We were lucky enough this past March (2017) to do a two week housesit just outside of Bowral as part of our 10-month (re) Discover Australia Road Trip.
By spending two weeks in the Southern Highlands, we could dig in and spend time looking around. In the past, we’ve only managed some quick weekend getaways or highway detours.
I’ve always loved this area. There’s just a certain class to the area, an elegance to it. Between the soft rolling hills, which always seem to be a luscious green, to the quirky shops and restaurants, there seems to be something for everyone.
Well, almost everyone–I just don’t see this as the place to take the kids for the weekend.
This is more the destination for the romantic weekend getaway, the girl’s weekend retreat or even a weekend to yourself.
While there are plenty of vineyards to visit and antique shops to wander, we prefer being outside, seeing what Mother Nature wants to show off. That’s not to say there’s no time for shopping or lunch at a Cellar Door!
So, grab your camera. We’re going to share with you what we found amazing about the Southern Highlands.
The roads around the Southern Highlands offer long, meandering drives. The vistas alone are breathtaking. Even if you have just a few days, there’s a lot to see.
For your first morning, take the Nowra Road to Fitzroy Falls. There’s a great Information Centre at the Falls to get your bearings. The falls themselves are only 150m on an elevated walkway from there. However, if you want to get the day started with a nice bushwalk, follow the track down to the right for even better views of the falls and possibly a lyre bird sighting in the bush. Continuing as far as the Grotto is worth the trek.
After visiting Fitzroy Falls, return toward Moss Vale, again on the Nowra road, but take a left on Mt. Broughton Road to Exeter. The General Store Café in Exeter put on a great lunch. The Café is a converted post office. (The post office is still active during the week). Whether it’s a ploughman’s platter or a toasted sandwich, everything is delicious. You can even top it off with dessert, which is also mouth-wateringly good.
Once you’re filled from lunch, continue to Bundanoon and take a wander through the shops. If you visit during April, there is the Bundanoon Highland Gathering. Here, Bundanoon becomes Brigadoon, where everything and everyone Scottish comes out of the woodwork.
Word of warning: If you do attend, plan on getting to Bundanoon early (before 9am), otherwise make sure you have your walking shoes on just to get to the event. The Bundanoon Highland Gathering is a very popular event.
After Bundanoon (if you aren’t attending the Bundanoon festival), drive down to Morton National Park. This has some breathtaking overlooks across the Kangaroo Valley. If you take the loop within the park, you’ll see more than just vistas. There is a natural wishing well and some amazing rock formations along the way.
If you are done with nature, return to Bowral for afternoon tea at Gumnut Patisserie. They have an award winning salted caramel tart that is to die for. They also have amazing sourdough bread! Grab a coffee and a spot outside for some great people watching.
Take a wander through the shops in the area for your afternoon.
The Good Reader Bookshop in Bowral: an eclectic collection of new and used books, with the vintage section being especially interesting.
Twisting Vintage in Mittagong: designer brands and clothing from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Good for some quality oldie but goody stuff, if not for a laugh for a trip down memory lane!
Dirty Janes Emporium in Bowral: There are so many homewares here your head will spin but there’s a lot to discover! (You can also get a delicious high tea here at Dirty Janes.)
Our suggestion for dinner is one you may not expect.
Treat yourself to an old-fashioned diner called Bernie’s, located in Moss Vale. Bernie’s Diner has a curious choice of curb appeal, with its ostentatious flashing lights, but stepping inside takes you back to the 1950s. The staff is friendly and courteous, certainly a throwback to earlier days. Here you can get old fashioned burgers, pastrami on rye, and even milkshakes and sundaes.
Bernie’s diner is unique but the food will fill you up and it won’t break your budget. Split a burger and a side of chips (which are amazingly good!) and you’ll still have plenty of room for a sundae to share afterwards.
We start off at Sturt Gallery in Mittagong. It’s full of beautiful handmade wares, many for sale, and a lovely café where you can sit outside and take in the morning’s sunshine.
After morning tea, drive to Robertson via Range and Tourist Roads. Lined with Eucalyptus trees, you’ll really feel like you’ve taken a drive in the country following this route. This road takes you all the way to Macquarie Pass, but at the intersection, turn right toward Robertson.
Robertson is a quaint stop and if you’ve got a hankering for an award-winning pie, this is the place to stop.
From Robertson, head south on Belmore Falls Road. If you liked Fitzroy Falls, Belmore Falls will blow you away. Part of this road is dirt, but it’s easy for a 2WD to handle. Head to the lookout and you’ll see a two-part waterfall to the right and some amazing views of the Kangaroo Valley.
When you’re done at the lookout, take the road down to the left and park before you get to the water crossing. This is the top of the waterfall you just viewed from the other side. Walk (take your shoes off, it’s deeper than you think) over the water crossing to the other side (if it’s safe you can drive, but there’s nowhere to park on the other side). Head to the lookout just up on the left. More stunning views await.
If you’re ready for a leisurely lunch, we’ve got just the place for you, but you need to head to the Old Hume Highway between Berrima and Mittagong.
To get there from Belmore Falls, you can take two ways:
- Either cross the water crossing (only if it’s safe!) and continue to Myra Vale Road, then turn right to the Illawarra Highway.
- Or, you can return on Belmore Falls Road which will connect you directly to the Illawarra Highway.
At Moss Vale, follow the signs to Berrima Road. Take your time enjoying this picturesque drive through pastureland.
Continuing toward Mittagong, after a few km’s, you’ll approach a vineyard on the left. This is your destination: Bendooley Estate in Berrima. Owned by the Berkelouw family, this place has just about everything a book lover might crave. The facility offers panoramic views over the vineyard from inside and out. Patrons walk straight into the restaurant area that’s surrounded by the Berkelouw Book Barn. Rows of new, used, and antique books are there for your perusal. To the right is the bar area that perfect for a quiet drink and down the hall and to the left is the wine tasting room.
Sit by the fire during winter and indulge in a glass of the estate’s wine over a sumptuous lunch. This isn’t budget friendly by any means, but it’s worth the splurge. After, peruse the shelves and find something that tickles your mind.
After lunch, head back to Berrima for an afternoon of history (the town was established in 1831) and unique shopping. The Berrima courthouse is an interesting historical stop as well as being a beautifully restored piece of architecture.
Ready for a coffee?
Head to Stones Patisserie in Berrima (or Bowral). They offer amazing coffee and delicious pastries but if you’re still hungry after lunch, they also have great homemade pies and chips.
Once you’re done and dusted for the day and want something easy for dinner – because after that lunch, you may be looking for something on the lighter side, check out Colosseum Pizza in Bowral.
It’s BYO, so bring a bottle, order a pizza and a salad and settle in. The pizza is one of the best we’ve had in a while and the pear salad was delish.
Where to Stay:
Since we were lucky to house sit in an amazing home just outside of Bowral, we asked the local travel blogging community for their recommendations.
- Jen @ The Trusted Traveller recommends Fitzroy Inn Historic Retreat at Mittagong. It is her favourite in the region. Beautiful old mansion that has been well fitted out with comfy country furnishings.
- Paula @ Contented Traveller recommends Craigieburn in Bowral – historic, quaint, suits the surrounds.
- Deborah @ DivePlanIt recommends The YHA in Bundanoon. Gorgeous village (has banned bottled water – yay!) and the YHA is housed in an historic old guest house. Big open fire in the lounge and a huge selection of board games. Access at the back of the property to the trail down to the Glow Worms grotto.
- Madelin @ Never Leaving recommends The Old Bank in Mittagong. A gorgeous in a historic building in Mittagong and only has 5 rooms. Heaps of history it’s gorgeous
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