Discover the best things to do in Bowral in New South Wales and a few hidden gems in the surrounding areas in this ultimate guide! If you’re missing the British countryside, or you’re sick of looking at concrete in Sydney, escape the city on a day trip from Sydney or weekend away in Bowral.
I just love Bowral and the rest of the Southern Highlands as it reminds me of the British countryside. We used to visit Bowral a lot a few years back, but since we’ve been travelling up and down the East Coast of Australia recently, it was so nice to come back and remember how gorgeous it truely is.
Bowral is the main town in the Southern Highlands. Although I used to call the whole area Kangaroo Valley, Kangaroo Valley is actually one of the other towns which make up the Southern Highlands. Whilst there are so many things to do in Southern Highlands, we’re talking specifically about Bowral in today’s article.
This town is a foodies dream, with restaurants, winery tours and gorgeous shops to spend a beautiful day trip from Sydney. Visit some of the nearby towns and attractions, throw in some of the beautiful country drives, and you’ve got yourself a fun filled weekend from Sydney.
So, let’s get started and share some of the most beautiful things to do in Bowral!
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How To Get To Bowral In New South Wales
Bowral is actually one of the easiest day trips from Sydney or weekends away by train. It takes almost the same time to drive to Bowral as it does to catch the train. With it being just 1h30m travel time, you have enough time to make the most of your trip.
Almost everywhere we mention in this article is accessible by foot from Bowral train station. If you don’t drive, you’ll miss out on the exceptional Red Cow Farm Gardens, an amazing country drive, walking tracks and the famous Southern Highlands waterfalls.
Personally, I would drive because you’ll be able to see so much more. If I was driving, I would travel to Bowral inland via Campbelltown, then drive down to Kangaroo Valley, stop off in Berry and up via the coast on the way back.
I’ll write a Bowral Itinerary soon to help you plan your trip if needed. If you’re interested in more of a foodies trip with some shopping thrown in, then catch the train! In the meantime, you can check out our full guide to Southern Highlands!
Watch Our Southern Highlands Video
We filmed our entire trip to Bowral and the rest of the Southern Highlands to give you some inspiration!
Things To Do In Bowral
We’re going to break this Bowral guide up with the best restaurants, things to do and where to stay, so you have everything you need to know in one place.
There are so many amazing places to eat in Bowral, just be prepared to spend the whole day eating your way through the town! Here are some of the best Bowral restaurants.
1. The Mill For Lunch & Co-Working
We actually went to check out the co-working space at The Mill and couldn’t believe what we stumbled across – a cool street food area, complete with a great office space. I doubt we would have found this place otherwise – it’s tucked away at the very end of the main street in Bowral.
If you’re looking for co-working spaces in Bowral, or you simply need to catch up with some work whilst you’re in Southern Highlands, just pull up a seat at The Mill in the food court area. You can organise a seat in the co-working space offices as well if needed.
There’s a BYO section in the food court, so you can bring your own drinks and have a cheap lunch or dinner here. It’s only open for dinner on Friday nights FYI.
Choose between the Veggie Nook, Ms Pho, Sweet Retreat Gelato, Cellar Door Sales Little Wine Bar and Black Sheep Smoked Meats. Steve had the pho from Ms Pho and I went for the Veggie Nook and had gnocchi. Whilst I was ordering the owners at Veggie Nook basically told me to order the fried green tomatoes, so I did. Even though it’s definitely not something I would ever order, Steve and I were both blown away by it. The Veggie Nook is fantastic street food.
If street food isn’t your thing, head to The Mill Cafe inside the complex. It looks like a great cafe, and somewhere we would personally go if we had more time.
Address: The Mill, 210-224 Bong Bong St, Bowral NSW 2576
2. The Press Shop For Breakfast
The last time I came to Bowral, I remember thinking how beautiful The Press Shop looked, but felt that it may have been a bit too expensive. This time round, I made sure we made a beeline to it for breakfast. Truth is, although it is simply gorgeous from the outside, as soon as you walk in, you’ll realise there’s no reason to feel intimidated at all. The staff are excellent and make you feel welcomed, and I knew there was nothing to worry about.
I ordered the mushrooms on toast which is excellent and Steve ordered the pancakes. He said they are the best pancakes he’s ever eaten!
3. Harrys On Green Lane A For Special Lunch Or Dinner
Harry’s On Green Lane is probably one of Bowral’s most famous restaurants. This absolutely stunning restaurant is so beautiful, you’d be mad not to dine here. They have specific seating times at lunch and dinner so make sure you book beforehand. You’ll have to order the set menu for dinner, and at least one course for lunch. Understandably it’s not cheap though. We booked ourselves in for lunch but we were so full from breakfast, we had to cancel. I totally regret that now. Next time, we’ll 100% make sure we eat here.
Next door to Harrys On Green Lane is Plantation Cafe. This is such a gorgeous cafe, I will totally eat breakfast here next time we come to Bowral. The menu is actually very reasonably priced too! I love the selection of teas behind the counter and the gifts you can buy too. Plus! They sell Hunter Candles which we just love after we met the owner in their shop in St Peters.
Address: Plantation Cafe, Next to Dirty Janes, 21 Banyette St, Bowral NSW 2576
5. Girls & Boys For Pastries
We loved Girls & Boys Cafe in Bowral for their outdoor seating area which totally made us feel like we could have been in somewhere in Europe. The pastries look amazing too!
If you’re looking for a cheap breakfast in Bowral or takeaway, go to Vudu Food Bar and pick up an acai bowl or a healthy sandwich and take it to Corbett Gardens (mentioned in this article) to escape the crowds.
When you wonder into Dirty Janes Antique Shop, you might not even notice there’s a tea rooms near to the counter at the very back of the shop. Inside, it’s actually really cool, much better than our photo shows it above. This is a fun kitsch way to make yourself feel like you’re back in England again! Simply order scones and some cucumber sandwiches and you’ll feel right at home!
Berkelouw Book Barn in Berrima is high on our list to visit, but unfortunately we ran out of time during our recent visit to Southern Highlands. This gorgeous bookstore and cafe is one of a kind, is also popular with weddings. In fact, when we attempted to visit, a wedding was taking place – but we arrived too late in the day, just after 5pm (it’s open between 8am – 5pm).
Although it’s not in Bowral, this unique cafe is somewhere I would personally want to visit when going on a day trip to Bowral from Sydney. It’s under a 10 minute drive to Berkelouw Book Barn from Bowral.
10. Go For A Drink At The Surveyer General Inn in Berrima
After you’ve been to Berkelouw Book Barn, drive down the road to and have a drink at The Surveyor General Inn. We just loved going for a drink at The Surveyor General Inn in Berrima at sunset. The light, air and atmosphere of the pub reminded us so much of England. Plus! They serve up a decent wine and beer here too! It’s a must visit on a day trip to Bowral!
Address: The Surveyor General Inn, 26 Old Hume Hwy, Berrima NSW 2577
Things To Do In Bowral
There are loads of things to do in Bowral, from winey tours, to antique shops and so much more. Here are some of the highlights!
11. Wine Tour With A Local
Discover some hidden gems when you join a wine tour with a Bowral local resident called Peter. He’ll share some of the hidden gems to visit in the area, as well as the best boutique wineries where the cellar masters will welcome you personally. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn all about the wineries while supporting local businesses in Bowral.
So we’ve already talked about Harrys On Green Lane and Plantation Cafe, which are both located at The Green Lane. If I could compare it to anywhere, The Green Lane feels a bit like The Grounds Of Alexandria, but with more of a plant vibe with gorgeous shops and cafes under one roof.
Below are some of the other shops in The Green Lane to check out.
13. Dirty Janes Antique Shop
Dirty Janes in Bowral is a bit of an institution. You can’t come all the way to Bowral and not visit Dirty Janes. It’s an antique shop in a large warehouse and fun to walk around and checkout the hidden gems for sale.
As plant lovers, we loved The Orangery & Potting Shed. The space itself is so beautiful, you could spend all day here checking out the plants for sale.
15. Lancelot Hill
I love Lancelot Hill, maybe because I grew up in a Tudor house but, I’ve never seen anything else quite like it in Australia before. Tudor-style buildings have been built inside this antique shop, and it’s something so cool to go and check out, you’ll feel properly like you’re back in England in no time!
Address: Lancelot Hill, 379-385 Bong Bong Street, Bowral NSW 2576
17. Corbett Gardens
Corbett Gardens is a good place to escape the main street in Bowral and have some time to chill out away from it all (Bowral can be very busy with Sydney tourists on weekends). Order a takeaway and have a picnic in the sunshine. This is also the main centra of the famous Tulip Time festival which we will talk more about in this article.
A visit to Bowral would not be complete without visiting the famous Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame (if cricket is your thing!). This museum celebrates the great cricketer of all time, Don Bradman and various bits of memorabilia of cricket throughout time can be seen here too.
Did you know Bowral is known to be the inspiration behind the character of Mary Poppins? The author Pamela L Travers lived in the area during her teenage years, and so a Mary Poppins birth place statue is located at Glebe Park, behind the Bradman Museum.
Address: Mary Poppins Statue, Glebe Park, Bowral.
20. Retford Park Gardens
Retford Park welcomes you to explore the beautiful gardens on the first weekend of the month. Bring a picnic and enjoy being in the heart of the countryside in Bowral. There is an entrance fee of $15 for adults, and $10 for concessions. If you’re a National Trust member, it’s free!
21. Discover The Beautiful Red Cow Farm in Moss Vale
Although Red Cow Farm is located in the nearby town of Moss Vale, we’re including it on this list because it blew us away. I randomly found this beautiful garden after researching gardens in the area for another article. There wasn’t much written about it, but I knew it would be a hidden gem – and what do you know? The gardens are hidden behind a gorgeous English county style cottage. They are expansive with sculptures placed throughout. The real gem is the turquoise pond in the middle of the gardens. We loved it!
It costs $15 pp to gain access to the gardens. We found out the hard way and went in the wrong entrance, only to be greeted by a not so friendly man. Access to the cottage is by the main road.
Tulip Time Festival is one of the oldest flower festivals in Australia, which attracts thousands of visitors. Corbett Gardens is the focal point of the festival which comes alive in from mid September – beginning of October.
When we got up early in the morning after our stay in Bowral, we drove to Kangaroo Valley via Fitzroy Falls. The drive between the falls and Kangaroo Valley is breathtaking. It winds down the hill and to our surprise we were above the clouds. It was so amazing, we pulled over on the side of the road and flew our drone up to capture the incredible sight. Regardless of the clouds, it’s a beautiful drive and a highlight of our trip.
Address: Moss Vale Road
24. Weekend Meditation Retreat At Sunnatarum Forest Monastary
Although Sunnatarum Forest Monastary isn’t technically in Bowral and in the neighbouring town of Bundanoon, it’s worth mentioning in this article because it’s such a special place. We’ve been three times now, and if we lived nearby, we would come here all the time.
Run by volunteers and Thai Monks, they hold weekend meditation retreats near Sydney so you can unwind and clear your head. Or if dedicating a whole weekend isn’t an option right now, pop by for a guided meditation and teaching from 10-11am on Sundays, followed by lunch.
If you’ve never meditated before, this is the perfect place to come. Rather than just meditating for hours on end (like at a Vipassana I did in Blue Mountains), your time is split up between walking and sitting meditation, tai chi overlooking Kangaroo Valley (and out to Jervis Bay on a good day) and teaching sessions.
Every time I’ve been to this meditation retreat in Bundanoon, I come away feeling like I’ve been away for ages (in a good way), and I feel like a much better version of myself. I’m calmer, have a much clearer head, and I’m reminded to act differently in some situations I may have done so before.
I worked with a lady when I first came to Sydney who was in her 60s at the time, and I told her about Sunnatarum. She went to there one weekend having never meditation, and came back thanking me because she got so much out of it.
A visit to the countryside wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a maze! Harper’s Mansion in Berrima is the perfect day out for families in Southern Highlands. With two acres of gardens to walk around, have fun at one of the largest hedge mazes in Australia!
The maze is only open on weekends and there’s a small entrance fee to get in. We planned to go and visit as we both love a good maze, but we ran out of time unfortunately.
The Box Vale Walking Track in Mittagong is a fantastic hike for those looking to get right into the middle of the countryside. There are a couple of options with his hike you can consider.
Hike to Natti Gorge Lookout (1h10m total walking time // 5km)
Hike to 40 Foot Falls (4hr – 5hr total walking time // 12.5km)
If you opt to continue onto 40 Foot Falls, it gets harder along the way and steeper. You’ll need to wear decent hiking boots for this hike! You can bring dogs as it’s technically not in a National Park! Look forward to the tunnel on the Natti Gorge Lookout hike – it’s one for the kids! You can check out our guide for our 7 Tips For The Box Vale Walking Track below.
Head up to Mount Gibraltar Reserve for epic views of the town at Bowral Lookout. Don’t worry about having to do any hiking, you can drive right up to the lookout!
Address: 223 Oxley Dr, Mittagong NSW 2575
28. Waterfalls In Bowral
Technically there aren’t any waterfalls in Bowral to visit, but there are loads to visit nearby. Head over to Fitzroy Falls, Belmore Falls and Carrington Falls as well as many more. Fitzroy Falls is the closest waterfall to Bowral to visit on the way down to Kangaroo Valley. We’re being a little vague on this because you can read our guide for the best waterfalls in Kangaroo Valley below!
If you’re wondering whether it’s worth going to Bowral for the weekend, the answer is yes! There is so much to do in the area and surrounding towns, we felt rushed during our last visit, and could have stayed for ages.
Here are some of the best hotels in Bowral you should check out! Click on the links to see the photos of the different types of accommodation we’ve chosen for you.