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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.