Now that the Canberrans are cleared to leave the ACT for approved postcodes in New South Wales, we return to this 2019 article on the beautiful Southern Highlands.
Why? Because while we believe Canberran’s first port of call after the lockdown should be to support local ACT businesses, we also understand that some people may want to stretch their legs after nine long weeks of lockdown.
Please note that this editorial was written before lockdown and some locations may have changed their hours of operation. Always check with the venue before visiting. Visiting ACT residents should adhere to NSW Public Health guidelines.
The Southern Highlands provided a shady summer retreat for the Australian land nobility.
But over time, the townships and villages of Bowral, Mittagong, Moss Vale, Berrima and Bundanoon now provide the ultimate cosmopolitan getaway for a growing contingent of Canberra converts.
Only two hours from the capital, the Highlands exude charm and a calmer, more rural pace of life. But there are plenty of lovely cafes, hat restaurants, and five-star accommodation to keep things interesting – the perfect summer alternative to the crowded South Coast.
If you think you were born to enjoy mansion life but unfortunately can’t afford a country estate, book a stay at Milton Park and pretend you are at home.
Set amid expansive French gardens and offering a wellness spa, guests stay in an imposing property that reveals European villa influences while juxtaposing French and Federation details.
The building from the turn of the last century is owned and managed by a private consortium which has undertaken major improvements.
Eat in the Horderns Fine dining room or in the new Orangery. You can also relax in the Polo Bar or the Conservatory.
200 Horderns Road, Bowral | Open from 7 am until late, seven days | miltonpark.com.au
Its ivy-covered arches suggest something special inside, and Hotel Berida offers fine dining options and an Endota spa.
Bistro Sociale offers a seasonal à la carte menu and you can also indulge in several interesting tasting menu experiences, depending on your appetite.
It receives rave reviews in the Sydney press and includes a sweet children’s menu, allowing happy families to make a stay out of it.
6 David Street, Bowral | beridahotel.com.au
The press shop
Do you want stationery with your latte? When you see it lined up in all its handcrafted splendor in The Press Shop, it will make perfect sense.
The menu is a locavores delight – everything from meat, mushrooms, vegetables and even spring water comes from the region. And if you need custom stationery created on vintage typography, then take a stroll through the artist’s studio …
5 / 391-397 Rue Bong Bong, Bowral | Open Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., public holidays from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. | thepressshop.com.au
Want a vintage adornment for your body or your home? Dirty Janes is an emporium with it all. From furniture to jewelry, housewares and clothing, you could get lost for hours browsing the shelves without discovering a single mass-produced item made in China.
With over 75 dealers filling three large warehouse spaces, there’s also a tea room for a restorative break between shopping.
The Acre, corner of Bong Bong and Banyette streets, Bowral | Open 7 days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (tea room from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) | salejanes.com
Little and far
This place is full of beautiful household items that only the most hardened customer could leave empty-handed.
More importantly, it’s a destination point for big purchases – fancy a giant antique metal gate, almirah, sofa, or 12-seat dining table? You may need a trailer to get home.
351 Bong Bong Street, Bowral | Open 7 days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (4 p.m. on Sundays) | someandfar.com.au
The Old Convent B&B
Margaret and Ian are the proud owners of The Old Nunnery, a property built in 1900 and used for part of its life as a Dominican Catholic convent. Now it has been completely renovated to offer four king-size bedrooms with private bathrooms.
Guests have access to nearly an acre of landscaped grounds where they can meet the hens that laid the eggs for breakfast, which is a quality continental and / or full English breakfast.
27 Arthur Street, Moss Vale | booking.com
Suzie Anderson Household Items
If you want to immerse yourself in French, Belgian and Hamptons furniture, housewares, lighting, linens, clothing and art, head to Suzie’s boutique.
From rolled rattan rugs and coral pieces to polish your look, to framed coastal mirrors in all shapes and sizes and oversized sofas with linen padding to choose from, it would be easy to get lost.
409-411 Argyle Street | Open 7/7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. | suzieandersonhome.com
If the Highland Merchant isn’t selling it, it’s probably not worth buying it. Fill up on homemade maple syrup or organic chicken bone broth and cook up a regional feast. Or outsource the cooking and buy in or take out.
405 Argyle Street, Moss Vale | Open seven days from 8 am | highlandsmerchant.com.au
The Old Bank Hotel
Local farmers Barbara and Warwick Wainberg transformed the 1880s Commercial Banking Company building on Mittagong Main Street into a beautiful boutique hotel. With six bedrooms and two cottages, the place exudes character and all the luxury of modern comforts.
Meanwhile, treat yourself to a high tea or head to the Old Vault for a fine dining experience at the hands of husband and wife team Teena and Stephen Crooks, formerly of Phatt Duck Catering fame.
83 Main Street, Mittagong | oldbankhotel.com.au
This bustling little baking empire is sort of a staple of the Southern Highlands: it has shops in Bowral, Berrima and Mittagong and has won so many awards it’s nearly impossible to keep track of.
Owners Tracy and Vicki Nickl are obsessed with all things baking and dough and have formed an equally obsessed team of bakers. Every day, a laborious morning of baking sees everything from personalized cakes to savory and sweet treats, quickly exhausted by the queues of hungry locals.
Corner of Cavendish and Dalton Streets, Mittagong | Open Monday to Saturday 6.30 am to 5 pm and 7.30 am to 10 am | gumnutpatisserie.com.au
The Burrawang Village hotel
Family-owned and operated, the hotel is an eight-room meeting place, bar and guesthouse for those who want to spend a night in this remote village 20 km from Bowral.
Managed by couple Pete and Kate, both with hospitality careers in Sydney, the hotel offers what you rightly expect from a country pub: hearty and refined cuisine.
14-16 Hoddle Street, Burrawang | burrawangvillagehotel.com.au
The general store
This place is a Southern Highland institution. Built in 1867, the iconic building has grown from a traditional general store to a culinary destination for locals as well as visitors from further afield.
It serves everything from crispy barramundi, coconut rice, watermelon, mint, lime, and red onion salad to steak sandwiches with caramelized onions, horseradish, cream sauce. garlic and sweet potato fries – be sure to reserve!
Accommodation is also available at the former manager’s residence, Bower Cottage, which is a beautifully restored three-bedroom cottage that sleeps six.
11 Hoddle Street, Burrawang | Open 7 days a week from 8 am to 4 pm | bgsc.com.au
Eat + Read
The book barn chalet
The beautiful Berkelouw Book Business home located on Bendooley Estate, here’s a place to sit and stay awhile.
Built at the turn of the last century, the Book Barn has been transformed to showcase its exposed beams and cathedral ceilings. Best of all, it’s home to tens of thousands of new, used, rare, and old books. If your reading whets you an appetite, head to the popular restaurant, café and vineyard at Domaine Bendooley.
Accommodation has been expanded to include five absolutely dripping luxury cottages in Southern Highland style.
3020 Old Hume Highway, Berrima | bendooleyestate.com.au
Created by Sydney chef and caterer Brigid Kennedy and antique sales partner Kevin Nott, the four cozy bedrooms at The Loch are named after Scottish towns and all include access to a large communal kitchen and living room with a view on the bucolic happiness that surrounds them.
The old stables have been stylishly renovated and guests can indulge in The Tasting Room’s paddock-to-plate menu that showcases Brigid’s expertise. Anyone for Crispy Salt and Pepper Spring Thirlmere Chicken with Pink Ginger Tangelo Salsa and Steamed Chinese Broccoli, or maybe Baby Lamb’s Kibbeh with Slow Braised Middle Sweet and Sour Shoulder of Lamb. -Orient and spring peas?
581 Greenhills Road | theloch.net.au
If you’re looking for something a little different, how about an immersion in a farm stay? Only don’t expect to rush him at Springfield Farm.
This elegant farmhouse has five bedrooms, four bathrooms, and a spacious living and dining area, all furnished in cutting-edge Southern Highland decor. Patio doors open onto 170 acres of country estate, and as a working property you can have the house to yourself, but expect ranchers going about their business.
There is plenty to do if you can tear yourself away from a shady spot observing country life from the wraparound lanai.
350 Ferndale Road, Bundanoon | contemporaryhotels.com.au
PHOTOGRAPHY Photograph by Tim Bean
This article originally appeared in HerCanberra Magazine: FREE for summer 2018/19.