Katoomba is the biggest town in the Blue Mountains and the area's commercial heart; it's also the best located for the major sights of Echo Point and The Three Sisters. There's a lively café scene on Katoomba Street, which runs downhill from the train station; the street is also full of vintage clothes shops, secondhand bookstores, antiques dealers and gift shops. When the town was first discovered by fashionable city-dwellers in the late nineteenth century, the grandiose Carrington Hotel, prominently located at the top of Katoomba Street, was the height of elegance (a historian gives 1hr–1hr 30min tours of the hotel; bookings Tel:02/4754 5726). It's recently been restored to its former glory, with elegant sloping lawns running down to the street, half of which has been taken over by a new town square.
Across the railway line (use the foot-tunnel under the station and follow the signs), a stunning introduction to the ecology of the Blue Mountains can be had at the Edge Maxvision Cinema, at 225 Great Western Highway (Tel:02/4782 8900, Web: www.edgecinema.com.au ), a huge six-storey cinema screen created as a venue to show The Edge Movie (daily 10.20am, 11.05am, 12.10pm, 1.30pm, 2.15pm & 5.30pm; $15). The highlight of the forty-minute film is the segment about the "dinosaur trees", a stand of thirty-metre-high Wollemi pine, previously known only from fossil material over sixty million years old. The trees – miraculously still existing – survive deep within a sheltered rainforest gully in the Wollemi National Park, north of Katoomba, and they made headlines when they were first discovered in 1994 by a group of canyoners. Since the discovery, the first cultivated Wollemi pine was planted in 1998 at Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens.