Katoomba, New South Wales

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Katoomba is the chief town of the City of Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia and the administrative headquarters of Blue Mountains City Council. It is on the Great Western Highway 110 kilometres west of Sydney and 39 kilometres south-east of Lithgow, and it has a station on the Main Western line.[2] It is well known for spectacular mountain views and extensive bush and nature walks in the surrounding Blue Mountains area. At the 2006 census, Katoomba had a population of 7,623 people.[1]

Ka-toom-ba is an Aboriginal term for "shining falling water" 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[3].

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History

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.

The Paragon Café also dates from the same period. During the 1930s, two large rooms, decorated in Art Deco style, were added, and the Café is now on the National Heritage Index.[4]

Coal and shale mining was also carried out in the Jamison Valley for many years, but the seams were completely exhausted by the early 20th century and Katoomba was established as a 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 glories. However, since the late 1990s tourism to the area has once again levelled off. Housing in the Katoomba region has become more expensive, but in general housing prices in the district are still markedly lower than those in Sydney.

Tourism

Katoomba's main industry is tourism based on scenic mountain scenery. The rock formation known as the Three Sisters, viewable from Echo Point about two kilometres south of the main town, is the most famous feature. 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.[5] The local geography includes extensive areas of dense sub-tropical rainforest, hanging swamps and a series of spectacular waterfalls (albeit with a relatively low water volume).

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