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Blue Mountain Itinerary and Jenolan Cave Questions

Los Angeles...
13 posts
Blue Mountain Itinerary and Jenolan Cave Questions

This is our first trip to Australia. We are a family of three (hubby, me and an 8 yo daughter). We plan to spend about a week in Brisbane area then a second week in Sydney area.

We will be flying from Gold Coast (OOL) to Sydney on December 20th. The flight lands at about 1:40 pm. We plan to take the train directly from Sydney airport to the central train station and then change to the train to Katoomba, with our luggages in tow.

We already booked a two-night stay at a Leura hotel. Now, this is where I get stuck.

-- Should we get off at Leura station and check in to the hotel first? Or should we get off at Katoomba Station?

-- Since the transportation from Leura to Katoomba is not that convenient, should I rent a car for the three day/two nights while we are in Blue Mountain? I found out on line that there's Hertz Car Rental in Katoomba. I assume that we can get a taxi to take us to the car rental place once we get off the train.

-- It looks like after we all settled in Leura on the first day, it'll be around 5-6 pm. What's there to do besides finding a nice restaurant and get some dinner? Should we still try to check out some places if we do get a car? (aware the buses all stop at about 5 pm.)

-- We'd like to go to Jenolan Cave on the second day. Given the drive from Katoomba to Jenolan Cave is quite challenging, we plan to join the trolly tours to get to Jenolan. But it looks like we need to book the bus first, then book the tours separately once we get to Jenolan. I'd like to prebook the tours because I'm concerned the tours will all be booked up if I wait till the last moment. But by looking at the Jenolan Cave tours timetablehttp://www.jenolancaves.org.au/the-caves/cave-tour-timetable/regular-tour-timetable/, I can not confidently decide which one to book. It looks like my best bet is to book the 1:30 pm Lucas Cave. Given it's a Thursday, and the bus leaves Katoomba at 10:30 am and will depart from the Cave at 3:30 pm. Am I correct?

-- Someone has suggested us to drive to Jenolan Cave. We are kinda concerned since we are not used to drive on the left side. My husband and I are both very experienced drivers. Before we get to Katoomba, we will have driven on the left side for about 6-7 days at Brisbane/Sunshine Coast/Gold Coast. Is that enough for us to drive from Katoomba to Jenolan Cave?

-- On the third day (a Friday), we'll go to Scenic World early in the morning and tour around Katoomba and Leura until early afternoon. Then we'll head back to Sydney central station and check into our Sydney hotel (already booked too). It'll be the Friday before Christmas. Will the train from Katoomba back to Sydney Central Train station be so crowded that we may not secure three tickets? Should we plan to leave early on Friday morning or we can wait till Friday afternoon?

Thank you ahead of time for perusing my post and helping us out with the planning in Blue Mountain. Any suggestions and critiques are welcome and appreciated. Thank you.

12 replies to this topic
Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands
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1. Re: Blue Mountain Itinerary and Jenolan Cave Questions

You'll need to use an Opal cardon the train and there is no ticketing system that allows for numbers, if it's fairly full you stand... going back in is not peak hour but there could be a few heading in towards the city for Xmas functions

I'd definitely hire a car to go to Jenolan. Whilst the road is winding and slow it's not too hard to manage. That way you can leave earlier and choose the cave you want and gives you some flexibility The tours vary in number of people depending on the cave e.g. Lucas takes 60 but Temple of Baal on 25. I think the smaller cave groups are actually better. You may want to stop at Blackheath on the way back.

You can get off the train at Katoomba, pick up the car and drive back to Leura, sunset will be quite late.

Sydney, Australia
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11,895 posts
34 reviews
2. Re: Blue Mountain Itinerary and Jenolan Cave Questions

Agree a hire car is much easier/better to get to JC. Go early to beat the bus tours.

When you arrive it will be light until near 9pm so time to see things after many of the tourists have left for the day.

The train trip back will be straightforward (the crowds are on the weekends).

Los Angeles...
13 posts
3. Re: Blue Mountain Itinerary and Jenolan Cave Questions

Thank you, Gurus and dytokyo. We are more confident now about driving from Katoomba to JC because of your posts. And thank you for all other suggestions.

Blue Mountains...
Level Contributor
992 posts
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4. Re: Blue Mountain Itinerary and Jenolan Cave Questions

"Should we get off at Leura station and check in to the hotel first? Or should we get off at Katoomba Station Since the transportation from Leura to Katoomba is not that convenient, should I rent a car for the three day/two nights while we are in Blue Mountain? I found out on line that there's Hertz Car Rental in Katoomba. I assume that we can get a taxi to take us to the car rental place once we get off the train."

First suggestion - check with the hotel to see if you can get them to pick you up from Leura Station. There is indeed Hertz Car Rental in Katoomba. It is the only car rental company in the Blue Mountains. I rented a van from them once and got ripped off, but that is another story. Just be aware their selection of family cars will be limited.

Leura and Katoomba are actually right next to each other - they merge actually, like two suburbs. And Hertz is actually in Leura, not Katoomba, though they say they are in Katoomba. The drive from the main street in Leura to the main street in Katoomba is about 2 minutes. Your taxi ride from Leura station to Hertz will take less than a minute. Check to see if Hertz can drop the car off at the hotel.

There is a good HOHO double decker tourist bus that has a defined route between and in Leura and Katoomba. timetable and route here: http://www.explorerbus.com.au/map.html. The local buses are also often and reliable.

"It looks like after we all settled in Leura on the first day, it'll be around 5-6 pm. What's there to do besides finding a nice restaurant and get some dinner? Should we still try to check out some places if we do get a car? (aware the buses all stop at about 5 pm.)"

Two suggestions: drive to Leura Cascades and/or Echo Point at Katoomba. They are on the same road - Cliff Drive. There will be plenty of light left. The exorbitant street parking fees at Echo Point don't apply after 5pm and 99% of visitors will have left by then.

Jenolan Caves. My strong recommendation is drive yourself there. Several reasons. First, if you survive doing in QLD for a week you will be fine driving to JC. Second, the trolly bus will take forever to get there and back and you will find the timing very tight as to actually seeing much of the JC precinct and your choice of cave tour will be severely limited.

The road between Katoomba and JC is a very good bitumen road, a lot of it motorway equivalent. It is a 75 minute drive (compared to over 2 hours in the trolley bus). The last 25km is very narrow and winding. This is the so-called challenging bit. But the speed limit is, like, caterpillar speed, so it is safe.

Another advantage of driving yourself is getting there early, before all the tour buses arrive. This increases your options exponentially and will give you time to even see two or 3 caves, and walk around the Blue Lake.

You should be fine to catch the train back to Sydney on the Friday. There will be more people coming instead of going. At that time of the year there is usually extra services, and the normal services are usually 8 carriages. So yeh, get to Scenic World early - it opens at 8am I think. spend 3 hours there, then get the train back to Sydney.

I think your itinerary overall is fine, and it's good to see you opening a few days here. Too many people try to "do" the BM in one day, and many get to Echo Point in the morning and can't see nothin for the fog. Yes, December is one of our foggiest months!

Edited: 25 September 2017, 17:50
Brisbane, Australia
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for Brisbane, Queensland
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5. Re: Blue Mountain Itinerary and Jenolan Cave Questions

Having posted in your previous thread about my experience driving to JC only last week, I will reiterate that it is fine to drive if you are a confident driver in your own country. If you get nervous on winding roads at home, take the tour.

Either way, pre-book the tours you want, and allow time to visit the blue lake for platypus spotting.

Cheers.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
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6. Re: Blue Mountain Itinerary and Jenolan Cave Questions

We were at Jenolan last weekend. Windy road down, tarred all the way (has been since as long as I can remember). As said, it gets pretty windy and narrow near the bottom, so just mind your speed and take your time.

Sadly we didn't see any Platypus in Blue Lake, but we did have to give way for an echidna crossing the road. That made our kids' day.

And definitely book your tour ahead to avoid disappointment.

Also Leura has a good cafe behind the carpark, Lily pad cafe. Pretty good food.

Los Angeles...
13 posts
7. Re: Blue Mountain Itinerary and Jenolan Cave Questions

Thank you all so much, Peter, Sweetbiscuit, and Poida. All these good information and encouragement already make the prospect of our trip so much exciting and enticing. I had my husband read all your posts and he finally agreed that we should toughen up and drive to JC. I think it'll allow us more time to check out the caves, and also go to the lake. My daughter is an animal lover. We'll all be so thrilled if we can have the fortune to see platypus and/or the echidna.

Peter, thank you for suggesting us to catch the train back after checking out Scenic World. And your suggestions regarding the car rental remind me that I should definitely contact the hotel and Hertz to see if they can arrange to pick us up from the station.

A couple of more questions:

-- We plan to leave early for JC on Thursday morning. I think we can see 2-3 caves. But questions are:

****Given the time and age limitations, our cave tour choices include: Imperial, Diamond, Lucas, Orient, and Chiefly Caves. Any of these is must-see in your esteemed opinion? We are hoping to go to Caves that are unique/not too similar to each other. Small group is a plus. My 8-yo daughter and my hubby would love to do some climbing and squeezing through tight/narrow spaces. We are all physical fit and rather active. Would they let us join the more challenging tour groups like River Cave (with age limit to above 10 yo)?

****Are all the cave tours meeting at the same place? Or they have different entrances and exits that will require some "travel time" between the tours. I am concerned that we may have to book tours back-to-back and I don't want to miss the group because of the "travel time" from ending one group to go to the other.

****I read on the internet that the road between Katoomba and JC would close between 1130 to 130 to allow the road to become one way. I am not clear on this. Does that mean, we (private drivers) should not get on the road between that time?

**** When is a good time to depart JC to head back to Katoomba. I think we'd want to have a dinner before we head back to Leura. But want to avoid the traffic, if any. And definitely not to drive when it's already dark. And if possible, stop at Blackheath as suggested by GurusW. Is there a nice restaurant for us to try in JC or Blackheath that you would highly recommend? We love good food and often would gladly arrange our travel itinerary basing on the recommended restaurant locations and availabilities.

-- Regarding Blackheath: I came across the name of this town a few times during my research also, but TripAdvisor listed minimal information regarding "What to do" there. Can someone tell us a bit more about any attractions there?

Thank you again for helping out your fellow travelers to plan out our first journey to Australia. Sincerely appreciated.

Brisbane, Australia
Destination Expert
for Brisbane, Queensland
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8. Re: Blue Mountain Itinerary and Jenolan Cave Questions

We stayed in Blackheath last week, but we did not eat there. We did drive down to Govett's Leap Lookout and Evans Lookout which were lovely. I don't think the Rhododendron Gardens will be in bloom then, but worth a drive past if they are (I'm a Queeenslander - no knowledge of cold climate flowers).

Our accom manager actually told us to not eat in the Blackheath pubs (kids wanted a steak meal, and in Aus, the local pub is where you go for a good steak - OP, pubs are family venues in Aus and only certain areas are off limits to kids) so we drove to Leura for our pub meal at the Alexandria Hotel - good food, excellent service, but you should definitely book ahead.

We also ate lunch at the Paragon Cafe in Katoomba - food was reasonable, Hubby was very happy with his Greek Salad with Lamb and Haloumi, and we all loved the venue itself.

Re the Platypus, we saw two - we were sitting on a bench close to the weir wall, and were very very quiet - it took about 20 mins for us to see one, then another one popped up within a few minutes. The lake is very clear, so you can see their bubbles coming up from below, but they dont come up very often.

Re caves to visit, you might be lucky to squeeze in three - we only did one due to mobility issues with our son. Lucas Cave. Guide was very good. There is only the cafe/restaurant at JC - take snacks with you if you can. We only bought some packets of chips/crisps and coffee - coffee was ordinary.

The road is closed between 11.45 and 1.15, but you can leave during this time and drive out through Oberon where there are quite a few cafes and bakeries to choose from. It is a longer drive though, so you might want to wait and leave via the JC road after 1.15.

Cheers.

Blue Mountains...
Level Contributor
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9. Re: Blue Mountain Itinerary and Jenolan Cave Questions

"My 8-yo daughter and my hubby would love to do some climbing and squeezing through tight/narrow spaces. We are all physical fit and rather active. Would they let us join the more challenging tour groups like River Cave (with age limit to above 10 yo)?"

Wow, suddenly your daughter turned 10! Excellent! (Hint, hint). For adventure tour, try the Plughole one. Thing is, it is a 2-hour experience starting at 1pm, so you would need to choose your other tours around it. My personal favs are Orient and Lucas. They are all different, with each having one or two unique features.

"Are all the cave tours meeting at the same place? Or they have different entrances and exits that will require some "travel time" between the tours. I am concerned that we may have to book tours back-to-back and I don't want to miss the group because of the "travel time" from ending one group to go to the other."

Each cave tour begins at the starting point of each tour. Having said that, they are all within an easy walk between them, sometimes only 50 metres or less. Start times are staggered for this reason.

"I read on the internet that the road between Katoomba and JC would close between 1130 to 130 to allow the road to become one way. I am not clear on this. Does that mean, we (private drivers) should not get on the road between that time?"

The rule is that no vehicles can depart from JC on the road back to Katoomba during that time period. You can still drive down into JC during that period, or depart JC out the other side, to Oberon (and back to Katoomba from there) The reason for the rule is to allow tour buses coming all the way from Sydney easier access to JC right at the last, narrow, winding bits, without having to reverse any time to accommodate traffic coming up the hill. The restriction should not affect you - you will get there before 11.30 and won't be leaving until after 1.30.

"Is there a nice restaurant for us to try in JC or Blackheath that you would highly recommend?"

In JC, there is only one place to stay and eat - Caves House. Overpriced due to its monopoly and average food. The best restaurant in Blackheath recently burnt down, but there are nice cafes. My suggestion would be to wait until you got back to Leura. (Its only a 15 minute drive between Leura and Blackheath.) My recommendation would be Solitary Restaurant on Cliff Drive - great views into the valley and great food and regional wine (I had my wedding reception there 4 years ago, and my kids took me to lunch for Father's Day a few weeks ago). The restaurant is over 100 years old. Bonus: it is halfway between Echo Point and Leura Cascades.

Another good restaurant in Leura is Silk's. Another heritage building. But you need to book in advance. Their desserts are to die for.

Blackheath has more art galleries than Leura and Katoomba combined. I have exhibited myself there several times. That aspect and its cafe predominance pretty much sums up all there is to do IN Blackheath. But the town is close to some pretty awesome lookouts and bush walks. For example, the lookout at Anvil Rock at the end of Hat Hill Rd. Also Govett's Leap Lookout and the associated walk into the Grose Valley and along the cliff top. And Evan's Lookout and the walk down into the Grand Canyon, where you can turn LEFT and head into Rodriguez Pass and go all the way to Govett's Leap Falls and back up to Govet's Leap Lookout, or turn RIGHT and do the Grand Canyon loop walk. All those are on the northern escarpment. On the southern escarpment, there are more walks down into the Megalong Valley, including the walk down into Centennial Glen. All the walks are real knee-benders but great scenery.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
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10. Re: Blue Mountain Itinerary and Jenolan Cave Questions

If you go to Blackheath, IMO ANVIL Rock has one of the best vistas in the Blue Mtns, 360degree view. Dirt road to get there but very very manageable and well worth the visit.

Edited: 26 September 2017, 12:57
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