Relax and unwind among the rolling green hills of the Southern Highlands, renowned for its heritage villages and old-world charm.
Drive through forests and bucolic valleys to find charming country inns and restaurants, farmers markets and produce shops stuffed with local fare.
Head to Manning Lookout near Fitzroy Falls for stunning cliff-top views overlooking Kangaroo Valley. While a drive up to Mount Gibraltar Reserve, near Mittagong, is also pretty spectacular. Bowral Lookout, Mount Jellore and Mittagong Lookout also offer unmissable sights.
This region offers a range of active pursuits, from horseback riding and hiking through the bush, to golf, kayaking and cycling through wonderful scenery.
Be pampered with a soothing spa treatment or stop and smell the flowers in one of the region’s beautiful formal gardens. Follow the Southern Highlands Food and Wine Trail to cellar doors, food stalls, cafés and farmers markets.
Go bushwalking in Morton National Park, explore Berrima, settled in 1831, tee-off at one of the excellent public or private golf courses and browse in antique shops packed with furniture, China ware and jewellery.
Must-see sights along the route, include:
Known as the 'Gateway to the Highlands' Mittagong is an ideal place to start any exploration of the Southern Highlands. The town lies between two volcanic peaks - the famous 'Gib' (Mount Gibraltar) and Mount Alexandra.
Stroll along Main and Victoria streets past colourful gardens and many sandstone buildings, such as St Stephens Church of England, that date from the mid-19th century. Many of which are used today as antiques and craft shops as well as coffee houses.
Pop into the Sturt Craft Centre and try your hand at photography, ceramics, sculpture or basketry on one of the centre's short courses.
Drive to the top of Mount Gibraltar for great views from the lookouts, especially pretty at sunset, enjoy a picnic at Lake Alexandra or follow the wine trail to several local wineries.
Don’t miss the Boxvale Mine Walking Track and the Cave Creek walking trail.
Hill Top and the Cave Creek Walking Track – This pleasant 2.6km (1.6mi) track to Cave Creek involves a steep descent, a ladder leading to a cave entrance, a rock shelf and a cave outlet. It can be accessed via Wilson Drive and there is a car park with picnic, barbecue and toilet facilities at the start of the walk.
The trail is located 15km (9.3mi) north of Mittagong. Allow around 90 minutes to complete the walk.
Box Vale Mine Walking Track and Lookout – This 4.4km (2.7mi) trail with easy grades follows the historic railway line and passes through an 84m (275ft) tunnel, cuttings and along embankments. There is a short track off the main track which leads to the Forty Foot Falls.
Located on Box Vale Road off the Hume Highway, allow around three hours to complete the walk.
Mittagong is located 113km (70mi) south-west of Sydney via the Hume Motorway.
Nestled in the shadow of Mount Gibraltar, Bowral is famous for its country gardens and fields of tulips in spring.
Discover quaint houses and gardens in the town's side streets, meander around the stunning private gardens, part of grand old estates and browse for antiques, jewellery, arts and crafts.
Don’t miss the Tulip Time Festival in Corbett Gardens, which runs from Friday, 17 September to Monday, 4 October in 2021. Or visit the Sir Donald Bradman Oval, one of the sacred sites of cricket, and learn more about Australia's greatest cricketer inside the Bradman Museum of Cricket.
Saddle up and take part in or watch the many equestrian events held throughout the year, go fly-fishing on the lake, tee-off at one of the excellent golf courses or drive up to Mount Gibraltar’s lookouts for great views and easy walks.
Mt Gibraltar's Lookouts – Known to the locals as 'The Gib', Mt Gibraltar (863m (2831ft)) is located in the Mount Gibraltar Reserve and is the highest point between the Illawarra coast and the Great Dividing Range. It has strong spiritual significance for the local Gundungurra people.
Check out one or all of the four lookouts on Oxley Drive: Mount Jellore Lookout (photo) faces west and north-west to Mount Jellore – a conical volcanic summit – with distant views of the Kanangra wilderness areas and the Blue Mountains.
The Mittagong Lookout faces north and north-east over Mittagong with Sydney visible on a clear day and Mount Keira, above Wollongong, to the east.
The Bowral Lookout has views across Bowral with the Wingecarribee Dam, Moss Vale and the Cuckbundoon Range near Goulburn in the distance. The Oxley View overlooks the first European land grant in the area which was issued to explorer John Oxley in 1825 and which he named 'Wingecarribee'.
Bowral is located 118km (73mi) south-west of Sydney.
Discover one of the best-preserved Georgian villages in Australia. Stroll past a unique collection of unspoilt Georgian sandstone homes and important public buildings from the 19th century.
Take a self-guided walk around the village to visit the many historic buildings, including the Courthouse and Museum, Berrima Gaol, Holy Trinity Anglican Church and Harper's Mansion, among others.
Browse the local galleries and antique and craft shops and treat yourself to lunch at the White Horse Inn or a glass of ale at the Surveyor General Inn, Australia's oldest continually licensed inn which has operated continuously since it opened in 1834,
Berrima is located 131km (81mi) south-west of Sydney.
Explore this pretty garden village peppered with historic buildings, tree-lined streets and colourful gardens – all surrounded by rolling green hills.
Stroll around Throsby Park, an impressive colonial Georgian mansion built in 1823; admire the town’s historic buildings, including the Dominican convent, the Anglican church and Kalourgan; pop into the Southern Highlands Regional Gallery in Railway Street; tee-off at the 18-hole championship Moss Vale Golf Course; and don’t miss lunching at the historic Briars Inn, built in 1845.
Follow the Food and Wine Trail to sample some great cool-climate wines at the nearby cellar doors of Eling Forest and Southern Highlands Wines, both of which also have renowned restaurants.
Head north to Bong Bong, the site of the first European settlement in the Southern Highlands or see the countryside from the windows of old-style carriages of the Cockatoo Run in a leisurely train trip to Robertson or along the coast.
Moss Vale, along with Bowral, is one of the two major towns in the Southern Highlands. It is located 128km (79mi) south-west of Sydney via the Hume Motorway and Moss Vale Road.
Head to the lookout on the escarpment above the 82m (269ft)-high falls, an easy 1.6km (1mi) round-trip bushwalk from the small village of the same name.
From here you can watch the waterfalls plunge spectacularly into the thick eucalypt forests of the valley below. Nearby Belmore Falls is equally dramatic and easy to access.
Hike along any of the many trails through Morton National Park to discover a scenic region full of waterfalls, rainforest gullies, wildflowers, colourful parrots and rosellas, all easily admired from the accessible lookouts on the plateau.
Drop into the Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre to learn more about the region's local history, wildlife and birdwatching. Facilities include a cafe, picnic and barbecue beside Yarrunga Creek, which tumbles over the escarpment into the Yarrunga Creek Valley.
Choose from two excellent bushwalks that start from the Fitzroy Falls Lookout. Both walks offers dramatic views of the falls and impressive views across eucalypt wilderness.
Look out for bird life including hawks, wedge-tailed and other eagles, plus parrots, honeyeaters, lorikeets, crimson rosellas, cuckoos, cormorants, grebes, lyrebirds and two threatened species – the swamp parrot and eastern bristle bird. You can also spot wallabies, kangaroos, bandicoots, possums and echidnae in the area.
Fitzroy Falls East Rim Walking Track – This 2.5km (1.5mi) return walk starts at the footbridge on the eastern side of the falls and follows the escarpment to May Lookout, where you can see the lower Grotto Falls and the bottom of the Twin Falls.
The track then leaves the escarpment in an easterly direction and gradually winds down to Fern Tree Gully, from where it climbs up to Warragong Lookout for a side view of Fitzroy Falls.
The track then follows the cliff face to Valley View Lookout where superb views of the top of Twin Falls and the plateau of Mount Carrialoo are visible.
West of Mount Carrialoo is the volcanic extrusion Mount Moollatoo or the Grassy Mountain and the Yarrunga Valley. The flora is particularly impressive in spring when the wildflowers are in bloom.
The return walk takes around 90 minutes to complete.
West Rim Walking Track – This mostly flat 4km (2.4mi) return trail can be done as a short 15-minute walk to the Jersey Lookout, which offers an excellent view of the falls and the dense rainforest at its base, or a longer walk.
Beyond the Jersey Lookout the track continues to the fire trail before branching to the west to Twin Falls. The lookouts on the eastern side of Twin Falls provide some good views of Yarrunga Creek, Twin Falls and the lower Grotto Falls.
On the western side of the stream, Paines Lookout allows walkers an excellent close view of Twin Falls. The track then continues to Starkey’s Lookout which provides an excellent view of the Lady Hordern Falls, which cascade 76m (249ft) to the valley floor.
Beyond Starkey’s Lookout the track continues on to Renown Lookout where there is a superb view of all the major falls in the upper Yarrunga Creek system.
The return walk takes around two hours to complete.
Fitzroy Falls is located around 139km (86mi) south-west of Sydney via the Hume Motorway at the north-eastern end of Morton National Park – one of NSW's largest national parks.
Drive through the magnificent countryside where the movie Babe was filmed; explore the natural wonders of nearby Budderoo and Morton national parks, featuring many spectacular waterfalls and bushwalking trails; the spectacular Carrington Falls, where you can swim in crystal clear watering holes; and the rainforest walking trails of Robertson Nature Reserve.
Stroll the Robertson Heritage Walk to learn about the history of the region and see some of the older buildings that include the Police Station (1887), the School of Arts (1886), the Parsonage (1896), the Public School (1872), Hampden Park (1897), St Johns Anglican Church (1876) and the Robertson Inn (1887).
Pop into the Robertson Railway Station (photo), now a heritage site and museum; sample the crafts and gourmet treats at The Old Cheese Factory; check out the fascinating local antique and craft shops in the area; and if time permits, don’t miss the Robertson Pie Shop, famous for its savoury and sweet pies.
Carrington Falls – With its cascades, waterholes and rockpools, many regard Carrington Falls, where the Kangaroo River plunges 90m (295ft) to the gully below, as the most beautiful on the South Coast.
Be awed by the magnificent waterfall from one of three lookouts. You’ll find picnic and barbecue facilities close by along with some short walking tracks.
A short, family-friendly walk starts from Carrington Falls picnic area, also known as Thomas’ Place picnic area. The track loops around the edge of the escarpment, passing several lookouts with ever-changing views of the waterfall, which cascades down to the Kangaroo River below.
In spring and summer, vibrant wildflowers including waratahs bloom along the track. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a lyrebird scratching in the undergrowth, or a shy swamp wallaby or long-nosed potoroo. Snakes are common in this area, so keep an eye out for red-bellied black snakes, copperheads and tiger snakes in summer.
Belmore Falls – Located 9km (5.5mi) from Robertson this stunning two-drop waterfall plunges 100m into the Barrengarry Creek.
Parking is available at the Hindmarsh Lookout and from there it is a short 1.8km (1.1mi) return walk to Hindmarsh Lookout, which offers panoramic views across to the falls over Kangaroo Valley.
Follow the signs around the escarpment to several lookouts, the last of which provides views of the waterfall. Lookout for typical sandstone flora, including flowers such as honey flower, banksia, wattle and tea-tree.
The falls were named after the Earl of Belmore who was the Governor of New South Wales at the time.
Belmore Falls lie 12km (7.4mi) from Fitzroy Falls on Belmore Falls Road. The road is unsealed for much of the way but it is suitable for 2WD vehicles.
Robertson is located 129km (80mi) from Sydney.
Relax in the old-world charm of Bundanoon. Stroll past historic buildings, revitalise at the health retreat, browse antique and crafts shops on Railway Avenue and overnight in fine old guest houses.
Visit the peaceful and friendly atmosphere of a Thai Buddhist monastery at Sunnataram Forest Monastery (photo), where you can learn and apply Buddhist teachings to add inner peace in your daily life.
Watch glow-worms at dusk in the sandstone grotto known as Glow-Worm Glen.
Take a visit to nearby Exeter, known as ‘Little England’ because of its exotic trees and private gardens or rent a bike for the popular 11km (6.8mi) ride through Morton National Park.
Morton National Park – Stretching across the southern and eastern sections of the Southern Highlands, Morton National Park is one of the largest parks in New South Wales and covers an area of 1997km² (771mi²).
Here you can explore a landscape of rugged sandstone cliffs, dramatic waterfalls and deep valleys characterised by dense forest with areas of sedgeland, woodland, heath and rainforests. The park includes the headwaters of the Clyde, Shoalhaven, Endrick and Kangaroo rivers.
The park is known for its diversity of flora and fauna with wildflowers in abundance during spring and summer; giant turpentine trees below the major cliffs; coachwood and black ash in abundance and rainforest canopy in the valleys and gorges.
Bird life flourishes here: lookout for hawks, wedge-tailed eagles, parrots, honeyeaters, lorikeets, crimson rosellas, cuckoos, cormorants, grebes, lyrebirds and two threatened species – the swamp parrot and eastern bristle bird. There are also wallabies, kangaroos, bandicoots, possums, echidnae and dingoes, plus marsupial mice, snakes and lizards.
Some of the best walking trails in the park include…
Erith Coal Mine Track – This 2km (1.2mi) loop is a steep descent through woodland, heath and rainforest. The mine is fenced so there is no entry.
The Erith Coal Mine operated between the early 1860s and 1872 and then from 1881-1889. It ceased altogether during World War I.
The walk starts from Gambells Rest and takes around one hour to complete.
Echo Point and Lovers Walk – This pleasant 2.2km (1.3mi) loop walk begins from Echo Point picnic area and offers panoramic views at Bonnie View and Beauchamp Cliffs overlooking the Bundanoon Creek valley. Allow around one hour to complete.
Mount Carnarvon Track – This short trail from Echo Point picnic area leads to the lookout at Mount Carnarvon with dramatic views across the valley of Bundanoon Creek and beyond. Allow around 30 minutes to complete.
Amphitheatre Walk – This 3km (1.8mi) return walk leads to a natural amphitheatre shaped by the erosive power of water and is filled with trees. Walkers can continue to Fairy Bower Falls. The walk starts from Gambells Rest picnic area and takes around two hours to complete.
Fairy Bower Falls Walk – This 3km (1.8mi) return track leads to the base of the falls through rainforest and arrives at Bundanoon Creek before returning to the car park.
The walk starts from Gambells Rest and takes around two hours to complete.
Bundanoon Creek Track – This steep 2km (1.2mi) return track leads down to Bundanoon Creek. There is a steep climb back to the top of the valley. The walk starts from Tooths Lookout car park and takes around three hours to complete.
Riverview Walk – Choose from the 2km (1.2mi) return trail to Riverview Lookout or the 4km (2.4mi) return trail to Glow Worm Glen. This walk crosses Fern Tree Gully and passes through eucalypt forest. It meets up with the Glow Worm Glen track. The walk starts from Amphitheatre car park and takes around 40 minutes to complete.
Glow Worm Glen Walk – This short but steep 30-minute walk from William Street leads to a platform and sandstone grotto known as Glow Worm Glen. The glow worms can only be seen at dusk and in the evenings.
A torch is needed for the return trip. The site is also accessible from Riverview Road within the park. Fern Tree Gully can also be accessed from Riverview Road.
Bundanoon is located 18km (11mi) south of Moss Vale via Sutton Forest and Exeter, and 149km (92mi) south-west of Sydney via the Hume Motorway.
Discover a pretty and dramatic National Trust-listed village known for its scenic bushwalks and river creeks as well as Hampden Bridge, the oldest surviving suspension bridge in Australia.
Wander over the historic bridge and through the Heritage-listed village. Browse the galleries and refresh over coffee and cake in one of the cafés.
Enjoy the spectacular views of the Shoalhaven River and Kangaroo Valley from Cambewarra Mountain Lookout, join a kayaking safari along the Kangaroo River to Shoalhaven Gorge, enjoy a picnic on the banks of the river and tour the Pioneer Farm Museum, based on a typical 19th century farmhouse.
Hampden Suspension Bridge – Designed by Ernest Macartney de Burgh, a prominent bridge architect and engineer, Hampden Suspension Bridge was completed in 1898. It was restored in 2011 to replicate the original bridge.
Hampden Bridge is recognised as the oldest surviving suspension bridge in Australia. It crosses the Kangaroo River on the road from Nowra to Moss Vale and as such is a vital link for the local community.
The appeal of the bridge lies in its statement about the affluence of the area when it was built with castellated towers that resemble the turrets of a medieval castle. The suspension cables were imported from England and it was named after the Governor of NSW, Lord Hampden.
The Hampden Suspension Bridge crosses the Kangaroo River – a popular place for picnics, swimming in summer, fishing and canoeing. There are good facilities on both sides of the river as well as tours along the river from two hours up to five days.
Kangaroo Valley is located 159km (98mi) south of Sydney via the Princes Highway.
Trip length from Sydney 3 days Total distance 335km Road conditions All sealed roads Segment distances: Sydney to Mittagong – 115km, 1hr 30mins; Mittagong to Kangaroo Valley – 45km, 50mins; Kangaroo Valley to Sydney – 160km, 2hrs 15mins; Suggested overnight stops: Mittagong, Bowral or Moss Vale
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Latest update: Southern Highlands, NSW : 23 February, 2021
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