A cruisy 90 minutes from Sydney or hours’ drive from Wollongong, Bowral, the largest town in the Southern Highlands, makes for an easy weekend destination. It’s best known for its antique and vintage shops, wineries, many with restaurants, and its country town slow pace.
So, what’s the best way to experience Bowral if you’re only there for the weekend? I recently did just that — driving from Sydney with a friend and visiting for just 48 hours, as a guest of Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral. I walked away truly feeling like I experienced the best of the town, so I’m sharing all that I did while I was there.
As mentioned, Bowral is a 90-minute drive from Sydney. If you’re coming from Canberra, it’s two hours. It’s a popular weekend destination for residents of both those cities, not to mention makes for a great overnight stop if you’re travelling from Sydney or NSW South Coast inland. So, because of that, has a range of accommodation, from stand-alone cottages, to spa hotels.
I stayed at the newly renovated Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral in an Executive Suite ground floor room with balcony looking out at the 18-hole golf course and lake. The hotel also has an indoor heated pool my friend and I used, a bar and a restaurant.
After an optional breakfast at Observatory Restaurant within Park Proxi, head to Bong Bong Street, Bowral’s main street, a five-minute drive from the hotel, for window shopping. If you’re feeling like pampering yourself, stroll over to Merrigang Street for a massage, facial or body treatment at Endota Spa. Housed in a historic building, the spa feels like you’re in a cosy home.
After you’ve explored Bowral’s main area, walk over to Harry’s On Green Lane, next to the famous Dirty Janes Antique Markets. Open for lunch every day from 12pm and for dinner Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm, the restaurant feels like being in an old bookshop with one wall of floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with books, several gallery walls of framed art and antique furniture.
Once you’ve had lunch, you might want to check out one or some of the region’s 60 vineyards and 17-odd cellar doors, which include Joadja Estate, Tertini Wines and Artemis Wines. I visited Centennial Vineyards, with vines including Riesling, Pinot Gris and Tempranillo. The guided wine-tasting experience at its cellar door is $10 per person, with $5 redeemable when you buy a bottle of wine.
For dinner, take your pick among Bowral’s fine dining restaurants. I dined at Paste Australia, an outpost of Michelin-starred restaurant Paste Bangkok, by chef couple Bee Satongun and Jason Bailey. The menu reimagines classic Thai recipes with fresh Australian ingredients. Other fine dining restaurants in Bowral include The Bowral Brasserie, Onesta Cucina and Bendooley Estate.
Then, it’s time to lace up your walking shoes and hit the many trails around Bowral. Gibbergunyah Reserve has several trails that lead to viewpoints, including Ninety Acre Hill Lookout and Gib Lookout. Another stunning track is Box Vale Walking Track. It leads to Forty Foot Falls, a stunning waterfall over a cave that you can stand inside. Other walks in the Southern Highlands area include Berrima River Walk, Carrington Falls and Fitzroy Falls, so take your pick.
Before you head off, pick up a snack for the road at Gumnut Patisserie by pastry chefs Tracy and Vicki Nickl or at Cheese etc, which sells Australian and imported cheeses.