Culture Trip's Guide to the Southern Highlands, Australia

Wineries are scattered in between verdant hills and tiny towns in the Southern Highlands, Australia
Wineries are scattered in between verdant hills and tiny towns in the Southern Highlands, Australia | © David Wall / Alamy Stock Photo
Amy Blyth

Head to Australia’s Southern Highlands for a dose of history, nature and award-winning wine. Located just 90 minutes from Sydney, the Highlands are a wonderland of stately hotels and English colonial towns dotted with antique stores. Stop at a welcoming cellar door for some local food and wine, then hike through rainforests to crashing waterfalls in an ancient national park.

Where to stay

1. The Robertson


The Robertson Hotel, New South Wales
Courtesy of The Robertson Hotel /

Come to The Robertson for a five-star stay in a historic estate near Bowral, built in 1924. Picture tall ceilings and sparkly chandeliers, stained-glass windows and huge fireplaces. Stay in one of the 50 rooms or four penthouse suites, complete with hand-crafted Egyptian bed frames and original features like mosaic bathroom tiles, as well as views of the 14-acre (5.7ha) gardens. Highlights include a cavernous dining room, sunroom for afternoon teas and a grand ballroom.

2. Gibraltar Hotel Bowral

Hotel, Spa Hotel, Golf Hotel

Gibraltar Hotel Bowral, New South Wales
Courtesy of Gibraltar Hotel Bowral /

Set among the fields and forests of Bowral, Gibraltar Hotel is a boutique property loved for its opulent spa and golf course. Suites boast marble bathrooms with whirlpool baths, balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows that show off views of the 18-hole golf course, lake and cypress tree groves. Don’t miss a pampering session at the spa, which offers a range of treatments using natural products. There’s also fine dining to be had at the San Fior restaurant and cocktails by the fireplace at Harvey’s Bar.

3. Peppers Craigieburn

Hotel, Golf Hotel

Peppers Craigieburn, New South Wales
Courtesy of Gibraltar Hotel Bowral /

Peppers Craigieburn is a sprawling country estate that dates back to 1887. The hotel is surrounded by landscaped gardens and has its own nine-hole golf course that looks out over the rolling Highlands. If you’re feeling active, there are also tennis courts and a billiards room, as well as guest lounges and terraces where you can enjoy a glass of wine. Rooms are set in two wings, Elms and Morton, and retain the original building’s heritage style while incorporating modern features like rain showers.

What to do

4. Tour local wineries


Low angle looking between the rows of grapes vines after pruning. Scenic rural landscape of grapevines.
© Julie Angove / Alamy Stock Photo

The Southern Highlands is a wine lover’s paradise, home to over 60 vineyards specialising in cool-climate varieties such as Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs and Rieslings. You’ll find wineries scattered in between verdant hills and tiny towns. Some of the best include the family-run Artemis Wines, the Tractorless Vineyard, which produces eco-friendly bottles, and Southern Highlands Winery, known for its Italian lineage. Take a tour and tasting session, and then stop at a cellar door for some fine local dining.

5. Visit Carrington Falls

Natural Feature

Amazing Carrington Falls - 160 meters high. New South Wales, Australia
© Piter Lenk / Alamy Stock Photo

Carrington Falls are an impressive natural wonder in the Highlands. Set in Budderoo National Park, the falls cascade 50 metres (164ft) into a gully surrounded by water holes where you can cool off. Have lunch at the nearby Thomas Place picnic area before setting out on a walking trail. The Carrington Falls Walking Track is a simple 0.6-kilometre (0.37mi) loop that passes several viewing points where you can get a majestic view of the falls.

6. Cruise along Sea Cliff Bridge


Sea Cliff Bridge near Wollongong south of Sydney New South Wales Australia aerial
© David Wall / Alamy Stock Photo

Take a drive through pristine Highland fields, forests and pastures to Australia’s Sea Cliff Bridge. The 665-metre-long (2,182ft) structure is a key stop on the Grand Pacific Drive, which stretches down the coast of New South Wales. This makes for a perfect detour if you’re travelling between the Highlands and Sydney. Stop to walk across the photogenic, s-shaped bridge, which is suspended above the ocean – you might even catch a glimpse of migrating whales if you’re lucky.

Where to eat

7. Pizzas in the Mist

Pizzeria, Italian

Tandoori Chicken Pizza on wooden table
© Oran Tantapakul / Alamy Stock Photo

If you’re craving a slice of carby goodness, Robertson’s Pizzas in the Mist will hit the spot. Owned by local couple Belinda and Thomas Borbely, the restaurant is known to serve the best woodfired pizza in the Highlands. As well as staples like the margherita, you can opt for gourmet pizzas like the peking duck, tandoori chicken or lamb souvlaki. The dining room is usually buzzing with activity, and you’ll likely be greeted by the owners, who ooze hospitality.

8. Raw and Wild Market Cafe

Market, Cafe, Vegan

Stack of freshly prepared blueberry ricotta pancakes with fresh berries, yogurt and honey for breakfast
© Ekaterina Smirnova / Alamy Stock Photo

Searching for a healthy meal? Then, Raw & Wild in Bowral is a must. Choose from an ever-changing menu of wholesome dishes made from regional produce, many of which are vegan- and veggie-friendly, with gluten-free options available. Try an all-day breakfast dish such as the ricotta buttermilk hotcakes or the wild coconut curry for lunch. A small play area and outdoor dining area create a family- and dog-friendly feel. Be sure to browse the organic market on your way out.

9. Southern Highlands Brewing Taphouse

Brasserie, Pub, French

Duck confit , Roasted duck with blueberry sauce
© Oran Tantapakul / Alamy Stock Photo

The Taphouse is a pub in Moss Vale and is owned by the award-winning Southern Highlands brewery. There’s a trendy Art Deco feel to the place, with leather sofas for lounging. Choose from a comforting menu that includes pasta, pizza and french-brasserie favourites, such as the confit of duck and grass-fed T-bone steak. Wash it all down with a selection of their signature brews, which include Australian blonde, red ale and indian pale ale varieties.

For great places to stay in Australia, check out our pick of the best hotels in Kiama, New South Wales, bookable on Culture Trip.

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