NSW Family Sunday Drive: The Southern Highlands
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By: Phoebe Ackland, ellaslist
The beautiful, quaint and scenic Southern Highlands should be your next Sunday family drive destination. Home to a plethora of villages with exciting adventures to be had and historic places to explore, this 1 hour and 40-minute drive is well worth it.
Keep the screens at home, pack up the car and enjoy a pleasant road trip for some true family bonding time, with a lovely little destination awaiting you. Here are some of our top picks for towns to visit and kid-friendly places to go:
1. Bowral, 1-hour 40-minute drive from Sydney
The largest town in the Southern Highlands, and big on the charm factor. The best time to visit no doubt is September for Bowral's famous Tulip Time Festival. It's full of kid's activities, live music, stalls of all kinds, and a dazzling, colourful display of flowers. Cricket lovers young and old will enjoy the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame, full of interactive touch screens, original match equipment, and five huge video screens.
For some glorious views, head up to the Bowral Lookout via one of the many gentle walking tracks. You'll have views over the Wingecarribee River Valley and Moss Vale. It's the perfect place for a picnic, so pack some local produce and make use of the picnic shelters.
Spring really is the ultimate time to visit- in October, don't miss the Southern Highlands Food & Wine Festival. It's a showcase of the best of local produce, featuring free wine tastings, live entertainment and culinary workshops. If you're a food and wine lover, Bowral really is one of the Southern Highlands highlights- check out a local vineyard or the award-winning Biota Dining.
2. Mittagong, 1-hour 30-minute drive from Sydney
A little slice of heritage and history. Parents will love traipsing the various wineries, and families will love enjoying a picnic at the Lake Alexandra Reserve. It's a man-made lake that supplied water to the Fitzroy engine mines over 140 years ago. There's a children's play area here too, so it's well worth a pit stop.
For some fresh air, head to the Nattai Gorge Lookout via the Box Vale Mine Walking Track, which will have you following the path of an old railway! It's a pretty flat walk, so little legs should make the distance. Little history lovers will also love checking out the Fitz Roy Iron Works- the first iron works in Australia once upon a time. Seven days of the week, browse the exposed remains of the protected site.
For a chance to pick up a super cool souvenir, check out the Sturt Craft Centre- teachers and promoters of contemporary arts and craft, as well as the Mittagong Antiques Centre on the main street to score some quality antiques and collectables.
3. Moss Vale, 1-hour 50-minute drive from Sydney
The rural city-reprieve you're craving. You'll get a lovely dose of nature with scenic gardens, parks and walks including the Cecil Hoskins nature reserve, home to wetlands and a plethora of bird life.
The Foyer Gallery is a nice little culture fix, showcasing the works of local artists and community groups. Moss Vale also has a few great annual events on the calendar, so try to make your mini-break here coincide with one! Our top pick is the Moss Vale Show running over 3 days in March- in the past it's had carnival rides and attractions, pig races, crocodile encounters, a demolition derby, mini horse races, a mini railway, dog shows, live music, wood chopping, and heaps of great food and drink to be enjoyed.
Moss Vale Golf Club is noteworthy too. It's renown as one of the most aesthetically-pleasing courses in NSW, dotted with pines, elms, gums and claret ash. We also encourage you to take the 1.5 hour-long, self-guided Moss Vale Historic Walk, which will lead you past old worker's cottages, school rooms, former theatres and courthouses.
4. Berrima, 1-hour 45-minute drive from Sydney
Another beautiful historic village, established in the 1830s, with unique and heritage-style places and activities to explore. The Berrima Heritage Walk is the way you can see it all, frozen in time, including the once-upon-a-time post office, Berrima Gaol, Parsley Cottage, the Large Oak Tree planted in 1890, Harper's mansion, and so much more.
Harper's Mansion is one of our top picks for heritage buildings. It's a 2-storey brick house from 1834 that will delight visitors young and old with its long hazelnut walk, a pond full of native frogs, and the maze whose hedges were established over a decade ago. The Bendooley Estate Book Barn is a real treat too. Once a hayshed, the book barn is full of new, used and rare books and is the centrepiece of Bendooley Estate. It has cathedral ceilings, a huge stone fireplace, rustic iron pendant lights, and you can enjoy a coffee and cake in this magical space!
For some delicious local goodies, head to Mrs Oldbucks Pantry full of homemade jams, preserves, honeys, oil and confectionary.
5. Bundanoon, 2-hour drive from Sydney
The cosier village option to some of the Southern Highland's larger towns. Some activities to put on your agenda include a trip to Glow Worm Glen, a natural light show that families won't soon forget! It's particularly brilliant from December-February, so maybe make a summer's night of it.
Morton National Park is easily accessible from Bundanoon, so if you fancy a bushwalk, this is the place. The Fairy Bower Falls loop walk is a must-see if you find yourself in the park. For a shorter (25 minutes-2 hours), more gentle walk, try the Bundanoon Discovery Rambles, which will reveal to you hidden delights such as old homes from early settlers and pioneer graves.
A great time to visit is April, which will coincide with the annual Highland Gathering Festival- Australia's premier Scottish Highland Gathering! There's marching pipe bands, children's floats, parades, lots of music and dancing, speciality crafts and souvenirs, and food stalls! Don't forget to wear your very best tartan.
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