Must-try experiences in the Southern Highlands

Located midway between Sydney and Canberra, the NSW Southern Highlands provides a welcome relief to the hustle of city life, with enough on offer to tailor your weekend anyway you wish.

Shonagh Walker

Shonagh Walker

Oct 20 -
9
min read

Local writer Shonagh Walker reveals all you need to know about the Southern Highlands to plan your perfect getaway.

The NSW Southern Highlands is a lush bubble of stunning surrounds, a thriving food and wine scene, artisan wares and need-it-now fashion and homewares stores. From Mittagong to Moss ValeBowral to Bundanoon and Exeter to Sutton Forest, you’ll be entranced by its lush landscapes, mouth-watering flavours, and a myriad of ways to pass the time.

Couple enjoying a romantic getaway at Centennial Vineyards, Bowral

Centennial Vineyards in Bowral, Southern Highlands

 

Take a wine tour

The Southern Highlands has an abundance of amazing wineries, all of which produce some incredible cold climate drops, with pinot noir long being a speciality and rose, pinot gris, and pinot grigio the rising stars of summer. 

There are over 60 vineyards and 15 cellar doors within the region, many with world-class restaurants, too. Visit one each weekend or book a wine tour. 

The Grape Escape offer customised Southern Highlands wine tours. Their itineraries are flexible and can be tailored to create the perfect tour for you. They specialise in wineries, boutique cellar doors, and offer experiences to microbreweries or distilleries.

Wine and cheese at Joadja Estate with The Grape Escape tour in Mittagong, Southern Highlands

The Grape Escape, Mittagong - Credit: Mira Barton - The Grape Escape

The Highlands Tour Co offers a wonderful selection of venues which they can recommend, or you can create your own itinerary with their help. Each private tour is accompanied with an experienced local guide.

The Highlands Tour Co at Bowral in Southern Highlands

The Highlands Tour Co in Bowral, Southern Highlands

Highlands Food and Wine Tours offers wine and food tours around the region. With localised insights with hosts who live in the area, you will get expert local knowledge accompanied with some of the best drops in the region.

Wine Tasting at the Mill with Highlands Food and Wine Tours in Mittagong, Southern Highlands

Highlands Food and Wine Tours in Mittagong, Southern Highlands - Credit: Amanda Fry

Some of the favourites include Mount Ashby Estate, St. Maur, ArtemisTertini and Centennial Vineyards. Of course, you shouldn’t miss Bendooley Estate and Tractorless Vineyard. Then, there’s Cherry Tree HillPeppergreen Estate and Joadja Estate, just to name a few! 

Bendooley Estate, Berrima

Bendooley Estate, Berrima

The Southern Highlands also boasts some of the best food and wine experiences in the region. You will be amazed by the culinary delights of acclaimed restaurants and the bountiful local produce you can find in the region. We have a dedicated article on the best food and wine experiences in the Southern Highlands here

Get cultural

Meet your inner artist

Art at the Cowshed is a series of painting workshops held on a monthly, six-weekly, or bi-monthly basis (check the Facebook page for dates). Run by local artist Kirstin Deakin and Cowshed shop owner Maree Reid and include a gourmet lunch as well as morning and afternoon tea. Located on the picturesque property of Nettlebed in Burradoo, The Cowshed is a bona fide old dairy shed, which was originally used to milk 60 dairy cattle daily.

 

Our Don Bradman

For cricket lovers, history buffs, or anyone with an appreciation for Australian icons, a visit to Bradman Oval and Museum is a must. The heritage listed ground in Glebe Street, Bowral, sits directly opposite Sir Donald’s childhood home, and is the very place where he played in his youth, and where his ashes lay scattered today. 

A slice of silver screen history

Over 100 years old, The Empire Cinema Bowral is Australia's oldest regional theatre. Family-owned and family-friendly, it screens both old Hollywood classics as well as current box office hits. Don’t let its small-town charm fool you. This cinema has world-class cred, presenting performances from the New York Met Opera and London's National Theatre since 2009. 

Adventure and fun

Fly high 

Family-friendly Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures, just outside the village of Robertson, offers one of Australia’s most-popular rainforest canopy experiences. Stroll the 1.5km steel walkway and be sure to take the spiral staircase up to the fairytale-esque Knight’s Tower, savouring the enchanting view of the rainforest along the Illawarra escarpment. For those after more of a thrill, book a family zipline tour, suited to ages four and above.

Man enjoying the scenery and action at Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures, Knights Hill in the Illawarra region of NSW

Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures in Knights Hill, Illawarra

Giddy up!

Equestrian Connection at Ashton Park Moss Vale offers individual or group riding lessons, horse handling and grooming lessons, trail rides and pony rides. School Holidays Activities Workshops combine riding and other activities like mosaic making and arts and craft activities. Pony picnics and unicorn birthday parties will help create indelible family memories.

The Barn at Ashton Park in Moss Vale, Southern Highlands

The Barn at Ashton Park in Moss Vale, Southern Highlands - Credit: Peta Seaton

Rock ‘n’ roll

A little bit of exercise, a little bit of therapy, and a whole lot of laughs! Join the lovely ladies from Rad Rollers for a spot of skating along Bong Bong Track or at Eridge Park Sporting Facilities on Sundays. It’s the most fun you’ll have on eight wheels. Track them on Instagram for their latest location.

Ain’t no mountain high enough

Technically a collapsed volcanic core composed of very hard rock, Mount Gibraltar is also the highest point between Sydney and Canberra. With hiking paths catering to all fitness levels, those who trek its peak will be rewarded with one of the most spectacular lookouts across the district. 

Mount Gibraltar in Mittagong, Southern Highlands

Mount Gibraltar in Mittagong, Southern Highlands - Credit: Destination Southern Highlands

Carrington Falls Pools

Carrington Falls Blue Pool Swimming Hole is based in Budderoo National park, just 20kms west of Kiama. It remains one of the prettiest natural swimming spots in the Highlands. There are several wide, shallow pools, slightly upstream of a beautiful waterfall. You’ll find a deeper pool beneath the waterfall, which is just a magical place to swim. 

Water flowing down Carrington Falls, Robertson in Budderoo National Park

Carrington Falls at Budderoo National Park

Shopping

In Bowral, shop the iconic Bong Bong street for stylish clothing and accessories in stores like ARKKE the Shop, Mic Mac Boutique and Hem, each offering stylish and unique fashion finds. 

From bespoke, one-off pieces to antiques, the Highlands allows you to style your home however you like. In Bowral, The Modern stocks everything from Map sofas to Marimekko tea towels. You’ll also find Few & Far, Country Accent, and of course, local icon Barbara’s Storehouse. The Potting Shed  specialises in garden furniture, fire pits and perennials and at The Orangery, you'll find orchids, indoor plants and gifts. For vintage finds and pre-loved furniture and homewares, be sure to visit Dirty Jane’s

Dirty Janes antique market in Bowral, home to over 75 independent dealers, decorators and general upcyclers

The Orangery in Bowral, Southern Highlands

Moss Vale has a selection of stunning boutiques, including Made by Others, Susie Anderson Home, That Beautiful Shop, Nest & Burrow and Bowerbird. Of course, don’t forget to stop by The Mossy Store for some fantastic locally made pieces, as well as Hunter & Gatherers Collections for exotic imports from around the world. You can expect to bag a designer label bargain pair of shoes at Nina Leone in Moss Vale, sister store and outlet to the main boutique on Bong Bong Street. 

In Berrima, be sure to stop in and admire the handcrafted pieces of Village Berrima Pottery. This shop produces timeless, handcrafted pottery pieces that you will cherish for years to come.

Village Berrima Pottery at Berrima in Southern Highlands, Country NSW

Village Berrima Pottery in Berrima, Southern Highlands - Credit: Paul Suesse

The Mittagong Antique Centre has some wonderful finds, while further north in Braemar you’ll find the stunning Lydie de Bray Antiques, which covers furniture, lighting, and decorative items. Twisting Vintage in Mittagong has a vast selection of meticulously restored vintage fashion and accessories, sourced from all corners of the world. 

Places to stay

Arguably one of Australia’s most historic hotels, The Robertson Hotel in the town of Robertson is like stepping back in time. With its Gatsby-style bar, 14 acres of sprawling heritage-listed rainforest gardens and its very own tiny train station, each room boasts views that wow, especially when the iconic Robertson Mists roll in. If it looks familiar, it’s likely because a decent portion of the 1996 Oscar-winning film Babe, was filmed on the grounds. 

The Robertson Hotel. Image Credit: Food Photography + Venue Photography

The Robertson Hotel. Image Credit: Food Photography + Venue Photography

Be sure to stroll through the rainforest gardens, filled with centuries-old trees and magical surprises like the Grotto, built by one-time residents, The Franciscan Friars during their tenure in the 1940s.

You’ll even find a Statue of Mary (imported directly from the Vatican), as well as a sculpture of Pan, resting with his flute.

The Hidden Door is only a short hop, skip and a jump from Bong Bong Street in Bowral, you will find the charming 100-year-old, pet-friendly villa sleeps four people in style. Behind the villa, you’ll find The Cottage, which also sleeps four and welcomes your furry family members too.

The Hidden Door at Bowral in Southern Highlands, Country NSW

The Hidden Door in Bowral, Southern Highlands

While it’s highly unlikely you’ll tire of the Southern Highlands’ vast restaurant choices, should you find this the case, The Hidden Door has a contained kitchen in which you can cook up a storm. There’s also a gas log fireplace to keep you toasty in winter and plenty of luxe throw rugs to snuggle under and while you sip a glass of local pinot and a watch a movie.

Berida Hotel at Bowral in Southern Highlands

Berida Hotel in Bowral, Southern Highlands

Berida Hotel will take you back in time, with ivy-draped manor, it boasts a timeless elegance that you’ll find sophisticated and welcoming. Despite being a mere 10 min walk to town, you may find you don’t wish to leave, thanks to the stylish Gin bar, Whiskey Bar and Lounge and on-site modern-Australian restaurant, Bistro Sociale. There’s also a pool and gym, should you wish to work off any kilojoules consumed during your stay.

Getting there

The Southern Highlands is around a 90-minute drive from Sydney and less than two hours from Canberra. You can also catch a direct train from Sydney to Bowral, which takes around two hours. 

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