In this cluster of small country towns among the rolling green hills of the Southern Highlands, we’re spending the weekend in rose gardens on grand estates, at cooking classes with local producers and checking out the inaugural Sculpture on High exhibition, which opens this weekend.
Situated only 90 minutes southwest of Sydney, the Southern Highlands is a playground filled with rolling green hills, historic landmarks, grand country estates, epicurean wonders and an inspiring display of art and craft works from local artisan producers. With charming old world towns of Mittagong, Berrima, Bowral and Robertson located within close proximity of each other, the Southern Highlands presents an opportunity to relax and unwind, stroll the open streets and peruse over a range of eclectic shops.
An icon since the early 1970s is The Big Potato in Robertson, a reflection of the region’s cool climate and nurturing, dark, rich soils. With a country friendliness that never strays and local producers more than willing to share their insider knowledge, we can’t seem to get enough of this country weekend escape.
Located on the outskirts of Bowral, this elegant 103-year-old former homestead offers 72 refurbished guest rooms, some with balconies, across two wings. Other features of this historic country resort include a private nine-hole golf course, the grand Montfort’s Dining Room led by executive chef Warrick Brook and the indulgent Endota Spa, a perfect way to relax on any weekend retreat.
Centennial Road, Bowral
This boutique guesthouse opened in 1928 and offers an intimate and welcoming ambience whilst enjoying the views across the Bowral Golf Course. Retaining its historic charm, Links House boasts contemporary rooms and suites as well as an exquisite rose garden and private courtyards.
17 Links Road, Bowral
Berrima General Store
This cosy space is filled with charm and friendliness and is a perfect spot to savour house-made Devonshire tea served with decadent locally made raspberry jam from Phatt Duck & The Hog. This not so typical general store prides itself on local produce selling a range of products including The 1910 Bottling Company’s organic fruit preserves and Burrawang’s Maugers Meats.
Shop 1, 13 Old Hume Highway, Berrima
(02) 4877 1225
The Red Tree Cafe
Don’t be deterred by this cafe’s location, away from Bowral’s main strip. Step inside this weatherboard cottage to find a dining room blooming with chic Parisian-inspired decor. The concise menu encompasses hearty salads and bruschetta with oven roasted tomatoes and goats fetta. Ogle over sweets such as apple crumble and rhubarb frangipane tarts, enjoyed best with the Di Gabriel coffee on offer.
52 Station Street, Bowral
A vibrant space decorated with Persian carpets, black walls with antique mirrors, hanging lanterns and turquoise chairs. The Middle Eastern-inspired menu presents dishes such as lamb skewers with tzatziki, harissa and pide and char grilled calamari with black Ligurian olives, tomatoes and fresh herbs. Blackboard specials constantly change, including the house-made Moroccan spiced beef sausages with tabouleh, tzatziki and harissa.
2/9 Old Hume Highway, Berrima
(02) 4877 2200
There is nothing we don’t love about this place. A kitchen garden and a creative menu led by chef James Viles allures with unique flavour combinations that make you think twice. Let your imagination run wild with robust buckwheat dumplings with goat’s milk foam, aromatic sea prawn rice porridge drizzled with clam and periwinkle juices and a fruitful finish of mandarin, champagne and blossom marshmallow and an indulgent lemon curd meringue. With a strong focus on supporting local growers, it’s simply divine. Booking recommended.
18 Kangaloon Road, Bowral
Centennial Vineyards Restaurant
Unwind over a long lunch in a cosy, rustic barn set amongst the sprawling vineyards. Head chef Matt Schwarze sources local seasonal produce where possible in dishes such as the citrus cured tuna with seared scallop and squid salad, house made asparagus ravioli generously filled with mascarpone mousse and Bannock Burn chicken breast with sautéed red cabbage and pancetta. Wines from the vineyard are also suggested according to each dish and are available for purchase at the cellar next door.
252 Centennial Road, Bowral
This elegant dining establishment, led by chef Luke Latimer, focuses on Italian home-style cooking featuring a seasonal daily changing menu of fried polenta with mushroom and gorgonzola ragu, succulent housemade potato gnocchi with braised lamb and luscious osso buco with pea puree, roasted carrots and gremolata.
5 Boolwey Street, Bowral
(02) 4861 6620
Situated in a timeless sandstone cottage, with chandeliers and white table cloths, this highly acclaimed modern European restaurant – owned and operated by chef Richard Kemp –boasts a creative menu featuring seasonal produce as well as an extensive wine list highlighting local and international drops.
24 Old Hume Highway, Berrima
(02) 4877 1977
The Imperial Hotel
A sleek, contemporary watering hole with spacious, open plan seating, sports bar, beer garden and an awarded bistro serving reasonably priced dishes such as the ‘King of Steaks’ (an aged 500-gram rib eye on the bone), warm tender duck breast salad with a subtle orange caramel dressing and, to finish, the tantalising self-saucing chocolate pudding.
Cnr Bong Bong and Bundaroo Streets, Bowral
(02) 4861 1623
Burrawang Village Hotel
This quaint, unassuming pub, a popular choice amongst locals and visitors, is one of the best in regional New South Wales. Bask in the sunshine at the rear beer garden and enjoy the picturesque landscape of the surrounding green hills. The food, like the service, is filled with country warmth and a local favourite is the signature Burrawang burger.
14-16 Hoddle Street, Burrawang
(02) 4886 4206
This circa 1834 historic colonial Georgian residence, built by James and Mary Harper and managed by the National Trust of Australia, has one of Australia’s largest hedge maze gardens.
9 Wilkinson Street, Berrima
(02) 4877 1508
FoodPath Culinary Tours
Jill Dyson and Nick Padol run a range of farm, market and walking tours in the Southern Highlands as well as an assortment of activities including seasonal fruit picking, workshops about preserving and pasta making, providing an excellent opportunity to meet local producers. Check out their website for upcoming itineraries.
The Rabbit Shack
This rustic newcomer to Berrima, set in a restored cottage, is a combined initiative by Rabbit Trap Timber and Redcourt Collections featuring an eclectic mix of handcrafted homeware and fashion delights, sourced from artisan producers both locally and abroad. We can’t resist the wooden handmade share paddle platters and the Bush Princess bags from Kenya.
7 Old Hume Highway, Berrima
Bong Bong Picnic Races
Held annually on the second Wednesday in November, this is the social racing event of the Southern Highlands, featuring the Bong Bong Cup.
Wyeera Racecourse, 460 Kangaloon Road, Bowral
(02) 4862 2155
Robertson Cheese Factory
Showcasing nearby dairy produce, this roadside stop is filled with local and imported cheeses as well as seasonal vegetables, eggs, condiments and olives. This space also features the Green Heart Gallery, which presents works by local artists and artisans, including leather goods by designer Mark Honoré.
107 Illawarra Highway, Robertson
(02) 4885 2000
Knitting is cool again and this is the place to go for pattern books, a vast range of colourful yarns and knitting accessories.
20 Station Street, Bowral
(02) 4862 4799
Annabelle’s Florist – The Country Flower Shop
Enter the towering black timber doors of this hideaway shed and be immersed by the blooming fragrances and soft, elegant colours. With its country homestead-like setting, this is not your typical florist.
385 Bong Bong Street, Bowral
As part of the Southern Highlands Arts Festival (SHAF), the inaugural Sculpture on High (SoH) exhibition opens this weekend (Saturday November 3) and runs until November 30, daily from 10am to 4pm.