There are so many Blue Mountains day tours available that it is hard to choose which one is best for you, especially when you don’t know much about the area. Today I am going to go over a few points that will help you find the best Blue Mountains day tour for your travel style.
Let’s start with the basics
Why should you visit the Blue Mountains?
Almost every Sydney itinerary you read mentions a visit to the Blue Mountains. In fact is it by far the most popular day tour from Sydney but what makes it so popular. Well for a start it’s a World Heritage area, in 2000 the Blue mountains were listed as a Unesco Heritage site. The area which includes ten national parks features pretty waterfalls, sheer sandstone cliffs and the vast regions of dense forest. Spending the day in the Blue Mountains makes a nice contrast to the harbour and beaches in Sydney.
How far is it from Sydney city to the Blue Mountains?
The central town of the mountains is Katoomba, approx. 120km west of the city. You are going to spend approx. 2 hours on the road between Sydney and Katoomba, the same on return. Traffic can make a difference, so it’s best not to plan much for the evening when you return.
- Why should you take an organised day tour and not visit by public transport?
- What types of Blue Mountains day tours are available?
- Wildlife Park, Bushwalks and Picnic Lunch Tour – Colourful Trips
- Blue Mountains Day Tour with 3 Scenic World Rides and a cruise- FJ Tours
- Small Group Day Hikes – Valley of the Waters or Ruined Castle/Scenic Railway
- Catch the train and then join a Hop on Hop Off bus – Blue Mountains Explorer
Why should you take an organised day tour and not visit by public transport?
Tours are perfect for travellers who have not had time to research things to see and do in the Blue Mountains and only limited time to see the region. If you 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 it’s photographers or adventure travellers so their experience will mean you see the best parts without needing to do a whole lot of research. If you love research as much as I do or if you are travelling on a budget I have written a guide to help you have a fabulous day in the Blue Mountains using public transport. You just need to be a bit more organised if you choose this option.
What types of Blue Mountains day tours are available?
You can pretty much find a tour to suit every type of traveller from those who just want to stop briefly at the key attractions to take photos and cover all the highlights, hop on hop off type experiences with the option to choose the places that interest you most, to tours that include a couple of hours hiking as part of the itinerary.
How long does the average Blue Mountains tour last?
Most tours leave the city by 8.30 am and return about 6 pm – between 9-10 hours is the typical tour duration.
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 and have smaller groups means less time spend loading everyone on and off the bus at each stop so generally these are my preference.
What is 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
- 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. Located 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 does cut 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 spends time taking 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 bushwalk 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 for a cruise back to the city.
Things to consider when choosing your Blue Mountain tours.
- Do you want to spend 1 hour at the animal 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 walking opportunity in a couple of places. Make sure you find the right fit for you.
- Are you interested in the indigenous history of the area? Some tours include a visit to the Waradah Aboriginal Centre (http://waradahaboriginalcentre.com.au) or have guides who have specialised knowledge of Aboriginal culture.
- Do you want meals included?
Now let’s look at a couple of specific tours
This post contains affiliate links. We may receive compensation, at no extra cost to you, when you click on or make a purchase using these links.
Wildlife Park, Bushwalks and Picnic Lunch Tour – Colourful Trips
This tour is an excellent choice if you want to spend some time walking in the mountains. Colourful Trips have been offering Blue Mountains tours for over a dozen years. They tend to be popular with the backpacker market as they provide excellent value for money and a bit more time in the great outdoors than some operators which appeal to younger travellers or and those who like being more active.
The tour includes:
- Admission to Featherdale Wildlife Park & Wildlife park souvenir
- Plenty of time bushwalking and some stairs or you can choose to ride back up via the Scenic Railway back to the top of the ridge at own expense
- Picnic lunch
- Drink after tour
I have taken this tour numerous times (as a teacher so I have not paid) and loved it. Perfect for fit travellers who want to get into the bushland. Colourful trips tours are not suitable for children under ten years of age.
Blue Mountains Day Tour with 3 Scenic World Rides and a cruise- FJ Tours
Another great operator FJ Tours has been running successful tours for almost 20 years. They rate very highly on Tripadvisor and offer several alternatives so you can decide which things you want to add or leave out of your tour.
the standard tour includes
- Admission to Featherdale Wildlife Park
- three rides at Scenic World (Cableway, Skyway and Railway)
- River cruise back to the city
They also have Jenolan Caves tours.
Check the Blue Mountains Tour price here
This tour is for keen hikers who want to spend their day walking one of the Blue Mountains best-known walks. There are two options offered between 7-13kms and the tour rates the walks as medium grade, although some guests call them hard. These are not suitable for anyone without a reasonable level of fitness and a love of stairs. The tour includes morning tea, lunch and an experienced guide.
Catch the train and then join a Hop on Hop Off bus – Blue Mountains Explorer
If you prefer to do your own thing you can take the train to the Blue Mountains and then buy a pass that covers the explorer bus, scenic world and the Waradah centre. This will allow you to set your own pace and choose the things you want to spend most time seeing.
Find out how this works here
See a full range of Blue Mountains tours with prices.
Have you taken a Blue Mountains tour?
Do you have specific questions about the best choice for your circumstances? Head over to Facebook and join our Sydney Expert Facebook Group where you can ask questions, stay up to date with what’s happening in Sydney and meet a bunch of friendly locals just waiting to share their advice!