The Blue Mountains and Central West NSW, including the major centres of Katoomba, Bathurst, Orange has a much cooler climate than the coast and has many large country gardens and beautiful parks to visit, featuring a wide range of exotic cool-climate perennials, including peonies, and plants that thrive in the distinct seasons and lower humidity, such as iris, cherry blossom and roses.
There are also gardens to visit that showcase Australian plants adapted to this more seasonally variable climate.
Garden Travel Guide to Blue Mountains and Central West NSW
Getting to/from/around the Blue Mountains and Central West NSW
The Blue Mountains are located 1-2 hours west of Sydney, New South Wales and are easily accessible by train, bus and car from Sydney. There is a regular train and bus services throughout the week and weekends, however, once in the Blue Mountains most gardens are more easily accessed by car. The drive from Sydney to the Blue Mountains is spectacular, with many opportunities to stop and enjoy magnificent views of the Australian landscape.
The greater Blue Mountains includes the surrounding picturesque towns of Blackheath, Faulconbridge, Leura, Katoomba, Megalong Valley, Mount Victoria, Springwood, Wentworth Falls, Hartley, Lithgow and Oberon.
Central West NSW covers an area west of the Blue Mountains, including Bathurst, Orange, Mudgee, Wellington, Cowra, Parkes and Forbes. Many of the towns have well-preserved historic public buildings, churches and large country homes dating from the mid 1800s. Bathurst is a 3 hour drive from Sydney and there is also a train or bus service.
Climate of the NSW Blue Mountains and Central West
The Blue Mountains has 4 distinct seasons: spring (Sept – Nov), summer (Dec – Feb), autumn (March – May) and winter (June – August). There are around nine hours a day of sunshine in summer, dropping to five hours in winter. The temperature varies depending on how high up in the mountains you are. Temperatures ranges in the upper Mountains at Katoomba average 2 to 9°C in winter with very occasion snow falls, spring 6-14°C while in summer the temperature range is 13-23°C. The lower Blue Mountains has a much warmer climate with an average temperature is 16°C in winter and 29°C in summer.
The average annual rainfall at Katoomba is 1400mm with February the wettest month.
Central West NSW also has four distinct seasons, with cold winters and hot summers. The eastern area closer to the mountains (Lithgow to Orange) has a higher rainfall than the west and has frequent frosts from autumn to spring and occasional winter snow.
Natural topography and vegetation of NSW Blue Mountains and Central West
The Blue Mountains is a series of elevated sandstone plateaux up to 1,100m above sea level formed during the Triassic Period and featuring sheer escarpments and gorges. The best locations to view the Blue Mountains are from the iconic landmark The Three Sisters at Echo Point in Katoomba, and Govetts Leap in Blackheath.
The Blue Mountains feature a distinct range of sandstone flora suited to its cooler climate. Elevated areas have dry sclerophyll eucalypt-dominated low forest, heaths and sedge swamps while valleys and gullies have dense tall wet sclerophyll and also rainforest with fern understorey. There are numerous well marked walking tracks to enjoy the natural vegetation up close.
Central West NSW has beautiful rolling hills, mostly cleared for farming but still with many remnant eucalypt trees. Many areas have extensive vineyards, with Mudgee and Orange well-known as wine districts. Many towns through Central West NSW have large town parks with some of the best specimens of English elms in the world (now extinct throughout Europe), as well as spreading oaks, beech and conifers.
NSW Blue Mountains and Central West Garden Styles
The Blue Mountains region is famous for its magnificent cool climate exotic gardens, which during autumn and spring are ablaze with colour. There are numerous towns and small villages which feature significant large tree plantings and English style shade loving plants. It is worth wandering around the villages to also enjoy all the well-planted front gardens, as most fences are low.
The population of the Blue Mountains live in low density houses with a significant proportion enjoying gardening on large rural blocks, many on steep hillsides.
Many gardens are privately owned and therefore opening times and days are at the discretion of the owner.
Central West NSW has many large country gardens that open during spring for local garden festivals. Often these are surrounding a historic home built between 1840 and 1920 and showcasing a range of architectural styles, from country homestead to Arts and Crafts and also ecclesiastical. Many of the gardens have very old tree plantings of elm, beech, oak and conifers and significant collections of roses, iris, peony and herbaceous perennials.
It’s delightful to walk around the streets of Bathurst in late spring (Mid October-mid November) to see the many different styles of architecture from early colonial to Federation complimented by pretty front flower-filled gardens.
Garden tours to, and in, the Blue Mountains and Central West New South Wales
There is a twice monthly bus tour to the lush gardens of Mount Wilson that picks up from Katoomba station. First Sunday and third Saturday of each month, departing at 9.30am, with TCP Tours.
Newmans Coaches often runs a tour visiting the Bathurst Spring Spectacular in late October.
Best gardens to see and visit in the NSW Blue Mountains and Central West that are regularly open with FREE entry
• Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mt Tomah – a geographic arrangement of cool climate plants from around the world. Self guided and guided tours available, with cafe and gift shop. Open weekdays 9am-5.30pm and weekends 9.30am-5.30pm. Bells Line of Road, Mount Tomah.
• Campbell Rhododendron Gardens, Bacchante St Blackheath – 18.5 hectares of landscaped gardens with rhododendrons, bulbs and deciduous trees. Self guided and guided tours available. Tearoom (10am-4pm) and gift shop. Open daily, gold coin donation.
Best gardens to see and visit in the NSW Blue Mountains that are regularly open with PAID entry
National Trust Gardens
• Everglades at Leura – a heritage-listed 1930s garden designed by Paul Sorenson as a mountain retreat. Open 10am-5pm (closes 4pm in autumn-winter).
• Norman Lindsay Gallery and Garden, Faulconbridge – early 20th century garden created by Australian artist and writer Norman Lindsay surrounding the historic house ‘Springwood’, now housing a collection of Lindsay’s art. Home of The Magic Pudding. Stone retaining walls, bathing pools, pergolas, sculptures, urns, roses and established trees.
Best private gardens in the NSW Blue Mountains (opening seasons and times vary)
• Clover Hill, Katoomba
• Glenhaven, Leura
• Fuchsia Garden, Lawson
• Francesca Park, Springwood
• Bebeah, Mt Wilson
• Nooroo, Mt Wilson
• Breenhold Gardens, Mt Wilson
• Yengo Sculpture Gardens, Mt Wilson
• Sefton Cottage, Mt Wilson
• Merry Garth, Mt Wilson
• Windyridge Garden, Mt Wilson
• Wildwood, Bilpin
Best gardens to see and visit in Central West NSW that are regularly open with FREE entry
• Miss Traill’s House and Garden – Russell St, Bathurst (weekends 12 noon-3.30pm)
• Macchattie Park, Bathurst – a historic park with many mature deciduous trees, including some of the best English elms still alive in the world. Fernery, rotunda, ornamental plantings.
• Orange Botanic Gardens – 17 hectares of cool-climate plants, including dogwood, conifers, magnolias, spring bulbs and native plants, plus a billabong, heritage orchard, rose garden and analemmatic (human involvement) sundial.
• Cook Park, Orange – historic park with many deciduous trees at their most spectacular in autumn/fall
• Cowra Rose Gardens, Olympic Park, Cowra
• Sakura Avenue of cherry blossoms, Cowra
• Shoyoen Japanese Garden – Elizabeth Park, Coronation Drive, Dubbo
• Burrendong Botanic Garden and Arboretum – 167 hectares showcasing over 1000 species of Australian plants. Open daily sunrise to sunset. Mumbil, NSW, 20km south of Wellington on Burrendong Way.
Best gardens to see and visit in Central West NSW that are regularly open with PAID entry
• Hillandale Garden and Nursery, Yetholme – last weekend each month from spring-autumn
• Mayfield Garden, Oberon
• Falkirk Farm, Oberon
• Cowra Japanese Garden, Cowra
NSW Blue Mountains and Central West Garden Festivals and Events
• Hazelbrook Woodford Garden Festival – two weekends in spring
• Leura Garden Festival – one week in October
• Daffodils at Rydal – two weekends in mid September
• Bathurst Spring Spectacular – one weekend in late October
• Millthorpe Garden Ramble – one weekend in late October
• Orange Apple Festival – mid May
• Cowra Open Garden Weekend – mid October
• Forbes Open Gardens – early October
• Canowindra Open Gardens Day – one Saturday in early October
• Mudgee Sculpture in the Gardens – weekend mid October
• Parkes Open Gardens – weekend early October
• Condobolin Garden Festival – April
• Griffith Festival of Gardens – mid October
Related events include:
• Sculpture at Scenic World in Katoomba, with Australian and international outdoor artworks displayed along a rainforest gully walk from late April to mid-may each year.
• Ironfest at Lithgow over one weekend in late April
How to find private gardens(not regularly open to the public)
Most open during spring and autumn and are privately advertised at local nurseries, in the local tourist information guides or on local radio.
Best time to visit gardens/garden festivals in the Blue Mountains and Central West NSW
Many of these cooler climate gardens are at their peak in spring (Sept – Nov) for bulbs and blossoms, and again in autumn/fall (March – May) for beautiful autumn colour from the many deciduous trees and shrubs.
Alternatives to Gardening Activities in the Blue Mountains and Central West NSW
Skyway at Scenic World
Three Sisters viewing at Echo Point
Leuralla Toy and Railway Museum and Garden
Walk parts or all of the wheelchair friendly Fairfax Heritage Track
Outdoor adventure activities, including rock climbing and abseiling
Antique shopping in the villages and towns
Visit the many galleries
Fun Facts about the Blue Mountains and Central West
The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area was accepted onto the World Heritage List on 29 November 2000 for its representation of Australia’s unique and characteristic eucalypt vegetation. It covers more than 10,000 square kilometres, stretches for 220 km from north to south and lies only 60 km from the centre of Sydney. It protects 70 different vegetation communities, more than 1,500 species of higher plants (representing 10% of Australia’s total) and at least 100 species of eucalypt (13% of the world’s total).
The Three Sisters represent three Aboriginal women who, in local legend, were turned to stone.
It took early white settlers 25 years to find a way across the Blue Mountains as they were so different from European mountains, being an elevated plateau dissected by many sheer cliffs and escarpments. They succeeded finally by following the ridge lines rather than valleys.
The Blue Mountains and Central West overlaps the traditional Country of at least six indigenous language groups – the Wanaruah, Darkinjung, Darug, Wiradjuri, Gundungurra and Dharawal
The Blue Mountains provides vital clean water to Sydney’s main water supply catchment of Lake Burragorang, as well as many smaller catchments.
Bathurst grew quickly after gold was discovered in the mid 1850s, with many fine mid-Victorian buildings.
Scarecrows, chooks, chocolate cake and jam – they’re all part of the fun and festivities of the Leura Harvest Festival held on 1 May 2016 in the Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia. The festival ads said there would be outstanding produce, fine fare and innovative sustainability initiatives. It all boded well for an interesting and feast-filled time.
Mayfield, a huge, private, cool-climate garden near Oberon in the NSW Central Tablelands has been described as “marvellous” and its public Water Garden a “masterpiece” and “magical“. I first saw greater Mayfield in 2010 and wasn’t that keen but thought it just needed maturation time.