Part of the Great Dividing Range, New South Wales, Australia. The Blue Mountains consist of a sandstone plateau running almost parallel with the coast, 80–100 km/50–62 mi west of Sydney. The highest peak is Mount Beemarang (1,247 m/4,091 ft). The mountains are popular with tourists, notably many Sydney residents, attracted by the fine scenery, including the spectacular limestone caverns of Jenolan, and the cooler summer weather.
In November 2000, the region was awarded World Heritage status by the United Nations World Heritage Committee on the basis of its outstanding eucalyptus trees and biodiversity. There are 132 plant species found nowhere else in the world, including the Wollemi pine, a species thought to be extinct since the dinosaur age until a handful of trees were found in a remote gorge in 1994.
Oil-bearing eucalyptus trees densely cover the Blue Mountains, giving the mountains their bluish tinge – when the oil produced by the eucalyptus trees combines with dust and water vapour, it scatters short-wave length light rays which are blue in colour. The Blue Mountains National Park (area 2,160 sq km/834 sq mi) provides a habitat for a variety of wildlife, including kangaroos, platypuses, wallabies, and many bird species. A passage over the Blue Mountains, leading to the Bathurst Plains was, found in 1813 by surveyor William Lawson, Gregory Blaxland, and William Wentworth; until this time the mountains blocked Sydney from the interior.
Victoria Pass Linking Mount Victoria and Mount Hartley, Victoria Pass was constructed in 1832, overseen by the New South Wales surveyor general, Thomas Mitchell. Much of the pass was constructed by hand with convict labour. The original bridge, known as Mitchell's bridge, is still in use and forms part of the Great Western Highway, built in 1926. The Highway closely follows Mitchell's original route.
Three Sisters The large rock formation known as the Three Sisters is a popular tourist attraction in the Blue Mountains region. Its name derives from an Aboriginal legend: three sisters fell in love with three brothers from a different tribe but were forbidden to marry by tribal law; the brothers decided to use force to capture the sisters, and a tribal battle occurred; their lives endangered, the sisters were turned to stone by the witch doctor for their protection; the witch doctor, the only person who could undo the spell, died in the battle, so the three sisters remained as stone.