A new book titled This Ain’t the City: Explorers Guide to the Blue Mountains is a local’s bible to the area. It shows off some of the Blue Mountains’ small joys – from waterholes you should know about, to hidden caves to explore, places to eat, drink and shop, and even hiking-gear recommendations. The book is a collaborative effort from a group of 12 explorers, ultra-athletes and lifelong Blue Mountains residents known as Lostmtns. Since 2016 they’ve been sharing their stories and building a strong online presence via the bluemtns_explore Instagram, and following a triumvirate of disasters that hit the area last year (bushfires, floods and Covid-19), they launched a crowdfunding campaign to help create their first guide book. The group also runs guided tours of the area, in partnership with local adventure companies.
Here are five spots from the guidebook to check out during your next visit to the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains.
Coxs Cave, Mount Victoria
Mount Victoria is the westernmost town in the Blue Mountains, around 120 kilometres from the Sydney CBD. It’s a far less frequented part of the range than spots like Katoomba, but no less stunning. Take a moderate hike into Coxs Cave (about a five-kilometre loop), with lush rainforest, fallen old mossy trees and hidden caves dotted along the trail.
Upon reaching the main cave, a ladder leads up into a large cavern where you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to the Jurassic period. Take your time to explore here and revel in the ancient landscape.
Estimated distance: five kilometres return
Start the walk from Fairy Bower Reserve
Lockleys Pylon – Mount Hay, Leura
Not far from the Blue Mountains’ popular Govetts Leap and Grand Canyon walking tracks is the under-explored Lockleys Pylon. Take the track from Mount Hay Road, which follows reasonably flat heathland to a small peak with spectacular views of Grose Valley. Once you reach the base of the pylon, it’ll take about 15 minutes to climb to the top.
If you’ve got ample time, follow one of the various tracks leading off in different directions from the pylon – some offer further views of the valley, others of the expansive Blue Gum Forest.
Lostmtns recommends trekking in the late afternoon, just in time to watch the sun set over the vast eucalypt forests and sandstone cliff lines. “It’s truly mind-blowing. Just remember to bring a headtorch, too, in case it gets dark on return,” co-author George Kaplan says.
Distance: seven kilometres return
More information here.
What may appear from atop the cliffs as hot, dry and rocky terrain does in fact descend to lush, mossy canyons and valleys, where waterfalls leap between crystal-clear pools and fern-laden scrub.
You can explore the mountains’ dense eucalypt forests in a more vertical fashion, by taking a guided canyon tour with the Lstmtns team. With experiences graded from easy to extreme, you can learn to abseil in the Grand Canyon, feel the downpour of rushing waterfalls and slides in Empress Canyon, or tackle the epic Claustral Canyon – which is as wild and exotic as it sounds.
There are thousands of possible canyoning routes to take in the Blue Mountains, so Lostmtns has picked its top five for you to try. Book a tour here.
The charming village of Leura is always worthy of a stopover, with a bunch of boutique accommodation, pretty homewares stores and its famous cascades walks.
There’s a decent bakery, Bakehouse on Wentworth, rustic dinners at Leura Garage and myriad cafes – though Lstmtns recommends heading to Cafe Leura for your caffeine fix. Owners Andrew and Dora have been serving the area for 14 years. To eat, it’s classic breakfast fare such as bagels, smashed avo or chilli scrambled eggs, and beef or chicken burgers and generously portioned lasagne for lunch.
Find out how to get to Leura here.
Mountain Culture Beer Co, Katoomba
There’s nothing much better than rounding out an adventurous day with a cold one. The Mountain Culture brewery is uniquely Blue Mountains, housed within a heritage-listed building in Katoomba. Run by husband-and-wife duo DJ and Harriet McCready, the ever-changing range of beers is inspired by the owners’ surroundings and made using local ingredients and a special reverse-osmosis water filter, meaning it’s unlike anything you’ll find in Sydney.
They can their own small-batch beer in-house and serve a simple menu of American-style burgers and snacks to enjoy on the back deck.
This Ain’t the City is available for order here.