A smoke-filled excursion to Australia’s Blue Mountains

When we arrived in Sydney and headed to the rental car counter, the woman checking us in asked where we were headed. When I said Katoomba, she looked shocked and said “Is it still open?” During the brushfires of 2019-20, the Blue Mountains were filled with smoke. Katoomba lay in between two major fires.

Map of Katoomba in between fires in late 2019.

Coming from California, we are sadly used to smoky conditions and dealing with unhealthy air quality. We brought our N-95 masks before we had ever heard of Covid and set up base camp at the Katoomba Town Centre Motel.

It was a bit of a tight squeeze for four but it included a kitchenette and dining table so it was perfect for our family. It was also in town and walkable to many locations.

We headed into town to find a place for brunch and ended up at the Katoomba Street Café. Everybody was happy with their meals and I learned that rocket is another word for arugula. We wandered the town a bit and then went to the lookout for Three Sisters. Although it was incredibly smoky, the views were still incredible and the walk onto the Three Sisters with many stairs was amazing.

The next day, we had planned to go to Scenic World but came across the Furber Steps. As we were checking them out and deciding what to do, a woman walking by warned us against it. Of course, that meant we were on our way and headed down. The walk was beautiful, like another world, with the cockatoos circling and squawking.

The Furber Steps feed into Scenic World, so we were able to walk around and take the train back up the mountain. We also went on the aerial tram, which was neat but the views were severely hindered by the wildfire smoke.

For dinner, we wandered into town again and chose the Old City Bank Bar and Brasserie at The Carrington. After a big meal and a big adventure, we all slept soundly.

After another good breakfast at Katoomba Town Centre Motel, we were ready for one more adventure before leaving the Blue Mountains. We headed to Wentworth Falls and hiked to an amazing lookout and some (cold) waterfalls.

I’d love to go back to the Blue Mountains again and explore further without the threat of wildfires. It truly is a beautiful place.

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