The string of country towns that lie in the Southern Highlands are a popular escape for Sydneysiders thanks to heritage shopfronts, cool cafés and abundant bushland. The bucolic region is also in easy reach of the state’s South Coast, meaning you can explore an antiques store in the morning, hike a bush trail at lunch and finish your day breathing in the salty air of the Pacific. Our tip? Pack for all possibilities
What to do day one
From Sydney Airport, it’s a near-straight, hour-long journey south before you hit the visitor hub of Bowral, the largest town in the Southern Highlands. The Press Shop, a chic corner café in the town’s heart, serves excellent coffee and the dishes are as pretty as the letterpress stationery printed and sold on the premises. The Southern Highlands is known for its antique treasures so start at the quaint Lancelot Hill Antiques, before poking around Dirty Janes Bowral for more fabulous vintage wares.
Image credit: Abbie Melle/Birch Restaurant 2020.
Take a short 20-minute drive and arrive at Sutton Forest’s Peppers Manor House, an elegant boutique stay offering expansive gardens, spacious rooms and deep bathtubs. Later, move on to dinner at Moss Vale’s Birch Restaurant, a 15-minute trip from the property, where delicious dishes such as beetroot and feta-plumped chicken or pumpkin and baked pear ravioli feature local produce.
What to do day two
Hit Highlands Merchant for a takeaway coffee and a baked treat to fuel the descent into Kangaroo Valley, a winding, half-hour trip through mist-veiled bushland. Wildflowers in the area are particularly pretty towards late winter; hop out of the car and take on Morton National Park’s 9.5-kilometre Three Views Hike. It’s mostly flat and easily navigable for all manner of walkers, little ones included. Reward yourself at The General Cafe in Kangaroo Valley town, where the sourdough is always fresh and the coffee locally roasted. Bangalay Luxury Villas at Shoalhaven Heads, 35 minutes further east, is a modern seaside getaway with rattan chairs, rainfall showers and in-room espresso machines.
What to do day three
Nearby Seven Mile Beach, named for its sweeping 12-kilometre shoreline, has plenty of space to stroll but try the Sand Track, an easy 1.5-hour round-trip walk that cuts through a forest of blackbutt trees before opening out onto the ocean. Just north at Kiama is beachside café Diggies, perfect for brekkie favourites you can take away and eat while en route to Sydney. The Grand Pacific Drive between Thirroul and Helensburgh, where Sea Cliff Bridge is suspended over crashing waves below, is a highlight of the return trip.
Top image credit: Sitchu.com.au.