Review: Blue Mountains 4WD tour takes guests off the beaten tourist track

The stunning Blue Mountains National Park is one of Sydney's most popular day tour destinations, but there's so much more to this vast wilderness than the main tourist hotspots. You'll see much more of the landscape on this small group 4WD tour. Review: Samantha Wasson

Blue Mountains 4WD tour

Blue Mountains 4WD tour

5 stars

Blue Mountains 4WD tour with Life's an Adventure

This unique, boutique Blue Mountains Day Tour by 4WD will take you where the large tourist buses can’t! You’ll head into the very heart of the Blue Mountains National Park, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be roughing it. The tour includes a gourmet platter lunch, which is served in the great outdoors. Duration: 11 hours (approx.)

Best price guarantee: If you find this tour elsewhere at a cheaper price, we will beat it by 10%. Some conditions apply. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book this tour with The Big Bus tour and travel guide.

As a kid, my parents would rug me up every winter and take me to see the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.

It was a cherished family ritual — but why we only ever went in winter (when it was invariably freezing in the mountains), and why we only ever saw the famous rock formation from the same lookout, now strikes me as rather odd. After all, the Blue Mountains National Park is an incredibly diverse landscape.

I also remember that there were always hordes of tourists at our favoured viewpoint. Why didn’t we visit in summer, and why didn’t we explore further afield? Well, thanks to the Blue Mountains 4WD tour offered by Life’s an Adventure, I can finally say that I’ve done both!

Blue Mountains 4WD tour

Blue Mountains 4WD tour. Image courtesy of Life’s an Adventure

It’s a late November morning, and while Sydney hotel pick-up is available on this tour, I’ve opted to meet my guide Lola and the rest of the tour group at Wentworth Falls train station. Having talked up my summer visit, by the time I arrive in the mountains storm clouds are looming. However, we decide to press on with a hike to Empress Falls in the stunning Valley of the Waters.

As we walk, Lola points out banksia trees and explains the story of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and the ‘big, bad Banksia men’ to the American couple in our group. It doesn’t seem to go down as well with them as it does with the Aussies, who promptly reminisce about the wonder of author May Gibbs.

Lola also tells us of the native ‘five beer berry’ — so-called because it allegedly takes that much alcohol to get rid of the hideous taste. She has a great knowledge of ‘bush tucker’, and tells us what’s edible and what’s not; what’s delicious and what’s disgusting. I feel confident that if we end up stranded in the bush, Lola will manage to keep us alive and well fed!

The Empress Falls are located at the bottom of a deep canyon — some 150 metres below us. As we head down the steps, the environment quickly changes from eucalyptus scrub to a forest of coachwoods and sassafras. The temperature also drops, and before long we are well and truly engulfed by lush rainforest. Lovers have attached padlocks to the posts that guide the way down. By the time we climb back to the top I am out of breath, sweating and convinced I’ll have buns of steel by the end of the day.

Blue Mountains 4WD tour

Blue Mountains 4WD tour. Image: Samantha Wasson

Our next stop is Butterbox Canyon and the Grose Valley. The environment here is characterised by rocky terrain, low scrub, and yellow and white wildflowers. Lola tells me that lots of people don’t like this heath country, but I find it spectacularly beautiful. It’s so different to what I’m used to seeing in the Blue Mountains. For me, it’s the highlight of the trip.

I perch on a rock and look out over the valley. It’s at this point that the sheer size of the Blue Mountains National Park hits me. When you’ve only seen the Three Sisters and Echo Point all your life, it’s easy to underestimate the true scale of the park. It covers a whopping 10,000 square kilometres.

Lunch on this Blue Mountains 4WD tour is usually a platter of local specialties, served in the national park overlooking a sweeping canyon. Today however, due to the weather, we’re having lunch at a very nice restaurant instead. It usually offers views across the Jamison Valley, but a wall of thick grey fog blankets the landscape. Lola tells us of the local saying: ‘Don’t focus on the scenes you’ve missed, but on the mist you’ve seen’. They are wise words.

Blue Mountains 4WD tour

Blue Mountains 4WD tour. Image courtesy of Life’s an Adventure

We round out the day by visiting a few more lookouts, before the storm clouds finally do their thing.

Today I’ve seen parts of the mountains that I didn’t know existed, and I’ve learned so many interesting things about the region’s environment and natural history. And one thing is for certain — while I may have sore legs tomorrow, those buns of steel will be worth it.

Samantha travelled as a guest of Life’s an Adventure.

Additional images: Bigstock


Samantha Wasson

About the writer

Samantha Wasson is a Sydney-based freelance writer and former educator. She lived in Vietnam for three years and has travelled extensively in Asia, Europe and the United States, with a brief sojourn in Africa. Travel highlights to date have included studying German in Freiburg, volunteering at an elephant rehabilitation project outside Chiang Mai, and travelling by motorbike through the Mekong Delta. A lover of literature and travel, Samantha subscribes to Augustine of Hippo’s observation that ‘the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page’.

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