Welcome to Open for Business.
Each week, news.com.au in partnership with Tourism Australia and the National Bushfire Recovery Agency will shine a spotlight on an Aussie region devastated by the 2020 bushfires. The video series will provide ideas on ways to help, where to visit and cafes not to miss on your next holiday at home.
The Blue Mountains, just 90 minutes north of Sydney, is usually a popular spot for a weekend away or perhaps a day trip midweek.
But the 2019/20 bushfires, which burned through one million square hectares of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage, scared people off in droves.
But while parts of the Blue Mountains bushland and nearby Lithgow community were ravaged by bushfire, most of the region remained untouched with no lives lost during the inferno.
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Parts of the Blue Mountains and Lithgow area were impacted by the fires, but the community has risen from the ashes to recover. Picture: Jeremy PiperSource:News Corp Australia
RELATED: How the town of Cobargo recovered from the flames
The Blue Mountains, with its tall cliffs and deep valleys, dense bushland and charming towns, is internationally famous and doesn’t normally struggle to attract visitors.
But a year on from the devastation, combined with a global health pandemic, businesses in the region need your help more than ever before.
So if you want a weekend away full of nature, nurture and everything in-between – some of the best places in the world are on our doorstep and well and truly, Open for Business.
A 90-minute drive along the Great Western Highway from Sydney is the charming mountains village of Leura.
The town wasn’t damaged by the bushfires but has been feeling the impact as tourist numbers have dropped off, especially following the pandemic.
Chic and elegant, Leura is known for its Edwardian architecture, English-style gardens and pretty tree-lined streets with plenty of places to eat and shop.
If you’re after a burger with a delicious twist, book a table at Leura Garage – which was once a mechanic’s workshop.Source:Instagram
Leura Garage serves up some of the best pizza on the mountains.Source:Instagram
Stop for a coffee or a feed in the courtyard at Lily’s Pad Cafe, or take in a slightly fancier meal at cosy Silk’s Brasserie. Trendy Leura Garage is an award-winning restaurant, cafe and bar located in a former mechanic’s shop and has a focus on local food and wine.
No visit to Leura is complete without a stop at The Candy Store, which sells local and imported confectionary, including all your favourite childhood lollies.
Just next door to Leura is the Blue Mountains’ biggest and most visited town, Katoomba.
Home to the region’s famous sight – the iconic Three Sisters rock formation – and plenty of other jaw-dropping views, Katoomba also boasts a vibrant and eclectic town centre.
Scenic World is a must-visit, and be sure to jump on the Scenic Railway, Scenic Cableway and Scenic Skyway – which offers incredible views of Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters and Jamison Valley.
No better way to take in the Three Sisters than on the Scenic Skyway.Source:istock
Take in the amazing views of Echo Point over a drink at Bar NSW at The Lookout, and for a memorable meal, check out 8 Things on Katoomba St, which serves eight authentic dishes from around the world created daily.
For a really special dining experience, splash out at Darley’s Restaurant at the heritage-listed Lilianfels property.
Katoomba is also a great place to shop for all kinds of kooky curiosities. Local favourites include Odd Mountain Oddities and the Katoomba Antique Centre.
A little further along the Great Western Highway is Blackheath – the highest village in the Blue Mountains, and one of its most dramatically beautiful locations.
Local gem Campbell Rhododendron Gardens, just outside the town centre, is a must-visit as is a drink at the recently-restored Hydro Majestic Hotel overlooking Medlow Bath.
The Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains near Blackheath is a great spot for afternoon tea. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
Food and views at the Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
The Campbell Rhododendron Gardens cover 18.5 hectares of mountain bushland, and boast exotic plants like rhododendrons, azaleas and maples, as well as natives. About one-third of the gardens was destroyed by bushfire but there are big plans for restoration, and visitors are welcome.
The gardens are gorgeous all year round, with each season offering something different. April to May will be the best time for deciduous trees and camellias.
While you’re in Blackheath, sample the fantastic coffee at Anonymous Cafe and hunt for treasures at the Victory Theatre Antique Centre – billed as the largest antiques centre west of Sydney. If you’re in town on the second Sunday of the month, you’ll be able to catch the Blackheath Growers Market.
The Blackheath Growers market is a popular spot to get local produce.Source:Instagram
The Blackheath growers market has flowers and food and everything in between.Source:Instagram
BILPIN AND MOUNT TOMAH
Bilpin and neighbouring Mount Tomah were the scene of some of the most heartbreaking destruction of the summer’s bushfires.
Luckily for us, these two Blue Mountains gems along the Bells Line of Road are back in business and eager for visitors.
Bilpin is known as the “land of the mountain apple” and so much good stuff to see and do – and eat and drink, of course – are based on the humble fruit.
You can’t stop by Bilpin without tasting some apple and blueberry pie.Source:Supplied
The Bilpin Fruit Bowl farm has the perfect stop to pick some Royal Gala apples.
Bilpin is of course the birthplace of the famous Bilpin Cider Co. and a visit to its Cellar Door is a non-negotiable. The equally famous Hillbilly Cider company is also from Bilpin and has a Shed Door that’s another must visit.
Bilpin apple juice and Hillbilly cider at The Potager in Mount Tomah.Source:Supplied
Freshly crushed Hillbilly apple juice. Picture: David Hill, Headline Publicity.Source:Supplied
Also reopening after the bushfires is the sensational Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens at Mount Tomah, which has great walking trails, excellent food at the garden restaurant Potager, and lovely cottages to stay the night.
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