One of the reasons I keep coming back to Sydney, Australia, is its unique way of balancing urban life and nature: with its stunning coastline, vast parks and secret hideaways, Sydney doesn’t make me feel oppressed the way other metropolises do. Sometimes, though, it feels good to get properly, completely out of the city—and spend some time surrounded by nothing but Australia’s exuberant wilderness.

Getting around this continent of prodigious dimensions without a car is usually challenging, but—if you know where to go—a few fantastic swimming holes and beautiful hiking tracks are to be found just a one-hour train ride outside of Sydney. Skeptical? Let me introduce to you… Glenbrook, Blue Mountains!

BlueMountainsWalking001photo via NSW

To get there from Sydney Central Station, simply hop onto the Blue Mountains Line (and, if it’s a weekday, enjoy the envious looks of all those who are on their way to work, silently hating the group of happy people in hiking boots). The train runs approximately every half hour, and for about $17 and 62 minutes of your time it will take you straight to Glenbrook.

This little town just off the Great Western Highway is the first entry point to the immense Blue Mountains National Park, which offers a spectacular glimpse of Australia’s nature and wildlife. Within a 20-minute walk from the Visitor Information Centre, you will reach the gates of the park. This is when the fun begins!

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After going down a flight of stairs, you will find yourself at the Jellybean Pool, which shape is slightly reminiscent of the soft delicacy. As far as swimming holes go, the Jellybean Pool is pretty close to perfection: shadows from the trees bring hints of turquoise into the gold waters; sunbeams draw refracted patterns in the deeper areas; lizards warm up in the sun; dragonflies fool around in the breeze; rocks are adorned with hypnotising, slowly dancing light reflections. Jellybean Pool’s sandy beach, shaded areas and relaxed vibe make it a great spot to hang out and cool down on a hot summer day!

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The second natural pool in the area, called Blue Pool, is worth checking out but not as good for swimming: a colony of particularly large eels—whose impressive set of teeth and unwelcoming expression made us run out of the water with girly screams—lives under the rocks. Lots of beautiful birds are to be spotted there though!

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Just a short walk away from the path leading to Blue Pool, you will find the starting point to the Red Hands Cave walking track: it’s a relatively easy three-hour hike (way and back) which will lead you to really well-preserved Aboriginal ochre stencils, dating back to hundreds of years ago.

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It’s particularly nice to hike there, in the open forest, among giant ferns and gum trees, to the sound of cicadas singing. Strange creatures are to be encountered: wild bees, ninja crickets… and sometimes a particularly gigantic (and hairy) moth specimen!

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There are numerous other bush walks to choose from, and this part of the park is also popular with mountain-bike riders—and with those crazy people who consider running up a mountain a normal activity. Feel free to go for a quick last swim to cool down after your hiking exploits… And, since the train back to Sydney will leave you in Central, take up that opportunity to walk down to nearby Chinatown—and reward yourself with some yummy dumplings for dinner!

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All photos by Marie Colinet except the first

mariecolinettravelettesMarie Colinet was part of the Travelettes team from 2013 to 2015. Originally from Toulouse, France, two years lived in Australia left her speaking English with an awkward Fraussie accent. In September 2015, Marie is starting the epic 6-month-or-who-knows-how-long road-trip along the Panamerican Highway that she’s been dreaming of since her teenage years — all the way from the U.S. to the very tip of South-America. You can follow her on Instagram @mariecolinet!