Visit the Blue Mountains By Train: 2 Easy Itineraries
Visiting the Blue Mountains by train on a day trip is a great way to save some money and have more control over what you see and do while you are there. It’s relatively easy and armed with our detailed advice; you have everything you need for a fantastic day trip from Sydney.
Fully revised for the 2023 Explorer Bus timetable
- How to Plan a One Day Blue Mountains by Train Itinerary
- Catching the train to the Blue Mountains from Sydney
- Itinerary 1 – Blue Mountains with Scenic World & HOHO Bus
- Itinerary Two – The HOHO bus and lots of bushwalking
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How to Plan a One Day Blue Mountains by Train Itinerary
We have put together two one-day itineraries for visiting the stunning UNESCO listed Blue Mountains using a combination of the train from Sydney and HOHO Bus.
- One day visiting Scenic World and using the HOHO bus to see the main sites.
- One day skipping Scenic World to allow more time for bushwalking.
Let’s start with our tips for taking the train to the mountains.
Catching the train to the Blue Mountains from Sydney
Trains to the mountains leave from Central Station, usually from platforms 5-12, which are in the main hall. The journey takes just under two hours, and most of it is not that scenic, so pack a book or have a little snooze.
Take a seat upstairs on the left if you can. This will offer the best views once you reach the lower mountains.
How much does a train ticket to the Blue Mountains cost?
The cost of tickets depends on the time of the day and the day of the week.
If you catch the train in the official off-peak time before 6.30am or after 10am, it is $6.51 one way; during peak times, it is $9.31. The return peak runs between 3-7pm.
On the weekend, the return fare is set by the Opal weekend travel cap of $8.40 per day. A consequence of the cheap ticket is there are more people on the trains (and in the mountains), which can often result in no empty seats on the way home!
If you are not familiar with the Opal ticketing systems, read our 101 Guide to using Opal in Sydney first.
What time train should you take to the Mountains?
The early bird catches the worm and avoids the tour buses, so set your alarm and get to bed before midnight!
Trains from Katoomba are as follows:
|Central Station||Katoomba Station|
|6:23 am||8:21 am|
|6:53 am||8:51 am|
|7:23 am||9:21 am|
|8:18 am||10:16 am|
Try to catch one of the first two services above. These trains will get you up to the mountains in time to grab a coffee before the first HOHO bus departs or Scenic World opens.
If you prefer to drive check out our Blue Mountains self-drive itineraries.
Itinerary 1 – Blue Mountains with Scenic World & HOHO Bus
A day of short bushwalks and lots of photo opportunities
This first itinerary focuses on the best-known spots in the Blue Mountains, Echo Point, home of the Three Sisters, Scenic World and Leura. It’s a great choice for anyone who would prefer to keep their bushwalks limited to 30 minutes or less or those who have not had time to do much research.
Being able to hop on and off the bus is perfect for families with young kids who may struggle to keep up on a group tour.
I recommend is that you buy a Lyrebird Pass online to save valuable time on arrival. The Lyrebird pass entitles you to use the hop on hop off bus and includes entry to Scenic World so you won’t have to line up to get a ticket when you reach Katoomba.
If you plan on visiting Scenic World, lines for tickets can be very long at times; having a ticket means you can get straight to the rides before the crowds.
If you are not planning on visiting Scenic World, buy the standard HOHO pass.
Planning your stops on the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus
Head to the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus office at Katoomba Station to pick up your guidebook if you are early. It will allow you to plan your stops over your morning coffee. The office opens at 8:45 am on weekdays, and 8:15 am on weekends. If you have purchased your ticket online you can also show your voucher to the driver and collect your booklet when you board.
9:00 am – Join the bus on the main street of Katoomba, Katoomba Street, opposite the Carrington Hotel (Stop 1)
The first HOHO bus leaves Katoomba at 9am and arrives at Scenic World at 9:17am. If you are planning to visit Scenic World today, I suggest going there first. The big tour buses usually arrive around 10am, if you can get there before they do, you will not have to queue for the rides making the whole day more enjoyable.
If you come later in the day, leave Scenic World until mid-afternoon.
If you arrive early walk to stop number 2 and check out the street art in Beverly Place before joining the bus.
9.20 am – Arrive at Scenic World, show your pass and walk right in. (Stop 11)
How long should you spend at Scenic World?
If you want to take all three rides at Scenic World, then I suggest you allow 1.5 hours for your visit. This is how I would plan my time:
Ride the Scenic Skyway first.
The Skyway offers 360-degree views as it travels 270m across the valley, passing Katoomba Falls on the way across. You also get a fantastic view of the Three Sisters. The glass bottom floor gives you a chance to feel the vastness of the valley.
The light across the valley is best earlier in the day, and the Skyway is popular with tour groups, which is why I recommend you take this ride first.
Once you arrive on the other side of the valley, you can take a short walk to the top of Katoomba Falls and return to the Skyway for the trip back to the base. Alternatively you can get off at stop 8 (the Eastern Skyway Station) and join the skyway here after you have done your walk to the falls and back.
Ride the Railway next
Once you are back at the main Scenic World station line up for the Scenic Railway.
The ride on the railway to the valley floor is an attraction in itself, and the platform at the bottom has fantastic views of the Three Sisters. The trip down is my preference because it’s like a rollercoaster ride. If you are scared of heights, you might prefer to ride up and take the cable car down and the railway up.
The Scenic Walkway
The Scenic Walkaway is a 2.4km boardwalk runs between the railway and the cable car. This walk is accessible for prams and wheelchairs with a natural incline and handrails along the way.
There is an extension that is not wheelchair accessible and adds 10 mins to the trail. There was nothing significantly different on this part of the walk, so it’s okay to skip it if you like. Follow the signs to the cableway.
The Scenic Cableway will take you back up to the base station from the valley floor.
11.17 am – Rejoin the HOHO bus; if you miss this one, there is another at 12:17 am.
The next stop you will pass is NarrowNeck Lookout. The bus usually stops here for a couple of minutes so you can take a quick photo. If you are not looking to do a bushwalk, jump back on the bus after you have taken your shot.
11:31 am – Arrive at Katoomba Falls Tourist Park (Stop 16)
This is one of the prettiest walks in the mountains. Follow the signs to the main Katoomba Falls lookout before backtracking and following the walk Katoomba Cascades. There are plenty of picnic tables at the top of the stairs above the cascades waiting for you when you can tear yourself away from the view.
1:13 pm – Rejoin the HOHO bus here at Stop 9 (Katoomba Cascades) and stay on board until you reach Leura Village.
1:52pm – Arrive at Leura Village
Leura is the perfect stop for lunch or for coffee, cake and shopping!
Stroll the main street, Leura Mall, and make sure you visit Josophan’s for some of their delicious chocolate. There are lots of shops selling things you didn’t know you needed but will probably want after you spot them. I find I always spend too much time in Teddy Sinclair and Leura Whisk, which I rarely fail to leave without a purchase. If you need a bathroom here you will find them off the main street near Wooworths supermarket.
You might want to check out Bygone Beautys Treasured Teapot Museum. The museum houses the world’s largest private collection of tableware, including more than 5,500 teapots from across the world. They also do a very good afternoon tea.
If you are not much of a shopper, I suggest you get off at stop 22 and explore Lyrebird Dell or Everglades Gardens.
2:54pm – Reboard the bus at Leura Station (stop 34) and travel to the Three Sisters (Echo Point)
3:10 pm – Arrive at Echo Point (Stop 7)
Walk down to the Three Sisters viewing platform for fantastic views of the famous rock formation and across the valley to Mount Solitary; if you are up for a walk, head down to see the Three Sisters up close.
Walk through the stone archway next to the visitors’ centre and follow the path to Honeymoon Bridge, where you can walk out onto the first sister.
There is a visitors centre, with a gift shop you might like to pop into before you depart.
From here if the legs are up to it, I suggest a walk to Katoomba town centre as the bus journey takes a lot longer and is covering ground you have already visited. If you prefer not to walk head into the bar called the Lookout and have a nice cold drink while you take in the views.
If you decide to take a walk along the main street and make you way to see the street art in Beverly Place.
4:10pm – Join the bus where you got off for a trip back to Leura station (stop 34) or back to Katoomba (Stop 37)
Trains back to Sydney leave Katoomba Station hourly at twenty minutes past the hour on weekdays and twice hourly on weekends at twenty-two and thirty-eight minutes past the hour.
If you are not in a hurry to return to Sydney, the sunset over the valley at the Three Sisters is well worth staying to see. The last drop off at Echo Point is at 4:55 pm. If you choose to stay, you will need to take a local bus back to the station. You can use your Opal card on these buses.
If you want to eat dinner in the mountains before you head home our two favourite options at The Bootlegger, opposite the station or Mountain Culture a couple of blocks west.
There is a train at 8:20 pm that would work well and have you back in Sydney at 10:21 pm.
Itinerary Two – The HOHO bus and lots of bushwalking
This itinerary is similar to the one above but focuses on longer walks and less time in the villages of Katoomba and Leura and does not include Scenic World. I suggest you pack some water and something to eat so that you can focus your time on exploring the trails.
Planning which bushwalks to take
Before you begin this itinerary, be sure to check any track mentioned for closures. Two top-rated trails, the Prince Henry Cliff Walk at Leura and the Valley of the Waters in Wentworth Falls, are partially closed due to landslides and may not reopen for some time.
This itinerary includes three walks. There are many more options, and these are outlined in the guidebook you receive with your HOHO bus ticket.
Planning your stops on the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus
9:00 am – Take the first bus from Stop 1 to Echo Point. If you want to grab some picnic items, you can walk down Katoomba Street to the Hominy Bakery or even the Aldi supermarket for supplies. There is a second stop at this end of the street to save you from walking back.
9:10 am – Alight at Echo Point (Stop 7) and walk to the Three Sisters lookout to get your first view of the stunning Jamison Valley.
You can take a short walk out on to the first sister and then retrace your steps back to the carpark where you will find signs for the Prince Henry Cliff Walk
The Prince Henry Cliff walk will take you to Katoomba Cascades. This 2.3km walk is graded at moderate and there are quite a lot of steps but its not to challenging for anyone with average fitness.
There are lookouts all along the way, and you should be able to cover it in an hour.
12:31 pm – Join the HOHO at stop 16; Katoomba Falls Tourist Park and ride the bus to stop 22 Lyrebird Dell
12:43 pm – Lyrebird Dell to Pool of Siloam. This walk is much harder than this morning’s walk, but is one of my favourites in this section of the mountain.
If you are not up to a challenging walk, you can get off at stop 23 and take the 800m walk down to the Pool of Siloam and back up the way you came. Still a very worthwhile exercise.
The environment is a lot wetter, and ferns flourish here. There is also the promise of little waterfalls along the way the walk. You also pass a cave with Aboriginal engravings.
2:47 pm – Head back to Stop 23 for the bus to Leura Village, where your walking ends and the coffee and cake are calling. It’s easy to kill an hour here looking in all the lovely shop windows.
From here, you can either spend some time shopping before joining a bus back to watch the sunset at Echo Point or take a train back to Sydney from either Leura or Katoomba Stations. You can check the sunset times here.
Trains back to Sydney leave Leura at 4:24 pm and then hourly until the last one just before 10:30 pm. Trains leave from Katoomba five minutes earlier.
If you need more suggestions, study the guidebook your driver will give you. It contains 16 more walks, plenty to keep you busy. If you are staying overnight, let them know and they will usually give you a free extension on your pass for the next day!
For more inspiration, check out these articles:
- 33 Blue Mountains Lookouts
- High Tea in the Blue Mountains
- 12 Short Blue Mountains walks
- 50 Things to do in the Blue Mountains
- Where to Stay in the Blue Mountains
About the author: Paula Morgan, a born-and-bred Sydney resident, has been sharing this city and its secret spots for over 15 years. She’s not just about the iconic landmarks; she’s all about the hidden alleys adorned with street art, and the joy of discovering a new café or a fabulous restaurant tucked away in a corner you never knew existed.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned local, her articles have that special touch that can only come from someone who truly knows and loves their city. She’s your go-to source for all things Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
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