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 Urban Caves Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
For the past five months, Wayne Marmion and Guy Brown have traversed a shared path of self-discovery, reflection and challenge.
Their journey has earned Mr Brown and his business, Urban Caves, a place among the finalists in the 2018 Blue Mountains Business Awards in the Employee Inclusion Award category.
Mr Brown employed Mr Marmion under a Nova Employment and Training subsidy program he learned about after meeting a Nova representative at a Blue Mountains Regional Business Chamber event.
It has been a life-changing experience for both of them.
Suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, former navy marine technical hull specialist, Mr Marmion struggled to leave his Wentworth Falls home before becoming a Nova client and being placed in a job at the Katoomba-based Urban Caves.
These days, he works alongside Mr Brown installing pre-fabricated cabins (urban caves), micro shelters and glampervans between Glenbrook and Lithgow.
“I like to give people a go,’’ Mr Brown said.
“It’s been a really good experience for me because I had a lot of prejudices about hiring people who were older, but Wayne is a bloody good asset to the business.’’
As well as having a wealth of experience and maturity, Mr Marmion was well presented, friendly, reliable and confident making suggestions.
“I’m definitely happy and proud to have Wayne onsite with me and I’d recommend people be open-minded and give people a go.’’
As well as investing again in his tool kit, Mr Marmion has regained his passion for building, creating, drawing, playing guitar and writing stories, pastimes he was emotionally unable to engage in for years.
“I’m reconnecting with who I was even before I was in the navy. I’m using my hands again,’’ the father-of-five said.
“Guy says he doesn’t want to take credit for this, but he should. There’s been a lot of benefits for me working for him that I don’t know how to quantify.’’
- Urban Caves 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 Photos: David Hill
From thrilling interactive history, magical adventures, lolly stores overflowing with sweet treats, exhilarating physical activity and gourmet delights, the Greater Blue Mountains and Lithgow region has the autumn school holidays sorted for frazzled parents and bored kids.
Whether you visit for the day or stay a night or more, families can experience an activity-filled break together throughout the Blue Mountains, out to the plains of Lithgow and back again.
Make memories together from this list of affordable activities:
Everglades Historic House & Gardens, 37 Everglades Ave, Leura: Children can learn about heritage conservation and the natural environment at one of the most enchanting historic properties in the region through the My Adventure at Everglades program. Activities include matching, drawing, colouring, identifying component parts, labelling and drawing from their surrounds along with counting, exploring and contemplating. 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.
Blue Mountains Chocolate Company, 176 Lurline St, Katoomba: Treat yourself to the ultimate sweet indulgence with a visit to this scrumptious venue. Just minutes’ walk from the world-famous Echo Point Lookout and Three Sisters rock formations, the shelves are dripping with an extensive range of luscious hand-made goodies. Sip a hot chocolate drink melted over a romantic candle and nibble on a luxuriant cake while watching the in-house chocolatier create mouth-watering decadence.
Blue Mountains Mystery Tours (throughout the region): Shiver in ghoulish delight at deliciously dark tales of the sometimes bloody history behind the ruggedly beautiful landscape of the Greater Blue Mountains as you explore haunted buildings, abandoned cemeteries and other bereft locations. The experience can be tailored to suit children during the day or conducted at night for adults for spine-tingling effect. Cost: from $75 to $200 per person, includes all fees and charges. Bookings and details: phone 0418 416 403 or (02) 4751 2622 or email email@example.com.
The Lolly Shop, Great Western Hwy, Little Hartley: Stock up on confectionary from more than 2000 products available from around the world including jelly belly, rock candy, choc coated, sugar and gluten free lollies, novelty items, gourmet food items, lollipops and more. Visit during the weekend and have a go at making your own fairy floss. Details: (02) 6355 2162.
Hartley Historic Site, Old Bathurst Rd (just off Great Western Hwy), Hartley: Soak up the atmosphere of one of the best examples of colonial Australia when you picnic among the 17 historic buildings, wander the Kew-Y-Ahn sculpture walk and visit the Kew-Y-Ahn Art Gallery, the only dedicated Aboriginal art gallery in the NSW Central West. Cost: Free. Details: (02) 6355 2117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
With more than 400 bushwalking tracks throughout the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, there’s a walk for everyone in the family – even some accessible by wheelchair, and be sure to check out the breathtaking views from some of the many lookouts such as Wentworth Falls Lookout and Govetts Leap at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains and Hassans Walls and Pearsons Lookout in Lithgow.
Those looking for a more urbane pastime can trawl the eclectic shopping strips for unique bargains and indulge in leisurely dining at one of the numerous cafes and restaurants.
Check out the painted panorama at Aitken’s Panorama in the Round at Glenbrook; grab a sweet snack at Rust & Timber Chocolate Bar at Lawson; share dishes of regional bounty or tuck into pizza at Leura Garage; graze on fine fare at Bon Ton Restaurant at Leura; dine with the locals at Victory Café at Blackheath (enjoy breakfast at any time of day); or try a takeaway food box filled with wholesome rustic mountain food from Vesta Blackheath.
- Businesses mentioned above are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity