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 the perfect stay from winery weekends to family getaways.

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

May 2023 -
9
min read
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The NSW Southern Highlands is a lush bubble of stunning surrounds, a thriving food and wine scene, inspirational art, and need-it-now fashion and homewares stores. From Mittagong to Moss Vale, Bowral to Bundanoon, and Exeter to Sutton Forest, you’ll be entranced by its beautiful landscapes, mouth-watering flavours, captivating culture and outdoor adventures.

Wineries & breweries

The Southern Highlands has an abundance of amazing wineries, all of which produce incredible cool climate drops. Pinot noir has long been a local speciality, and lighter varietals like rose, pinot gris and pinot grigio are the rising stars of summer. There are over 60 vineyards and more than a dozen cellar doors within the region, many with world-class restaurants, too.

Just outside Bowral is Centennial Vineyards where you can enjoy a tasting in the cosy barrel room or outside on the terrace. Stay on for a long lunch or high tea at the award-winning Centennial Restaurant. Nearby is the sprawling Bendooley Estate, a grand country property dating back to the early 19th century. Visit the striking, modern cellar door then browse the unique Berkelouw Book Barn, housed inside an exquisitely restored hayshed.

Bendooley Estate - Credit: Hilary Cam | Bendooley Estate

Bendooley Estate - Credit: Hilary Cam | Bendooley Estate

Wander through the vines of Tractorless Vineyard to see how the winery gets its name; petite black-faced Hampshire sheep are employed to manage the grass and weeds. Enjoy a tasting on site or you can visit their cellar door inside The Mill Courtyard in the centre of Bowral. The grapes for PepperGreen Estate’s wines are grown in Canyonleigh on the western edge of the Southern Highlands, but their cellar door and restaurant are in the heart of Berrima. You can also taste their estate-grown olive oil and new olive leaf gin.

Tractorless Vineyard, Berrima - Credit: Tractorless Vineyard

Hampshire sheep at Tractorless Vineyard, Berrima - Credit: Tractorless Vineyard

Other popular cellar doors around the Southern Highlands include Mount Ashby EstateSt. Maur, Artemis WinesSouthern Highland WineryCherry Tree Hill and Joadja Estate.

Beer is booming in the Southern Highlands with a number of boutique breweries opening in recent years. Visit Eden Brewery in Mittagong to take a behind the scenes tour and taste their ever-changing range of craft beers. Southern Highlands Brewing Company produces all their beers in a brewery in Sutton Forest and pours them every day at the Highlands Taphouse in Moss Vale. Wyadra Brewing in Tallong makes all their beers with rainwater and hosts regular tasting events with food and live music.

Southern Highlands Brewing Taphouse, Moss Vale - Credit: Elise Hassey | Southern Highlands Brewing Company

Southern Highlands Brewing Taphouse, Moss Vale - Credit: Elise Hassey | Southern Highlands Brewing Company

Delicious dining

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

Spanner Crab at Paste Australia, Southern Highlands - Credit: Paste Australia

Spanner Crab at Paste Australia - Credit: Paste Australia

Gourmet tours

If you’re not sure where to start, let the experts guide you through the best of the region’s food and wine. The Grape Escape offer customised Southern Highlands wine tours with flexible itineraries that can be tailored for you, visiting cellar doors, microbreweries or distilleries. Highlands Food and Wine Tours run specialised tours like the Highlands Pinot Trail or Beer and Burgers, as well as cooking classes. The hosts are all locals who live in the area, so you’re assured expert knowledge and some insider tips. The Highlands Tour Co can help you create a private, bespoke tour taking in the best wineries, restaurants, breweries and more.

Aerial over the Southern Highland Winery

Aerial over the Southern Highland Winery, one of the region's popular cellar doors to visit - Credit: Southern Highland Winery

Embrace the arts

The Southern Highlands is home to an eclectic community of artists, writers, musicians and makers of all types. Ngunuggula, the Southern Highlands’ first regional art gallery, opened in late 2021 at the historic Retford Park estate in Bowral. The name means ‘belonging’ in the local Indigenous language and the project was driven by artist and local resident Ben Quilty. The gallery features works from artists like John Olsen and Ken Done, a collection of Aboriginal art, and a vibrant exhibition program.

Visit the Southern Highlands in November and you can follow the ARTS Trail to visit studios and workshops, meeting the artists and purchasing pieces straight from the source. Or you can unleash some of your own creativity at one of the Art at the Cowshed painting workshops, run by local artist Kirstin Deakin and Cowshed shop owner Maree Reid.

Gallery space at Retford Park Southern Highlands Regional Gallery, Bowral

Ngununggula | Retford Park Southern Highlands Regional Gallery, Bowral 

Stylish shopping

From bespoke homewares to sophisticated fashions and one-of-a-kind antiques, the excellent shopping in the Southern Highlands lets you take a little piece of local style home. In Bowral, wander along Bong Bong Street for stylish clothing and accessories in stores like ARKKE the Shop, MicMac Boutique and Hem, each offering unique fashion finds from around the world. High Street Bowral is a small pedestrian mall that runs off Bong Bong Street and is lined with lots of interesting shops.

There’s plenty for the home along this strip too, like Few & FarCountry Accent and local icon Barbara’s Storehouse. The Modern stocks everything from Map sofas to Marimekko tea towels, and Suzie Anderson Home is full of impossibly chic pieces. For vintage finds and pre-loved furniture and homewares, visit the famous Dirty Jane’s. Next door is Green Lane, a boutique shopping precinct home to The Potting Shed, specialising in garden furniture, fire pits and perennials, and The Orangery, where you'll find orchids, indoor plants and gifts. 

Dirty Janes, Bowral

Dirty Janes, Bowral

Moss Vale has its own selection of stunning boutiques, including Made by OthersSuzie Anderson Home, That Beautiful Shop, Nest & Burrow and Bowerbird. Don’t forget to stop by The Mossy Store for some fantastic locally made pieces, as well as Hunter & Gatherer Collections for exotic imports from around the world. In Berrima, be sure to stop in and admire the handcrafted pieces of Berrima Village Pottery. This shop produces timeless, handcrafted pottery pieces that you will cherish for years to come.

Berrima Village Pottery - Credit: Southern Highlands Visitor Information Centre

Berrima Village Pottery - Credit: Southern Highlands Visitor Information Centre

The Mittagong Antiques Centre has some wonderful finds, ranging from historic medical supplies and vintage toys to spectacular pieces of jewellery. Twisting Vintage in Mittagong has a vast selection of meticulously restored vintage fashion and accessories, sourced from all corners of the world. Further north in Braemar you’ll find the stunning Lydie du Bray Antiques, which covers furniture, lighting, and decorative items.

Family fun

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.

Visitors enjoying the Illawarra Fly Zipline Tour in Knights Hill, south of Wollongong

Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures, south of Wollongong

For sports fan, a visit to Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame in Bowral is a must. The interesting museum sits next to the heritage listed Bradman Oval where The Don played cricket in his youth and where his ashes are scattered. You can also visit his childhood home just across the road. 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.

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 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.

Outdoor adventures

Away from the villages, there are walks, hikes and cycling routes winding through gorgeous landscapes. 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. 

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. Nearby, Nellies Glen is the perfect spot for a picnic with the sound of more waterfalls babbling in the background.

Waterfall at Nellies Glen, Budderoo National Park

Waterfall at Nellies Glen, Budderoo National Park

Where to stay

Sleep in style at one of the Southern Highlands’ grand manor hotels. Milton Park Country House Hotel was built at the turn of the 20th century as an elegant family home and is surrounded by one of the most spectacular cool climate gardens in the country. Today, it offers chic rooms and suites with spa baths and open fireplaces, tennis courts, and a French-style bath house with an indoor pool and day spa. Near Bundanoon, Osborn House was built in 1892 and reborn as a luxurious boutique hotel in 2022. There are 15 suites in the original house and seven new freestanding cabins, two restaurants, an indoor pool and plush spa.

Dining room at Osborn House, Bundanoon

Dinah’s restaurant at Osborn House, Bundanoon - Credit: Osborn House

One of Australia’s most historic hotels, The Robertson Hotel sits in 14 acres of sprawling heritage-listed rainforest gardens with its very own tiny train station. If it looks familiar, it’s likely because a decent portion of the 1996 Oscar-winning film Babe, was filmed on the grounds. Berida Hotel in Bowral will take you back in time, with its 1925-built ivy-draped manor a picture of timeless elegance that you’ll find sophisticated and welcoming.

Other heritage properties in the Highlands include Peppers Craigieburn in Bowral, Peppers Manor House in Sutton Forest and Moss Manor in Moss Vale. For history of a different era, book The Seidler House, a striking, architectural masterpiece designed by the late Harry Seidler. Perched on the edge of an escarpment overlooking the Southern Highlands, this is like sleeping in a piece of Australian architectural legend.

Antler & Oak Cottage, Moss Vale - Credit: Queenberry Cottage

Antler & Oak Cottage, Moss Vale - Credit: Queenberry Cottage

Charming cottages are dotted throughout the villages of the Southern Highlands, where you can settle in to your own slice of country living. In Bowral, The Hidden Door is a 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. French provincial-style Antler & Oak Cottage in Moss Vale is a chic retreat for six

If you’d prefer a rural retreat, enjoy the luxurious features of Bramble Cottage, feed the alpacas at the stylish Woodland Studio & Farm, soak up the breathtaking views at Cloudview Farmstay or sleep in a converted train carriage at Redleaf Farm. The area is also a popular spot for tiny house stays, like WildernestTiny Oscar and The Irish Corner.

 

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