By Larry Rivera
The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, a new addition to the townscape of Katoomba in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, is perched at the town's highest point before Parke St begins its descent south towards the cross-street of Waratah and then down through Katoomba St to the area of Echo Point.
The centre, a modern structure with a combined public area of more than 4000 square metres, has the 130-year-old grand colonial-style Carrington Hotel for a neighbor, and the two edifices mirror the old and the new that pervade this Blue Mountains region.
Opened on November 17, 2012, the cultural centre is home to the Blue Mountains City Art Gallery which occupies 600 square metres of the building complex. Also in the centre are the Katoomba library, an interactive multi-media World Heritage centre, a restaurant and cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, and a viewing platform overlooking the Jamison Valley. A 200-seat theatre is expected to open in 2013.
Although the centre's official opening took place on November 17, the Blue Mountains City Art Gallery had already opened its latest exhibition — Picturing The Great Divide: Visions From Australia's Blue Mountains — on the site since November 10 and continues until February 3.
The Blue Mountains has always been a popular destination of Sydneysiders and visitors alike, particularly in the warmer months when summer temperatures climb towards uncomfortable highs.
The greater Blue Mountains region, outside of the highway and the towns along its way, is a World Heritage site that includes Blue Mountains National Park and a number of other contiguous areas. Aside from its wilderness areas, a popular natural attraction is the rock formation, the Three Sisters, rising up from Jamison Valley.
Also in the Katoomba area is the Scenic World complex along Cliff Road where cable cars glide over the valley from clifftop to clifftop and a scenic railway plunges at a 52° incline into the valley floor.
To these natural and man-made attractions now comes the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre which brings insights into the region's life, culture and environment with its visual and performing arts presentations and its treasure trove of information on the World Heritage site.
The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre is at 30 Parke St, Katoomba, telephone 612-4780-5000. It is open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday but closed on public holidays.
Entry to the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre and its viewing platform is free.
An admission charge of $5 (concession $3) is collected for entry to both the Blue Mountains City Art Gallery and World Heritage Exhibition with children under 18 years old admitted free.
If going by car from Sydney, enter the M4 Freeway at a convenient point and head west until the mountain's foothills and continue into the Great Western Highway. Leave the highway at Katoomba and head south through the roundabout to Parke St. Parking should be available at the cultural centre.
If going by train, get on the Blue Mountains Line which has stops in Sydney city at Wynyard, Town Hall and Central, and passes (and stops) at Sydney suburban stations such as Strathfield, Parramatta and Penrith, before climbing up the Blue Mountains with stops at stations along the way to Katoomba. From Katoomba train station, the cultural centre is a short walk south on Parke St.
Or you can simply join a bus tour from Sydney and not have to worry about getting there. Blue Mountains sightseeing is also usually part of an organised bus tour.