The principal town of the Blue Mountains region, Katoomba is home to the city council of the City of Blue Mountains whose local government area covers 143,000 hectares, of which 70 per cent is in the World Heritage Blue Moutains National Park.
Part of the greater Sydney region, Katoomba is a mere 101 kilometres by road from Sydney city centre. But because the drive upmountain includes twists and turns as it ascends to an elevation of at least a kilometre above sea level, travel by car is naturally not as fast as on level land and takes some two hours from Sydney.
There are a number of factors making Katoomba a popular destination.
- Proximity to Sydney
Driving up — or taking the train or joining a bus tour — you can be in Katoomba before midmorning, spend the day there visiting its major attractions, and return to Sydney by nightfall.
- Cool climate
The Blue Mountains climate is generally cool and crisp all year round, making it particularly desirable in the summer months when the lowlands swelter in heat.
- Natural wonders
A major attraction in Katoomba is the rock formation, the Three Sisters, which rises from the valley floor as an imposing, awe-inspiring landmark at Echo Point. Then there are the various lookouts at cliff's edge for views of the vast expanse of the valley and for closer views of cascades and waterfalls. Well-defined tracks on the valley floor provide hiking incursions into the bush.
- Adventure activities
Not only are there bushwalking opportunities but activities such as rock climbing, abseiling, whitewater rafting, canyoning and similar other activities are available.
- Cablecars and such
Katoomba's Scenic World has the glass-floored Skyway cablecar crossing cliffside to cliffside some 200 metres above the Jamison Valley floor for up-there views of the Blue Mountains World Heritage area. Also at Scenic World are Scenic Railway and Scenic Cableway which bring you down a steep ride down to the valley floor. A Scenic Walkway brings you into the valley's rainforest.
- Heritage and culture
Much of an old world charm remains in buildings of Victorian and colonial architecture. Katoomba's first hotel was built in 1882 and has undergone various renovations and had been renamed the Carrington but remains at the top of town as a grand hotel with a large ballroom and restaurant that exude memories of the past.
The town's other heritage buildings include the Gothic-style Uniting Church on Katoomba St, the Federation Queen Anne cottage on Lurline St now known as Swiss Cottage, the sandstone Katoomba Courthouse at Civic Place built in 1897, and various houses in Federation style.
Interestingly, the modern Blue Mountains Cultural Centre has been built adjacent to the Carrington. It is home to the Blue Mountains City Art Gallery, Katoomba Library and a multi-media World Heritage centre.