Katoomba, New South Wales

New South Wales

Katoomba commercial area

Location in New South Wales

Coordinates 33°42′45″S 150°18′43″E / 33.71250°S 150.31194°E / -33.71250; 150.31194Coordinates: 33°42′45″S 150°18′43″E / 33.71250°S 150.31194°E / -33.71250; 150.31194
Population 8,016 (2011 census)[1]
Established 1879
Postcode(s) 2780
Elevation 1,017 m (3,337 ft)
LGA(s) City of Blue Mountains
County Cook
State electorate(s) Blue Mountains
Federal Division(s) Macquarie
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
16.8 °C
62 °F
8.0 °C
46 °F
1,407.3 mm
55.4 in
Localities around Katoomba:
Medlow Bath Medlow Bath Blue Mountains National Park
Megalong Valley Katoomba Leura
Narrow Neck Plateau Jamison Valley Jamison Valley

Katoomba (postcode: 2780) is the chief town of the City of Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia and the administrative headquarters of Blue Mountains City Council. Katoomba is situated on the Great Western Highway 110 km (68 mi) west of Sydney and 39 km (24 mi) south-east of Lithgow. Katoomba railway station is on the Main Western line.[2]

Katoomba is well known for spectacular mountain views and extensive bush and nature walks in the surrounding Blue Mountains. At the 2011 census, Katoomba had a population of 8,016 people.[1]


Kedumba or Katta-toon-bah is an Aboriginal term for "shining falling water" or "water tumbling over hill"[3] and takes its name from a waterfall that drops into the Jamison Valley below the Harrys Amphitheatre escarpment. Previously, the site was known as William's Chimney and Collett's Swamp. In 1874 the locality was named The Crushers after the name of the railway station that served a nearby quarry. The name Katoomba was adopted in 1877 and the town achieved municipality status in 1889.[4]


Katoomba and nearby Medlow Bath were first developed as tourist destinations towards the end of the 19th century when a series of grand hotels, notably the Carrington and the Belgravia (later the Hydro Majestic) were built and then repeatedly extended.

Coal and shale mining was also carried out in the Jamison Valley for many years, but when the seams were completely exhausted by the early 20th century, Katoomba was an established resort town. By the 1960s, Katoomba had somewhat declined, and several of its guest houses were converted for other purposes including convalescent hospitals. Some even succumbed to arson. Housing was inexpensive, allowing many young families to establish themselves, many of whom still live there.

In the 1980s, the guest houses and hotels again became fashionable and many were restored to their former glory. Housing in the Katoomba region has become more expensive, but in general housing prices in the district are still markedly lower than those in the Sydney Metropolitan area. Tourism to the area has increased significantly since 2010.


Katoomba's main industry is tourism based on its mountain scenery.[5] The rock formation known as the Three Sisters, viewable from Echo Point about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) south of the main town, is the most famous feature, and attracts some four million visitors each year. Other features of the Jamison Valley visible from Echo Point include Mount Solitary and the rock formation known as the Ruined Castle. A short walk from Echo Point leads to The Giant Stairway which provides access to a number of nature walks through the Valley. Some of these are quite rugged and not recommended for inexperienced walkers. Several of the Jamison Valley tracks including the Stairway itself were closed in recent years due to maintenance, but most have since been re-opened.[6] The local geography includes extensive areas of dense warm temperate rainforest, hanging swamps and a series of spectacular waterfalls (albeit with a relatively low water volume).

Other attractions include Scenic World, a tourist complex in the southwest of the town. This site is home to the steepest funicular railway in the world, the Katoomba Scenic Railway, which was originally built to facilitate coal and oil shale mining in the Jamison Valley.[7] Scenic World also offers the Scenic Skyway cable car, which travels over an arm of the Jamison Valley and offers views of Katoomba Falls and Orphan Rock. In 2004 the original Skyway car was replaced by a new car with a liquid crystal panel floor, which abruptly becomes transparent while the car travels. In 1983 construction began at the site on a rollercoaster called the Orphan Rocker; the track was completed, but this attraction has never been opened to the public.

Katoomba is well-served by hotels and guest-houses, the oldest and most prominent of which is the Carrington Hotel, established in 1882 and occupying the highest point in town. The nearby village of Leura also features numerous well-appointed hotels and health spas and Medlow Bath boasts the grand Hydro Majestic Hotel, originally built in 1891 which reopened in early 2015 following extensive renovations. The Five Star Lilianfels at Echo Point is home to Darley's Restaurant, which has been rated with two Chef Hats. The busy town centre, centered on Katoomba Street, features dozens of cafes and restaurants, including the Paragon which dates to the early 20th century, as well as a number of second-hand book and antique stores.


Katoomba has an oceanic climate with mild summers and cool winters. At Katoomba (1040 metres above sea level) summer daytime temperatures are usually in the low 20s, with a few rare days extending into the 30s (Celsius). Night-time temperatures are usually in the low teens. In winter the temperature is typically about 10 °C in the daytime with 0 °C or so on clear nights and 3 to 4 °C on cloudy nights. There are usually two or three settled snowfalls per year. Katoomba is quite wet all year round; the annual rainfall is about 1,400 millimetres (55 in) [8] with many misty days. Temperatures are on average 7 °C lower than Sydney. Katoomba has 79.8 days of clear skies, annually.

The Blue Mountains has a reputation for snow in winter. However, despite the cool temperatures, there are only around five snowy days per year in the upper mountains area. It is extremely rare to see snow below Lawson. It is not unusual to see white blankets of frost covering the ground in the early morning hours. In the evening, thick coverings of ice can form on car windscreens.

Several significant snowfalls have been recorded. In one significant snowfall on 5 July 1900, snowdrifts were over 6 feet (1.8 metres) deep in parts of the Blue Mountains. The snow and ice caused significant problems throughout central New South Wales, with rail and road closures, damage to buildings, and disruption to telegraph services. A significant winter storm on 18 July 1965 also produced very heavy snow and ice in the area, with damage to buildings and major difficulties with road and rail transport.

Climate data for Katoomba
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 36.4
Average high °C (°F) 23.2
Average low °C (°F) 12.8
Record low °C (°F) 4.2
Average precipitation mm (inches) 162.4
Average rainy days 13.5 13.2 13.4 10.4 9.6 9.9 9.4 9.4 9.4 10.7 11.7 12.4 133.0
Average relative humidity (%) 58 62 63 65 68 71 67 59 54 53 54 55 61
Source: [9]

People and culture

The Three Sisters, on the south edge of Katoomba, are the most famous landmark in the Blue Mountains
Suburban Katoomba
Katoomba from Civic Place
Winter season view at Blue mountains

The area's beautiful scenery and colourful art-deco style shops and houses attract an alternative and somewhat eccentric subculture. Many poets, artists, environmentalists and numerous eccentric characters reside in Katoomba (and the Blue Mountains, generally) and the town hosts the well-patronised Winter Solstice festival, Winter Magic, that features local talent, art and handicraft. The festival was established in 1994 to provide a local focus for the Blue Mountains-wide Yulefest. Yulefest is a long-running tourism initiative that promotes Northern Hemisphere-style Christmas celebrations during the Australian winter months June to August.

Novelist and historian Eleanor Dark (1901–1985), best known for her historical novel A Timeless Land, lived in Katoomba with her husband Dr. Eric Dark from 1923 until her death. The couple's home "Varuna" is now a writer's centre.[10] In 1921, acclaimed production house duo Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyell filmed The Blue Mountains Mystery in part around the town centre. Ursula Dubosarsky's 1991 time-travel novel Zizzy Zing is set in Katoomba in 1938, at the time of the Sesquicentenary.[11]

Lincoln Hall was a well-known Australian mountaineer and adventurer who lived in the neighbouring town of Wentworth Falls (died 2012). He had written a guidebook on walks and attractions in the area. He was responsible for organising the first Australian ascent of Mount Everest in 1984.

Blues/Roots musician Claude Hay is also a resident of Katoomba, having built his home and recording studio on the outskirts of town. Both of Hay's albums, 2007's Kiss The Sky and 2010s Deep Fried Satisfied were recorded in Katoomba, with the latter earning Hay critical acclaim and a #1 on the Roots Music Report Australian chart and #21 for airplay worldwide in October 2010.[12]

The scenic beauty and tranquillity of Katoomba and the surrounding Blue Mountains area have long made Katoomba a haven for Sydney-siders looking for rest and relaxation. Many celebrities and affluent locals have built or restored houses with magnificent views, especially in Leura, just to the east of Katoomba. As well as attracting a resident artistic community, Katoomba and its environs has also been the inspiration for art and music. For example, Australian artist Peter Kingston, well known as a long time campaigner for the preservation of Sydney's Luna Park, has produced many works inspired by Katoomba and surrounding areas including the etching "Brave and Cruel" which shows a dark figure leaving Leura Railway Station. Another example is The Mexican Spitfires song "Until" which includes lines reflective of the idea of Katoomba as a sanctuary from city life: "In distance I found strength/Katoomba gave me peace of mind."

In addition to its ever-publicised 'alternative' sub-culture, the area is home to a large number of culturally diverse families and has a significant Aboriginal population. Catalina Park commonly known as the Gully was declared an Aboriginal Place in May 2002. It is an ecological and culturally sensitive area with a long history of occupation by the Gundungarra and Darug tribes.

The Gundungurra Tribal Council Aboriginal Corporation which is based in Katoomba is a not for profit organisation representing the Gundungurra traditional owners, promoting heritage and culture and providing a support for Gundungurra people connecting back to Country. Gundungurra Tribal Council Aboriginal Corporation has a registered Native Title Claim since 1995 over their traditional lands which include the Blue Mountains and surrounding areas.

Katoomba is the home of local community radio station 89.1 Radio Blue Mountains .The local cinema is called The Edge, located on The Great Western Highway.

There is also a live entertainment scene in Katoomba, with a wide range of music on offer at various venues, and theatre such as The Goon Show LIVE! at the historic Paragon.


At the 2011 census, the suburb of Katoomba recorded a population of 8,016. Of these:[13]

Heritage buildings

Katoomba has a number of significant buildings. The following are all heritage-listed.

Heritage-listed Carrington Hotel


The name Katoomba is used as a name for a crater on the planet Mars, though not specifically commemorating the town.[26]

In 2001, Katoomba Returned Services League Club was the subject of an important tort case. The plaintiff was a problem gambler and alleged that the RSL Club, knowing about his addiction, owed him a duty of care to prevent him from using the gambling facilities on site. He sought to recover for the loss of the money he had gambled at the club. Whilst the plaintiff's action failed in court in a unanimous judgment, Justice Spigelman acknowledged that a duty of care may be owed toward problem gamblers in "exceptional cases".[27]



  1. 1 2 Australian Bureau of Statistics (31 October 2012). "2011 Community Profiles: Katoomba (SSC)". 2011 Census of Population and Housing. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  2. Gregory's State Road Map of New South Wales, Map 220, 11th Edition
  3. "PLACE NAMES.". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 13 May 1964. p. 61. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  4. "Origin of Blue Mountains Town Names" Blue Mountains City Council
  5. "Katoomba". Visit NSW. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
  6. Sydney and Blue Mountains Bushwalks, Neil Paton (Kangaroo Press) 2004, pp.215-228
  7. "Katoomba Scenic Railway". InfoBlueMountains.net. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
  8. "Climate Statistics for Australian Locations". web page. Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology. 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  9. "Climate statistics for Katoomba". Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  10. "Varuna – The Writers House". Retrieved 2008-05-15.
  11. Australian Bookseller and Publisher 1 August 1991
  12. "October 8, 2010". Rootsmusicreport.com. 2012-08-10. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
  13. Australian Bureau of Statistics (31 October 2012). "Katoomba (State Suburb)". 2011 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  14. "K067 : Uniting Church Group". NSW Govt Office of Environment & Heritage. local council. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  15. "K032 : Carrington Hotel". NSW Govt Office of Environment & Heritage. local council. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  16. "Carrington Hotel". NSW Govt Office of Environment & Heritage. Heritage Council of NSW. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  17. "K139 : Swiss Cottage". NSW Govt Office of Environment & Heritage. local council. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  18. "Pins on Lurline". Pins on Lurline. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  19. "Mount St Marys College and Convent". NSW Govt Office of Environment & Heritage. Heritage Council of NSW. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  20. "K140 : Kapsalie". NSW Govt Office of Environment & Heritage. local council. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  21. "K025 : Court House". NSW Govt Office of Environment & Heritage. local council. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  22. The Heritage of Australia, Macmillan Company, 1981, p.2/13
  23. "K083 : Varuna House, Studio and Garden". NSW Govt Office of Environment & Heritage. local council.
  24. "K034 : Paragon Cafe Group". NSW Govt Office of Environment & Heritage. local council.
  25. The Heritage of Australia, p.2/13
  26. Categories for Naming Features on Planets and Satellites, Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature, USGS Astrogeology Science Center, NASA
  27. Reynolds v Katoomba RSL All Services Club Limited [2001] NSWCA 234 (20 September 2001) Austlii

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