Choose the Best Blue Mountains Day Tour

There are so many Blue Mountains day tours available that it is hard to choose which itinerary on offer is best for you, especially when you don’t know much about the area. Today, I will go over a few points to help you find the best Blue Mountains tour for your travel style.

Edited: 19/1/2022

Let’s start with the basics

Why You Should visit the Blue Mountains

Almost every Sydney itinerary you read mentions a visit to the Blue Mountains. Is it by far the most popular day tour from Sydney, even with locals, but what makes it so popular?

Well, for a 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.
  • 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; it is approx. 120km west of the city. To reach the main sites, you will spend approximately 2 hours on the road between 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;

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 9-10 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
  • 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 for a 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.

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Blue Mountains All Inclusive Tour – Anderson Tours

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.

The Three Sisters walking track
Katoomba views

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 – valued at $46pp 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
  • 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- FJ Tours

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.

Blue Mountains Tour Scenic World Skyway
Ride the Scenic Skyway

A standard day tour includes:

  • Katoomba Falls
  • The Three Sisters
  • Scenic World visit – rides optional extra
  • Time in Leura Village – lunch at own expense
  • Short guided bush walk
  • Entry to Featherdale Wildlife Park
  • Cruise from Parramatta to Circular Quay or Darling Harbour

Blue Mountains Hop on Hop Off Explorer Bus

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!

Blue Mountains HOHO red bus
The HOHO bus stop at Scenic World

The HOHO allows you to reduce the total cost of your day in the mountains by taking public transport from Sydney to Katoomba.

• 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.

You can also book your own bus for your family or group.

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.

Scenic Railway Blue Mountains Tour
The Scenic Railway

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.

Find out more about how this works here — currently running on Saturdays and school holidays only.

Sunset Tour with 2 Hours of Bushwalking – Wildlife Tours

I have always liked how Wildlife Tours do things differently and offer experiences others don’t. Their Blue Mountains tour is no exception.

Blue Mountains Sunset Tour with Wildlife Tours
Spot Kangaroos or wallabies on this Blue Mountains tour

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 3 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
with Picture Me Tours!

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.

Lyrebird Dell with its small but pretty waterfall in the Blue Mountains
There are lots of pretty waterfalls in the Blue Mountains

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.

Blue Mountains Off The Beaten Track 4WD Day Adventure – WildScape Adventures

If you want to experience the Blue Mountains by getting off the beaten track, read on. On this Wildscapes Adventure tour you will explore the Greater Blue Mountains Drive, and join in some short guided bush walks to beautiful lookouts, waterfalls, and famous landmarks.

Blue Mountains 4 wheel drive tour
Spend a day with WildScape Adventures
  • Full-day guided 4WD tour into the incredible Blue Mountains
  • Short guided bushwalks to beautiful lookouts & famous landmarks
  • The services of an experienced Certified Outdoor Instructor, who can also teach you some basic survival skills
  • Plenty of wildlife encounters, spotting iconic Aussie animals in their natural habitat
  • Water & soft drinks 
  • Convenient return transfers from selected Sydney CBD accommodation
  • This tour takes only 4-6 participants and guests must be over 18 years.

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, this tour can be accommodated in either an SUV or a minivan.

Includes:

  • 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.

Check the price and availability of this tour.

Looking for something different?

Perhaps with a helicopter flight, a guided hike?
Check out the full range of Blue Mountains tours with prices.

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22 thoughts on “Choose the Best Blue Mountains Day Tour”

  1. Very good read. Been to Australia last year specifically to Port Macquarie and I had the most wonderful time.

    Reply
  2. Do you think it’s better to take a tour with Featherdale first thing in the morning, or a tour that has Featherdale in the afternoon? Obviously, if the tour has Featherdale in the morning, then Scenic World would be later (and possibly more crowded).

    Reply
    • This is a hard one Vince – I prefer the return because I like to get to the mountains before the crowds.If you have seen Australian animals then I actually prefer tours that don’t stop there at all.

      Reply
      • Hello. What tour would you recommend that gives you more time to walk around the bottom of scenic world where you get off the railway?
        Really enjoyed reading all your comments by the way, very helpful

      • You don’t really need a lot of time to walk the official boardwalk at Scenic World. If you want to walk outside Scenic World in the park then I would use the Blue Mountains Hop on hop off bus.

  3. Do you know of any Blue Mountain Tours that will pick up from a cruise ship docked @ White Bay Cruise Terminal? Most of the tours seem to pick up only from the hotels. There is one company called Shore Trips & Tours HQed in New Zealand that I found online. I would appreciate it if you replied to my email address.

    Reply
    • Hi Sue
      As far as I know, there are no group tour operators who pick up at White Bay. You may be able to get a small group operator who will make pick up there if there are a few of you making a booking. It would be best to contact them directly. I am unaware of the company you mentioned.

      Reply
      • Thank you so much for your quick reply! I’m inclined to meet one of the highly rated tour groups in the CBD – just need to check the Ferry Schedule to see how early they run.

  4. Blue Mountains is indeed a treasure trove of experiences. I think your post is valuable in helping first-time visitors optimize their Blue Mountain experience.The sheer range of activities and experiences available there may be confusing and help of knowlegable sources is always welcome.

    Reply
  5. I remember our Blue Mountains tour guide vey well. though we went over a decade ago. He was quite an authority on Australia, not just the Blue Mountains. It was such a fantastic experience, all because of him.

    Reply
  6. The Blue Mountains.. heard a lot about them so it must really be worth doing the tour! Gosh they are gentle giants aren’t they… I can just imagine the photo’s that you could capture from above.

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  7. Thanks for all the handy tips on how to visit this area and what tours are available. Australia is on my list and I’d love to see this part of the country.

    Reply
  8. I have always wanted to go to the Blue Mountains and the worse thing is that I am Australian and not yet made it there. I never knew that there were so many Blue Mountains tours available but I suppose it a stunning place. You have some great trips there and I like that you have broken it down to things to consider especially in regards to visiting the zoo and bushwalking.

    Reply
  9. Blue Mountains have been on our bucket list forever! We’d love to hike in the area, and it’s perfect for us because there are so many national parks: 10 in the same area? It’s fabulous! Thank you for the useful tips!

    Reply

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