Big city living getting to you? Here’s how getting up high can bring you back down to earth.
There’s a feeling of Zen that comes over you once you hit the M4 en route to the Blue Mountains. Partly because you know you’re only another hour or so to one of the world’s most stunning world heritage sites… and partly because you’ve cleared the valley of strip-malls that line Parramatta Road.
With every push of the pedal you’re further away from the harshness of reality and climbing closer to stunning untouched vistas and magically off-track waterfalls. It’s a good vibe and well worth the journey every now and then.
To research this story we worked with Mazda, putting their zippy Mazda2 through its paces on the winding corners along the breathtaking Blue Mountains escarpments. It was a definite change of pace from our heavy truck and made the expedition that much smoother. Lots of info on this below. Enjoy.
Blue Mountains Ugg Boots
515 Great Western Highway, Faulconbridge, 2776
+61 2 4751 1804
If you’re going to invest in a pair of our national shoes then it’s only right that you make like Burke and Wills to hunt them down. Luckily, there’s a giant wall of cowhides by the side of the highway to let you know you’ve found the right spot. This unassuming roadside stall is almost as iconically Blue Mountains as the Three Sisters and has been serving up soft sheepskin footwear for over three generations. It’s about as dinky-di Aussie as using ‘dinky di’ in a sentence (we’ll show ourselves out) so pull over, have a feel and just try to walk away with only one pair.
Terrace Falls Hike
Why should all the high mountain hikes get all the attention, when mid-mountain walks like this to the stunning Terrace Falls are as easy on the eye as they are on the legs. Turn off beneath the train line in Hazelbrook (there’s a mural of Terrace Falls to make it easy to spot) and head to Valley Road. From here the start of the hike is clearly marked. The choice is yours on how deep you want to go but we can confirm that making it all the way to the falls is well worth the trip.
Megalong Valley Road and Tea Room
Easily marked from the top of Blackheath, this is without a doubt our favourite stretch of road around Sydney. What starts off winding through dry grey gum trees turns into a lush thick rainforest canopy halfway through, finally opening up at the end into a sun-filled valley dotted with grazing cows and ramshackle farm sheds just begging to the photographed. Keep going to find the Megalong Valley Tea Room on your right. This is where they keep the really good scones.
Great Western Highway, Katoomba, 2780
+61 2 4782 6885
The Hydro is a curious one. Anyone who isn’t familiar with its 100-year history couldn’t be blamed for pondering why an art-deco gem of such esteem is sitting by the side of the highway and right next door to a Mazda car dealership. But a stroll through the plush tea room and directly onto the balcony will yield all the answers. The hotel sits on 1.1km of sheer drop off escarpment overlooking the sprawling Megalong Valley (not just a clever name). In the afternoon the carpet of trees almost turn purple from the refracted haze of Eucalyptus oil and water vapour in the air. Whatever you do, make sure you’re there for the 5.30pm golden hour.
84 Railway Parade, Leura, 2780
+61 2 4784 3391
Leura has always been a special mountain draw card thanks to Main Street’s cluster of cute home wares stores and bountiful delis. The opening of Leura Garage added a shot on industrial chic into the mix, updating the energy for a younger crowd. And crowd is the word; it’s not uncommon to see lines of fans waiting for a table but sometimes hanging out and people watching is half the fun. Helps that the pizza boasts the best dough this side of Sicily.
33 Givetts Leap Road, Blackeath, NSW, 2785
+61 2 4787 6899
Vesta is famous for its so-tender-its-Elvis lamb roast. We know people who come here all the way from Sydney every Sunday just to consume it, so safe to say it’s pretty memorable. If you’re meat adverse, there’s a chickpea ragout with quinoa and house ricotta that feels just as hearty. No room for gluten free, clean-eating here. This is real mountain food and its glorious natural habitat.
WHAT MAKES A MAZDA2 ROAD TRIP WORTHY?
Those that read our first post in this series will know that we’re used to the elevation that comes from driving a truck full-time. It’s up high and functional for equipment… And that’s about it. It’s not the sexiest thing in the world, whereas the Mazda2 is all about the streamlined curves and aerodynamics.
But the thing about a Blue Mountains road trip is that it’s all about revelling in those long curvy stretches of road that have corners demanding to be hugged tightly as you take glimpses over the escarpments. When we drove Mazda2 for the first time, we noticed was how well it turned, to the point where the responsiveness felt almost empathetic (we were told later that this because of the ‘jinba ittai’, the Japanese concept of horse and rider as one. Who knew the Mazda team were so poetic?).
The road reaches a peak elevation of about 3,901ft. Some of the sections are mildly sloped, others are slightly more vertical. In a truck, this portion of the drive would normally be met with a loud whirring from the engine paired with some some mild anxiety on how much fuel it’s consuming. We might even pat the dashboard and whisper encouraging comments to it in a show of appreciation. In the Mazda2 it’s seamless. There’s no jolting between gears and the weight feels completely even. The best surprise is finding out that the entire trip cost us $20 in gas.
Even on the more gravelling sections near the start of the Terrace Falls hike. It’s a car that asks for a challenge. Which might’ve even encouraged us to drive and explore further than we have before.
Save your sanity by avoiding the traffic rush between 7.30 – 9.30am and 3pm – 6pm. Nobody likes traffic, no matter how good the Serial podcast is. The beauty of the Mazda2 is MZD Connect, which integrates internet radio with apps such as Pandora. So even if you do get stuck in traffic, you’ll be okay.