Making the most of a few days in Oz

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of March 6-12, 1997
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Bike-touring on Prince Edward Island

Making the most of a few days in Oz
Question: I will be traveling to Australia in March. I'll be flying into Sydney and only have a couple of days. I'd like to see some of the natural areas of Australia and wondered what areas you would recommend.

Steve Plut
Pittsburgh, PA
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Well, my first question would be: Why go all that way to only spend a few days? But assuming that there's probably a decent reason (business trip? no spare time? I know how that goes), I'll cut right to the chase. The best cure for trans-Pacific jet lag is a few days in Blue Mountains National Park, an easy 90-minute drive west of Sydney. Surrounded by classic Aussie bushland, eucalyptus-blue mountains and jagged sandstone cliffs, Acacia Flats Campground is a great jumping-off point for a three-day hike through the Grose Valley.

Start from the trailhead at Victoria Falls Lookout, near the village of Blackheath, and take the zig-zagging track through the Blue Gum Forest to the campground (no permits or reservations required), about six hours in from your car. After a night under the stars (the Southern Cross is the bunch of stars that looks like a kite), hike the 12-mile loop to Govetts Leap through bird-infested ravines and back to Acacia Flats. Day three is a six-hour trek the way you came in, or--if you're looking for new territory--a steep descent to Evans Lookout and out to the main road, where you'll need to arrange for a taxi to take you back to your car.

If you didn't bring your gear (and, realistically, who would for a three-day trip?) and can't be bothered to rent the necessary stuff, sign on with Blue Mountains Adventure Company for a one-day hiking or rappelling excursion ($67-$80) in Claustral Canyon near Mount Tomah, about 10 miles north of Blackheath. Or, if you decide to blow off work or whatever other commitments you may have, their five-day multi-sport trips--canyoning, rappelling, mountain biking, spelunking, and climbing--are worth checking into ($415 per person; call 011-61-47-821-271). For national park information, call 011-61-47-87-1233.

Finally, if what you want is just a no-sweat ramble and an overnight at some cushy inn, bed down at the historic Avonleigh Country House in Leura, about 15 miles east of Blackheath, and hike the 2.5 miles on the Prince Henry Cliff Walk from Echo Point to Leura Falls. For more details, call 011-61-47-82-1534. One more thing: Keep in mind that March in Australia means cool, autumn-like temperatures--especially at night--so pack a wool sweater and warm clothes.

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