How to Choose the Best Blue Mountains Day Tour 
There are so many Blue Mountains day tours available that it’s hard to choose which one best suits you, particularly if you don’t know much about the area. Below I will go over a few points you should consider when looking for best Blue Mountains day tour for your interests. I’ll also share the particular tours that I personally recommend after visiting and accompanying guests into this region for two decades.
- Our top 5 Blue Mountains tours
- Why you should visit the Blue Mountains
- How far is it from Sydney city to the Blue Mountains?
- Who should take a guided Blue Mountains tour?
- What type of Blue Mountains tours are available?
- Blue Mountains Tours FAQ
- Things to know before you book your Blue Mountains tour
- Our favourite Blue Mountains tours
- Private tours of the Blue Mountains
- Multi-day tours in the Blue Mountains
This post contains affiliate links. Our full disclosure policy is here.
Our top 5 Blue Mountains tours
If you’re in a hurry and don’t really want to read over the detailed advice below. Here are, in our experience, the best Blue Mountains tours currently available in 2023.
- Best Blue Mountains tour for backpackers – Wildlife Tours offers a good mix stops, some hiking and a later start!
- Best Blue Mountains tour for photography – Picture Me’s small group tour is perfect
- Best Family tour to the Blue Mountains – With 3 rides and an animal park FJ Tours is a great choice
- Best Budget Traveller tour of the Blue Mountains – You can’t beat the Blue Mountains Explorer for value
- Best tour for adventurers – Go beyond the main sites and explore Empress Canyon on an abseiling and canyoning adventure.
Read on for full notes on each tour and a few more below.
Let’s start with the basics!
Why you should visit the Blue Mountains
You might have noticed that most itineraries of Sydney mention a visit to the Blue Mountains. Is it by far the most popular day tour from Sydney, for locals and tourists alike. So, what then makes it so popular?
Well, to start:
- The Blue Mountains is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – it joined the register in 2000
- There are ten national parks featuring waterfalls, sheer sandstone cliffs and vast regions of dense forest.
- Pretty mountain villages, full of cute shops and excellent cafes, are dotted along the cliff tops.
- The Blue Mountains is as encapsulating as, but a stark contrast to, Sydney’s iconic harbour and beaches and only a relatively short distance away.
How far is it from Sydney city to the Blue Mountains?
The central town of the Mountains is Katoomba, which is approximately 120km west of the city. To reach the key sites, you will spend approximately 2 hours on the road from Sydney.
Who should take a guided Blue Mountains tour?
While it is possible to explore the mountains by public transport, it is not the best option for everyone. For some travellers, tours are the best choice.
- Tours are perfect if you have not had time to research things to see and do in the Blue Mountains.
- Tours are great if you only have limited time to see the region as you won’t waste time working out how to get from A to B.
- Going on a tour is a good idea if you want to go hiking. If you are not experienced in hiking or bushwalking as we call it here, a tour can give you the confidence to take a walk in the forest and see more than you might if you go it alone.
- Tour companies spend considerable time putting together itineraries that will meet visitors’ needs, whether you are a photographer or an adventure traveller. Their experience will mean you get to the right parts of the mountain for your needs.
If you love research as much as I do or travel on a budget, I have written a guide to help you have a fabulous day in the Blue Mountains using public transport. And another with three self-drive itineraries. You need to be a bit more organised if you choose these options.
What type of Blue Mountains tours are available?
You can find a tour to suit every type of traveller;
- Tours with limited amounts of walking that to stop briefly at the key attractions to take photos
- In-depth tours that provide detailed information on flora and fauna of the region
- Hop on hop off tours with the option to choose to spend extra time in the places that interest you most
- Tours for adventurers that including canyoning or abseiling
- Tours that include a couple of hours hiking as part of the itinerary
- Tours with an indigenous focus
- Four wheel drive tours
Blue Mountains Tours FAQ
These are the questions we commonly see in our Sydney Expert Facebook Group. If you have a question, we have not covered pop over to the group and ask us!
How long does the average Blue Mountains tour last?
Tours usually run for between 9-12 hours. Most tours leave the city by 8.30 am and return at about 6 pm, although there are exceptions!
What is the difference between the small group tours and the larger tour buses?
Tours operate on either full-size buses or minibuses (often 18-21 seats). Minibuses can get around the mountains more efficiently. Having smaller groups means less time to load everyone on and off the bus at each stop, so generally, these are my preference unless you need better seating for the long drive.
What stops are usually included in a Blue Mountains day tour?
While all tours are slightly different, the majority include the following stops.
- Echo Point – home of the Three Sisters, the iconic Blue Mountains landmark
- One or two Blue Mountains villages – either Katoomba or Leura are usually included in most day tours
- Featherdale Wildlife Park – Many tours make their first stop at Featherdale on the way up to the mountains. About an hour west of Sydney, this relatively small animal park offers a chance to get up close and personal with a full range of native Aussie animals. I am a big fan of Featherdale, and it makes sense to visit it on the way if you have not had your fill of kangaroos and koalas. However, it cuts into your time in the mountains, so you need to be aware of that. The usual time spent here is about an hour.
- Scenic World is included in many tours. Entry to the 3 “rides” here, the railway, skyway and the cableway is usually an optional extra although a small number include it in the cost. If your tour takes all three rides, then it can cut into your time exploring the bushland, as the queues here can be significant. Some tours stop here and allow you to choose one or all of the rides. Others include a bush walk at the base of Scenic World and the railway back to the top.
- Some tours return to Sydney via Olympic Park and the transfer passengers to a ferry to cruise back to the city.
Things to know before you book your Blue Mountains tour
Ask yourself the following questions before you choose your tour.
Do you want to spend 1 hour at the wildlife park?
If you have already been to the zoo or seen Aussie animals in other places, then you might prefer a tour that does not spend an hour at Featherdale.
Do you want to spend time bushwalking in the mountains?
Lots of tours spend only 30-45 mins walking in the bush. Others offer a walking opportunity in a couple of places. Make sure you find the right fit for you.
Do you want meals included?
A sit-down lunch can eat into your time exploring, and depending on the tour, it can be pretty pedestrian and not a highlight of your day.
Do you need to book ahead?
If you are visiting in December or January, it is advisable to book your tour in advance as tours sell out. Week day tours are limited at present, so booking is the best way to be certain you will not miss out. Most tours offer a 24 hour cancellation period.
Should you add a Jenolan Caves visit into your day?
Short answer – no! If you only have one day, a Jenolan Caves tour, it will mean your time enjoying the Blue Mountains themselves will be very short. However, they are a great addition to a two-day itinerary.
Our favourite Blue Mountains tours
Our favourite tours in the Blue Mountains are predominantly small group tours catering to between 6-24 guests. The smaller numbers on these tours allow you to get on and off more quickly. I believe tours on larger buses are not the best way to experience this area unless you do the HOHO bus and explore on foot in between stops.
Blue Mountains All Inclusive Tour – Anderson Tours
Duration: 12 hours | Max group size: 20 | Book this tour
Limited to between 12-20 passengers and using excellent guides, this 12 hour tour covers a lot of ground, but you don’t feel too rushed. Travel is on a modern vehicle with wi-fi and all costs are included in your initial tour price.
Unlike most tours, this one visits Featherdale on the way home, when there are fewer groups are at the park. You make your return to Sydney by ferry from Parramatta, which for most of the year gives you a harbour sunset on the way home.
The tour includes:
- Guided admission into Scenic World – included in your tour cost.
- Guided rainforest walk
- Lunch is included (can cater for vegan and gluten-free guests)
- Access to unique lookouts away from large groups
- Interactive experience with native Australian animals at Featherdale Wildlife Park or Western Sydney Zoo
- Return river cruise into Sydney Harbour
This tour is top-rated and often books out in advance. There is no minimum age (however, they can only take one pram on each bus, so please check when booking if you need to take a pram) Anderson offers 8 pick up spots around the CBD.
Blue Mountains Scenic Day Tour with Cruise – FJ Tours
Duration: 10 hours | Average group size: 20 | Book this tour
Another great operator, FJ Tours, has been running successful tours for almost 20 years. They rate highly on TripAdvisor and offer several alternatives so you can decide which things you want to add or leave out of your tour.
Their 10 hour Blue Mountains day tour includes:
- A visit to the Three Sisters
- Three rides at Scenic World (Cableway, Skyway, and Railway) – included in cost
- Time in Leura Village – lunch at own expense
- Short guided bush walk
- Entry to Featherdale Wildlife Park
- Fantasea River Cruise from Parramatta to Circular Quay or Darling Harbour
Blue Mountains Hop on Hop Off Explorer Bus
Duration: 8 hours | Number of stops: 37 | Book this tour
The HOHO Bus has recently had a makeover, and they have added extra stops, reduced the time between buses and announced that kids will now ride free!
• Unlimited hop on hop off all-day
• Live Commentary
• Full-colour Guide Book with maps and walking guides
• Extend your pass FREE when staying in the Blue Mountains (Up to 3 days)
• 37 Stops
• 45 Minute frequency (This is the perfect time for each stop)
These tours allow you to set your own pace and choose the things you want to spend most time seeing.
They also offer a Boomerang Pass that is a single 90-minute loop, a great option for anyone not up to much walking or those who want an overview of the sites.
The ticket comes with an excellent guidebook that lists information about the area and the various bush walks available from each stop. The bus drivers get fantastic feedback for their informative commentary and regularly go out of their way to make sure the passengers are happy.
You can buy just the HOHO ticket or add Scenic World entry, saving you time queuing when you arrive. This is a really good idea in summer when lines can be long at the ticket offices.
Sunset Tour with 2 Hours of Bushwalking – Wildlife Tours
Duration: 10.5 hours | Minimum age: 6 years | Book this tour
I have always liked how Wildlife Tours do things differently and offer experiences others don’t. Their Blue Mountains tour is no exception.
This ten-hour tour leaves the city after the peak hour rush, making it perfect for anyone who is not keen on rising early. Staying in the mountains until after sunset gives you a chance to watch the afternoon light change over the bushland and capture beautiful photos of a Three Sisters sunset.
The tour includes:
- Enjoy up to 2-hours of guided bushwalking
- Learn about the Aboriginal history of the region
- Explore Wentworth Falls
- Spot native animals in the late afternoon light
- Late return to Sydney
- Offered three days per week (Sun, Tues, Thurs)
This is the perfect day out for anyone wanting to spend more time outdoors than at organised attractions.
Blue Mountains Waterfalls, Walks, and Sunset Tour
Duration: 10 hours | Max group size: 8 | Book this tour
If you like the idea of the afternoon Blue Mountains tour but would like to focus on photography, this is a brilliant choice. The 10-hour tour with a later start means you will be in the mountains for both golden hour and sunset at the Three Sisters. With groups set at a maximum of 8 people, there is no time wasted getting people on and off the bus.
There are options to take two bushwalks to Wentworth Falls and Leura Cascades or, if you prefer, spending some time at Scenic World.
The tour includes:
- Golden hour and sunset in the mountains
- Bushwalking or Scenic World time
- Experienced photographer/guide
- Small group – 8 or less
- Light pub meal on the way home
- Currently operating Tuesday, Thursdays and Sundays.
Your guide will help you capture great shots of the wildlife and waterfalls and take you to lesser-known spots for some unique shots.
Wollemi 4WD & Glow Worm Tunnel Adventure Tour – Beyond the Blacktop
Duration: 8 hours | Max group size: 4-6 | Book this tour
If you want to experience the Blue Mountains by getting off the beaten track, read on. This unique tour will allow you to explore part of the mountains not covered on most other tours. With several stops, you will take some short guided bush walks to beautiful lookouts, waterfalls, and famous landmarks.
- Full-day guided 4WD tour into the incredible Blue Mountains
- Short guided bush walks to beautiful lookouts & famous landmarks
- A visit to the famous Glow Worm tunnel in Newnes
- Starts and ends in Sydney although local pick up can be arranged
- Small group size of 4-6 participants and guests must be over 18 years.
Beyond the Blacktop also offers a fun 3 hour Army Truck tour that kids and teens will love. I know I did!
Sometimes it can be cheaper to book a private tour if you are travelling in a larger group or if you may just want to have more time to do things at your own pace.
Private tours of the Blue Mountains
Ultimate Blue Mountains Private SUV Tour
With a similar itinerary to many of the main offerings, this tour is an excellent choice for families or groups travelling together. A private tour can save you money.
Depending on your group, they can accommodate this tour in either an SUV or a minivan.
- Complimentary Morning Tea – Cookies, Fresh Fruit, Soft Drinks and Bottled Spring Water
- Hotel pick up and drop off
- Entry Fee’s to Scenic World, Cable Car and Scenic Railway
- Entry Fee’s to Featherdale Wildlife Park
Suitable for children (Child seats available) and those with limited mobility.
Multi-day tours in the Blue Mountains
Intrepid 4 Day Walk the Blue Mountains Tour
Duration: 4 days, 3 nights | Max group size: 12 | Book this tour
This 4 day hiking tour gives you are chance to really immerse yourself in the Blue Mountains and learn about the plants and animals that call this landscape home.
Your tour includes:
- A 4-day hiking tour in the World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains
- An Indigenous culture walk with a Dharug First Nations guide
- Take the Leura Cascades & Ruined Castle Walk
- Sample the areas wines and ciders with cellar door stops
- Take the Grand Canyon Loop & Pierce’s Pass & Grose Valley Walk
- 3 nights motel accommodation
- 3 breakfasts and 4 lunches
- Pick up and return to Sydney
This tour will give you a chance to hike some of the mountains most beautiful track with an experienced guide. Children over 15 years of age are welcome on the tour. You will need a moderate level of fitness as you cover between 5-20km each day.
Looking for something different?
Perhaps with a helicopter flight, a guided hike? Check out the full range of Blue Mountains tours with prices.
Need more ideas? Join our Sydney Expert Facebook Group where you can ask questions, stay updated with what’s happening and meet a bunch of friendly locals just waiting to share their advice!
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 and weekends away exploring regional NSW.