I will never forget my first night living in the Southern Highlands. I had moved here from Sydney. As lovely as city life can be, the evening air was frequently thick with pollution, traffic noise and neon signs.
That night, in the middle of a beautiful Bowral winter, I sat in my courtyard with a glass of local pinot noir and inhaled the crisp, unpolluted air. I looked up, stunned at the sparkling array of bright stars and massive full moon. My back garden was bathed in a lunar loveliness I had not yet seen before. I quite literally thanked my lucky stars!
The next day, I woke early, excited to explore this town I now called home. Fast forward 25 years and I am still uncovering myriad things to do and see! City Life may be exciting, but you are certainly never bored in the Southern Highlands.
It would be rude of me not to share, so here are some fabulous things to do in the Southern Highlands.
1. Take a Wine Tour
When it comes to fabulous things to do in the Southern Highlands, a wine tour pretty much tops the list. The Southern Highlands has an abundance of amazing wineries, all of which produce incredible cold climate drops.
My favourites include Mount Ashby Estate, St. Maur, Artemis, Tertini, Centennial Vineyards and Sally’s Corner Wines. Of course, I can’t leave out Bendooley Estate, Southern Highlands Winery and Cherry Tree Hill. Then, there’s Peppergreen Estate and Joadja Estate, just to name a few!
There are over 20 wineries within our region, many with World Class restaurants, too. Visit one each weekend, or book a wine tour with one of the many tour operators available and see a few in one day.
2. Enjoy Local, Seasonal Food
I’m pretty sure the term ‘paddock to plate’ was coined in the Southern Highlands. There is no shortage of places to dine and enjoy fresh, local, seasonal foods. From Leila’s at The Grand Lebanese to Onesta Cucina you’ve got fine dining in Bowral covered. Harry’s On Green offers pretty amazing morsels, with a French influence, for lunch, dinner or simply bar snacks. Plantation, just next door, has a more causal, wine bar vibe.
The Imperial Hotel has a fantastic modern bistro, as well as a Napoli style wood-fired pizza restaurant out the back. Of course, there’s a great selection of Asian food, including Bowral Asian Cuisine.
Over in Moss Vale, you’ll find Birch, which delivers consistently top-notch nosh from a menu that changes with the seasons. Then there’s Highlands Merchant for amazing breakfasts and lunch, and the Porterhouse Bistro for a casual dining experience.
Sutton Forest also has a couple of great options. The Sutton Forest Inn is great for pub grub. Southern Highlands Winery serves up beautiful food with an Italian flavour and a host of incredible cool climate wines.
Farther afield, the Burrawang Hotel offers incredible views, a cosy open fire and traditional country counter meal. Burrawang also boasts its legendary Burawang General Store. In Robertson, Pizzas in the Mist, The Robertson Pub and Moonacres café, all boast exceptional fare. Then, there’s The Robertson Hotel, an elegant old manor with several massive open fires, magnificent gardens and a dining room serving seasonally-inspired meals.
In Berrima, Josh’s Café, offers a readily rotated menu crafted from local produce. Eschalot restaurant delivers sublime seasonal dishes. Magpie Café has exceptional breakfast and lunch and The Surveyor General Inn serves top notch pub grub.
Over in Mittagong, The Boston has an exciting breakfast and lunch menu and beautiful décor. Vegans and vegetarians will adore Four Seasons Bistro, with its innovative plant-powered menu. The Shaggy Cow is a local favourite for café food, which has recently changed hands and is now offering an exquisite dinner service.
3. Enjoy a Festival or Three
We love a festival here in the Highlands and we do them so well! In September, there’s the iconic Tulip Time festival, which culminates in a grand street parade each year. Following on from that is the Southern Highlands Food and Wine Festival, held in October each year. It showcases the best of our wine and food, plus plenty of local and visiting musical artists.
Pie Fest, draws attention from all over Australia. The weeklong celebration of our favourite pie makers is punctuated by a two-day showcase of pies, wines and all kinds of fun activity.
If a feast for the mind is more your thing, you’ll adore the Southern Highlands Writers’ Festival, which showcases the work of local and international authors and scribes.
4. Get Into Art
The Highlands has plenty of ways to feed your inner creative, whether you’re an established or budding artist, or simply wish to view some great work. Join a class at Art at the Cowshed, try a fun Paint and Pinot night, or sign up for a term class with local artist Tracey Miller.
Those who prefer to view art, will never be at a loss. There are so many incredible galleries hanging celebrated artists. Sturt Gallery in Mittagong maintains a collection of Australian post-war contemporary craft. Milk Factory Gallery in Bowral is an incredible space exhibiting exciting and beautiful works. BDAS Bowral Art Gallery has workshops and exhibitions throughout the year.
5. Get Sporty
No matter what your age or physical prowess, you’ll find an activity to keep you fit and healthy in the Highlands. Local rugby club Bowral Blacks has registration for kids aged seven to 19. It’s widely known that professional scouts look at us when thinking about future players for A league teams.
Tennis lovers can get their fix at any of the five plus local associations, including Bowral Tennis, Exeter Tennis, Mittagong Bluebirds Tennis, Moss Vale Tennis Club and Highlands Tennis.
Those who favour the gym can work out in style at Aurora Active. Moss Vale Aquatic Centre offers great group classes, as well as aqua aerobics and swimming lessons.
And for anyone who prefers a lovely long walk, the Highlands has more walking trails and hikes than you could wish for. There’s the picturesque and easy Cherry Tree Walk, which begins at the Vietnam War memorial in Bowral and weaves its way around to East Bowral.
6. Be Fashionable
Shop the iconic Bong Bong street in Bowral for stylish clothing and accessories in stores like ARKKE the Shop, Mic Mac Boutique and Baskerville and Brown. I also love Creative & Co, a carefully curated selection of Italian linens and stylishly casual attire. Off in the side streets, check out Carousel Lifestyle and Hem, each offering stylish and unique fashion finds.
Twisting Vintage in Mittagong has a vast selection of meticulously restored vintage fashion and accessories, sourced from all corners of the world. Just a Smidge stocks stylish everyday clothes and accessories.
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.
7. Shop for Homewares
From bespoke, one-off pieces to antiques, the Highlands allows you to style your home any which way you like.
In Bowral, three’s a plethora of options. The Modern, which 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. For vintage finds and pre-loved furniture and homewares, be sure to visit Dirty Jane’s!
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.
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, decorative items and even garden and architectural wares.
8. Sample Some Craft Beer!
The Highlands has some terrific craft beer on offer. There’s Eden Brewery in Cavendish Street Mittagong. It’s a favourite of mine not just for thee lovely brews. Owners Jacob and Deb donate 10% of all profits to Oxfam! So you’re drinking in kindness along with your hops! Plus, they are always collaborating with local growers and producers to deliver unique and delicious beer varieties.
Over in Moss Vale, you’ll find the Southern Highlands Brewing Company at the Tap House. This beautiful ale house serves a selection of locally brewed beers, as well as some really great meals that are painstakingly paired back with them.
9. Giddy Up!
Whether you’re a kid who adores horses, or an adult who’s never lost the love of these magnificent creatures, riding in the Southern Highlands should be on your to-do list.
Ashton Park in Moss Vale offers everything from individual riding lessons, group lessons, trail rides and even pony picnics and unicorn birthday parties.
Fitzroy Equestrian Centre offers lessons, agistment and school holiday camps, while Shibumi in Bundanoon has riding lessons, school holiday camps, and competitions.
10. Have A Spa Day
If there’s one thing the Southern Highlands does so well, it’s a day spa! We have world class facialists here and plenty of places to be pampered.
The Skin Club Bowral is a star-of-the-art beauty studio on Station Street in Bowral (set back in the carpark of 24 Station Street). Owned and run by Mardi Johnson, it specialises in skin, as the name suggests. Mardi uses cosmeceutical skincare ranges Medik8 and Mesoestetic in all her treatments, and backs them up with advanced therapies like skin needling, dermaplaning and LED light treatments.
Affinity Body and Beauty in Moss Vale does a fantastic spray tan, eyelash extension as well as lash and brow tint. Iris Skin and Beauty, also in Moss Vale, is famed for its facials, while SIVA Hair and Beauty in Mittagong delivers the perfect pedicure, manicure, wax, lash & brow tint and spray tan, every time. They also do a great blow-dry.
On the subject of hair, let’s not forget the incredible hairdressers we have here. I adore Rodney at Joh Bailey in Bowral for an incredible cut and blow-dry. Sensoria in Station Street is also a beautiful salon, which has been standing for 28 years. It does incredible colour and delivers a truly pampering experience.
For more information on life in the Southern Highlands, feel free to contact me at any time!
Love Di xx