Rain had fallen overnight and the peaceful drumming on the roof of the camper was very relaxing after having driven up the mountain from the coast the previous day. I unzipped the window and looked out, nothing was visible, the mist had set in. The atmosphere was eerie and other worldly, completely different from the weather we had been experiencing on the coast. We were staying at the Katoomba Caravan Park and had travelled up the mountain through the towns of Lawson, Springwood and Blaxland. We were hoping for a change in scenery and climate and we were far from disappointed.
Katoomba is only 110 kms from Sydney on the Great Western Highway but at times it feels like you are in a completely different world. Katoomba is derived from the aboriginal word Katta-toon-bah meaning, “shining falling water”, of which there is an abundance. The township is within walking distance of Echo Point with dramatic views into Jamison Valley and also of the iconic Three Sisters. Getting to Katoomba is easy and although 1017 metres above sea level it is quite accessible. The drive to the World-Heritage listed area is about 90 minutes from the heart of Sydney via the M4 Motorway. Trains leave regularly from Sydney’s Central Station and arrive in Katoomba after a two hour trip. Many visiting tourists travel up the mountain by coach.
Surprisingly Katoomba was little known in history until 1879 long after Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson crossed the Blue Mountains in 1813. In 1879 J. B. North opened the Katoomba Coal Mine and coal was taken from the side of the mountain using a cable car. The now famous Scenic Railway operates in the original cutting on this mountain side.
Katoomba is served by hotels and guesthouses, the oldest of which is the Carrington Hotel established in 1882 and occupying the highest point in town. Walking around town takes a bit of effort as there are a few hills. The township which is centered on Katoomba Street, features dozens of cafes and restaurants as well as a number of second-hand book shops, antique stores and galleries. In recent years an Art Walk has been added to the tourist scene and can be found in Beverly Place which is just behind Katoomba Street. This innovation was conceived in 2013 by Dave Riley who suggested painting murals in the laneway. The space was launched in 2015 and is continually evolving. It has become a major tourist attraction and very popular with photographers.
Echo Point is perched on the escarpment, within walking distance of the township and is usually the first stop for tourist buses. From here if the fog isn’t present, visitors get commanding views of Jamison Valley and the iconic Three Sisters. The Echo Point Visitors Centre is situated here and locals provide expert advice on what to see and do in the area. Echo Point is a gateway to many walks ranging from the easy pathway out to the Three Sisters to the more challenging Giant Stairway which leads down almost 1000 steps to the rainforest in the valley below. Tracks along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk connect to Scenic World in one direction or Leura Cascades in the other, all of which have beautiful scenery and waterfalls. The Prince Henry Cliff Walk takes you past many vantage points from where it is possible to look into the valley. Our time spent walking was mainly in fog and drizzle and while the views into the valley were limited nevertheless the walking was comfortable and refreshing. We spotted at least three lyrebirds scratching in the leaf litter along these walks from Echo Point.