TRAVELS WITH NINA

is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.

BLUE MOUNTAINS: MASTERCARD
Photo by Roderick Eime

For historic accommodation, fine food and even finer wine, inspirational nature walks, and decadent spa experiences, head straight to Australia’s Blue Mountains. Visitors have been lured to these stunning mountains (which are not actually blue, but look that way from afar because of the eucalyptus oil haze rising above them) since Victorian times. Just 90 minutes’ drive west of Sydney, this is the place to come if you’re in need of some serious you time.

 

Hiking
Thousands of independent trekkers head to the Blue Mountains every year, and the minute you set your eyes on those stunning gorges and bush-clad mountains, you’ll no doubt want to be one of them. Grab your crampons, pull on your leggings, and take off on the Jenolan River Walk. Start at the Blue Lake at the Jenolan Caves Grand Arch and follow the turquoise waters of the river, passing conifers and nettle along the way. If you’re up for more of a challenge, the tough Federal Pass with the Giant Stairway at Katoomba is for you. Just be prepared to feel the burn as you climb those 900 stairs.

 

Spa Time
There really is no better way to soothe those aching post-trek limbs than to treat yourself to an afternoon at the Sparadise Japanese Bath House, the only Japanese onsen in the state, set within ridiculously pretty Zen gardens. Start off with an uber-relaxing herbal steam bath, then indulge in some serious mineral therapy as you take a dip in the outdoor hot spring—it’s like a supersized hot tub filled with water from their natural underground springs. Looking out over the surrounding mountaintops and nearby Lake Lyell, you’ll forgive yourself for thinking you’re in a thermal spring in the French Alps. The finale? A therapeutic massage followed by an organic herbal tisane in their tea room.

 

Historic Accommodation
To make the most of your stay, you’ll want to splash out on some luxurious accommodation. The most famous of all Blue Mountains establishments is the Heritage-listed Hydro Majestic in Medlow Bath, which recently reopened its doors following a $30 AUD million renovation. Order a glass of bubbles and take a seat by the window in the Wintergarden restaurant as you indulge in their famous afternoon high tea, cheersing your good fortune as you overlook the stunning views of the eucalypts and sheer rock faces of the Megalong Valley.

Closer towards the Blue Mountains themselves is Lilianfels Resort and Spa, an 80-room hotel on the edge of the Jamison Valley in Katoomba. Here, posh and cosy meet. When you settle into your room, the bush bird-patterned wallpaper, huge spa bathrooms, and canopied beds give you the feeling of staying in a very generous friend’s country mansion. Take the five-minute stroll to the Three Sisters at Echo Point, and when you’re done gawking at the beauty of this famous rock formation, head back to Lilianfels’s Darley’s restaurant. Grab a seat overlooking the manicured garden in the sumptuous 100-year-old Heritage-listed dining room where, surrounded by chandeliers and oil paintings, you tuck into pan-seared John Dory with globe artichokes, smoked tomato, and broad beans—or perhaps a Japanese-inspired beef tartare.

 

Wine Bars
If it’s a post-dinner vino you’re after, head over to Beyond Vintage Wine Bar. It’s tucked away behind the post office on the main street of Leura Village, which is one of the prettiest areas in the Blue Mountains. Pull up a chair in the cosy bar area, order a glass of local wine and perhaps something to nibble from the tapas-style menu (the seared scallops and chilli prawns are especially tasty), and settle in for the evening.

If you’re after somewhere a little more quirky, Leura Garage is set in a former mechanic’s workshop decorated with recycled car engines and tyres, and transforms from a vibrant cafe by day into a buzzing wine and tapas bars by night. Grab a pizza made from organic, unbleached, stone-ground flour and a bottle of Miramar fume blanc from Mudgee, then polish the day off with a house-made raspberry tart. Go on, you deserve it.

 

THIS STORY FIRST APPEARED HERE

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