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 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 Blue Mountains Attractions Group Photos: David Hill
Answer two easy questions and follow a simple directive and you could treat your family to the ultimate Blue Mountains holiday experience as guests of the premier attractions of the world-famous tourist destination.
BMAG president Louise Clifton said: “We invite families to come and play in our grand backyard. The Greater Blue Mountains has so much to see and do and it’s all right on Sydney’s doorstep.
“Our natural adventure playground has jaw-droppingly awesome views over prehistoric landscapes stretching beyond the horizon, exhilarating activities, inspiring art and culture, unique specialty shopping, mouth-watering food and so much more.’’
The seven-day odyssey will be a whirlwind all-expenses-paid* immersion in the best attractions on offer in Australia’s first tourist destination.
The winning family of up to two adults and two children will begin their Blue Mountains adventure with close encounters with native Aussie wildlife on a private tour of Featherdale Wildlife Park on July 1.
Embark on a shopping spree at Australia’s largest teddy bear specialty store, Nana’s Teddies & Toys at Blaxland, visit the home of the Magic Pudding (Norman Lindsay Gallery at Faulconbridge) and experience firsthand the dancing, song, didgeridoo, Dreamtime story and art of the oldest continuous human culture at Waradah Aboriginal Centre, Katoomba.
Discover the sites and sights of Katoomba and Leura on a Trolley Bus without the hassle of parking. Hop on and hop off at any (or all) of the 29 stops along the route including Everglades Historic House & Gardens at Leura featuring Paul Sorensen-designed gardens and an authentic art deco house, and where youngsters can learn about heritage and nature without realising through activities in the My Adventure at Everglades booklet.
Experience another aspect of the Blue Mountains when rambling the exquisite Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah, 1000m above sea level and home to a world-class collection of cold climate plants, dramatic blooms, the Botanists Way Discovery Centre and pristine rainforest.
Wander the boutique shops of the famed Leura Mall and head to Bygone Beautys Treasured Teapot Museum & Tearooms to view one of the world’s largest private collection of teawares including more than 5500 teapots and over 100 varieties of tea and infusions.
Step back in time surrounded by the pastures, orchards, cottage gardens and picturesque sandstone buildings of Hartley Historic Site, browse the Kew-Y-Ahn Aboriginal Art Gallery and even make your very own firepoker with metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick at Talisman Gallery before stocking up on fabulous metal art, sculpture or silver jewellery.
Descend into the underworld to explore the most spectacular cave system in Australia and the oldest in the world at Jenolan Caves. Subtle technology and imagination make guided tours awe-inspiring before tucking into a special Yulefest dinner. Kids will meet Santa and there might even be snow.
The Ultimate Blue Mountains Family Holiday Experience winning family will receive complementary annual family InSign membership during their visit to Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, giving free entry to the Blue Mountains City Art Gallery and World Heritage Exhibition, discounts on events and public programs and the Gallery Café and Shop and invitations to members-only events.
No trip to the Blue Mountains would be complete without experiencing the thrill of riding the world’s steepest passenger railway at Scenic World, walking on air on the skyway or taking the cable car to the valley floor to stroll through ancient rainforest.
From a la carte dining at The Rooster Restaurant and morning reposes at the most famous hotel in Australia – the sumptuously refurbished Hydro Majestic Hotel, to lunches at charming venues such as the Post Office Café at Hartley Historic Site and breakfast at private retreats, the winning family is in for a delicious week-long treat.
Accommodation will be provided at the upmarket Bygone Beautys-owned St Raphael (The Convent) at Leura, Escarpment Group-owned Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges at Blackheath, The Mountain Lodge at historic Jenolan Caves, The Jungle Lodge at Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mt Tomah and Old Trahlee at Hartley Historic Site.
For your chance to win this incredible family experience, simply go to the Blue Mountains Australia website at bluemts.com.au between April 16 and 5pm on May 1, hit the “Enter Now’’ link at the top of the page and tell us: a) How many attractions are listed on the bluemountainsattractions.com.au website?
b) What is the famous landmark featured in the Blue Mountains Attractions Group Facebook profile picture at facebook.com/bluemountainsattractions (Like the page while you’re researching your answer)?
c) Tell us in 30 words or less why you would love to win a week away in the Blue Mountains.
Be sure to include your name and contact details. The winner will be drawn in Katoomba on May 4.
Judges’ decision will be final and no correspondence will be entered into with entrants. Employees of any Blue Mountains Attractions Group members associated with the promotion, and their immediate families, are ineligible to enter the competition. By claiming a prize, the winner accepts that the Blue Mountains Attractions Group may use the winner’s name and likeness for promotional and publicity purposes. Maximum size of family is two adults and two children up to the age of 16. Minimum size is two adults over the age of 18. The winner must be able to redeem their prize and make use of it from June 27 to July 3, 2016, inclusive with no alteration available. The cost of transport to and from the Blue Mountains, some meals and discretionary spending is at the expense of the winner.
- Blue Mountains Attractions Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity
By Ellen Hill Photos: David Hill
This article was written for and published in the Blue Mountains Gazette monthly Review magazine on September 16, 2015
“Is there anybody here tonight?”
With the agony of long-gone tortured souls reaching out from the sandstone walls at your back and the sticky black of darkness all around, you nervously prepare to meet ghostly company in the dead of night.
Paranormal Pete’s spooky ghost hunting tools flicker into life as they sense a phantom presence.
The name of someone’s dearly departed mother is distinguishable from the Ovilus or ghost box machine that converts environmental readings into real words.
Someone stifles a shriek as they experience a cold shiver. The wooden benches creak in discomfort as the rest of us shift uneasily in our seats.
The old courthouse at Hartley Historic Site slowly awakens from its supernatural slumber.
Blue Mountains Mystery Tours dark tourism guide Paranormal Pete is comfortable in this “other world” and guides locals and visitors on spine-tingling ghost tours to discover the rich and sometimes bloody history behind the rugged Greater Blue Mountains landscape.
Ghost hunters shiver in ghoulish delight at deliciously dark tales of murder, mishap, convicts, hangings and more as they explore haunted buildings, abandoned cemeteries and other bereft locations.
“With adventures like the first European crossing of the Blue Mountains, pioneering the first inland settlements and establishing the nation’s industrial heart at Lithgow come many stories and, 200 years later, reports of paranormal activity,” Pete (aka Pete Clifford from Springwood) says.
The “energy worker who specialises in dark tourism” has always been interested in the paranormal. His mother and siblings talked about ghost stories and local legends and, as a child, lived in a house that was haunted by what was believed to be his protector.
Pete says his scariest experience happened after one ghost tour at a council reserve.
“I walked up the road and saw a light coming towards me. I continued to walk. By this time the light was on top of me and it’s gone through me and on to the other side. I heard a voice say: ‘Get out of here now.’
“I was the only one that experienced it. I had to sit on a log for 10 minutes to get my composure and energy back. I didn’t go back there for about six months.
“I think I might have actually been walking over the poor fella’s grave.”
However, “the spirit world is very positive — they’re there to help us and guide us and protect us”.
“I’m always into communicating with the spirit world first and if we come across a ghost we’ll do our best to help them cross over if that’s their will. If not, it will go when it’s ready.”
People on Pete’s tours may hear the names of loved ones or other words.
“We’ve had the smell of a loved one’s perfume or their aftershave or they’re rubbed somebody on the face, tickled their ear or something else special they used to do that they would remember them by.
“Our tours are fully interactive. We like people to use their senses of intuition, smell, sight, hearing, touch and then we back that up with our gear to enhance your senses on the night.”
Ghost hunting equipment such as EMF metres, an Ovilus 111, full spectrum video, night vision video and Patrick Boo Buddy Bear help discern between the quick and dead.
Participants travel on Buster the Ghost Bus with the only ghost tour in the Blue Mountains and take morbid glee in hair-raising access to unique, forgotten and secret locations that are off limits to the general public.
They visit historic wells, convict graves, an abandoned cemetery, a convict stockade and colonial buildings oozing tales of shadowy figures from the past. They may even meet the ghost of Victoria Pass (“the lady in black”).
The faint-hearted can lean about phantom figures of the night during the light of day on a scenic tour where they can gaze at the world-famous sites and the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area with its jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery, exhilarating attractions and elusive wildlife.
Sightseeing tours take in Scenic World, Govetts Leap at Blackheath, Coachwood Glen through ancient rainforest to the Megalong Valley for wildlife spotting, as well as historic locations around Lithgow and Hartley Historic Site.
The dark tourism business holds a limited Nature Based Recreation License and National Parks and Wildlife Service Eco Pass, giving them access to secret locations known only to select local residents and off limits to the general public.
Tours leave from the Blue Mountains City Council carpark in Katoomba or participants are collected from accommodation or other pre-arranged locations in the Blue Mountains.
- Gift a loved one a goose bump-filled experience with Blue Mountains Mystery Tours. Gift vouchers are available for all tours. Simply decide on a tour, contact 0418 416 403 or 4751 2622 or at email@example.com to arrange payment and a voucher will be posted or emailed to you. Gift vouchers are valid for 12 months after purchase.
Blue Mountains Mystery Tours is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity
By Ellen Hill, Blue Mountains Attractions Group
From a chocolate egg hunt, art workshops and baby animals to religious services and natural wonders, the premier attractions of the Greater Blue Mountains will keep the whole family occupied during the upcoming Easter and school holiday period.
Blue Mountains Attractions Group president Dave Robertson said: “Easter is one of the rare times during the year that the whole family can take a break together, so make the most of it and do something meaningful as a family. Then of course school aged children continue their holiday until Monday, April 20.’’
Choose from the following special Easter and school holiday activities:
With numerous niches and hidey holes, the magic of Easter will become real for children at the Everglades Gardens gigantic egg hunt from 10am to 3pm on Sunday, April 5. The lower garden will come alive with colour, delicious food, entertainment and oodles of games for the kids. Cost: National Trust members free, $10 children, $5 adults, $25 families (2 adults, 2 children – $5 extra child). Details: Scott Pollock (02) 47841938 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to www.everglades.org.au for a program.
Kid’s Story Time (Waratah Education Centre, 10am-11.30am or 1pm-2.30pm, April 10). A delightful live reading of popular children’s books for kids. Featuring live action, audience participation and sound effects, this is an excellent holiday entertainment fun for all the family presented by Entertainment Blue Mountains Cost:$25. Bookings essential: (02) 9231 8182. Each session includes a 30-40 minute interactive story performance followed by the self-guided garden adventure quest. Bring a picnic and make a day of it.
At 9am sharp on Easter Sunday, worshippers can experience a free non-denominational church service deep underground in the Cathedral Chamber of the Lucas Cave. After climbing 252 steep steps to the Cathedral Chamber, relax while listening to the Easter message, sing songs of praise and worship. While there, see the huge limestone formations named by cave explorers after familiar stories from the Bible and church features: the “baptismal font’’, “pulpit’’, “organ’’, “belfry’’, “organ pipes’’ and “cathedral windows’’. Bookings essential: (1300 76 33 11).
Two Greater bilbies will be the star attraction at Featherdale Wildlife Park this Easter School Holidays. Visitors will be encouraged to help save the wild cousins of these nocturnal long-eared creatures by buying a Save the Bilby pin for $2. The non-aggressive, shy Greater Bilby, which once roamed 70 per cent of the Australian continent, is now an endangered species.
Featherdale general manager Tim Sinclair-Smith said: “So many visitors to the display are unaware of the existence of bilbies. They think they’re a mythical creature and are amazed to meet one up close.’’
Visitors can also attend animal feeding presentations throughout the day including a giant 4.5m saltwater crocodile named Ngukurr. Go to www.featherdale.com.au for details about other school holiday activities and the Wild family fun offer.
Meet the star of the recent Paddington Bear movie at Australia’s largest and most awarded specialty bear store. Visit and see how Paddington has changed during the years. Although still recognisable as the cherished Paddington from our childhood, he has had a dashing modern makeover.
The home of the Magic Pudding will be an ideal setting to nurture creativity at art workshops for children aged 6-12 years. Bookings: (02) 4751 1067 or email@example.com.
Raining Cats and Dogs, 10am to 12.30pm, April 16 ($20): Make a metropolis of cat and dog characters come alive inspired by Norman Lindsay drawings. Learn how to use scratch foam and chine colle with specialised printing inks to create a series of artworks.
Dynamic Colour, 1pm to 3.30pm, April 16 ($20): Learn how to create a dynamic painting with colour and texture inspired by Norman Lindsay and the garden grounds of the gallery.
Baby bunnies, fresh hot cross buns and those world-famous rides: Scenic World Blue Mountains will be choc full of awesome holiday entertainment this Easter. The Scenic World forecourt will be transformed into a festive farmyard where children can feed and pat piglets, chicks, calves, baby goats and bunny rabbits during the long weekend. Adults can relax with a spiced hot chocolate and fresh hot cross bun from the pop-up café while the Hot Potato Band entertains with its popular New Orleans-inspired tunes. The thrilling Scenic railway, cablecar, skyway and walkway will also run throughout the holidays. All Easter weekend events are free with the purchase of a Scenic World pass including unlimited rides: $35 adult; $18 per child (4-13yrs), $88 family (2 adults, 5 children), $32 concession.
Mr Robertson encouraged visitors to “stay a night or three’’ to fully experience the thrills and wonders of the Greater Blue Mountains region.
“Remember too that we reward loyal local tourism ambassadors through our Residents Rewards program simply for showing family and friends around the region and visiting our attractions businesses,’’ he said.
Go to bluemountainsattractions.com.au for more information about what to see and do in the Greater Blue Mountains region, special offers and news and the Residents Rewards program.
Words by Ellen Hill for Scenic World
Perch on a clifftop at Scenic World overlooking the world-famous Blue Mountains escarpment and feel small again – in the heart of the city. Capture the moment in a photo and share it with the world next Friday (March 20) and Saturday (March 21) – all from Circular Quay.
Urban residents can experience a small slice of Australia’s most visited privately-owned tourist attraction and the nation’s most accessible wilderness when multi award-winning 3D chalk artist Anton Pulvirenti transforms Customs House forecourt into a World Heritage-listed landscape.
The 10m x 15m canvass 3D drawing will offer a glimpse of the Scenic Skyway as it glides 270m above ancient rainforest between clifftops, against the backdrop of the iconic Three Sisters and spectacular Katoomba Falls.
Scenic World brother and sister Joint Managing Directors Anthea and David Hammon said: “We have grown up with the Three Sisters as our view, breathed the fresh Blue Mountains air and enjoyed the rides at Scenic World as our playground our whole lives yet we never take the size of this vast one million square hectare landscape for granted.’’
Anton Pulvirenti will create the 3D chalk drawing using forced perspective to create an illusion of scale, meaning the scene will be so realistic that passers-by could be forgiven for believing they have truly been transported to the Blue Mountains.
So “stand’’ on the Scenic World clifftop and ask a friend to take a photo and share it with the world on Instagram with #feelsmallagain and receive an instant keepsake photo from the Scenic World team.
The top 10 most creative photos will receive a family pass to Scenic World so they can experience the thrilling attraction for themselves – for real.
The Scenic World Feel Small Again 3D chalk art will be staged in front of Customs House, Alfred St, Circular Quay, from 8am to 6pm Friday (March 20) and 10am to 5pm Saturday (March 21).
The family-owned Scenic World overlooking the world-famous Three Sisters landmark at Katoomba is home to the world’s steepest passenger train, the highest and largest cablecars in Australia and the longest boardwalk in Australia.