TRAVEL: Blue Mountains, Siberia and Moroccan Trail

Blue Mountains Travel Darleys Restuarant

Blue Mountains Travel Scenic World

Blue Mountains Travel Lilianfels

We ventured to the Blue Mountains for romance, and found it in abundance.

Our introduction began with an intimate courtyard lunch at the Everglades Historic House and Gardens in leafy Leura, just down from Katoomba off the Great Western Highway.

Built by textile baron Sir Henri Van de Velde in the 1930s as a holiday house, Everglades features five hectares of European-style gardens carved into the Australian bush. The moment you walk on to the conifer terrace and witness the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains national park framed before you, it is apparent why people book years in advance to have their weddings there.

And the residence, operated these days by the National Trust, stands as testament to a man who looked out the windows of his art deco residence and liked what he saw. It is the perfect picnic destination for romantic day-trippers.

Next stop Lilianfels Spa and Resort: a five-star piece of Gatsby-esque opulence perched 1000 metres above sea level on the rim of the Jamison Valley at Echo Point, a two-minute stroll from the iconic Three Sisters.

The original residence was built in 1889 as a summer house by Sir Frederick Darley, the sixth chief justice of NSW.

These days, it houses Lilianfels’s signature hatted restaurant, Darleys, a culinary destination drawing foodies from far and wide, where the accent is on innovative modern Australian cuisine made from seasonal ingredients and fresh local produce, served in warm surrounds against a backdrop of mountain grandeur.

The resort itself sports 85 wonderfully appointed guest rooms and suites, all with views over the mountains and/or gardens.

The design is reminiscent of a bygone era, balancing traditional early American stylings with sumptuous soft furnishing, elegant decor, classic wallpaper and occasional hunt scenes.

Resort features include two heated pools: one indoor, the other outside overlooking the valley and located conveniently next to the restaurant, from which refreshments can be ordered poolside.

For those looking to break a sweat, there is a tennis court and gymnasium. Or you can sink into plush Victorian armchairs in the lounge, and take high tea.

With room service available 24 hours a day, romantics can “survive” in regal comfort without leaving the building. Or indeed their room. But there is much to explore on your doorstep.

The iconic Three Sisters are just across the road and link up with a plethora of well-marked bushwalking trails, which wind around the valley edge providing unsurpassed views. Scenic World, home of the famous Scenic Railway, is a leisurely 20-minute walk away and a must see.

Alternatively, take the Scenic Skyway and swing across the Katoomba Falls and rainforest floor 270 metres below. Four major attractions greet you at Scenic World (five, if you count the view): the Scenic Skyway, the Scenic Railway, the Scenic Walkway and the Scenic Cablecar.

The Scenic Railway, the world’s steepest passenger rail ride, which was unveiled last year after a $30 million upgrade, is without doubt a modern marvel of engineering. It comes complete with adjustable seats for those who struggle with sharp angles, glass roofs to admire the scenery and non-stop theme music from Indiana Jones. The 310-metre journey down a 52-degree cliff through a tunnel to the rainforest floor remains as thrilling as ever. Once on the valley, below you can stroll along the Scenic Walkway, 2.4 kilometres of raised wheelchair-friendly boardwalks, punctuated with strategically placed resting areas, where you can take a break, hang with the lyrebirds, or enjoy a concert recital.

The choice is then yours to return to the clifftop via the Scenic Cableway (the steepest cable car ride in the Southern Hemisphere); ride the railway, which runs up and down every 10 minutes; or foot it to the base of the waterfall along one of the many bush tracks that lead off into the vast national park.

We took lunch in the modern eatery, which has been incorporated into a revolving-floor function centre designed to make the most of the spectacular valley views.

The Blue Mountains have long been a haven for arts-and-craft types and Leura village has great boutique shopping for those looking for something unique on the way back to the hotel.

It was a pleasure to hit the pool back at the resort before adjourning for dinner that night.

Darleys is one of two award-winning eating options at Lilianfels. The other is restaurant Echoes at nearby Echoes Boutique Hotel, similarly perched on the edge of the valley.

The only thing surpassing the menu that night was the open-air view from the terrace. Combined with a cloudless sky and a stunning sunset, it was absolutely incredible.

A massage next morning at the luxury day spa, which offers a full range of treatments, was the perfect way to conclude our stay.

The great divide that Wentworth, Lawson and Blaxland conquered all those years ago no longer exists for those seeking romance in the Blue Mountains.

In fact, I am sure those hardy pioneers would have appreciated some of the five-star experiences now available up there.

The writer was a guest of Destinations NSW.


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