Just over an hours drive from the centre of Sydney is a region that I believe to be one of Australia’s best kept secrets, The Southern Highlands.
My travels have taken me a few times now and each time I visit I discover something new.
Most visitors to the area are attracted by one of two things, colourful flower displays in spring and autumnal colours on the thousands of deciduous trees in autumn. However, all visitors will leave knowing that there is so much more to this quaint and quiet corner of the world.
Apart from the areas famous flora, it is host to boutique wineries, sporting legends, vast national parks and delicious local produce. It has a real country feel with small towns surrounded by farmland and the scent of an open fire in the air for six months of the year.
Its a place where you can just sit back and enjoy life but also have plenty to do with an abundance of things to see.
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Things to Do in The Southern Highlands
One of the main reasons people visit this part of New South Wales is for the colourful private gardens that are open to the public at certain times of the year. There is usually a few weekends in both Spring and Autumn where you will find a selection of the area best gardens open to the public for a small fee. I’ve visited about a dozen of them in my multiple visits to the area and found each one to be unique, from pretty cottage gardens to elaborate Italian style gardens complete with luxury villa like Bellagio (pictured above).
Address: Various locations throughout the area.
Cost: Ticket prices are usually around $AUS5.00 per garden per person with passes available during special festivals.
Hours: Generally weekends from 10:00-17:00
More Information: http://www.southern-highlands.com.au/
While the wine region in the Southern Highlands isn’t as big and well known as other parts of Australia, it does have around 20 top quality wineries that make for a great day out visiting cellar doors. Each winery produces their own selection of cool climate wine in both red and white varieties along with fruit based liqueurs, so there is something to suit most people’s tastes. My pick for the best big and small winery from the bunch is Centennial Vineyards in Bowral who have over 20 wines on offer to taste and purchase and Joadja Vineyard in Berrima, a smaller outfit who allow you to picnic and explore the grounds of the vineyard.
Address: Various locations throughout the area.
Cost: Tastings are usually free and you can purchase bottles from as little as $AUS15.00
Hours: Check the website below for more details on individual wineries.
More Information: http://www.highlandshq.com.au/southernhighlandwineries.php
Travels Nearby: 40 Fun Things to Do in Kangaroo Valley on The Wildlife Diaries
Morton National Park
Whether your an avid bushwalker or just wanting to visit a lookout or two and have a picnic, Morton National Park caters for all. There are dozens of different walking tracks throughout the park ranging from just a few minutes to a few days with campgrounds along the way. The most visited sight within the park is the Fitzroy Falls. From the carpark its just a few minutes walk on an elevated boardwalk to the first of 15 lookouts over the falls on the 6km track. You can choose to just walk the few metres to the first one and turn back or walk the whole track.
Address: Fitzroy Falls is best accessed via Nowra Road which runs between the Southern Highlands and Nowra on the South Coast.
Cost: Vehicles parking at Fitzroy Falls are required to pay for metred parking and camping fees also apply to campers. The rest of the park is free.
Hours: The park is open 24/7 except in dangerous weather conditions.
More Information: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/Morton-National-Park
Just a short drive from both Bowral and Mittagong is Mt Gibraltar, the highest mountain in the area and the best place to see the landscape from above. There are three lookout stops along the road with each just a few metres from the road. If you only have time for one, pick Bowral lookout as it offers the best uninterrupted view and is especially nice in Autumn when you can see the red and yellow trees scattered across the area.
Address: Access via Oxley Drive from Mittagong or Bowral
Hours: Open 24/7 but best viewed during daylight hours.
Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame
Cricket fantatics the world over would know that Sir Donald Bradman is one of, if not the most, legendary figure in the history of cricket. The champion Aussie cricketer was bred in the southern highlands area so it was only fitting to create a museum dedicated to the talented batsman in Bowral. The museum was inspired by The Dons vision and incorporates not just memorabilia related to his career but to the international cricketing world. It’s a great insight into Australia’s favourite sport, the worlds best players and its progression through the years. Whether your a cricket fan or not I think is still worth a look.
Address: St Jude Street, Bowral
Cost: Adults $AUS20.00, Child $AUS11.00, Concession $AUS15.00
Hours: 10:00-17:00 daily
More Information: http://www.internationalcrickethall.com/
Festivals & Events
Throughout the year the Southern Highlands is host to many events from regular monthly markets to annual festivals. The biggest of all is Tulip Time. For two weeks in Spring each year Bowral’s main garden, Corbett Gardens is a wash with coloured tulips and other spring time flowers. There’s also markets, music and food during one of Australia’s biggest celebrations of spring. If you can’t make it to the area for spring however, you will find markets on just about every weekend and other festivals celebrating music, culture and food.
Address: Tulip Time is held in Corbett Gardens, Bendooley Street, Bowral. Monthly markets are held in just about all the towns that make up the area.
Cost: Tulip Time – Adults $AUS10.00, Child/Concession $AUS6.00, Under 12 and locals free.
Hours: In 2015 Tulip Time will be held from 15-27 September with the garden open from 09:00-16:00.
More Information: http://www.southern-highlands.com.au/tulip-time
Antique & Handmade Goods Shopping
Quaint country towns all over the world are famous for their antique and craft stores and the towns of the Southern Highlands are no exception. You’ll find a bunch of stores selling treasures from the days of old and hand crafted, locally made products in Mittagong, Bowral and Berrima.
Address: Various locations throughout the area.
Hours: Most stores are open from 10:00-17:00 daily but may vary from store to store.
Where to Stay in The Southern Highlands
The area is full of different types of accommodation ranging from hostels, budget motels, homely bed and breakfast and luxury resorts.
My recommendation is the Fitzroy Inn at Mittagong. Set in a Victorian Colonial building that dates back to 1836, it has been fully restored into one of the most charming and comfortable guest houses I’ve stayed at.
The staff and owners are friendly and attentative (this includes their two tiny dogs), the rooms are beautifully decorated with comfy furnishings and are very spacious and the grounds have a relaxing country feel. Included continental breakfast is service in the pretty little restaurant which is also open for lunch and dinner. From the inn it’s just a minute or so by car to the centre of Mittagong.
Rates start from $AUS190.00 per night for a standard room (which is spacious and comfortable) and include continental breakfast.
Where to Eat in The Southern Highlands
Where do I start! There are so many great places to eat in the Southern Highlands each with its own unique twist and using the areas superior produce.
Janeks Cafe: 4/14 Wingecarribee Street Bowral – try the Eggs Benedict with Jamon.
Gumnut Patisserie: Bowral, Berrima & Mittagong (more details) – multi-award winning pies plus grab a sweet treat to go.
Old Bakery Tea Room: Cnr Old Hume Hwy & Wingecarribee Street Berrima – the places dates back to 1850 and does absolutely delicious scones with jam and cream.
All Day Dining
Bernies Diner: 402-404 Argle Street Moss Vale – everything you’d expect from a classic American style diner from burgers and hot dogs to fries and deliciously thick milkshakes.
Cerdo Food + Wine: 107 Main Street Mittagong – perfectly prepared Spanish inspired tapas and main courses that will leave you wanting more (and more!). Exception service made this place just about faultless for us.
Toshi’s Japanese Restaurant: 60 Bowral Road Mittagong – some of the best Japanese food we’ve had outside of Japan. Ask any local where to have a bite to eat and they’ll say Toshi’s!
Over to you!
What’s your top pick of things to do in the Southern Highlands?
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.
6 thoughts on “Things to Do in The Southern Highlands”
Beautiful pictures Jen! Even though I’m eagerly awaiting my trees to green here, autumn is such a beautiful time of year and wineries are my happy place!
I will really have to get down there at some point, probably when I get back from my big trip – the autumn colours are beautiful and now that I actually drink wine I love a winery too 🙂
It is only a very small wine region but we tasted some lovely wines. Hope you get a chance to visit the area soon.
Morton NP looks incredible! And the tulips remind me of home! 🙂 Great post, thanks for sharing! Most people only share their insights of Sydney itself, which is great, but I always like to learn about the surrounding area as well. Maaike
Thanks Maaike! As much as I love Sydney, I do really like to get outside of the city from time to time and enjoy the surround areas like The Southern Highlands. They are definitely one of Australia’s best kept secrets!