How to Visit the Blue Mountains By Public Transport [2023]

Planning to visit the Blue Mountains by public transport? We have created an easy to follow itinerary for visiting the Blue Mountains by train to help you explore this UNESCO wonderland without a car. Departing from Central Station in the centre of the city, we show you how to see some of the mountain’s top sites for less than $20!

Update: We took this trip again in mid December 2022 to confirm the details are up to date. Please note there was a freight train derailment in mid Dec and the line has been temporarily closed between Springwood and Katoomba. Buses are replacing trains so you can still get there easily but allow a little more time. Check for updates here.

An itinerary for visiting the Blue Mountains by public transport

This itinerary starts with a 2-hour bushwalk before you take a well-earned rest at lunchtime. After lunch, choose one of three options for the second half of your day.

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Tip: If your budget is tight, then it’s hard to beat the value of travelling to the Blue Mountains on a Sunday and taking advantage of the Opal Sunday deal. The full-day will cost you less than $10.

The downside of such a bargain is that the train and the mountains themselves will be more crowded than other days of the week. However, if you are trying to keep costs down, it’s certainly the way to go.

Blue Mountains local bus at Scenic World
Public buses make it easy to get around the mountains without a car.

This same outing using only public transport on a weekday will still cost you less than $20.

Start the day by taking an early train from Central Station to Katoomba.

Trains depart from platforms 5-12 in the older section of the station. The trip usually takes about two hours. Try to aim for the 6:23am or 7:23am train for a full day to explore. In summer, when days are longer you could leave a little later. Check the train times on Trip Planner

On arrival, walk to the 686 bus stop outside the Carrington Hotel on Katoomba Street.

If you are on a really tight budget, pack a picnic lunch. You could also pick up supplies on arrival in Katoomba at Aldi or the White Cockatoo bakery.

Katoomba and the Three Sisters

Aim to arrive by 8:30am or check the bus timetable for later bus times.

8:48 am – Take the 686 bus from Katoomba Street to Scenic World and follow the instructions below.

For a shorter walk, get off at the Blue Mountains Tourist Park, Katoomba Falls Rd and begin your walk from behind the Katoomba Falls Cafe. You will begin at the Prince Henry Cliff Track.

Katoomba Falls Blue Mountains
Katoomba Falls

The 2km Katoomba Falls circuit starts near the car park and is well signposted. It will take you about an hour and a half to complete. It is especially good after it has been raining, but this waterfall has some water year-round regardless of rainfall.

You begin by following signs to the Katoomba Falls access track between the car park and the main building. 

We will start by taking the Round Walk to Katoomba Falls; this was one of the first tracks to be opened for tourists in the late 1800s. This circuit will rejoin the Prince Henry Cliff walk but is worth the diversion as it offers so many pretty views.

The walk passes several lookouts including

  • Vanman’s Lookout – a magnificent view of the Falls and the Three Sisters
  • Juliet’s Balcony – a full-length view of the Upper and Lower Katoomba Falls
  • Witches Leap – a small, but pretty waterfall
  • Rainforest lookout – especially lovely lookout over lush ferns and the upper falls.

From here we will return to the Prince Henry Cliff Track.

Prince Henry Cliff walk
Prince Henry Cliff Walk between Katoomba Falls and Echo Point

The Prince Henry track takes you past the top of Katoomba Falls and the Katoomba Cascades before moving on to:

  • Cliff View Lookout
  • Lady Darley Lookout
  • Queen Elizabeth Lookout at Echo Point

Detailed instructions here

Once at Echo Point you will be rewarded with the classic Three Sisters view.

The Three Sisters from the lower lookout in the Blue Mountains
Three Sisters main lookout

There are two lookouts at Echo Point. The one on the lower level is usually less busy once you are done make a quick stop at the visitor’s centre for any free maps of the park you might need before it’s time to head out onto the Three Sisters themselves and take a closer look.

Walk down to the Three Sisters on your one day in the blue mountains
Take the stairs down and onto one of the Three Sisters

The walk down to the rock formation is about 1km and will take you approx 45 minutes return. It is a relatively easy walk to a small bridge called Honeymoon Bridge. This bridge will take you out onto the first sister and let you check out the cave in this formation. The track is suitable for most people, but there are quite a lot of stairs down to the bridge.

Time for lunch

By now, I am assuming you are pretty hungry. The closest option is The Lookout at Echo Point. The bar area looks out over the valley and is a nice place to relax. It’s not exactly a budget eat, with a burger and chips setting you back about $25, but you have saved money on your tour costs, so why not splurge! They have an adjacent cafe called Milk Bar which offers hot chips and sandwiches for under $20.

If you would prefer takeaway lunch, I suggest heading to Katoomba where there are several affordable options like Hominy Bakery, 8 Things and several sushi shops and cafes

Choose an afternoon walk

Time to walk off that lunch. Choose from one of these three villages to explore, Leura for shops and gardens, Wentworth Falls for a waterfall walk or Blackheath for epic views of the Grose Valley

Related: Check out our list of 50+ things to do in the Blue Mountains for more ideas.

Option 1 – Explore Leura

Don’t feel like any more big walks?

If you don’t feel like any more long walks, you could take the bus to Katoomba Station and either change buses or head one-stop east on the train to Leura. 

There is plenty to see and do in Leura, from exploring the shops and galleries to checking out more lookouts. You might also want to drink a few great Aussie brews at the local pub after all that walking.

Cherrydell Leura Garden
Cherrydell Garden in Leura in Spring

If you are visiting in spring, I suggest a stroll past Cherrydell, a beautiful private garden that is often open in October and then on to Everglades ($16.50) or just continue on to Sublime Point Lookout. You can return to Sydney from Leura Station.

Related: 3 Blue Mountains bush walks in Leura

Option 2 – Wentworth Falls

Fancy more walking?

If you have stopped at Katoomba for lunch, then you can take the 685 Katoomba to North Wentworth Falls bus, ask the driver to drop you at the Fletcher St & Falls Rd stop. From here walk 850m to the Wentworth Falls Track.

Your efforts will be well rewarded, especially after the rain when the falls look spectacular.

Wentworth Falls
Wentworth Falls

There are a few walks here that allow you to view the Jamison Valley from a different angle. We recommend you take the track to Fletchers Lookout and then do the Weep Rock circuit.

Weeping Rock Wentworthfalls
Weeping Rock, Wentworth Falls

These are both relatively easy. After you walk over the top of the falls, you can continue a little further along the National Park Track and look back at the falls. Once you are done, retrace your steps and head back the way you come.

An easy walk from Wentworth Falls
Click here to see the map on Google Maps

There is an excellent video on YouTube by the blogger Sensatious Hiatus that might convince you it is worth the effort to walk to the base of the falls.

The walk to the base is NOT a simple walk, so read the track notes before you start and make sure you carry water. If you prefer, you can begin your day here and complete the morning’s walk in the afternoon.

Option 3 – Blackheath

Blackheath is actually our favourite Blue Mountains town. It’s the furthest west we suggest for anyone travelling by public transport and along with some great food, small galleries and antique shops the views from Govert’s Leap are second to none.

Victory Antique Centre Blackheath
Victory Antique Centre

Take the 698 bus from Katoomba to the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre, Govetts Leap Road. Spend a few minutes exploring the heritage centre before you head off on the Fairfax Heritage Track to George Phillips Lookout and then on to Govetts Leap lookout.

This is a simple walk and if you fancy something a little more challenging talk to the staff at the visitors’ centre and they will help you choose the best walk for the time you have.

The Grose Valley from Evans Lookout
The Grose Valley from Evans Lookout

We recommend the Cliff Top Track. Once you are finished walking here you can take the bus back to Blackheath Station for the train to Sydney or if you are a feeling cashed up jump in an Uber to the station.

Before you go

Exploring the Blue Mountains by public transport really isn’t difficult, but if you decide you want an easier day then check out the HOHO bus pass.

Stay overnight in the Blue Mountains

If you can spare a night, I highly recommend staying at the Blue Mountains YHA and doing a few more of the regions’ walks. You can also take a transfer to Jenolan Caves if you fancy spending a day exploring the caves.

See our full list of recommended places to stay in the Blue Mountains here.

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