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.
Blue Mountains businesses are adapting to the “new normal’’ by creatively embracing new business practices and digital technology.
Blue Mountains Tourism president Jason Cronshaw praised the ingenuity and flexibility of businesses, especially small enterprises.
“The response has been fast and enthusiastic,’’ he said.
“Of course there’s been tears and tantrums as people are understandably upset to see their business and livelihood evaporate literally overnight as government restrictions come in that they weren’t prepared for and can’t control.
“But we’re so blessed to have a creative community that is pragmatic and innovative and steps up to a challenge.’’
“[But] we’re so blessed to have a creative community that is pragmatic and innovative and steps up to a challenge.”Jason Cronshaw – Blue Mountains Tourism
Many Blue Mountains businesses sell online vouchers to redeem when restrictions are lifted, encourage forward bookings and direct customers to online sales platforms.
Here are just some examples of how tourism and hospitality businesses in the Blue Mountains continue to operate under the strict new opening hours and social distancing regulations:
– CafeXpresso (Katoomba) station is one of numerous examples of fast food shops, cafes and restaurants offering takeaway food only.
– Blue Mountains Cultural Centre (Katoomba) has a Virtual InSight program featuring staff insights, tours of the space, art classes with local creatives, tutorials, recipes from the cafe and more. Details: BlueMountainsCulturalCentre Facebook page (a new page will be available on the bluemountainsculturalcentre.com.au website soon).
– Mount Vic & Me (Mt Victoria) takes online orders and posts a swag of quirky Australian Made items, including the Blue Mountains Socks range, tea towels and greeting cards. Details: www.mountvicandme.com.
– Avalon Restaurant – Katoomba (www.avalonkatoomba.com.au) offers takeaway meals, along with most cafes in the Blue Mountains. Several such as the Ori Café & Bistro (www.oricafe.com.au) and Finn & Co (www.finnandco.com.au) at Springwood offer a home delivery service.
– GalleryONE88 Fine Arts – Katoomba (www.galleryonefinearts.com), Talisman Gallery – Hartley (www.talismangallery.com.au) and other galleries have uploaded many photos of artwork to their website and social media and have restricted sales to those platforms or email.
– Blue Mountains Chocolate Company (Katoomba) serves takeaway food and drinks, with a home delivery service within a 20km radius of Katoomba. Details: http://www.bluemountainschocolate.com.au/.
“New normal” for Blueys