Beyond Sydney: Southern Highlands

The Southern Highlands has long been the perfect weekend escape for jaded Sydneysiders looking to get away and unwind for a while. There is something for everyone  markets, antiques books and speciality shops; quaint historic villages, all surrounded by rolling green hills, rain forest and national parks. Located midway between Sydney and Canberra and just over an hour from the South Coast, the Southern Highlands is known for its cool temperate climate and low humidity levels, making it a the place for your next short break.

The Highlands mark the northern extremities of the Southern Agricultural region of New South Wales. One of the many special things about the Southern Highlands is that you don t have to travel far to discover the many picturesque towns and villages, each with its own history and identity.

The Southern Highlands is a gourmet lover s delight  there is wine Tasting, Cellar Doors Sales, Berry Picking, Home Made Preserves, Sauces, Vinegars, Spices and Salad Dressings, Robertson Potatoes, Fresh Produce, Road Side Farm Produce Stalls, the list goes on.

Train Timetable



A major business and service town which serves as the gateway to the Southern Highlands. Mittagong is the centre from which to visit the wineries of the Southern Highlands which has been a recent growing wine and cellar door region. The town lies between two small mountains, Mount Alexander and Mount Gibraltar and Lake Alexandra, that feeds into the nearby Nattai River. Mittagong station is a stop on the Southern Highlands rail service from Sydney.


A fashionable township in the Southern Highlands that has become a retreat for those who want the creature comforts of the city but still live in the country. Home to the Bradman Museum and Cricket Hall of Fame, Bowral is known for its art and craft shops, cafes and restaurants, and is known for its beautiful gardens and hosts the Southern Highlands Tulip Festival each Spring. Bowral station is a stop on the Southern Highlands rail service from Sydney.

Moss Vale

A quiet but major administrative, service and railway centre in the Southern Highlands. The planting of European trees has given Moss Vale an English village feel, as do the town's numerous many historic buildings, including a house believed to be the residence of St Mary McKillop. Moss Vale has a reputation for good country hospitality, fine food and delicious cool-climate wines. Moss Vale station is the terminus of the Southern Highlands rail service from Sydney.

Box Vale Tramway Trail

This 4.5km walking trail follows the line of a railway line built in 1888 to carry coal mined in Nattai Gorge to the main southern Line at Mittagong. The line passes through several cuttings and a tunnel 84 metres in length. The Colliery had its heyday in 1888 during a coal strike in Victoria, but was closed in 1896 and the tramway (railway) abandoned. There is a well defined car parking area at the trail head as the Mt Alexander Reserve.

Illawarra Escarpment

The Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area features dramatic sandstone cliffs and a medley of different forest types. Here you'll experience two accessible mountains, an abundance of colonial and Aboriginal heritage, and a stunning variety of birdlife. Robertson Lookout on the edge of the escarpment offers a scenic take on the area. Mount Keira dominates the amazing view, but you re offered a clear view of the coast and lush rainforest too.


A small township near the edge of the Illawarra escarpment, noted for its rich soils and undulating landscape. It is the centre of a prosperous dairy industry. A farm near the township was the setting for the movie, Babe. The town was once famous for cheese production. Today, the remnants of the industry are seen in one of the old cheese factories which has been converted into a commercial row of shops, many of which specialise local produce.


Established in 1831, Berrima is a unique and historic village that is the only example of a largely preserved Georgian colonial village in mainland Australia. Berrima is situated just off the Hume Highway, and makes is perfect destination for a day out in the car from Sydney. Berrima has many coloinal era buildings including a gaol (still in use) and a courthouse (now a museum), not to mention plenty of cafes and tourist-related shops.


A quiet and attractive village, noted for its European-like countryside and atmosphere. Each April, the town hosts Brigadoon at Bundanoon, a Highland Gathering festival featuring Scottish pipe bands, country dancing, Highland games and a street parade. Bundanoon is also known for its annual Garden Ramble. Bundanoon has a railway station, but being beyond the terminus of South Highlands services, only three trains a day to and from Sydney stop here.

Nattai National Park

33 km north of Mittagong, this National Park protects Sydney's water supply with pristine bushland and wilderness areas. Minimum-impact bushwalking and bushcamping are permitted, except in the 3 km zone around Lake Burragorang. Walks through wilderness require topographic map and compass, and all walkers should be experienced and well equipped. Notify the Nattai office of the National Parks and Wildlife Service before setting out.

Shoalhaven Gorge

The gorge country of the Shoalhaven River near Kangaroo Valley and its tributaries dramatically cuts through the Lachlan fold belt to form a substantial area of incised wilderness country. A brilliant display of shales, slates, phyllites and quartzites is evident in the dissected landscape. The area is characterised by the numerous waterfalls, cliffs and rugged slopes, dramatically dropping away to the river some 400 metres below. | Kayak Adventure

Kangaroo Valley

A small picturesque village surrounded by rainforest and situated beyond the Illawarra coastal escarpment. The National Trust classified the town in 1977 for its heritage value. It is a great place to stop for lunch and a walk around town for travellers on their way from the main towns of the Southern Highlands to Nowra on the New South Wales south coast. Kangaroo Valley has a strong artistic community, which participates in a biannual arts festival.

Morton National Park

This enormous park encompasses waterfalls (Fitzroy and Bellmore Falls), mountains (Pigeon House Mountain Didthul), lookouts, remote wilderness areas for hiking, and imposing gorges dissecting the landscape alongside pockets of rainforest that are full of wildlife. The park is easily accessible from Bundanoon, Kangaroo Valley, Nowra and Ulladulla, and makes for a great day trip or weekend getaway. The park has numerous picnic and camping areas.

Joadja Ghost Town

The historic valley of Joadja is a pocket of national heritage nestled some 25km west of Mittagong. Joadja town was founded on a shale seam and the Scottish workers brought out to mine it. The mine closed early in the 20th century, the town was abandoned, and the buildings were left to the elements. The ruins that remain tell the story of those that lived, worked and perished here. Fully guided and self-guided tours are on offer on open days (see website).

Wombeyan Caves

The limestone caves protected by the Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve are located about 65 km from Mittagong. Wombeyan Caves is a popular attraction and local holiday area, as well as a reserve for endangered species. You can explore the Wollondilly, Junction, Kooringa and Mulwaree caves on a variety of guided tours, while the Figtree Cave is regarded as the state's premier self-guided cave experience.

Macquarie Pass Nat. Park

Macquarie Pass National Park, on the Illawarra escarpment, is a place that feels completely wild. The park's steep sandstone ridges and gullies provide diverse habitats for local wildlife. The Park offers terrific bushwalking and birdwatching opportunities, wonderful waterfalls, and spectacular views to the ocean. And when you have finished, you can take the exhilarating drive down the pass onto the coastal plain.


Highlands/Illawarra Drive

A wonderful day out in the country for a group, family, couple or an individual. This drive from Sydney takes in the natural beauty of the Southern Highlands, returning along the scenic Illawarra coast. Along the way are many great picnic spots, parks and gardens, cafes and restaurants, arts and crafts outlets, museums, wineries, rainforest and beachside walks, panoramic vistas across waterfalls, valleys and canyons and the Illawarra coast.

Cockatoo Run

The Cockatoo Run is one of Australia's most well known tourist train rides. The Cockatoo Run commences its journey in Sydney and travels along the Illawarra route to Wollongong. The journey from Sydney offers spectacular coastal scenery prior to the ascent of the Illawarra Escarpment. The line climbs 600 metres through rainforests, past waterfalls and the spectacular viaduct. On the way admire the view over Lake Illawarra out to the Tasman Sea.

Highlands Wine Trail

A relatively new cool-climate region, The Southern Highlands wine region surrounds Mittagong and Bowral and is gaining much attention for its Pinot Noir. This region came to fruition in the 1990s when wine growers became interested in the region and the advantages of high altitude vineyards in which Pinot Noir, in particular, excels. There are now more than 60 vineyards in the Southern Highlands with increasing grafting to Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

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