rd (just off Great Western Hwy), Hartley, from 9am to 4pm Sunday, October 25. Cost: $5 per vehicle. Details: (02) 6355 2117 or email@example.com.