Road Trips

6 Reasons to Drive to the Southern Highlands

What could be more relaxing than a leisurely drive through the country?

Things to do southern highlands
Photo Courtesy Of Destination NSW

The Southern Highlands is an hour and a half drive from Sydney, making it a popular destination for Sydneysiders looking to escape the city for a weekend. Once you hop on the Grand Pacific Drive, expect to find rural vistas, charming European towns, wineries, and historic sites. It’s hard to believe this rural paradise is only a short drive away, but the proof is in the pies here. Here are six reasons to drive to this pretty region. 

MORE: How To Road Trip Your Way Through The Southern Highlands Pie Time Festival

Southern Highlands Bendooley Estate
Photo Courtesy of Destinations NSW

Hop on the wine trail

There are over 60 vineyards and 15 cellar doors in the Southern Highlands, making it worth the drive, without being overwhelmed with choices. Most cellar doors are close to the highway, so you can stop in and shop before heading back on the road. The majority of the vineyards here make cool-climate wines including chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, and merlot. Some vineyards are smaller, such as Cherry Tree Hill, producing award-winning premium wines, and others have restaurants, such as Bendooley Estate. Book in for a tasting and a lunch, or opt-in for a wine tour with a local company, depending on which town you visit or stay in. Some notable wineries worth a visit include Centennial Vineyards, Tertini Wines, Artemis Wines and Distillery, Joadja Estate, and PepperGreen Estate.

Southern Highlands Pies
Photo Courtesy of Destination Southern Highlands/HCreations

Eat a ridiculous amount of pies

Whether you plan to visit Bowral, Mittagong, Berrima, or Moss Vale, each town, big and small has a pie shop. Behind that pie shop is a family recipe, a grandmother, or an award for the best pastry, filling, and pies in Australia. There are around 30 pie outlets to visit. The reason they’ve won awards is because of the produce and of course, multi-generational recipes. Most pie makers here use local produce, including beef, lamb, and vegetables to fill their pies. Gumnut Patisserie is well known for its pies. You will often find a line around the best pie shops in town. During winter, each town participates in a Pie Time Festival, which celebrates all things pies. Although, pies are enjoyable all year round, so here are some pie shops you don’t want to miss: Polly’s Pies and Pastries, Sonoma Bakery Bowl, Heatherbraes Pies, Baked in Berrima, Bowral Hotel, Flour Water Salt, and Robertson Pie Shop.

Things to do kids Southern Highlands
Photo Courtesy Of Destination NSW

Road trip with the whole family

The Southern Highlands is a playground for kids, from the wonderful parks to the museums and treetops adventure park. The Bradman Museum is home to all things cricket, and for a stunning view head to Fitzroy Falls visitor centre. Here, explore the park, enjoy the views from lookouts, and walk the boardwalk to find more natural sights. There are 15 lookouts to view and six kilometres of walking tracks to cover. At night, venture to find glow worms or enjoy a puppetry performance at the Australian Puppet Centre Inc. There is also a rail museum and entertainment centre with events and performances on all the time. Be sure to stop by Lolly Swagman for sweet treats, including fudge. 

Carrington Falls
Photo By Kramer Photography/ www.kramer.photography

Hike the trails and walk the historic sites

On a nice day, there is no better way to enjoy the Southern Highlands than by foot. Here, walking is more popular than bikes and cars. There are bush walks, town walks, and historic walks, which will help you get acquainted with the region. The Berrima River Walk is a new walk guiding visitors along the river bank and takes an hour return trip. The Box Vale Walking Track follows the formation of a historic railway line and passes through cuttings, along embankments and through a tunnel 84 metres in length. The Barren Grounds Nature Reserve is a best-kept secret of Robertson, boasting views of the Illawarra Coast Line and surrounding countryside. Another stop to add to your list is Carrington Falls, where visitors can swim, walk the tracks, and view a striking waterfall while having a picnic.

things to do Bowral
Photo Courtesy Of Destination NSW

Explore the heritage sites in each town

The region is made up of several towns and villages, each with its own history and character. In Bowral, you will find Cherry Trees and the Cherry Tree Walk at the Vietnam War Memorial. Other towns are steeped in iron ore and coal history, corruption and theft, and colonial architecture. Visit Berrima Courthouse, or partake in the Berrima Historic Walk to discover the town’s past. In Burrawang, the General Store is a culinary destination and must-visit historic site. Harper’s Mansion is also a great place to discover a colonial Georgian style house with strolling gardens and a large hedge maze. There are several historic walks and sites to see in the region.

where to shop southern highlands
Photo Courtesy Of Destination NSW

Spend hours roaming the boutique shops and specialty stores

One of the major allures to small towns is the shopping. Rather than the major stores, boutique and specialty shops often stock little treasures and unique items guaranteed to strike up a conversation. Whether you’re shopping for a new hat, outfit, or for your home, chances are you will find something special in the region. Bowral is great for antiques, and homewares. Dirty Janes is a popular spot for vintage clothing, antique furniture, and lighting. On any given weekend, there are bound to be markets filled with gems just waiting to be discovered. The Mossy Store in Moss Vale has a lot of beautiful homewares including vases, furniture, and rugs. If you’re looking for good shops, walk down any main street in town and you’ll find what you’re looking for.

Need somewhere to stay?

Taking time out for that short break away is something we all forget to do. Visiting midweek is great when you want a charming town to yourself, and the weekends are perfect for indulging in local food and attending farmers markets. There are plenty of options when it comes to accommodation. You can stay in the newly minted Berrima Vault House, find a charming cottage in Mittagong, or rent a house for the weekend and invite the family. You can find beautifully designed properties on Airbnb including this off-grid house in Sutton Forest or this gorgeous terrace house in the heart of Bowral, adjacent to Corbett Gardens, so you’re never more than a skip away from tulips.

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Road Trips

Come Across Steam Trains, Ghost Towns and Lions on This Road Trip to the Desert

Drive from a lush rainforest to an arid red desert.

blue mountains silverton road trip
Photo: Destination NSW

From crisp mountain air, lush rainforests, and a string of townships to ghost towns and baron, arid desert, this epic road trip shows off New South Wales’ complex mountain ranges, plateaus, and escarpments of The Great Dividing Range. The road trip starts in the world-famous Blue Mountains and ends in Silverton, a small mining town most notably known as the dusty red background in the Mad Max movies. Over 12 hours, embark on a journey through World-Heritage Listed national parks, wine and food regions, mining towns, and farming regions.

This road trip guide will show you all the best places to stop along the way.

blue mountains silverton road trip
Photo: Destination NSW

Blue Mountains to Mudgee

Start your journey in the Blue Mountains by exploring several townships steeped in history and heritage. There are endless hikes to tackle and waterfalls to chase, including Wentworth Falls, Fairfax Heritage Trail, and The Grand Canyon. Visit the famous Three Sisters rock formation in Katoomba, or stop into Lithgow, board the Zig Zag Railway, and experience the magic of steam trains. It’s up to you to choose your Blue Mountains adventure, but we suggest stopping for a pie at Bill’s Old Fashioned Cakes and Pies.

If you have a 4WD, add The Lost City to your itinerary. As its name suggests, it isn’t the easiest of finds but worth the search. Geological formations made up of layers of ironstone and sandstone has weathered in a way to resemble pagodas and a forgotten civilization that once was. If you don’t have a 4WD, you can head to Hassan’s Wall Lookout—the highest lookout in the Blue Mountains.

You can also stop at Capertee Valley for panoramic views of the valley. Most people don’t realise Capertee Valley is the world’s second-largest canyon and definitely worth a quick stop into Pearson’s Lookout.

The next stop is Mudgee, home to organic and biodynamic tipples and unforgettable dining experiences focused on farm-to-plate. We suggest staying the night to immerse yourself in the gastronome experience and friendly hospitality. There are tiny cabins, glamping options, luxury homestays and the usual regional hotels to choose from. Regarding dining, head to Alby and Esthers for coffee in a circa-1873 stone terrace building, Pipeclay Pumphouse for breakfast, and Roth’s Wine Bar for a late-night tipple.

Logan Wines is a great place to devour a cheeseboard and sip wines with views of the vines. Lowe Wines produces small-batch organic tipples, and Robert Stein Winery and Vineyard is known for its award-winning wines and is hiding a motorcycle museum in the basement.

blue mountains silverton road trip
Photo: Destination NSW

Mudgee to Nyngan

Continue the journey to Dubbo and spend the day on an African safari. The Taronga Western Plains Zoo is home to hundreds of rare and endangered animals, including rhinos and big cats, where you can come face to face with a lion. You can walk, drive or ride around the Zoo’s five-kilometre circuit and watch daily keeper activities. In the city centre, you can visit the Old Dubbo Gaol and admire the ornate architecture and explore the stories of pioneers and bushrangers on the Dubbo Heritage Walk.

Hankering for a pub feed? Stop by one of the classic country pubs for refreshments, such as the 1882-built Milestone Hotel. There are quality restaurants like Veltd and charming cafes – try the gourmet pies at the Village Bakery CafĂ©, family operated since 1918. You can also enjoy wine tasting at the Red Earth Estate Vineyard.

After exploring Dubbo, make the journey to Nyngan, a small town sitting on the edge of the tranquil Bogan River. One of the more popular things to do in town is to get a selfie with the tongue-in-cheek Big Bogan—a five-metre tall statue sporting a mullet, Southern Cross tattoo, fishing rod, esky, and stubbies. At the Nyngan Museum, explore the town’s history through a captivating collection of artefacts and displays. Learn about the 1835 journey of explorer Major Thomas Mitchell to reach the Bogan River, and the important role railway has played in Nyngan’s history.

The Mid-State Shearing Shed honours the local shearing industry, showcasing shearing memorabilia. Housed in a former railway shed, you’ll find shearing equipment and stalls, bag stencils and murals by local artists.

Stay the night at Alomo Motor Inn in one of their 15 air-conditioned rooms.

blue mountains silverton road trip
Photo: Destination NSW

Nyngan to White Cliffs

Nyngan is situated at the start of the Barrier Highway, which takes you straight to Silverton and onto the heritage-listed city Broken Hill. Follow the highway, stopping at Cobar, a town rich in mining heritage and natural attractions. See restored mining equipment at the Cobar Miner’s Heritage Park, and check out the defunct Great Cobar Copper Mine from the 1830s. Head to the viewing platform at Fort Bourke Hill Lookout for incredible views.

If you do one thing in Cobar, it would be to order a chicken parmi at the Great Western Hotel.

Jump back on the road until you come across Wilcannia, a once-thriving Darling River port. Today, you can still see some of the town’s treasures, including the old-centre lift bridge, the 1880 Post Office, the Athenaeum Library and the Courthouse. Stop at Emmdale Roadhouse for a coffee and a bite to eat.

The next and final stop of the day is at White Cliffs, an active opal mining town, where you can sleep in an underground motel. The all-white dugouts are unique and make for a memorable experience. While in town, visit opal showrooms and purchase locally mined opals to get cut and set by jewellers. 

blue mountains silverton road trip
Photo: Destination NSW

White Cliffs to Silverton

The next leg of the journey is to Broken Hill, where you can discover the charm of outback Australia. Take the Broken Hill Heritage Walk Tour to discover the town’s charm, character and history. There are plenty of museums and galleries to wander around, including the oldest regional gallery in NSW and the Albert Kersten Mining and Mineral Museum where you can see artifacts and thousands of specimens from the city’s mining history, including a 42kg silver nugget.

You can’t leave Broken Hill without ordering a soda spider from Bells, a 1950s Australian Milk Bar that doubles as a museum.

Drive north of Broken Hill to Silverton, where you can stand at the edge of the world. The wide and flat space of the Mundi Mundi Plains looks endless and gives the feeling that you might be at the edge of the world. It’s best taken in from Mundi Mundi Lookout.

Silverton has starred in many iconic Australian films, including Mad Max 2, which you can explore at the Mad Max Museum in town. Get an insight into the harsh realities of mining a century ago by taking an underground tour through a former silver mine at Historic Daydream Mine.

Book the Priscilla Suite at the Palace Hotel if you’re planning to stay in Silverton. You’ll likely recognize the venue as one of the stopovers from the iconic movie Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. 

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