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Lifestyle : Blue Mountains Special Report 2013
1HERSA1 S006 THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD THURSDAY, MARCH 28, 2013 6 BLUE MOUNTAINS & SURROUNDS Old favourites undergo a makeover Thrills and spills: Katoomba's Scenic Railway reopens tomorrow after a $30 million upgrade. Picture: Wolter Peeters The hills are alive to the sound of change as attractions old and new are set to draw crowds, writes Katrina Lobley. Grand: The Hydro Majestic hotel. The Hydro gets a makeover Tourists and locals alike have wondered what's happening with Medlow Bath's grand old dame, the 1904 Hydro Majestic hotel. After a group of investors bought the hotel in December 2008, it has remained hidden behind construction fences. The good news is that the first stage of works is scheduled for com- pletion in the third quarter of 2013. Plans to reopen in 2010 and last year came to naught, but now work has started on the hotel's $55 million, five-year redevelopment. Owners say that "past glories, architectural and design aspects, and lost atmospherics will be revived and rediscovered while a touch of the here-and-now is set to take the building into the future". Interiors will reflect the Hydro's flamboyant origins under retail bar- on Mark Foy, taking cues from other classic Empire-era hotels such as Raffles in Singapore. The owners plan to revitalise the hotel's iconic buildings, interiors and gardens, which stretch more than a kilometre along the dramatic Megalong Valley escarpment, while adding an interactive living history centre in a new pavilion. The Hydro, as it's known, started out as a hydropathic spa before transforming into a luxury retreat complete with clay-pigeon shooting and costume parties. In the 1920s it became a family-oriented hotel; in the 1940s it was used as a military hospital. By the time it closed in 2008, its glory days were long gone. Link: hydromajestic.com.au. All change on the Scenic Railway Katoomba's Scenic Railway is sched- uled to reopen tomorrow after a $30 million upgrade. The world's steep- est passenger railway, with a 52-degree incline, closed in January for an overhaul that includes Swiss- designed railway carriages, new top and bottom platforms, rail tracks and historical interpretations. The new train will be the fifth vehicle to operate on the former coal-mine track since 1945. Since that time, the railway has carried 25 million passengers along the 310-metre ascent or descent through a cliff-side tunnel. The bottom station sits in the midst of ancient rainforest on the Jamison Valley floor while the top station is located on the escarp- ment. Scenic World's other attractions -- the Skyway, Cableway and 2.4-kilometre Walkway -- have remained open for business. The railway will be open again in time for Sculpture at Scenic World, when 36 sculptures can be viewed along the Walkway between April 24 and May 19. Link: scenicworld.com.au. Culture with a view Built on Katoomba's highest point, the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre opened for business late last year. For visitors, there's more than a pan- oramic view to enjoy. The centre, above a supermarket in the centre of town, is also home to the Blue Mountains City Art Gallery and an interactive World Heritage exhibi- tion that showcases the region's stunning environment, culture and history. The art gallery is showing Richard Green's photographs of wild Austra- lian landscapes until April 28. Joint admission to the gallery and World Heritage exhibition costs $5 adult, $3 concession, children free. Link: bluemountainsculturalcentre.com.au. Looking for... ... something to do... ... someplace to eat... ... somewhere to stay... in the Blue Mountains ... now Save 'Get in Now' onto your smart-phone or tablet home page so you can use it while you are in the Blue Mountains. Use your smart-phone to scan the 'Get in Now' QR Code for an easier way to find things to do, places to eat, and accommodation to stay while you are visiting the Blue Mountains. 'Get in Now' is brought to you by the Blue Mountains Accommodation and Tourism Association, in conjunction with Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism and Destination NSW.
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