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How to Choose the Best Blue Mountains Tour

There are lots of Blue Mountains tours available, and it can be hard to choose which one is best for you when you don’t know much about the area so today I am going to go over a few points that will help you make find the best Blue Mountains tour for your travel style.

Let’s start with the basics

Why should you visit the Blue Mountains?

In 2000 the mountains were listed as a Unesco Heritage site.  The area which includes ten national parks features waterfalls, sandstone cliffs and the vast regions of dense forest. A visit here 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.

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 Tour?

While all tours are slightly different, the majority include the following stops

  • Echo Point – Home to the Three Sisters, the iconic Blue Mountains Landmark
  • One of the Blue Mountains villages – either Katoomba or Leura
  • 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 in this area.
  • Do you want meals included?

Now let’s look at a couple of specific tours

Wildlife Park, Bushwalks and Picnic Lunch Tour – Colourful Trips

Find the best blue mountains tour

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.

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.

Check reviews and current prices 

Blue Mountains Day Tour with 3 Scenic World Rides and a cruise- FJ Tours

Blue Mountains Tour Scenic Skyway

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 

Small Group Day Hikes – Valley of the Waters or Ruined Castle/Scenic Railway

Blue Mountains Tour Valley of the Waters

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, and some guests call them hard, so 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.

Check tour details and prices 

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!

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