The Three Sisters and Govett’s Leap in the Blue Mountains, N.S.W. are both spectacular lookouts.
From each venue, visitors are treated to constantly changing hues and weather patterns while gazing across the gorgeous valleys below. With a driving distance of only about 20 minutes between them, their geologies are quite similar. Striking sandstone cliff face rise dramatically above miles and miles of blue-green Eucalypt forest.
We recently visited both sites and thought it worthwhile to offer a few ideas on the merits of each, and ultimately, which venue is worthy of your time.
Winner: Three Sisters by a hair
The views are quite similar. Three Sisters has the slight advantage here. The sandstone cliffs have eroded into 3 large pillars of stone that align from tallest to shortest down towards the alley. The spires seem to invite the eye down towards the expansive views down and across the valley. The added advantage is that they are very close to the lookout. You can walk down to a catwalk that lies just underneath them. You can hear the waterfall below, but you can’t see it without walking down into the valley.
Govett’s leap offers magnificent panoramic views, but the visible sheer cliff face is far across the valley. However, the Bridal Veil Falls, the highest waterfall in the Blue Mountains at 180m, can be viewed fully directly from the lookout. It’s mighty impressive after a good rain.
Winner: Three Sisters because love conquers all
If the story were true, Govett’s leap would have a shot. The folklore goes like this: An escaped convict named Govett got himself into trouble as a bushranger. With the troopers closing in, he became trapped on the edge of a cliff. Favoring death over capture, he wheeled his horse towards the edge and leapt over the side.
In reality, the site was named after William Romaine Govett, a Scottish surveyor, who arrived at the spot in 1831 to map the area. A leap, to a Scot, describes the waterfall, hence the name Govett’s Leap.
The story of the Three Sisters is an Aboriginal love story. Three young sisters of the Katoomba tribe fell in love with three brothers from a rival tribe whom they were forbidden to marry. The three brothers, as young lover’s often do, stole into their rival’s camp and ran off with the young ladies.
A fight between the two tribes ensued.
With the sisters in serious danger, a witchdoctor from the Katoomba tribe turned the three sisters into stone in order to protect them. Once they were safe, he would reverse the spell. Unfortunately for the witchdoctor and the sisters, the witchdoctor was killed in battle. Since he was the only one that could reverse the spell, the sisters remain in their beautiful rock formation.
FACILITIES AND PARKING
Winner: Govett’s Leap
Three Sisters screams theme park more than nature reserve, undermining the natural beauty of the area. The gift shop masquerades as the tourist information center. The last two times I visited the Three Sisters at Echo point, the bathrooms were absolutely revolting. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I had brought my friends to a place with such abhorrent conditions. The next time I have a guest in town, I’ll skip the Three Sisters and proceed directly to Govett’s Leap.
If you’re driving, parking will set you back about $4 for the first hour. Alternatively, try to find street parking that does not have a parking meter and stretch your legs after the 2-hour jaunt from Sydney.
In comparison, the parking lot at Govett’s leap is far smaller, but the experience is much more intimate. It’s free, and every time we’ve been, we’ve had no trouble getting a parking spot. (It does get busier on the weekends). As soon as you exit your vehicle, you’re treated to the alluring views. The entire area is clean (including the non-flush toilets) and well looked after.
Winner: Govett’s Leap
Crowds. Crowds. Crowds. Bus after bus drops off another mob of serenity-destroying tourists to the Three sisters. The mass of people accumulating at the Echo Point viewing facility is mind boggling. To beat most of the hassle, plan to arrive very early or late. The rock formation is flood lit until 11pm.
Leveraging the Scenic World tours, you can experience the waterfalls and bush walks below, but not only will it set you back some serious coin, you will also be experiencing the massive crowds here too.
For a more serene experience, travel a few more minutes to the town of Blackheath to Govett’s Leap. If you’re feeling energetic, hike down to the base of Bridal Veil Falls and let the dancing spray of water wash your worries away. Here, you can actually experience the wildlife that abounds in the Grose Wilderness below. The vibrant King Parrot often makes an appearance. Listen for the cry of the yellow tailed black cockatoo calling in the distance.
For a lot of travelers, the Three Sisters at Echo Point is the must see attraction of the Blue Mountains. That’s because it’s the only attraction they “hear” about. No question, the rock formation is iconic, but the marketing folks know a cash cow when they have it, and they are exploiting it for all it’s worth. It’s a shame. What should be a heralded as a marvel of nature to be preserved has become so abused that one might expect to see an image of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy adorning the formation in the near future.
For us, we’ll skip Katoomba and head straight for Blackheath. The natural beauty and serenity of the Blue Mountains remains accessible.
Echo Point lookout and the Three Sisters are in the Katoomba precinct of Blue Mountains National Park.
To get there from Sydney:
Head west on the Great Western Highway (M4 and A32) toward Katoomba
Look for the Three Sisters and Echo Point signage on the highway as you approach Katoomba
At Katoomba, turn left off the Great Western Highway, and follow the signs to Three Sisters and Echo Point
To get there from Sydney:
Turn right off Great Western Highway, at Blackheath traffic lights, into Govetts Leap Road.
Drive for 2.5km. After passing through the park entrance, follow the signs to Govetts Leap lookout.
While you’re at it, stop at the Hydro Majestic to enjoy high tea while taking in the panoramic views overlooking the Megalong valley.
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