Blackheath New South Wales – An Insiders Guide
Blackheath is one of the quintessential large Blue Mountains villages, with a wide range of amazing views, iconic walks, charming atmosphere, great shopping, gardens, food and historical points of interest. In essence it is a “must visit” location in the upper Blue Mountains.
Blackheath Highlights include –
- Victory Theatre Antique Market
- Day Art Gallery
- Rhododendron Garden
- The incredible views of Govetts Leap, Evans Lookout & Pulpit Rock
- The Grand Canyon Walk
- National Parks & Wildlife Service – Information Centre
- Blackheath Growers Market
- The Megalong Valley
How to get to Blackheath in the Blue Mountains
Blackheath in located about 10 kms west of the Tourist hot spot of Katoomba.
If you have your own car the trip from K -Town should only take you 10 – 12 minutes. Turn into Govetts Leap Road at the traffic lights and you are in the bustling main street. There are also shops along the Highway and a few on the other side of the Railway line.
There is usually quite good parking, either along the Highway, in Govetts Leap Rd or in the designated Car Park. Look for the sign as you head down the main road.
A Taxi would also be an option from Katoomba. Not many Ubers operate in the Mountains.
The Train is a very good option to get you to Blackheath. While the Station is not exactly right in the middle of the village it is just a short stroll back. During the middle of the day services are hourly.
There is also a Bus Service that operates between Blackheath & Katoomba. The 698. It would make multiple stops along the way, so be prepared for a longer trip.
Info for the Bus and Train can be found on the Transport for NSW website or the TripView app.
If you are travelling by car, you will probably want to stop at the world famous Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath. There is a magnificent view into the Megalong Valley at the hotel. It’s easiest to visit the Hotel on the way up, rather than on the way back.
Why is it named Blackheath, who was Govett and what did he leap?
The visionary Governor of NSW Lachlan Macquarie, on his visit through the area in 1815, first named the spot Hounslow, presumably after Hounslow Heath near London. However, two weeks later as he passed through again on his way back from Bathurst, he changed the name to Black-Heath. He wrote of it’s black and wild appearance, probably because he encountered a cold windy middle of May day.
There are two stories about the name “Govetts Leap.”
The exciting one is that a Bushranger named Govett, being pursued by the mounted Police was determined to escape. Ending up at the clifftops, rather than being captured and spend a life in prison or possible hanging, he spurred his horse over the edge falling to his death hundreds of meters below. “They’ll never take me alive said he.”
The true story is that William Govett was the first to survey the area, around 1831. He was fascinated by the waterfall and named it after himself. “Leap” is a Scottish term for waterfall. The Falls drop an approximate 190 meters in one leap.
Attractions in Blackheath
Food & Drink
Blackheath has always had a great range of food options. From Hatted fine restaurants like Vulcans and Ashcrofts, both now closed, to funky cafes and bistros.
Note – The restaurant and café scene in every Mountains Village & Town is constantly changing. A guide like this can never be complete and up to date. If you spot something you like, follow them on Instagram or Facebook and that will usually be your best guide to opening times etc.
Also note, Blackheath is a popular tourist destination. On the weekends it can get very busy so your first choice of café or restaurant may not be available. Being partly a tourist town, it also means service sometimes can be a bit patchy.
Grab something from a Takeaway or Deli and then drive to the nearby Rhododendron Garden, Memorial Park or Bradman Oval, where Australia’s greatest ever cricketer, Don Bradman, once scored a century (100 runs) off just 22 balls back in 1931. Sutton Park on the way out of town heading east is also a popular rest stop.
Try the Bakery, Bakehouse on Wentworth, with an excellent range of pies, pastry and other items. It has been there for years, as has the Blackheath Fish Shop on the highway serving up fish and chips to passing travellers.
There are also a number of Delis & Cafes that provide great takeaway as well as table service that we list below.
Blackheath Cafe Options
For Café food Blackheath has you well covered. Locals all have their own preference.
Anonymous Café on the corner of Govetts Leap Rd & the Great Western Highway is highly rated by locals and visitors alike, as is Altitude Delicatessen and the Blackheath Continental Deli.
There’s also the busy popular Café at the front of the Victory Theatre and then Wattle Café up on the Highway.
There are more, but any of these should get you going for a day of exploring.
Restaurants in Blackheath
For more substantial meals try one of these
Piedmont Inn on the Highway for Italian – Pasta , Pizza and more
New entrant to the field is the Blackheath Bar & Grill. Fully licensed a good range of food options and entertainment. It in the old Hardware Shop, with the delightful green tiles on the front, just down from the Day Gallery.
Blue Jax Restaurant is a little way out of town in The George Boutique Hotel. It gets great reviews.
If you want fine contemporary dining, head to Cinnibar for a special evening. They are currently rated number 1 in Trip Advisor. Booking strongly suggested. 246 Great Western Hwy.
The two pubs in town both have bistros. If I had to go to one I would probably choose Gardners, because of the historical connection.
The first building in Blackheath was the Scotch Thistle Inn, built in 1831 by Andrew Gardner. Charles Darwin visited the Inn a few years later in his famous trip across the Blue Mountains. It was in the following week as he headed further west that the penny dropped for Darwin and he started formulating his ground breaking Theory of Evolution.
The original Inn was replaced by the Gardners Inn Hotel in a slightly different location. Apparently, the staircase from the original Inn is preserved in the new hotel.
There is also Thai, Chinese, Kebabs & Pizza outlets, so your options really are plentiful.
Another foodie highlight is of course the Blackheath Growers Market. This has been around for over 17 years and provides great product from both local and regional producers. It runs on the second Sunday of each month and is very popular. Cnr Great Western Highway and Gardiner Crescent.
Art in Blackheath
Blackheath has a thriving art scene with street art, a major dealer gallery, a long established Art Society and plenty of artists who call the area home. You can also view and purchase art at several other outlets around town.
Blackheath Street Art
It’s hard to miss the major Mural on the side of the Victory Theatre as you drive into the main street. Designed by the famed artist Jenny Kee who has called Blackheath home for many years. She also designed the bright and colourful Toilet Block in the nearby Car Park.
Down the road on the side of the Day Gallery is a great piece by Claire Nakazawa. You’ll also see a couple of other works as you drive into town, a a puppetry themed bus shelter and the side of a house at the corner of Evans Lookout Road.
Just a short walk down the main street is the magnificent Day Gallery, one of the best Dealer Galleries’ in the Blue Mountains. Their expansive everchanging windows highlight current available works from their stable of professional artists. They are strong supporters of Blue Mountains artists both established and emerging.
With it’s location right in the main street, light and airy exhibition rooms, great stable of artists and highly respected and knowledgeable owners in Vincent & Helen Day, it really is a “must visit” destination on your trip to Blackheath even if you don’t know much about art.
Another thing I love about the Gallery is their mix of both old and new art. For instance, their latest newsletter features a lovely Albert Fullwood landscape from the 1890’s, some Hermannsburg School Aboriginal works from the 1940’s, a Charles Blackman screenprint from the 1970’s and a stunning Lynda Hyde Geometrical Abstract from 2020. (Pictured below)
The gallery is open Friday to Sunday or by appointment. If you do visit, be ready to meet Sunflower, the gallery dog, who inspects most visitors. https://daygallery.com.au/
Slightly further down the road on the other side is the small Gallery Blackheath. This is an artist owned cooperative showcasing a number of local artists.
Blackheath Art Society.
This is a thriving group of artists centred around their own purpose-built studio. As well as running workshops and classes they organise a number of highly popular exhibitions throughout the year. Including –
Easter Long Weekend Exhibition.
Winter Exhibition June Long Weekend
Blackheath Art Prize – October Long Weekend
Other Highlights in and near Blackheath
Victory Theatre Antique Centre
A large bustling Antique Market located in a heritage building in the main street, with a popular café at the front and an iconic mural on the outside! What’s not to love?
This is one of the best 3 Antique markets in the Blue Mountains. (The other two are listed here.)
With around 50 dealers you will find something to take your fancy. Some of the dealer stands have been there for many years.
Jewelry, clothes, retro and vintage, books, records and prints, kitchenalia and more. There’s fine silver, great glassware, ceramics, Australiana and plenty of fun stuff.
The building was originally a Hall in the 1910’s, then converted to picture house in 1921 until that closed in the 1960’s. In the late 1970’s it was reborn into the market you see today. Open 7 days a week.
National Parks and Wildlife Service – Blue Mountains Heritage Centre
Plenty of information, displays, souvenirs etc. Displays on Wildlife, Aboriginal history, Flora etc.
Check in to get Maps, Info on Track Closures and Register if you are heading into a remote area. You can also borrow a Personal Locating Beacon (PLB) if doing longer or remote walks. These are free of charge and can also be picked up at either Katoomba or Springwood Police Stations.
270 Govetts Leap Rd . Open 9am – 4.30 daily except Christmas.
I’m a sucker for a great bookshop and Gleebooks is certainly a great bookshop. I used to live near the original outlet in Glebe in the city and now can visit this one in the main street. It’s not huge but they are strong on Literature, Cookbooks, Travel etc. They also have a 2nd Hand outlet just up the arcade that is always worth a look at. Collier’s Arcade 21 Govetts Leap Road
Blackheath Community Op Shop
Located across the railway line a little out of the village is the Community Op Shop. They have won awards for their community work, money raised from sales goes directly back into the community via small project grants, plus many other hands on initiatives. It’s well worth a visit just to support what they are doing.
134 Station Street
Campbell Rhododendron Gardens
A must visit destination for many people is the Rhododendron Garden located in Bacchante St
A mix of Rhododendrons and Azaleas alongside many native species. There are grassy areas for a picnic and plenty of tracks to explore.
Entry is by donation which goes to support the operation of the gardens. It’s entirely run by volunteers. Yes it was hit fairly hard by recent bushfires but is bouncing back well.
Prime time to vist of course is late-September to mid-November when the Rhodendrons should be at their peek.
The official Rhododendron Festival is in November. https://rhodogarden.org.au/
Hat Hill Gallery
If you are into music, pop culture and prints, you probably need to visit the eclectic Hat Hill Gallery. They sell records, CDs, Prints, Posters, Books, Hifi Equipment and more. If you visit the Victory Theatre, they have an outlet there too, upstairs at the back.
3 Hat Hill Rd Opening Hours are 9am – 5pm but closed on Tuesday & Wednesday https://www.hathillgallery.com.au/
There is a great drive down into the Megalong Valley from Blackheath. Head over the Railway line, take the first left turn and follow the signs down. After enjoying all the views from the cliff tops the drive down into the valley gives you a unique insight. It’s fairly windy in places.
Look out for Lyre Birds crossing the road which is always a thrill. Coachwood Glen is a wonderful stop near the bottom, a very accessible patch of Rainforest with several meandering tracks and small picnic area. On a hot day it is very pleasant and the Bird life is exceptional.
If you are over the Railway lines you might also want to take the short detour to 139 Shipley Road and visit the excellent Logan Brae Orchard. It’s a small family run operation that has been operating there for over 100 years. Open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 – 4 in apple season. March to July. You can’t pick your own apples but they are available for purchase along with Juice, Jams, Jelly’s, Pies etc. https://www.loganbrae.com.au/
In the Valley itself there are a number of great options along with some awesome views.
The Megalong Tea Rooms have been serving up food and drink for visitors into the valley since 1956. Inside and outside seating.
Dryridge Estate is a bit further on, check out their website for precise directions. They are a boutique vineyard operating a Cellar Door, wine tasting, events and accommodation. People rave about the view, the wine and the cheese platters! https://www.dryridge.com.au/
Open Saturdays 11-5 Sundays 11 – 4
Six Foot Track. For the adventurous, the famous Six Foot Track runs all the way from Katoomba to the Jenolan caves. It’s a 3 day trek, however it does pass right through the Megalong Valley, so if you want to do just a small part of the track, this is a great access point.
Some excellent Info on the Six Foot Track here. http://www.wildwalks.com/bushwalking-and-hiking-in-nsw/blue-mountains-katoomba/six-foot-track.html
Blackheath Lookouts & Bushwalks
There are endless Lookouts and Bushwalks in the area, too many to list them all.
Govetts Leap is the main attraction, with expansive views into the Grose Valley, many walking trails and lots of tourists. The National Parks and Wildlife Centre is worth a look, for maps, information and advice.
Evans Lookout is a bit quieter, but similar awesome views.
For something a bit less visited try Pulpit Rock with it’s different levels of lookouts and Perry’s Lookdown.
Three Blackheath Walks
Pulpit Rock to Govetts Leap – A cliff top walk
This is graded “Easy” and should only take you under two hours including plenty of stops for hundreds of photos. It’s about 4k one way.
Best to get a taxi out Pulpit Rock it’s about 6km from the Train Station. At the end of the walk you are at Govetts Leap, with the 698 Bus Stop at the National Parks Heritage Centre to get you back to town.
Pulpit Rock with it’s several different precipitous lookout levels is a great start. From there follow the signs towards Govetts Leap. Wildflowers, hanging swamps, lookouts, streams to paddle in and of course the stunning views. It can get pretty hot along the exposed clifftops, so start early or later in the day.
Note – Both of these walks have sections that are unfenced. If you have young children keep a watchful eye, the drop off is at least 200 meters in some places.
Govetts Leap to Evans Lookout – A cliff top walk
This is slightly shorter but graded “Easy/Medium” at about 1 hour 15 minutes one way. At 2.75 kms it would be possible to do there and back again in about 2 and a half hours. You could also combine the two walks together.
Possibly easiest to start at Evans Lookout and end back at Govetts Leap with easier access to transport back to the village.
Plenty of great views and once you get Barrow Lookout you can see the heart stopping cliff descent of Rodriguez Pass to the valley floor. Surveyed in the late 1890’s the Rodreguez Pass has 905 steps to take you to the foot of the Bridal Veil Falls 250 meters down. The pass is currently closed due to bushfire damage. This closure does not affect the cliff top walk.
This walk is one of the most popular walks in the Blue Mountains.
In fact at the time of writing this article they were trialing a one way system to help with the numbers during Covid.
It’s graded “Medium,” there are a lot of steps and after rain it can be slippery. About 3 and a half hours and about 350-meter descent and the same coming back up. Make sure you have sturdy footwear.
The walk gives you a great mix of habitat and experiences, including a walk along the shady canyon floor. You’ll experience waterfalls, ferns, wildlife and of course the view from Evans Lookout.
If you have the choice, most experienced walkers of the track prefer to start at Neates Glen car park and finish at Evans Lookout at the glorious view. You can then walk back along the access road to your car it’s about 1.5 k of flat road. Alternatively park at Evans Lookout and walk back to the Neates Glen start point. Your car will be a welcome sight at the end of the walk.
We suggest you get the information sheet from the NPWS. https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/blackheath-area