Local Escapes

The Blue Mountains’ Best Restaurants, Stays And Things To Do

By Tim Piccione
17th Feb 2022

The plush dining room at Blaq restaurant in the Blue Mountains.

From breathtaking views and adventuring to a burgeoning culinary scene and countless day spas, the Blue Mountains is the ultimate R&R destination. At around about 1 hour's drive west of Sydney, it's easily accessible for a day trip, weekend away or full week holiday.

The region boasts dramatic scenery, waterfalls, hikes, UNESCO World Heritage-listed bushland, charming villages, breweries, fine dining restaurants, historic sites, galleries, valleys and best of all, the sort of fresh air you can only find at a certain altitude.

If it's time for a well-deserved city escape, we've rounded up the best things to do in the Blue Mountains, from where to eat and drink, some great spots to stay, and some must-do's for your itinerary.

The Best Restaurants In The Blue Mountains

Blaq

Housed within Kyah, the Mountains' newest boutique hotel (see below), Blaq is a destination in its own right. Named after its Blackheath location, it's helmed by executive chef Mate Herceg and the mood is strictly local, seasonal, and sustainable—championing mountains produce at its best. "We really do have an abundance of sensational produce in the Mountains to choose from and I want to showcase that as much as possible," Herceg explains. 

On the menu at Blaq, for breakfast, you'll find things like a Croque Madame worth travelling for, stacked with Berkshire smoked leg ham, gruyere cheese, fried egg, and bechamel sauce. At dinner, it's the five-hour pork shoulder ragu we'll be writing home about. And, when the weather cools off, we reckon Blaq's blueberry cobbler served with rum ice cream and meringue will make the perfect winter dessert. 

Leura Garage

Leura Garage is an old automotive garage turned cafe-bar-restaurant, with plenty of original features from the old days adding to the charming decor. Sit down here to eat anything from the highly-recommended "French Dip" sandwich for lunch or the 12-hour braised 1.2kg lamb shoulder with a pomegranate glaze, confit garlic and rosemary for dinner. Grab a table outside, add a schooner of local craft beer or a vino from the restaurant's pleasantly surprising extensive wine list, and you should be sorted. Another big tick is the venue's focus on sustainability, composting all their food waste and using ingredients from the garden in dishes.

Ates

Recently taking over the old space of long revered restaurant Vulcan's, Ates is now leading the charge in the region's culinary scene. The Blackheath spot, headed up by a former Rockpool Bar & Grill head chef, is making full use of the restaurant's famed 150-year-old woodfire oven. Know that basically everything you eat will go through it; slow cooking to perfection. The rotating Turkish menu showcases local produce with dishes like the slow-cooked Jack's Creek sirloin served with harissa, salsa verde and creamed spinach or the whole roasted cabbage with black garlic, picada and olive cream.

The Bootlegger Bar

There's only one place to go in the area if you're after smoked meats, and that's Katoomba's Bootlegger. Housed in the historic Niagara building, the smokehouse mixes serious American BBQ meats with speakeasy cocktails bar vibes. To eat, order up a plate of "slow & low" cooked beef cheek, full rack pork ribs, brisket or pulled pork. And that's without touching on the burgers or the loaded fries. And for drinks, try a whisky flight or a cocktail like the "Mr Pepper's Margarita" with jalapeno and bird's eye chilli-infused Bianco tequila, Cointreau, house-made watermelon syrup and fresh lime. Line up going in for their live music weekend nights or their regular whisky tasting sessions.

Darley's

It's easy to take the magnificent Blue Mountains views for granted. Sit down for lunch or dinner at Darley's, part of the Lilianfels Resort & Spa, for breathtaking views of the Jamison Valley escarpment as background and historic formal English gardens as foreground. The Katoomba fine dining restaurant offers modern Australian three-course menus in a cosy setting, with fireplaces, plush furniture and luxe crystal chandeliers setting the mood.

The Best Bars In The Blue Mountains

Mountain Culture Beer Co

When we thought there was simply no room left for innovative and fresh craft beers in the already crowded market, along came Mountain Culture Beer Co in 2019. Starting with a strong cult following in the industry, the small Katoomba brewery has well and truly made a name for itself, and its bricks and mortar is worth the travel. Headed up by a former Modus Operandi brewer and his partner, the brewpub pours fresh beer straight from the tanks, which pair oh-so-well with a menu of classic American-style burgers which are by themselves worth visiting.

Station Bar

Katoomba is the go-to spot in the Blue Mountains region for lovers of all things craft beer. Next on your itinerary should be Station Bar, especially if you're looking for a proper weekend night vibe on your visit. Located on the Katoomba main strip, Station Bar is pouring a range of Aussie craft brews, shaking up some classic cocktails, firing up the woodfire oven, and dishing out some legit pizzas to match. Each pizza is named after a Blue Mountains town and its elevation. Throw in some live music, and you'll settle in for the night.

Champagne Charlie's Cocktails Bar

Champagne Charlie's is definitely the place to go for a properly shaken concoction. Sitting underneath the historic Carrington Hotel, the charming art-deco spot offers a range of classic cocktails to go along with craft brews from nearby Katoomba Brewing Company and an extensive wine list. Come by during the day for casual dining, a cup of tea and some knock out scones.

Things To Do In The Blue Mountains

The Three Sisters Walk

This is about as obvious an itinerary tick as it gets. You're likely in the region to first and foremost see the natural wonder of the Blue Mountains, and there's no better place to start than the Three Sisters. Begin at Echo Point in Katoomba to see the natural formation rock stars. The easily manageable Three Sisters walk treats you to a few lookouts and a closer look at the sandstone siblings. Take the Giant Stairway and its 998 steps deep into the Jamison Valley if you're up for it.

Scenic World

Maybe walking isn't your thing, and that's completely fine. Grab yourself a day pass to Scenic World and drop into the valley on a 52-degree incline passenger train built for coal miners in the 19th century. After that, get high above from a bird's eye view in a skyway cable car suspended 270 metres over the forest floor across a 720-metre traverse. Follow that with the cableway, a 545-metre ride that descends into the valley depths.

Canyoning And Abseiling

For the adventurers and thrill-seekers, canyoning and abseiling through the Blue Mountains depths is a must. If you've never done it, canyoning takes you deep down, through rainforest, caves, waterholes, rivers and creeks, with a mix of abseiling, hiking, swimming and navigating challenging routes. Or try abseiling if you prefer to stay dry and fly through the air (with ropes) down sheer rock faces—it's completely safe and a lot of fun.

Day Spas 

Climbing down into canyons and scaling off cliffs might be good for some, but if you're in the region to unwind and recharge, you might fancy one of the Blue Mountains' many day spa offerings. Taking full advantage of scenic views and the relaxing aura about, there are plenty of pampering options. Spa Sublime specialises in couple's treatments and offers the "spa par-tea" treatment with high tea and champagne included. The Japanese Bath House offers a range of relaxation packages and indoor/outdoor onsen, or Japanese hot water springs. Finally, the luxe Echoes Spa is surrounded by views of Jamison Valley, treating you to spa, facial, massage and soak therapy. Explore for plenty more options.

Blue Mountains Accommodation 

Kyah

Recently opened Kyah is a reimagined motor inn (yes, yet another motel makeover, following in the footsteps of coastal gems like Sunseeker in Byron and Halcyon House in Cabarita). MKD Architects have redesigned the 70s era motel into a plush 46-room mountain retreat. Throughout each of the hotel's three wings, which are named Meehni, Wimlah, and Gunnedoo after the Three Sisters, you'll find blush pink archways, Art Deco-inspired furniture, and plush velvet drapery. It's Palm Springs meets the mountains. 

Choose from roomy king suites, two-bedroom suites, spa suites, family rooms, and extra-spacious family suites—each with its own individual access, complimentary WiFi, smart TVs to stream your own content, and a minibar filled with local goodies like craft beer by Katoomba's Mountain Culture and cookies from Whisk and Pin. Book your stay here

Emirate One And Only Wolgan Valley

Nestled in the lap of the Greater Blue Mountains, Emirates One and Only Wolgan Valley is a seven-thousand-acre retreat that gives city escapees a chance to immerse themselves in nature without skimping out on any luxuries.

Take the three-hour drive yourself, or book a chauffeured transfer (by luxury car or helicopter) to the stunning retreat, where you check into your very own one, two or three-bedroom villa. Festooned with private pools, verandas overlooking the mountains and fireplaces to keep you cosy, dropping temperatures pose no worry to the resort. With three dining options, celebrating the garden-to-table philosophy and local ingredients available, and gourmet picnics, an award-winning spa, horse riding, nocturnal wildlife and bush walks that can be curated to fit custom preferences for a family or romantic getaway, Emirates One and Only Wolgan Valley is truly the place to be. Book your stay here

Fairmont Resort & Spa Blue Mountains

If you're headed up the mountains and looking to treat yourself, book the family-friendly Fairmont Resort & Spa in the quaint township of Leura. The boujee hotel offers all the creature comforts and scenic views you desire, overlooking the Jamison Valley stretching out over the horizon. If you can opt for the grand luxury suite, which actually hosted the Dalai Lama back in 2015. You'll be settling in here with restaurants attached, high tea options, a whisky bar, golf course, basketball and tennis courts, pools and an in-house day spa. Book your stay here

Treehouse Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains region is peppered with incredible Airbnb properties ideal for your weekend getaway. But we thought we'd choose one of our favourites if you need a little inspiration. Note that this property isn't being cute when it calls itself Treehouse. The off-the-grid, Bilpin wooden home sits high up in the trees overlooking Wollemi National Park and Bowen's Creek Gorge. Get cosy by the fireplace, stargaze and kick back with a glass of wine high above the forest floor. Book your stay here

The Carrington Hotel

First opening its doors in 1883, The Carrington Hotel is a historic landmark of Katoomba. The iconic accommodation spot offers 64 rooms, suites, and some serious old-school charm. Downstairs, you'll find the previously mentioned Champagne Charlie's Cocktail Bar for a nightcap and the Grand Dining Room for some traditional fine dining. And if you needed any more convincing, there's even a deli and "cellar" takeaway bottle shop attached.

Now, check out the best Airbnbs with amazing pools in NSW

Image credit: Steven Woodburn, Destination NSW

Editor's note: Urban List editors independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. Urban List has affiliate partnerships, so we get revenue from your purchases.

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