Kids can experience edge-of-the-cliff thrills in the Blue Mountains from the safety of a double decker big red bus these school holidays – for free.
Travelling to the best sights and sites of Sydney’s grand backyard after months of Covid-19 hibernation, Blue Mountains Explorer Bus has expanded its route from 29 to 37 stops.
A highlight of the 45-minute trundle around Katoomba and Leura is the jaw-dropping vista of Cahill’s Lookout overlooking the Megalong Valley and Narrowneck peninsular, with plenty of room for little legs to run around.
Hop off the bus at Everglades House & Gardens, where children can work through the activity book.
Immerse yourselves in Australia’s most accessible wilderness along one of the 12 bushwalking tracks along the Explorer Bus route.
From the easy stroll from Honeymoon Lookout to Echo Point, the medium grade walk from Gordon Falls Lookout to the Pool of Siloam or the hard yakka trek from Fairmont Resort to Wentworth Falls, every fitness level (and leg length) is catered for.
When mums and dads are tired of piggybacking tiny tots, the whole family can simply reboard the big red bus at the nearest stop.
After walking up an appetite, recharge in a café or restaurant in upmarket Leura Mall or the eclectic shopping strip of Katoomba.
Operating every 45 minutes between 9.15am and 5.30pm, Blue Mountains Explorer Bus is the only hop-on/hop-off double decker bus in the world in a national park and the only one that doesn’t live in a city.
It is operated by the family-owned Fantastic Aussie Tours, which was established in 1974 and the first tour operator in Australia to be 100 per cent carbon neutral certified.
The Explorer Bus has given visitors to the Blue Mountains the chance to tour the area in their own time with no traffic and parking hassles, no rush and no rules for 30 years.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic struck it operated 365 days and carried about 65,000 passengers a year.
Managing director Jason Cronshaw said: “Like many others, our business has been hard hit by the virus restrictions, but we have used the time of hibernation to make the big red bus bigger, better and even more value for budget-conscious families.’’
Every bus is cleaned and sanitised regularly throughout each day, hand sanitiser is provided aboard, and social distance seating measures are in place.
“That means there’s plenty of room to see the fantastic view we are blessed to share with visitors, and there’s no fights over the front seats on the top deck.’’
Blue Mountains Explorer Bus will operate every day of the school holidays until July 20.
Guests of the Fairmont Resort can use the Explorer Bus shuttle service to Leura Village for just $5.
By Ellen Hill for Everglades Historic House & Gardens
Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
Possums, bats, birds and other native critters can make a tree change with million dollar views, thanks to new nesting boxes carved into a dead tree at Everglades Historic House & Gardens.
Financed by a grant from Greater Sydney Local Land Services through NSW Government funding, the habitat tree is located in The Glades at the edge of the Leura property, famous for its magnificent 1930s art deco house and set amid spectacular gardens and formal terraces overlooking sweeping views of the Jamison Valley.
Arborists using a chainsaw fast-tracked the natural process in the bush when tree hollows are formed by limbs dropping from trees, creating a hole in the tree trunk or limb.
Over time (sometimes more than 100 years), these holes become larger and eventually form tree hollows.
Land clearing and urbanisation has led to a shortage of hollows across the Greater Sydney area, meaning there are fewer havens for small animals to shelter, hide from predators, breed and raise their young.
Of the 174 native animal species in NSW which rely on tree hollows, 40 are listed as threatened.
Everglades manager Guy McIlrath said: “Because tree hollows are becoming increasingly rare and their formation slow, it is very important to retain habitat trees, so when this big gum tree died it was an opportunity to provide a safe haven for some of the small animals who live at Everglades.’’
The Blue Mountains ash (Eucalyptus oreades) was pruned so it was safe for the many visitors to wander the tiered gardens and picnic under the tree canopy in the cool glade.
Experts from Sydney Arbour Trees, who have carved similar habitat hollows in dead trees across the Cumberland Plain area of Western Sydney, then created three artificial nest hollows for birds in the upper limbs and trunk and two openings for bats in the lower portion.
The arborists first sliced off a “faceplate’’ before using new chainsaw techniques to carve habitat chambers into the tree branches and trunk and reattaching the faceplate to protect the resident animals which enter the readymade homes through custom-designed slits and holes.
Birds can still perch on the remaining branches while hollow-dependent animals such as Crimson Rosellas, Southern Boobook owls, Owlet-nightjars, Eastern Rosellas and Chocolate Wattled bats can move in to the new hollows.
While the creatures may be too tiny, timid or nocturnal for visitors to Everglades to see, an interpretive sign at the base of the tree explains the purpose of the habitat tree.
“What we’re doing here at Everglades to help provide shelter and food sources for native animals is an example of what everyone in the Blue Mountains can easily do to help conserve wildlife,’’ Mr McIlrath said.
As well as plant a native garden, residents could retain safe dead trees with hollows, install nest boxes or become involved in Blue Mountains City Council’s (BMCC) Bushcare Program.
National Trust, which owns the Everglades property, and BMCC Bushcare volunteers have worked for years to ensure exotic plant species do not escape into bushland.
However, that is not always easy to do along cliff edges so, as part of the grant, specialist teams used rope access techniques to scale the cliffs around Everglades and remove weeds, thus preventing the spread into the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
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. Contact: (02) 4784 1938 or email email@example.com.
This project is supported by Greater Sydney Local Land Services through funding from the NSW Government. For further information phone 4724 2100
* Everglades Historic House & Gardens is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media