The Ultimate Guide To Southern Highlands In NSW (Incl. Map)
Thinking about going to Southern Highlands in NSW, but unsure where to start with planning your Sydney getaway? Known as one of the best day trips from Sydney, or even day trips from Canberra, the NSW Southern Highlands is often regarded as one of the best places to visit near Sydney.
I used to think the whole Southern Highlands area was called Kangaroo Valley. Truth is, it’s one of the towns which makes up the Southern Highlands. There are loads of gorgeous towns to visit in Southern Highlands, but which one’s should you go to? If you’re heading down on a day trip from Sydney, there’s only so much you’ll be able to do.
We recommend going for a weekend getaway from Sydney, if not longer (if you can). If you’re wondering why you should visit the Southern Highlands, it’s home to a beautiful English looking countryside. And, if you’re a British expat in Australia, you might find it comforting, if you’re missing home.
Southern Highlands is renowned for wineries, excellent cafes and restaurants, vintage shops, some of the best waterfalls in Sydney and of course some epic hikes and lookouts you need to check out. Need we say anymore?
So, we’re going to break down the towns you need to visit, including where to eat, stay and the best things to do. We have already written a few detailed guides on some of the Southern Highlands towns already, which we’ll link in this article as well so you can read more about them if they peak your interest.
Table of Contents
When To Visit Southern Highlands?
You could visit Southern Highlands all year round. It’s going to look spectacular during Spring and Autumn though! A perfect time to visit would be to co-inside a visit with Tulip Time Festival in Spring. We visited at the end of Summer, a perfect time to enjoy the wild swimming spots, so it just depends on what you’re interested in doing.
Southern Highlands Map
Here is our Southern Highlands map so you can visually see where every place we mention in this guide is located.
Where To Stop On the Way To Southern Highlands
If you’re into wild swimming in Sydney, drive to Southern Highlands via Campbelltown and stop off at some of the epic waterfalls nearby. Or if you’re going via the coast, there’s some fantastic places you should stop off to visit as well.
Personally, we recommend driving via Campbelltown because it’s quicker to get to and start in Bowral. Then finish in Kangaroo Valley, and make a beeline to Berry on the way home via the coastal route. This means you’ll be able to tick off some fantastic places along the way.
Here’s some of the places you should keep in mind to visit on the way down to Southern Highlands.
Inland Route To Bowral
If you’re going to Southern Highlands for a weekend from Sydney, stop off at the following swimming spots if you’re visiting in Summer. I would allow a good two hours to visit one of these swimming holes in Sydney.
Stop off in Dharawal National Park and swim in Minerva Pool. Please keep in mind that Minerva Pool is a sacred Aboriginal pool, and only women and children are allowed to swim in it.
Or hike 30 minutes to the incredible Mermaid Pool in Tahmoor. The only problem is you’ll need to jump into the pool and it’s not exactly safe – there have been many casualties. It’s best to go and check out the pool, but turn around and head slightly back up the creek and swim in the beautiful See Through Pools instead.
Stop off at Stanwell Tops and check out the incredible views looking out to Sea Cliff Bridge. If you’re fit enough (and not with kids), find the secret Sea Cliff Bridge lookout and head over to The Scarborough Hotel for lunch. It’s got a brilliant cliff top beer garden out the back.
If you’re looking to do some cultural activities, stop off at the beautiful Sri Venkateswara Temple in Helensborough and Nan Tien Temple which is the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere.
Let’s not forget about visiting the largest blow hole in the world in Kiama and the beautiful Bomobo Rocks in Kiama as well. If you head this way, detour to Berry before starting the Southern Highlands trip in Kangaroo Valley. Berry is an absolutely gorgeous town you should spend the weekend in as well. Although it’s famous for a doughnut van, the town is beautiful, filled with beautiful shops, pubs and restaurants.
Which Towns To Visit in Southern Highlands
If you’re unsure which towns to visit in Southern Highlands, we’re going to help you out by talking about our favourite places to visit.
If you’re spending the day in Southern Highlands, we recommend either heading straight for Bowral or Kangaroo Valley. Then work your way up or down the Highlands stopping off at a couple of places along the way.
Bowral is a great place for those looking for an easy going day trip from Sydney. With a direct train line from Sydney, simply jump on the train and explore the shops, cafes and restaurants to choose from. It’s basically a foodies dream in the largest town in the area.
Kangaroo Valley is much smaller (literally like one street) and has a cracking pub and a couple of great cafes to visit. It’s also perfect for those looking to go kayaking, hiking or swimming or waterfall chasing. So bring your car for this one and go on some beautiful drives and soak up the country air.
So, let’s get into it and share the best towns to visit in Southern Highlands.
Southern Highlands Most Popular Town: Bowral
Bowral in Southern Highlands is the perfect day trip from Sydney on the train. It’s the main town in Southern Highlands and it’s a beautiful small town which has attracted many Sydneysiders to relocate to since Covid.
With direct trains, you can literally hop off and enjoy walking around the shops, whilst exploring some of the best places to eat in Southern Highlands. With loads to do, it’s the place to visit for foodies and anyone who is interested in having a walk around the shops, without really venturing too far. If you come down on the train, you won’t be able to visit the waterfalls in the area.
Here are some of our favourite places to explore in Bowral.
Mid Range:Berida Hotel has massive beds, indoor swimming pool, spa, tennis court and day spa.
Another Mid Range Option:Peppers Craigieburn Resort is a stunning resort in the heart of Bowral, with a 9 hole golf course and beautiful landscaped gardens.
Luxury:Milton Park Country House boasts 2 tennis courts, a day spa and an indoor swimming pool, free breakfast, Wi-Fi and lovely garden views.
When looking for breakfast in Bowral, we recommend checking out The Press Shop or Plantation Cafe and Gumnut Patisserie for croissants. The beautiful restaurant called Harry’s On Green Lane is not to be missed for lunch or dinner. The restaurant itself is absolutely beautiful and reminds me something you would see back home in England.
The Mill is fantastic for cheap street food. Go to the Veggie Nook at The Mill for fantastic gnocchi and incredible fried green tomatoes. Bear in mind, The Mill is only open during the week. Don’t forget to discover Dirty Janes cafe at the back of the shop for a quirky Devonshire Tea.
Things To Do In Bowral
You can’t come to Bowral without going on a wine tour with a local. Make sure you visit the gorgeous Retford Park Gardens, Bowral Lookout, Dirty Janes antique shop & The Orangery both at Green Lane. Green Lane kinda reminds me of The Grounds Of Alexandria, but with plant shops, cafes and an antique shop. It’s beautiful there and makes for some nice images too!
Around the corner is Lancelot Hill, an amazing antique shop with Tudor style buildings built inside it. It’s a sight to be seen! If you’re looking for Bowral walks, tackle the Box Vale walking track.
Find out more about the best things to do in Bowral in our detailed guide below!
Berrima is an absolutely beautiful town in Southern Highlands. I think it’s one of my favourites! As an historic town, there’s shops and gorgeous little cafes to check out. The main thing for me is that it had this really comforting feeling like I was back in the English countryside here, and I just loved it.
If I had to choose between my favourite places in Southern Highlands, I would choose Berrima, Bowral and Kangaroo Valley.
Where To Stay In Berrima
There’s only one place you want to stay at in Berrima, and that’s the beautiful Bendooley Estate, just a few steps away from the gorgeous Book Barn.
The General Surveyor Inn is the longest continuously licensed pub in Australia! Head here for dinner and drinks and almost feel like you’re in a proper English pub.
Visit the unique Berkelouw Book Barn cafe for breakfast or lunch and of course, you must visit Eschalot for dinner as it’s one of the best places to eat in Southern Highlands!
Things To Do In Berrima
Head to Harpers Mansion Maze, and have fun at one of the biggest hedge mazes in Australia! It’s only open on weekends FYI! Make sure you check out the historical buildings in the village, even the old courthouse and Australia’s longest serving gaol. If you’re brave enough, go on a ghost tour!
Be Enchanted By Moss Vale Gardens
We didn’t love Moss Vale to be honest as it didn’t have the charm of the other towns in Southern Highlands for us. But, what we did find is there is an amazing garden you totally need to check out just on the outskirts in Sutton Forest, which we mention below.
Where To Stay In Moss Vale
Hotel: Stay at Dormie House Hotel which is situated on a golf course, complete with a spa and gardens.
Apartment:Little Chelsea is a gorgeous one bed apartment you’ll have all to yourself.
Moss Vale Restaurants
The Post Office Cafe is the place to go for breakfast or lunch in Moss Vale. Then head to Birch Restaurant for dinner.
Things To Do In Moss Vale
Red Cow Farm certainly feels like a hidden gem (pictured above). With a British style cottage out the front, you’ll find beautiful gardens behind it, complete with a turquoise pond in the middle. We loved it here, it’s got to be one of our favourite finds in the whole of Southern Highlands!
Other places to check out include Cecil Hoskins Nature Reserve which is a bird watchers paradise with over 90 species, and Leighton Gardens.
Find Peace In Bundanoon
Bundanoon in Southern Highlands is another gorgeous town to visit on your day trip from Sydney. Whilst it might not be as popular as other towns in the area, there are some fantastic hidden gems you need to know about.
Mid Range:The Bundanoon Guesthouse has fantastic reviews, complete with a spa bath and kitchenette for a country escape.
Check out DeliLicious in Bundanoon for breakfast and lunch and Bottega Ristorante for an Italian dinner.
Things To Do In Bundanoon
We absolutely love Sunnatarum Forest Monastery in Bundanoon. Having been three times now, it’s a magical meditation retreat in the heart of the Southern Highlands. As a donation based retreat, you’ll spend a weekend practicing walking meditation, sitting meditation, Thai Chi overlooking Jervis Bay in the distance, as well as teachings throughout the day (check out our review below). If you’re not up for committing to a whole weekend, you can drop by for a morning teaching and lunch on a Sunday. Check their site first before attending.
You can also check out the famous Fairy Bower Falls walk in Bundanoon as well. It takes about an hour return to do this hike. There are actually loads of lookout points in the area, as well as the Erith Coal Mine Track too.
Kangaroo Valley is one of the most famous towns to visit in Southern Highlands. Famed for the Kangaroo River and a quaint town that’s so beautiful, you could easily spend a week or two relaxing from city life!
Where To Stay In Kangaroo Valley
CouplesTiny Home: Stay in a super popular tiny home in Kangaroo Valley and tick it off your bucket list! Suitable for couples, it can hold up to 4 people so might suit a family too.
Luxury: Stay at The Laurels B&B, a luxury Kangaroo Valley accommodation option which has exceptional reviews.
Kangaroo Valley Restaurants
Head to The General Cafe for breakfast or lunch, or Hampden Deli for a pastry or quick bite to eat. The Friendly Inn is an amazing pub, and one of the oldest in the region with a fab beer garden out the back, perfect for lunch or dinner.
Things to do in Kangaroo Valley
With so many things to do in Kangaroo Valley, you certainly won’t be be lost for wondering how to fill your time. Start with kayaking down the Kangaroo River, explore the amazing waterfalls in Kangaroo Valley such as Fitzroy Falls, Belmore Falls, Gerringong Falls, and the amazing Flat Rock Waterhole. With the latter, the drive itself up through the Upper Kangaroo Valley is amazing and worth it alone.
Also drive down from Fitzroy Falls to Kangaroo Valley on the Moss Vale Road and if you’re lucky like we were, you might be driving above and into the clouds.
Robertson is another gorgeous town in Southern Highlands to visit. We love the drive from Kangaroo Valley up to Belmore Falls, just outside of Robertson. The drive really reminds me of the English countryside which is something I miss a lot in Australia. Known as the arts hub of Southern Highlands, you’ll find loads to keep you busy here for your day trip from Sydney or weekend getaway.
Many tourists come to Robertson simply to visit the Robertson pie shop. While it’s a tourist attraction, we have eaten better pies before. That said, it’s one of those places, you need to try for yourself.
Head to the gorgeous Robertson Public House for a pub lunch or dinner. It’s a beautiful pub you could spend the whole day at sat in the sunshine in the middle of town.
Things To Do In Robertson
For us, Robertson is all about checking out some of the best waterfalls in Sydney. Make sure you visit Belmore Falls, Carrington Falls and the swimming holes next door including Blue Pool and Nellie’s Glen. There’s a campground next door to Blue Pool, a perfect spot for summertime wild swimming. Head a little out of Robertson and discover the amazing Jump Rock at Macquarie Pass. It’s a 30 minute hike to get there but totally worth it.
Jamberoo is a fantastic place to visit on your way into Southern Highlands or on the way home. Keep in mind there are quite a few excellent activities to do here, so save enough time.
Where To Stay In Jamberoo
Make sure you check out the Ananda Wellness Retreat which has an outdoor pool, hot tub, room service and an excellent restaurant.
Head over to Ananda Green Kitchen for breakfast, Kings Patisserie for lunch and the Jamberoo pub for dinner.
Things To Do In Jamberoo
The most obvious place to visit is Jamberoo Action Park! It’s an awesome waterpark in the heart of the Southern Highlands. We visited years ago and loved it, enough if six year olds were hurrying me along to jump of the diving board because I was scared of heights!
Make sure you also stop off at Jamberoo Lookout. It’s literally just off the main road and doesn’t give you a huge amount of warning, but it’s pretty special as you can see right out to Wollongong.
Make sure you also do the Minnamurra Rainforest Walk too. It’s kinda mad to think there’s a rainforest near Sydney… but there you go! Next door is the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk, a magnificent walk amongst the trees. I’ve not done it yet, but heard it’s excellent.
Don’t Forget To Stop Off At Berry
There’s so many reasons to stop off in Berry on your Southern Highlands day trip from Sydney! Actually, we would personally spend the whole weekend in this stunningly beautiful town near Sydney.
Whilst many of the Southern Highlands towns we’ve mentioned in this article are absolutely beautiful, there’s something which feels extra special about Berry. The main street is lined with gorgeous shops and restaurants, and it’s the type of place we would probably move to if we had some money behind us!
Where To Stay In Berry
Mid-Range: We would personally stay at the gorgeous The Berry Inn. The crisp white sheets and light filled rooms had us taken straight away!
Whole Apartment:Little Gem is located in the heart of Berry and has fantastic reviews for this one bed apartment.
Whole Apartment: Red Waratah is another apartment with fantastic reviews, perfect for couples looking to do a bit of cooking.
With so many Berry restaurants to choose from, the food scene doesn’t disappoint. Head to The Hungry Monkey for breakfast, The Garden for lunch and South On Albany for dinner. This is just a small selection of the many incredible places to eat in Berry.
Things To Do In Berry
Obviously, the most famous thing to do in Berry is to go to the Berry doughnut van. It makes a fun stop over on the way home and I must admit, they are pretty good (trust me, we were sceptical too!).
Visit Silos Estate Winery as it’s the most famous winery in the region. And, if you’re looking for hikes in Southern Highlands, make sure you check out the 4km Drawing Room Rocks hike! It’s an amazing hike to a stunning lookout with rocks which look like they could be table and chairs!
If you’re looking for more places to visit on your Southern Highlands trip, head down to the jaw dropping beaches at Jervis Bay, visit the famous Kiama blowhole which also happens to be the world’s largest blow hole and of course check out Wollongong.
We’re going to help you make some decisions if you’re unsure which towns to visit on your trip to Southern Highlands! Here’s our best of for you!
Town For Accommodation: Kangaroo Valley / Bowral
Town By Public Transport: Bowral
Best Small Town: Kangaroo Valley / Berry / Berrima
Waterfalls: Kangaroo Valley / Robertson
Hiking: Robertson / Jamberoo / Berry
Adventure: Kangaroo Valley / Jamberoo
Foodies: Berry / Bowral
Best Place For Country Drives: Moss Vale Road From Bowral to Kangaroo Valley / Upper Kangaroo Valley / Kangaroo Valley to Robertson
We hope our Southern Highlands series has inspired you to visit more often! Check out more of our Southern Highlands guide below!
Don’t Forget To Watch Our Southern Highlands Video!
The Ultimate Guide For Southern Highlands
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