Romance rediscovered in Australia's honeymoon capital

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By Ellen Hill

In July 1942, Connie married Roy and enjoyed an eight-day honeymoon at the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba. “I was 28 years old, and just after we arrived, I was told there was a call for me in Booth Number 2,” Connie says. “It was my mother. She wanted to know if I’d arrived safely, and was I alright? What did she expect?!!”

In December 1946, Bruce and his bride shared a table with another honeymoon couple: “We went on scenic walks with them. We also took a day tour to Jenolan Caves.”

Jack and Marion drove to Katoomba from Newcastle on the NSW Central Coast when they married on December 30, 1939. The couple had “just enough petrol to get there and back! Rationing was on”.

Gordon and Frances honeymooned at the Carrington Hotel in April 1947. “We eventually convinced the dining room staff to give us three menus as souvenirs.” In 2018, Gordon returned them in pristine condition – and tea was no longer rationed. 

Blue Mountains History Tours’ Paul Innes (visitbluemountains.com.au/blue-mountains-history-tours) has collected countless honeymoon stories during his time as historian and tour guide at the Carrington Hotel.

Together, they let us glimpse society of eras past . . . and show us that some things have not changed at all in the town once dubbed the Honeymoon Capital of Australia.

Katoomba’s honeymoon reputation established a century ago but the recipe for romance remains largely the same: create an itinerary of activities, marvel at the World Heritage-listed landscape, add some pampering, good food and beverages and spend time behind closed doors together.

Mountains Tales guide and historian Sue Collins delves into the honeymoon heritage of our largest town in her Katoomba Story Walking Tour (bookings: mountainstales.com).

Katoomba emerged as a favoured destination in the early 20th century, luring couples from Sydney's upper echelon to properties like the San Souci (now Katoomba Views Care Community) and The Californian (now Hotel Mountain Heritage).

The allure of Katoomba was not just its scenic vistas but the promise of seclusion and intimacy away from city life, yet close to Australia’s largest city.

Honeymoon experiences in the Blue Mountains ``are a comment on society of the time’’, Sue says.

In the post-Federation period, coy couples did not want to be recognised as newlyweds.

By the 1920s, weddings and honeymoons were a good way to celebrate after the Great War.

Couples would arrive in the Mountains on Monday (after Saturday’s wedding and church on Sunday), often aboard the first train out of Sydney, nicknamed the Honeymoon Express.

They would then embark on a week of activities – hiking, tennis, ping pong, swimming, roller skating, movies, golf, dancing and sightseeing tours in modern motor vehicles.

By the 1930s, honeymoons became nature and activity-focused, and mingling with other honeymooners became a thing to reduce the chance of boredom and lower the chance of conflict (or disappointment) as a newly married couple.

Large hotels even had activity co-ordinators to arrange itineraries for honeymooners (think egg-and-spoon races and three-legged races to encourage teamwork).

Not so wealthy newlyweds would also flock to the Blue Mountains, staying in a guesthouse or even a rented room in a private house.

Unlike today, when many couples live together before marriage and know each other well, our grandparents were often almost strangers, and for many, it was their first unsupervised trip away from home as adults.

The local council of the day even promoted Katoomba to honeymooners by naming landmarks in their honour: Honeymoon Bridge and Honeymoon Cave connecting the Giant Staircase to the Three Sisters, Honeymoon Lookout along Cliff Drive, Honeymoon Point (Fern Bower Leura) and Honeymoon Rock (now Lincoln Rock).

The Glory of the Night lighting display highlighted Katoomba Falls the Three Sisters and Leura Cascades around Chelmsford Bridge, and a bus collected handholding couples.

Today, Katoomba Cascades has a modern night-lit walk and its reputation for romance has spread to other Mountains towns.

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Tucked under Mt Victoria, Long Alley Barn (lawsonpark.com.au) at Lawson Park, Hartley Vale, is the ultimate place to reset or start out.

Owner Angela says: “Where you go for your honeymoon in many ways is the first line of your story together, creating a paragraph you will remember forever."

The once rickety barn, now beautifully restored by a master builder, is located in a private and serene secret valley among nature and wildlife.

You can dine under the stars by the warmth of a cosy fire, book a private dining experience or effortless catering with delicious grazing boxes, barbecue packs and breakfast baskets of local produce.

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There’s nothing more romantic than that feeling of being the only people in the world. High above the Jamison Valley atop the Scenic Skyway, you can capture that elusive sensation with the Beyond Skyway experience (beyondskyway.com.au).

Suspended 270m above the ancient rainforest canopy you will climb through the hatch onto the rooftop, where you can watch the changing colours of the valley as day turns to dusk and see 360-degree views of the escarpment, Three Sisters, Katoomba Falls, Mount Solitary and endless expanse of the Blue Mountains while you sip a non-alcoholic beverage (there’ll be a wine, beer or champagne on the journey back).

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After day of activity, Kurrara Guesthouse (kurraraguesthouse.com.au) is the serene heart of Katoomba to which to retreat.

Within walking distance of Katoomba’s eclectic shopping, dining and activity strip, yet an emotional world away from everything, the town’s longest surviving original guesthouse today offers a sumptuous sanctuary for health and wellbeing with nine boutique accommodation rooms featuring queen eco ensembles and private shower or spa ensuites.

You can also relax in the communal guest lounge, library or breakfast room, or take part in a weekly yoga class in the purpose-built studio.

Book direct for a discount with promo code ‘welcomeguest' (includes daily continental breakfast).

Like Kurrara, the Hydro Majestic Hotel (hydromajestic.com.au) at Medlow Bath, is a magnet for couples who continue the family honeymoon traditions of their parents and grandparents.

There, you can step back to early 20th century hedonism surrounded by dramatic red walls, peacock feathers, gold-coloured furnishings and a roof dome shipped over from Chicago just because the building owner liked it.

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In the Kanimbla Valley, secluded in your own private cottage with expansive views of the Blue Mountains, eucalyptus forests and meandering creeks, you can develop your relationship with the earth as well as each other at Maya Sanctuary (mayasanctuary.com).

The self-cater sanctuary where fresh rain water is on tap, is located on the western fringe of the Blue Mountains and ideal for picnics and roaming among the scribbly gums with kangaroos, wallabies, goannas and other wildlife.

Enjoy soaking up escarpment views to the north and gazing at star trails on a clear night while sipping a glass of wine in the hot tub.

At night, you can embrace intimate moments in front of a log fire, reconnect or watch movies. Massages can also be arranged.

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​ After the excitement of your big day at the Fairmont Resort, you and your love can wave goodbye to your guests and stay on to honeymoon. You can explore the region beyond the resort or stay onsite and enjoy a round of golf, day spa treatments, the indoor pool and gym, ice skating, romantic wanders around the

gardens and lake, and numerous dining options including the child-free No. 1 Sublime Pt restaurant.

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Before your honeymoon, Bluey’s Event Hire (blueyseventhire.com.au) will help set you up for immediate relaxation by assisting you to get hitched without a hitch.

Accentuate the rustic charm of your wedding with wine barrels, add romance and personalised whimsy with love letters and props that reflect your unique love story or a sophisticated red-carpet entrance.

A huge local warehouse is packed with everything your wedding needs, from marquees, tables and chairs to champagne flutes, arches, linen, wishing wells, balloons, fairy lights and more – with vehicles and crew to set up your nuptials so all you need to worry about is where your next glass of bubbly is.

In our modern forever connected society, the romance is in being disconnected.

"But what hasn’t changed,’’ Sue Collins says, ``is that a honeymoon is whatever you make it. It's not about grand gestures but rather small moments and experiences.

"The romance is still in the sunset. The romance is still in going for a hike, then sharing a cosy moment in an ancient fern gully.

Colour Your World at Mount Vic & Me
Grand Cliff Top Walk

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