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Ultimate guide: The 10 best places to visit on the South Coast NSW

Ultimate guide: The 10 best places to visit on the South Coast NSW

  • 28 May 2020

Welcome to the South Coast. This stretch of golden beaches, turquoise waters and tropical forests covers the southern half of New South Wales, from Sydney to Victoria. This is a place to experience all that’s great about Australia in one neat package: beautiful coastlines, wildlife-rich national parks, endless open roads, wineries, food markets, camping and much more.

Read on for our ultimate SCx guide to the South Coast NSW, where we give you our pick of the best places to visit as you travel from north to south…

Ultimate guide: The 10 best places to visit on the South Coast NSW

Austinmer & Thirroul

The sleepy coastal towns of Austinmer and Thirroul stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the rolling South Coast. The area is known for its beaches, with author D. H. Lawrence having described the sands as having “deep pock-holes that were full of brilliantly clear water and delicately-coloured shells and tiny, crimson anemones”. Thirroul was Lawerence’s home for four months in 1922 while he wrote the iconic novel Kangaroo . In fact, today many Sydney city workers opt to live in the area and commute in thanks to the laid-back coastal setting.

Read the full guide to Austinmer & Thirroul >

Gerringong 

Endless golden sand and verdant green hinterland – these are two of the most prominent features of Gerringong, a town once known for its rural dairy culture. The area is loved for Werri Beach, a cool surf strip with large sand dunes and even larger waves. Make sure you visit the various heritage buildings in town (of which there are 14), including the 19 th -century Gerringong Uniting Church with its magical stained-glass windows, and the historic Boat Harbour Store, which opened in 1856.

Read the full guide to Gerringong >

This charming village is country living at its very best. Colourful houses dot the shoreline above the pretty beaches and sparkling blue ocean. This is where you’ll find Seven Mile Beach, which – true to its name – offers over 12 kilometres of golden coastline, with rich foliage behind and gentle waves in front: a great place to learn to surf. Be sure to head up to Gerroa Headland if you’re visiting between May and November – migrating dolphins and whales are frequently spotted off shore.

Read the full guide to Gerroa >

This vibrant village is set among the working dairy farms and green hills of the NSW countryside. It’s a place to cycle, hike, kayak, swim and eat – with a burgeoning food scene that rivals most towns in the South Coast. From sourdough breads to artisanal wines, you’ll find producers creating all kinds of local treats in the area, as well as a range of foodie festivals, cooking classes and vineyards tours that will have you coming back year on year.

Read the full guide to Berry >

Kangaroo Valley

This might be one of Australia’s most beautiful valleys. Rich green pastures, lush rainforest, twinkling rivers and very few crowds make it one of the South Coast’s true hidden gems. Stroll the old streets, dating back to 1870; kayak on the quiet rivers; or explore one of the local farms, where produce is always fresh and delicious. If you’re visiting in October, make sure you visit the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival, full of crafts, music and lots of dancing.

Read the full guide to Kangaroo Valley >

Shoalhaven Heads

Coastal walking, fishing, swimming and relaxation – these are the best reasons to visit Shoalhaven Heads, a town that lies at the other end of Seven Mile Beach from Gerroa. This is a top choice for birdwatchers, with thousands of shorebirds frequenting the Shoalhaven River and estuary – some visiting from as far away as Siberia. Walking is another popular pastime, with the Seven Mile Beach National Park offering flat and easy trails through the pretty foliage.

Read the full guide to Shoalhaven Heads >

Huskisson and Jervis Bay

From the coastal town of Huskisson, you can discover the natural beauty of Jervis Bay – known for having some of the world’s whitest sands. The near-translucent waters house an abundance of marine life, including bottlenose dolphins, fur seas, penguins and weedy sea dragons. At night, the sea literally sparkles: a result of the bioluminescent light show performed by the algae that live in the waters.

Read the full guide to Hukisson and Jervis Bay >

The coastal fishing village of Curragong is a lovely spot to spend time in the sun, sea and sand. Just north of the main town you’ll find Hammerhead Point, where you can watch humpback and southern right whales during their annual migration. Make sure you bring your snorkelling gear: there’s also an expansive reef just off shore, teeming with dolphins, octopus and stingray.

Read the full guide to Currarong >

Mollymook and Milton

The historic town of Milton and it’s beachside neighbour Mollymook are too often passed by on the Princes Highway. Just three hours drive from Sydney, but a lightyear away from the bustle of the city, you’ll find a community bonded by the tide, the slow pace of life and a love of all things South Coast. Beaches are less crowded than those a little further north, with great spots for swimming, surfing and fishing. You’ll find yourself visiting for the artisanal bread and award-winning restaurants, but staying for the bushwalks and seaside air.

Read the full guide to Mollymook and Milton >

In the shadows of Gulaga Mountain stands the vibrant coastal town of Bermagui. Here, the pristine beaches are framed by the rolling blue mountains – a place where you can surf, swim, paddleboard, dive, kayak and snorkel. Thanks to the continental shelf 20km off shore – the closest point to Australian mainland – the water is overflowing with a rich variety of fish, which makes big game fishing a very popular pastime.

Read the full guide to Bermagui >

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Must-see attractions in South Coast NSW

places to visit in southern nsw

Montague Island (Barranguba)

South Coast NSW

Wildlife thrives on this small, pest-free island, 9km offshore from Narooma, where fur seals frolic and 90 bird species wheel overhead. Little penguins…

Ben Boyd National Park

Divided into two sections north and south of Eden is 104.85-sq-km Ben Boyd National Park. Boyd was a Scottish entrepreneur in agriculture and whaling who…

Booderee National Park

Occupying Jervis Bay’s southeastern spit, this sublime national park, jointly managed by the government and the local Indigenous community, offers good…

Wollongong Botanic Garden

In a region already awash in scenic spots, Wollongong's botanic gardens still delight visitors with their attractive lily ponds, manicured lawns and…

Silos Estate

Beautifully set on a verdant former dairy farm between Berry and Nowra, this crowd-pleasing winery makes a range of tasty drops. Swirl a glass of bright…

Seven Mile Beach

This superlative crescent of sand, stretching south from Gerroa to Shoalhaven Heads, is one of the South Coast's most memorable beaches thanks to its pale…

Pioneer Village Museum

This open-air museum, with meticulously recreated 19th-century cottages set in seven hectares of bushland, thoroughly immerses visitors in the sounds and…

Booderee Botanic Gardens

Lichen-splashed rocks, big ferns and mossy paths make for an enriching ramble at these 80-hectare gardens off the road to Cave Beach. The gardens are…

Minnamurra Rainforest Centre

At the eastern edge of Budderoo National Park, 15km inland from Kiama via Jamberoo, this is a surprisingly lush subtropical rainforest. A 1.6km loop walk…

Coolangatta Estate

Founded on a 19th-century wine-growing estate, Coolangatta has been bottling its signature creamy semillons and stone-fruit scented savagnins since 1990…

Fitzroy Falls

Tumbling 81m from near-vertical sandstone cliffs, Fitzroy Falls can be a dramatic torrent or, in the heat of summer, a mere trickle. Regardless, you can…

Murramarang National Park

Stretching along a secluded section of coast, this scenic park offers excellent beaches, opportunities to learn about Indigenous culture, and plentiful…

Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area

Spectacular rainforest hugs the edge of the ever-eroding sandstone cliffs of the Illawarra Escarpment, a 30-million-year-old feature that rises to 534m at…

North Beach

Stretching north from the harbour, North Beach is an excellent all-rounder: shallows for kids to splash in, breaks suitable for various levels and…

Yarrawa Estate

This family-run cellar door offers wine tasting with genuine hospitality. Swish a mouthful of the chardonnay, buttery as brioche, or the verdelho with its…

Cambewarra Lookout

Signposted off the Cambewarra Lookout Rd between Kangaroo Valley and Nowra, this vantage point (678m) offers a stupendous perspective over the winding…

Bega Cheese Heritage Centre

A supermarket mainstay in Australia, Bega cheese isn't the stuff of a gourmet detour, but the heritage centre devoted to the brand (established 1899) is…

Boyd's Tower

At the end of Edrom Rd is the turn-off for Boyd’s Tower, built in the late 1840s from Sydney sandstone. It was built as a lighthouse, but the government…

Symbio Wildlife Gardens

Friendly kangaroos are the highlight at this private zoo, 34km north of Wollongong. Native animals such as emus, echidnas and koalas (plus imported…

Bournda National Park

The 2655-hectare Bournda National Park has empty surf beaches, rugged headlands and forested walking trails. Around 200 bird species flit around its…

Morton National Park

Inland from the coastal strip but easily accessible from Nowra, Kangaroo Valley or the Southern Highlands, Morton National Park features the deep gorges…

Green Cape Lightstation

At the southern tip of Ben Boyd's southern section, elegant 1883 Green Cape Lightstation offers awesome views. There are tours (by appointment only) and…

Gold Rush Colony

Mogo was established as a gold-rush town, and this sizeable recreation of a pioneer village aims to capture the atmosphere of that time. Some displays…

Nan Tien Temple

South of the city, Nan Tien is the southern hemisphere's largest Buddhist temple, belonging to the Taiwanese Fo Guang Shan order. It's quite a sight, with…

The town of Milton, 6km northwest of Ulladulla on the Princes Hwy, is a cheerful caricature of its 19th-century history. European settlers flocked to the…

Jervis Bay National Park

North of Huskisson, Jervis Bay National Park spreads outwards from the graceful arc of Callala Bay. More than 4850 hectares of low scrub and woodland…

Tilba Valley Wines

Gorgeously rough-hewn Tilba Valley Wines sits in an idyllic setting by Corunna Lake, 5km north of Central Tilba. This is an unpretentious spot to sip…

An admirable community project has protected 77 hectares of wetlands for native bird species. The well-managed realm of mangroves and salt marshes is…

Potoroo Palace

Warmly run Potoroo Palace, a not-for-profit animal sanctuary, has a menagerie including echidnas, dingoes, koalas and native birds. Keepers have an…

Guided tours reveal the history behind this attractive mint-green mansion that's pretty as a picture with its gabled roof and lace-like balconies. Built…

Tathra Wharf

Tathra & Around

Tathra Wharf is NSW's last remaining coastal steamship wharf; today it's a listed building and an attractive place to watch local life unfold, from…

Whale Lookout

Between late September and late November, a good spot to look for whales is at the scenic lookout south of the wharf. This can also save you the time and…

Kiama Blowhole

A tourist draw for well over a century, Kiama's blowhole sits on the point by the centre of town. Girded by basalt columns and wave-thrashed rocks, the…

ABC Cheese Factory

Jersey cattle munching in the fertile meadows beneath Mt Gulaga produce creamy, award-winning cheese at ABC's retrofitted dairy. Cheese has been made here…

Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens

This exceptionally pretty botanical garden is equal parts manicured lawn and flourishing bushland, a combination evidently appreciated by the numerous…

Sri Venkateswara Temple

Bone-white and richly decorated with sculptures of Hindu deities, Helensburgh's temple is a rewarding detour on the drive between Wollongong and Royal…

Jervis Bay Maritime Museum

This engaging museum tells of Jervis Bay's shipbuilding past and Aboriginal history. Interesting displays explain the Wreck Bay Aboriginal community's…

Around 10km south of Batemans Bay, this good private zoo has white lions and an enthralling troop of gorillas, as well as tigers, cheetahs, snow leopards…

Wollongong City Beach

The southern of Wollongong's two city beaches is a popular stretch of golden sand with good swimming (especially at the northern end) and, depending on…

Wollongong Art Gallery

The work of local creators, including Aboriginal artists, is displayed in this attractive four-floor gallery. Much of the permanent collection centres on…

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Kayakers watch for whales as the sun sets

Explore the Wonders of South Coast New South Wales

South Coast New South Wales is an enchanting region that stretches from the outskirts of Sydney all the way to the border of Victoria. Known for its idyllic beaches, lush national parks, and unique wildlife, this region offers a diverse range of experiences for both locals and tourists alike. From the pristine shores of Jervis Bay to the charming hinterland towns, the South Coast has something for everyone.

Natural Beauty of South Coast NSW

Pristine beaches.

The South Coast of New South Wales is renowned for its spectacular beaches, each offering a unique coastal experience. Some of the region's most iconic beaches include:

Jervis Bay, located in the Shoalhaven region, is famous for its crystal-clear waters and soft, white sands. This stunning bay offers a variety of water activities, including swimming, snorkeling, and stand-up paddleboarding, making it a favorite destination for both families and adventure seekers.

Hyams Beach

Boasting the title of having the world's whitest sand, Hyams Beach is a must-visit destination on the South Coast. Its calm, turquoise waters and pristine shoreline make it an ideal spot for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying a relaxing day by the ocean.

Pebbly Beach

Situated within Murramarang National Park, Pebbly Beach is known for its friendly kangaroo population that often lazes around on the beach. This picturesque location offers a unique opportunity to enjoy a beach day while observing these fascinating creatures up close.

Mollymook Beach

Mollymook Beach is a popular destination for both locals and tourists, with its golden sands, excellent surf conditions, and beautiful views. The beach is also home to Mollymook Surf Life Saving Club, which ensures the safety of swimmers and surfers.

National Parks

The South Coast is home to several national parks that showcase the region's diverse landscapes and provide opportunities for outdoor adventures.

Royal National Park

Established in 1879, the Royal National Park is the world's second-oldest national park. Located just south of Sydney, this park offers a wide range of activities, including hiking, birdwatching, and picnicking. Some of its most famous attractions include the Figure Eight Pools, Wedding Cake Rock, and Wattamolla Beach.

Booderee National Park

Booderee National Park, located in Jervis Bay Territory, is an area of significant cultural and natural importance. The park features beautiful beaches, stunning coastal cliffs, and lush forests. It is also home to the historic Cape St George Lighthouse and the enchanting Botanic Gardens.

Budawang National Park Budawang National Park, situated in the southern part of the South Coast, offers an array of outdoor experiences, including hiking, camping, and wildlife spotting. The park is known for its rugged landscapes, featuring sandstone cliffs, caves, and unique rock formations. Murramarang National Park

Covering a stretch of coastline between Batemans Bay and Ulladulla, Murramarang National Park offers a perfect blend of pristine beaches, coastal forests, and abundant wildlife. Popular activities in the park include bushwalking, fishing, and birdwatching.

Coastal Walks and Hikes

The South Coast boasts a number of breathtaking coastal walks and hikes that allow visitors to explore its natural beauty on foot.

Kiama Coast Walk

The Kiama Coast Walk is a 22-kilometer track that takes you along the region's stunning coastline, offering panoramic ocean views and the chance to explore local landmarks such as the Kiama Blowhole and Bombo Headland.

Light to Light Walk

The Light to Light Walk is a 31-kilometer track that stretches between the historic Boyds Tower and Green Cape Lighthouse in Ben Boyd National Park. This multi-day hike offers spectacular coastal views, secluded beaches, and diverse wildlife.

White Sands Walk

The White Sands Walk is a 2.5-kilometer loop trail in Jervis Bay that takes you through lush coastal forests and past some of the region's most pristine beaches, including the famous Hyams Beach. This easy walk is perfect for families and those looking for a leisurely stroll with stunning views.

Drawing Room Rocks

The Drawing Room Rocks hike is a moderately challenging 4.5-kilometer return trail located near Berry. The hike takes you up to an impressive sandstone plateau, offering panoramic views of the South Coast's rolling countryside and the ocean. The unique rock formations at the summit resemble tables and chairs, giving the site its intriguing name.

Exploring the natural beauty of South Coast New South Wales is an unforgettable experience, with its pristine beaches, diverse national parks, and captivating coastal walks and hikes. Whether you prefer lounging on the sand, trekking through lush forests, or admiring panoramic ocean views, the South Coast has something for everyone to enjoy.

Adventure and Water Sports in South Coast NSW

The South Coast of New South Wales is a playground for adventure enthusiasts and water sports lovers. The region's stunning coastline and pristine waterways provide the perfect setting for a variety of exciting activities.

Surfing is a popular pastime on the South Coast, with numerous excellent surf breaks catering to all skill levels.

Popular surf breaks

  • Seven Mile Beach: Located near Gerroa, this long stretch of sand offers consistent waves and is ideal for beginner to intermediate surfers.
  • Mollymook Beach: Known for its picturesque scenery and excellent surf conditions, Mollymook Beach attracts surfers of all abilities.
  • Merimbula Bar: This renowned surf break in Merimbula is perfect for experienced surfers, offering powerful waves and challenging conditions.

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

The South Coast's crystal-clear waters and diverse marine life make it an ideal destination for scuba diving and snorkeling adventures.

Jervis Bay Marine Park

Jervis Bay Marine Park is a haven for marine life, featuring stunning underwater landscapes, colorful coral reefs, and an abundance of fish species. Dive shops and tour operators in the area offer guided dives and snorkeling excursions suitable for all experience levels.

Batemans Bay

Batemans Bay is another popular spot for diving and snorkeling, with several dive sites featuring interesting rock formations, caves, and diverse marine life. Local dive shops provide equipment rental and guided tours to help you explore the underwater world.

Whether you're a seasoned adventurer or a first-time participant, the South Coast of New South Wales offers a wide range of water sports and outdoor activities to suit all interests and abilities. From surfing and scuba diving to kayaking and canoeing, the region's stunning natural beauty and diverse landscapes provide the perfect backdrop for unforgettable experiences.

Best Time to Visit

The South Coast of New South Wales is a beautiful destination to explore year-round, but the best time to visit depends on the type of activities you're interested in and your personal preferences. In this section, we'll discuss the seasonal highlights and weather conditions to help you plan the perfect trip.

Seasonal Highlights

Spring (September to November) Spring is a lovely time to visit the South Coast, as the region comes alive with blooming wildflowers and pleasant temperatures. The weather is generally mild, making it perfect for outdoor activities such as hiking, beach visits, and water sports. This season also sees a lower number of tourists, providing a more relaxed atmosphere for your trip.

Summer (December to February) Summer is the peak tourist season on the South Coast, with warm temperatures and sunny days drawing crowds to the region's pristine beaches. Water activities such as swimming, surfing, and snorkeling are popular during this time, and many outdoor events and festivals take place throughout the season. However, be prepared for larger crowds and higher accommodation prices during this busy period.

Autumn (March to May) Autumn is a fantastic time to visit the South Coast, as the temperatures begin to cool down and the crowds start to thin out. The region's natural beauty is on full display, with the changing foliage offering a colorful backdrop for outdoor adventures. This is an ideal time for hiking, birdwatching, and exploring the region's national parks.

Winter (June to August) Winter on the South Coast is cooler and quieter, with fewer tourists and lower accommodation prices. Although beach activities may be limited due to cooler temperatures, this season is perfect for whale watching, as migrating humpback whales pass along the coastline. Winter is also an excellent time for bushwalking and exploring the region's charming towns and villages.

Weather Conditions

The South Coast of New South Wales generally experiences a temperate climate, with mild to warm temperatures and moderate rainfall throughout the year. Summer temperatures typically range from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F), while winter temperatures can vary between 7°C and 18°C (45°F to 64°F).

While the South Coast can be visited at any time of the year, it's essential to consider the weather conditions and seasonal highlights when planning your trip. By choosing the best time to visit based on your interests and desired activities, you can make the most of your South Coast adventure and create lasting memories in this beautiful region.

The wonders of South Coast New South Wales are truly remarkable, with its pristine beaches, diverse national parks, and captivating coastal walks and hikes. The region's natural beauty, abundant wildlife encounters, thrilling adventure and water sports opportunities, and rich cultural experiences make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking an unforgettable Australian adventure.

From the world-renowned Hyams Beach and the picturesque Jervis Bay to the awe-inspiring Royal National Park and the exhilarating surf breaks, the South Coast offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to all interests and tastes. By choosing the best time to visit based on your preferred activities and considering the seasonal highlights and weather conditions, you can make the most of your journey to this incredible region.

So, whether you're a nature lover, adrenaline junkie, or simply looking for a relaxing coastal getaway, there's no better time than now to start planning your visit to the stunning South Coast of New South Wales. Embrace the region's natural wonders, immerse yourself in its unique charm, and create lasting memories that you'll cherish for years to come.

South Coast Getaways

40 Things to Do on the NSW South Coast

There’s no shortage of things to do on the NSW South Coast. Whether you’re looking for adrenaline-filled adventures or a relaxing time at the beach, a museum to visit on a rainy day or something to entertain the kids, add some of these South Coast activities to your plans for your next South Coast getaway.

South Coast Things to Do

#1 Swim with the Sea Lions at Montague Island

One of the most magical wildlife experiences I’ve ever enjoyed is swimming with seals. These lively, frisky animals love to encounter humans in the water, and will frolic all around you. And there’s no need to head overseas for this experience, with the chance to swim with seals at Montague Island on the South Coast.

Located just off Narooma, Montague Island is a 20 minute boat ride away and home to the largest seal colony in NSW. Choose between just snorkelling with the seals, or also land on the island for a guided tour. The best conditions are during the morning in summertime. Book with Montague Island Adventures or Montague Island Discovery Tours .

#2 Skydive onto the Beach

Skydive the Beach at Stuart Park

The South Coast is the ultimate place to finally tick skydiving off your bucket list, with one of the most scenic skydives on offer anywhere. The name says it all, with Skydive the Beach Wollongong taking place in the skies above the beautiful North Wollongong Beach, landing next to the beach at their Stuart Park headquarters.

It’s possible to complete this South Coast adventure on a day trip from Sydney, with free transfers offering with all skydives from the centre of Sydney. However, it’s worthwhile spending longer in Wollongong, with plenty of things to do in Wollongong .

#3 Learn to Surf at Mollymook

Learn to Surf Mollymook

With hundreds of kilometres of coastline, the South Coast is not surprisingly home to some awesome surf breaks. So if you don’t already know how to surf, why don’t you take a surf lesson or two while visiting the South Coast?

There’s multiple surfing schools on offer in the region. At Mollymook, book into a Private VIP Surfing Experience for two people, with all gear included.

#4 Climb to the Top of Pigeon House

One of the best shorter walks along the South Coast is the climb up to Pigeon House Mountain . Named by Captain Cook for the peaks resemblance to what else but a pigeon house, while the walk isn’t that long it’s still a tough climb.

Also known as Didthul, the peak is located in the Morton National Park, close to Ulladulla. Allow about 3 hours for the 5km walk. It’s best hiked during dry weather, due to the steep climbs and ladders along the final section.

#5 Explore Historic Tilba

Central Tilba South Coast Things to Do

Just south of Narooma are the historic villages of Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba. Originally settled by dairy farmers, the district experienced a short-lived boom during the late 1800s and early 1900s when gold was discovered nearby. These days the villages are still home to many historic buildings and plenty of charm. 

Central Tilba is the larger of the two and has many shops and cafes to visit. Take a stroll along the main street and browse the shops selling leathercrafts, gifts and even local chocolates.  Don’t miss visiting the ABC Cheese Factory, one of the best cheese factories on the South Coast.

#6 Relax on the White Sands of Hyams Beach

Hyams Beach Jervis Bay

By far the most famous beach along the South Coast of NSW is Hyams Beach. This beach on the southern shoreline of Jervis Bay is renown for its beautiful white sand, arguably one of the whitest beaches in Australia.

Hyams Beach is best visited on weekdays or early in the morning. Only limited parking is available in the adjacent carpark and nearby streets, and it quickly fills up on warm sunny days. Alternatively, consider visiting one of the other nearby beaches with sand almost as white, such as Nelson Beach at Vincentia.

#7 Walk Along the Kiama Coast

Kiama Coastal Walk

One of the best coastal walks anywhere in Australia is the Kiama Coast Walk . Extending from Minnamurra in the north south to Gerringong, the 20km walk hugs the coastline and passes across many of the area’s beaches.

Choose to walk the entire length of the walk (and then return by train to your starting point), or just walk a shorter section. One of the most scenic stretches is the southernmost section of the walk, starting at the northern end of Werri Beach, following the cliffs to the north. Just be warned sometimes the lagoon at the northern end of the beach joins to the ocean, so be prepared to take off your shoes!

#8 Learn the Legend of Old Tom

Eden Museum

Sadly, back in the early days of settlement along the South Coast, one of the key industries was whaling. Many whales were captured and killed during the annual migration past the coast. Fortunately, this practice has long since finished, and the number of whales has started to recover, with the focus now on whale watching (see above).

One of the most fascinating aspects of the former whaling industry around Eden was the involvement of killer whales, or orcas. Killer whales helped alert the whalers to the presence of whales, and helped herd them into shallower waters. In return, they expected to be fed the tongues and lips of whales.

The most famous of the killer whales was Old Tom, and when his body was discovered in the 1920s, it was preserved and his skeleton later put on display in the Eden Killer Whale Museum , which opened in 1939. Visit the museum to learn more about Old Tom and the whaling industry.

#9 Feast on Local Fish and Chips

Fish n Chips Bermagui South Coast

There’s no shortage of fish and chip shops all along the South Coast. And given the many local fishing fleets, the fish on offer, whether battered, crumbed or grilled, is some of the freshest and tastiest you’ll try anywhere.

My pick for the best fish and chips on the South Coast? Make sure you stop at Bluewave Seafood, at the Bermagui Fisherman’s Wharf, then enjoy your feast on the wharf while watching the fishing boats come and go.

#10 Watch the Kiama Blowhole

Kiama Blowhole

If you visit the Kiama Blowhole on a calm day, you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about. But visit the Blowhole Point during big seas, and you’ll soon understand why this blowhole is so famous!

Located on the point at the end of Kiama’s main street, with plenty of nearby parking, the blowhole regular blows during higher seas, a boom sounding and spray flying high, drenching unwary visitors.

#11 Go Glass-Bottom Kayaking

South Coast Stylish Motels

One of the top adventures on offer on the South Coast is going kayaking. There’s multiple places where it’s possible to rent kayaks or book in a kayaking tour, including the beautiful waters of Batemans Bay.

There’s multiple kayaking tours available at Batemans Bay, including a Batemans Bay Kayak Tour in a glass-bottom kayak. The glass bottom means you can easily spot the marine life as you kayak through the Marine Park Sanctuary. Just a two hour long tour, this is ideal for all the family.

#12 Visit the Nan Tien Temple

Nan Tien Temple

One of the most surprising attractions on the South Coast is the Nan Tien Temple . Who would have thought that the biggest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere would be located just off the freeway passing through Wollongong !

The temple is a fascinating place to visit, even if you are not familiar with Buddhism. There are multiple shrines, as well as beautiful gardens and a stunning pagoda. During your visit, stop at the Tea House, where you can enjoy traditional teas or a vegetarian meal. For a longer visit, classes and retreats are offered.

#13 Enjoy a Glass of Local Wine

South Coast Wineries

Did you know that the South Coast is home to its own wine region, the Shoalhaven Wine Region? Stretching from Kiama south to Durras, the region is home to a handful of vineyards and cellar doors that are open to the public for visits.

Many of the cellar doors feature an onsite restaurant, perfect for tasting the local produce highlighted by a glass of wine produced onsite. Or just stop by for a tasting, then choose your favourite wines to purchase by the bottle or the case.

Check out my guide to the best South Coast wineries to visit .

#14 Watch the Sunrise at Mystery Bay

With its many east facing beaches, there’s plenty of superb spots along the South Coast to watch the sun rise. One of the favourite places I’ve enjoyed the sunrise is Mystery Bay, a 10 minute drive south of Narooma.

Home to the council-run Mystery Bay Campground , with basic facilities including pit toilets and cold showers, the campground is right next to the beach. Set your alarm to rise early and head to the beach to enjoy the sunrise colours over the rocky shore.

#15 Swim in an Historic Rock Pool

Austinmer Rock Pool

While the NSW South Coast is home to many wonderful sandy beaches, the region is also home to a delightful collection of rock pools, many dating back to the 19th century. Perched on the rock platforms of the region right next to the sea, they’re best visited at low tide, whether to swim laps or just float around in their saltwater surrounds.

One of the most popular rock pools in the Wollongong area is Austinmer Beach, where there’s not just one but two rock pools, adjacent to the historic pavilion. For a complete listing in Wollongong, check out the council website .

Further south at Bermagui, don’t miss the Bermagui Blue Pool, nestled on the cliff below Pacific Drive. With a carpark and toilets at the top, follow the stairs down to the pool that is a sparkling blue. For something different, bring along a snorkelling mask.

#16 Hike to Burning Palms

Otford Lookout Royal National Park

The northern edge of Wollongong abuts up against the Royal National Park. One of the most spectacular walking tracks that starts from the southern edge of the park is the walking track through the Palm Jungle to Burning Palms.

Starting at Otford Lookout, where there’s a small section of parking, follow the trail along the top of the high cliffs, before branching to your right (signposted North Era) to descend through the dense growth of the Palm Jungle to Burning Palms Beach.

Figure 8 Pool

Burning Palms is a great spot to relax with a picnic lunch, and perhaps enjoy a paddle or swim. Just be warned only experienced swimmers should enter the water when it’s not patrolled, outside of summer weekends. Alternatively, if it’s low tide and the sea is calm, it’s possible walk along the rock platforms to the beautiful Figure Eight Pools, a 900m detour.

Afterwards, continue heading north for a short while, until you reach a track branch to the left, the Burgh Track. Head up to the ridge to Garawarra Farm, then take the Garawarra Ridge Trail, a fairly flat fire trail, back to join up with your original track and return to Otford Lookout. The total length of the hike is about 12 kilometres.

#17 Visit Minnamurra Rainforest

The South Coast region was once home to extensive stands of rainforest. Unfortunately, these days only remnants remain, with the Minnamurra Rainforest one of the best places to visit near Wollongong. Located in the Budderoo National Park, behind Jamberoo, this reserve makes for a great outing.

Explore the displays at the Minnamurra Rainforest Centre , before completing the shorter Lyrebird loop walk, or the longer walking track to Minnamurra Falls. Information boards dot the boardwalks, but also take the time to stop and quietly listen out for the resident lyrebirds. Note that a parking fee applies per vehicle.

#18 Watch for Whales

Tathra Headland

If visiting the South Coast during the winter and spring months, there’s a high chance of spotting whales from the coastline. You’ll most likely spot whales migrating north during June and July, then heading back south to the Antarctic during September and October, but keep your eye out either side of these months as well!

There’s a number of great headlands from which to watch for whales. In Tathra, keep watch while following the path around Tathra Headland, with an information board showing the species of whales usually seen. Further south, stop at Eden Lookout or Short Point in Merimbula, while to the north head to Warden Head in Ulladulla, the Gerringong Whale Watching Platform or the cliffs to the north of Wollongong.

If visiting Jervis Bay, consider heading out on a whale watching cruise . These two-hour long seasonal cruises operate both in the morning and afternoon. Most magical are the cruises during the southern migration, when mothers and their new born calves enter the bay.

#19 Or Go Dolphin Watching

Dolphin Watch at Huskisson

Whales aren’t the only wildlife you can encounter on the South Coast . The beautiful crystal clear waters of Jervis Bay are also home to countless bottlenose dolphins. There’s a chance of spotting them while walking along the shoreline or while swimming at a beach (I once encountered some while swimming at Hyams Beach!), but the surest way to see them is on a dolphin watch cruise .

Climb on board a comfortable catamaran at Huskisson and go cruising around Jervis Bay for 1 1/2 hours. Your captain will keep you entertained with plenty of commentary, and the dolphins are fans of riding along with the boat.

#20 Stop at the Berry Donut Van

places to visit in southern nsw

Although the historic town of Berry has now been by-passed, it’s still worthwhile detouring via the town during your drive south, whether to enjoy a bite to eat or browse the shops. One of the must visit spots is the Berry Donut Van.

A fixture in Berry for over 50 years, join the inevitable queue to order their piping hot cinnamon donuts by the half dozen or singly. Enjoy onsite or during the drive south!

#21 Meet the Kangaroos of Pebbly Beach

The South Coast is home to many places where there’s a chance of spotting kangaroos in the wild. One of the best locations is Pebbly Beach, in Murramarang National Park in between Ulladulla and Batemans Bay. A photo of a kangaroo on the beach here led to rumours of surfing kangaroos!

Pebbly Beach is home to a national park campground , ideal for spotting the kangaroos when they’re most active at dawn and dusk, or it’s possible to just visit the picnic area during the day. Access is along a 8km gravel track, plus park entry fees apply.

#22 Go Ziplining in the Rainforest

Head to the mountains behind Kiama to discover the highest zipline in Australia, at the Illawarra Fly . Visitors to the Illawarra Fly can choose between just experiencing their treetop rainforest walk, with a breathtaking 500m section of steel walkway up to 30m above the ground, or also adding on a zipline tour.

The Zipline tour lasts 60 to 90 minutes and includes three zipline flights, as well as two suspension bridges and four cloud stations. It’s a fun adventure for the whole family, with children from ages four and up able to join in.

#23 Spend the Day at Magic Mountain

If visiting the Far South Coast with your family, don’t miss spending the day at Magic Mountain Merimbula .

This amusement park has plenty of fun attractions, from a rollercoaster and water slides, through to a jumping castle and mini golf. One of the newest rides is the Magic Cup and Saucer. There’s also a Tree Climb Challenge located next to the main amusement park, which is separately ticketed.

Pack a picnic and take advantage of the BBQ and picnic facilities onsite, or make use of the onsite cafe. The park is open daily during the Spring, Summer and Easter school holidays, plus from Thursday to Sunday over the warmer months. Note that it closes most days during winter.

#24 Sample the Local Beer

Jervis Bay Brewing

The South Coast is home to many boutique breweries, no matter what part of the coast you’re visiting. Some of the best places to kick back and enjoy a local brew, from north to south, include:

  • Resin Brewing in Bulli, a brewpub open daily for lunch and dinner in the old Bulli Railway Guesthouse
  • Five Barrel Brewing in the heart of Wollongong, with 12 taps offering their range of beers
  • Jervis Bay Brewing in Huskisson, with their spacious beer garden and food trucks on selected days
  • Flamin Galah Brewin’ Co, just around the corner from Jervis Bay Brewing – perfect for a short beer crawl!
  • Camel Rock Brewery at Wallaga Lake, also home to a restaurant with a menu focused on laidback Americana – think burgers and wings
  • Longstocking Brewery, just south of Pambula in the Oaklands complex, also serving up wood-fired pizzas and with an oyster bar

#25 Spot the Camel Rock

Camel Rock South Coast NSW

If visiting Camel Rock Brewery, don’t also miss visiting the nearby Camel Rock formation, after which the brewery is named. This rock formation is located at the northern end of Haywards Beach at Lake Wallaga.

Park in the nearby carpark and walk down to the beach for a close-up photo. It’s not the most obvious formation, but if you view it from the right angle, it clearly looks like a camel with a single hump!

#26 Meet the Animals of Mogo

Tiger Mogo Zoo

Just south of Batemans Bay is the Mogo Wildlife Park . Rather than focusing on Australian wildlife, this zoo is instead home to the largest collection of endangered and exotic animal species in Australia, with animals in their collection including African Lions, Sumatran Tigers, Western Lowland Gorillas and Southern White Rhinos.

Open daily, there’s also the chance to get up close and personal with many of the animals. Special tours are available with advance bookings to feed the tigers and lions, or play with the meerkats. It’s also possible to pay an additional fee to feed the giraffes, with no advance booking required.

#27 Hang Glide at Bald Hill

Hang glider Stanwell Park

If you’re interested in experiencing the rush of flying, but not at quite so high an altitude, consider going hang gliding on the South Cost of NSW.

One of the best places to go hang gliding is at Bald Hill, the hill above Stanwell Park in the northern suburbs of Wollongong. Enjoy soaring in the updrafts in front of the hillside, before landing next to the beach below. Investigate booking into a tandem hang glide , the perfect way to experience flying for the first time.

#28 Head to Jamberoo Action Park

Love to visit theme parks, especially those with lots of water rides? The best spot to head to on the South Coast is Jamberoo Action Park , close to Kiama. The park is open seasonally over the warmer months, including daily during the summer and Easter school holidays.

There’s a growing list of water rides at the park, from the Taipan to the Perfect Storm to Velocity Falls, plus one of Australia’s largest wave pools and the ever popular bob sled rides down the hillside.

#29 Stroll on the Merimbula Boardwalk

Merimbula Boardwalk Views

An easy walk to do on the South Coast, suitable for all the family include dogs on a leash, is the Merimbula Boardwalk . Situated on the northern side of Merimbula Lake, on the western side of the bridge, access the boardwalk by either parking next to the bridge or in the carpark on Lakewood Drive.

Largely a flat boardwalk, along with a few short lengths of footpath connecting some sections, the walk is about 2km in each direction. Allow about 1-2 hour to stroll both directions. Along the way, check out the local oyster farms plus keep an eye out for the local marine life.

#30 Taste the Local Oysters

Merimbula Lake is just one of the many lakes along the South Coast whether oysters are grown, and naturally there’s plenty of places to sample the locally grown shellfish.

On the southern side of the lake is Wheeler’s Seafood Restaurant , open daily for lunch and dinner except on Tuesdays. Wheeler’s is also home to an Oyster Bar and takeaway outlet, plus has previously run oyster farm tours, which hopefully restart soon.

If you’d prefer takeaway oysters, instead drop into McKay’s Oysters, a little further down the road. It was cash only when I visited, but I rated their oysters the most highly out of any on the coast. There’s also oyster shops in Narooma and Batemans Bay.

#31 Go Shopping in Berry

Berry Main Street

The historic town of Berry, in between Kiama and Nowra, is one of the best shopping destinations on the South Coast. A stroll along the main street, Queen Street, has been enhanced by the recent bypass of the town.

There’s a wide range of boutiques in the many historic buildings lining Queen Street, including some exquisite homeware shops, plus a wide range of gifts. Make sure you check out the Berry Tea Shop and the Berry Chocolatier.

#32 Visit Kangaroo Valley’s Pioneer Village

Kangaroo Valley Pioneer Village Museum

To explore what the South Coast was like during its early days, head to the Pioneer Village Museum in Kangaroo Valley. Located just across the historic Hampden Bridge, the museum is open daily during school holidays, plus weekends and selected weekdays the rest of the year.

Take a wander through the grounds and visit the settler’s hut, machinery sheds, dairy, forge and school house. There’s plenty of hands-on experiences for kids, from ringing the school bell to listening to running on the fun barrel. Afterwards, go for a bush walk on the tracks in the surrounding grounds.

#33 Get a Photo at Australia Rock

Australia Rock at Narooma

One of the must-visit photo spots on the South Coast of NSW is Australia Rock at Narooma. This “window” through the rocks that looks like a map of Australia has been a popular photo spot for many years.

Located at the southern break-wall, with car parking adjacent, while in the area it’s also worthwhile heading up to Bar Rock Lookout. There’s beautiful vistas out towards Montague Island, plus keep an eye out for seals visiting from the seal colony on the island.

#34 Visit Cathedral Rocks

Cathedral Rocks at Kiama

Another spectacular coastal feature to the north is Cathedral Rocks. These rocky outcrops are located just north of Kiama, at the southern end of Jones Beach.

It’s best to explore and photograph Cathedral Rocks at low tide with low seas, from the end of the beach. When the seas are higher, instead glimpse the rocks from the southern side, at the southern end of Cliff Drive near Boneyard Beach.

#35 Go Kayaking on Jervis Bay

South Coast Adventures

The calm, crystal clear waters of Jervis Bay are perfect for a kayaking adventure. Not to mention there’s also a greater chance of meeting many of the bays residents, from whales to dolphins to penguins.

This Half-Day Sea Kayaking Tour supplies all the equipment you need for kayaking, plus a delicious snack break, and is restricted to small groups, making for a relaxing experience. No wonder it has only five-star ratings!

#36 Walk Along the Mill Bay Boardwalk

Narooma Off Mill Bay Boardwalk

A stroll along the Mill Bay Boardwalk at Narooma is also sure to give you glimpses of the local marine life. The boardwalk is located on the northern side of the Wagonga Inlet, in between the Apex Park and Riverview Road.

A flat 350m long walk in each direction, take the time to spot and look out for glimpses of giant stingrays and fish. At Apex Park, it’s also worthwhile wandering over to the New Boat Ramp. It’s a popular spot with the pelicans and cormorants, especially when fish are being cleaned, plus it’s regularly visited by one of the local seals.

#37 Visit the Bundanon Art Museum

Bundanon is these days an art museum, located on the northern banks of the Shoalhaven River, west of Nowra. However, it was originally the home and studio of the painter Arthur Boyd, who then gifted it to the Australian government, along with an extensive collection of works both by himself and other prominent Australian artists.

In early 2022, the new art museum, embedded into the landscape, was opened. The museum hosts a changing program of contemporary exhibitions, along with events and concerts. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday, while the original homestead site and Arthur Boyd’s studio is open on weekends.

#38 Cycle Along the Coast

Dalmeny to Narooma Shared Pathway

The South Coast is home to long stretches of terrific cycleways, including many right along the coastline, perfect for bike riding for the whole family.

Just recently, Wollongong hosted the UCI Road World Championships and has now been named a UCI Bike City . In Wollongong, cycle along the shared path that runs from Thirroul in the north to the centre of Wollongong, passing countless beaches.

At Narooma cycle along the Dalmeny to Narooma Shared Path. The 9km path runs from Dalmeny Campground south to Bluewater Drive in the heart of Narooma, and is entirely paved or boardwalk.

Don’t have your own bike? In Narooma, it’s possible to hire an E-Bike , the easier way to cycle. Hire periods start from 2 hours and include a bike helmet.

#39 Walk Across the Sea Cliff Bridge

Sea Cliff Bridge

Ever since it opened in 2005, the Sea Cliff Bridge has been an icon of the Wollongong region. With its sweeping curves soaring out over the sea below, right next to towering cliffs, the bridge has starred in countless car commercials.

As well a must do on a road trip along the Grand Pacific Drive through Wollongong, it’s also possible to walk across the bridge, with a shared pathway on the eastern side of the bridge. The easiest spot to park is just south of the bridge after crossing it, or alternatively see if there is a free spot in the carpark just up the hill, near the Clifton School of Arts.

After walking across the bridge, at the northern end turn and walk down the pathway to the rocks below, for a surprisingly different view of the bridge.

#40 Visit the HARS Aviation Museum

Just south of Wollongong is the small Shellharbour Airport. While you are unlikely to fly into the airport (only occasional regional flights operate, thanks to the areas close proximity to Sydney Airport), there is another reason to visit the airport: the HARS Aviation Museum .

This museum is open daily and entry includes a guided tour through the hangars and displays, home to a range of historic aircraft and even a former Qantas 747. For the ultimate experience, book in advance for a tour of the 747, with Wing Walk, Cockpit and Premium tour options available. Also check when the next Wings Over Illawarra Airshow is happening.

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  • The NSW South Coast

There are lots of amazing places to stay on the NSW South Coast, with beaches, fresh local produce, stunning nature, and friendly communities.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Travel Australia Today. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and loves exploring different parts of Australia.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Travel Australia Today and has been a journalist for 20 years.

Last updated: December 22, 2021

All along the South Coast of New South Wales, you’ll find it dotted with small towns offering a delightful mix of casual beachside atmosphere with fresh produce and exciting authentic experiences.

There’s certainly a common vibe shared by the NSW South Coast towns but, at the same time, each has its own unique identity. There’s a reason that regular visitors have their favourite spots – and rarely diverge from them!

The region has long been a popular destination for the sort of extended trips that families make in school holidays – an apartment for a week, for instance – or the even longer stays that the nomadic campervan travellers prefer. It hasn’t traditionally been such a hotspot for international visitors.

What this means is that, from a tourism perspective, the NSW South Coast has all the infrastructure that you need for a great trip – but without the hype. There’s no pretension, no flashy tour agency shopfronts on the main street.

The best places to visit on the NSW South Coast

In South Coast towns, local producers are intertwined with the community and the restaurants and cafes often use fresh local ingredients. You can relax on the beach, potter about in town, or explore the stunning landscapes on the coast or in the hinterland.

But there are also plenty of experiences for a more active holiday, with local operators offering authentic ways to engage with the regions and make the most of what makes them special.

Let me now go into a bit more detail about some of the best places to visit on the NSW South Coast.

(I’ll be adding to the list as I travel through more parts of the coast, so I can bring you firsthand recommendations for your own trip.)

When it comes to Kiama, many people first think of the blowhole – and it’s certainly quite a spectacular natural landmark. But there’s much more to Kiama than just these crashing waves.

There are great beaches, heritage like the Pilots Cottage Museum, shopping in the centre of town, the farmers markets, and some popular surf schools and fishing charters.

The Kiama Coast Walk is a 20-kilometre trail along the water with some stunning views (and whale watching at the right time of year). Or you can head into the hinterland to visit Jamberoo or the delightful country town of Berry.

Just 120 kilometres from Sydney, it’s easy to think of Kiama as a day trip – but I would recommend staying at least one night so you can relax and enjoy the region.

Jervis Bay is set in one of the most picturesque parts of the NSW South Coast, with the white sands of Hyams Beach being one of the most iconic images of the region. But it’s the protected areas of Jervis Bay National Park and Booderee National Park that are the best areas to see the landscapes.

The national parks have stunning beaches to swim at, and lots of native wildlife. You can also learn more about Indigenous heritage with Aboriginal rangers at Booderee National Park.

Along with fishing charters, dive tours, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding, Jervis Bay is a great location to connect with the coast.

You can read here about more things to do in Jervis Bay .

Batemans Bay

Batemans Bay has a bit more development than some of the other towns on the NSW South Coast – but this can be a good thing because it means there are lots of accommodation options and it can be an easy place to base yourself.

A cycle path along the coast is a good way to visit places like Batehaven, and you can continue further south Mossy Point, where a walk around Broulee Island is a great way to see the nature.

The region is at the heart of Australia’s Oyster Coast and one of the best things to do in Batemans Bay is taste some oysters. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you can do that as part of a kayak tour with Region X , which will take you out through the oyster farms and then taste some samples right from the jetty.

There’s no shortage of good places to eat around Batemans Bay. Crumb in Batehaven is good for breakfast, the Mossy Cafe is a good lunch option, and Sam’s Pizzeria is a local favourite for dinner.

There’s a wonderful relaxed vibe in Narooma and, for a town that is very popular with tourists, it still has a local feel to it.

Along the coast is the Narooma to Dalmeny Cycleway, which has beautiful views and you can ride along with an ebike from Southbound Escapes . Another highlight is Montague Island, just off the coast, which you can visit with boat trips and even jump in the water to go swimming with seals.

The hinterland has some stunning national parks and I would recommend visiting Gulaga, a sacred mountain to the local Indigenous people. There’s a long walk to the top or you can learn more about its story at sea level with Minga Cultural Experiences .

The heritage town of Central Tilba is a beautifully-protected time capsule of the settlement of the area by dairy farmers and gold miners, and I would suggest taking a tour with Tilba Talks Historical Walks .

There are some wonderful places to eat. In Tilba, the Dromedary Hotel does excellent pub food. While in Narooma, the Quarterdeck is great for a casual lunch and the Whale Restaurant has an excellent modern Australian dinner.

More NSW stories

  • A visit to Port Macquarie
  • Things to do in Bowral
  • The best things to see in Mudgee
  • Visiting Mungo National Park

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An 8-day road trip itinerary along the NSW South Coast

Carla Grossetti

Sub-Editor & Journalist

31 October 2023

Time

Plot a course around the South Coast of NSW with our itinerary of must-dos.

Book some annual leave, throw your bags, kids and dogs in the car and follow our itinerary around the stunning NSW South Coast. Just remember to pack light, as you will want to stock up on artisan produce during the course of your leisurely road trip.

Day one: Sydney to Jervis Bay (drive time: three hours, 20 minutes)

This road trip loop begins in Sydney to Jervis Bay . But if you’re travelling south to north, you could easily pivot this itinerary around Eden. The stunning Shoalhaven town of Jervis Bay is a playground comprising crystalline waters and white sands.

The first thing you need to note when visiting Jervis Bay is how to pronounce it: it’s JERvis, not Jarvis. When you mention Jervis Bay, many Australians recall the spectacular white sand and turquoise waters of Hyams Beach. But Jervis Bay is actually a huge marine park with 16 beaches. It’s also a haven for bottlenose dolphins, the northernmost fur seal colony in Australia, and fairy penguins, making it one of the best places in the country for wildlife experiences . It’s what makes the region extra special.

Swim with the seals in Jervis Bay

Swim with the seals in Jervis Bay.

Fringed by Booderee National Park and Jervis Bay Marine Park, the region is a veritable paradise for nature lovers, surfers and – from May to October – whale watchers who come to see the whales come into the bay to rest and play. You can’t possibly do it all in one trip, but we’ve narrowed it down to our top 10 things to do and one of the standout options is a self-guided trail that will take you from Flamin’ Galah Brewing Company to Jervis Bay Brewing Co. where hop heads can pick up a few different styles of ale and lager to take home.

Different beer varieties, Jervis Bay Brewing Company, NSW Australia

Grab yourself a pint at Jervis Bay Brewing Co.

Whether you’re keen for casual frolicking or serious underwater adventure, the dazzling waters off the coast of Jervis Bay beckon: head to the marine park and book yourself in for a snorkel or dive session with Woebegone Freedive .

When all that saltwater action has worked up a ravenous hunger, head to the Huskisson Hotel for good, coastal pub fare or refuel with an Aussie-style burger and milkshake at The Cooked Goose on Hyams Beach, one of many top spots to eat in Jervis Bay .

There are a number of great Jervis Bay accommodation options, but to start your trip on a luxe note spend a night or two at Paperbark Camp. Here, you can truly appreciate the unique importance of your bushland surrounds in the Deluxe Plus Safari Tents which are perfect for family and friends travelling together as they can accommodate up to four people.

Paperbark Camp on the NSW South Coast

Paperbark Camp has five swish Deluxe Plus safari tents to add to its luxe offering.

You can also immerse yourself in the coastal experience at  Bangalay Luxury Villas , Shoalhaven Heads. For something altogether more casual, book a tiny cabin at  Huskisson’s Holiday Haven White Sands .

Bangalay Luxury Villas.

Dine by the pool at Bangalay Luxury Villas.

For families on a budget, head to the old-school Green Patch campsite in Jervis Bay, which is a short stroll away from Green Patch Beach and a protected, picturesque lagoon set within Booderee National Park. The Jervis Bay Holiday Park , which is set right on the river, is very family-friendly and you can pitch a tent or park your caravan on one of the powered or unpowered sites.

You can find more Jervis Bay accommodation options here.

Day two: Jervis Bay to Milton (one hour), then Milton to Batemans Bay (one hour)

After breakfast, pick up a grab-and-go option from Bangalay Dining to enjoy at your final destination: beautiful Batemans Bay. But relax and take it easy; there’s no hurry to get there. It is, after all, about the journey, so rise early and thread your way through the historic village of Milton, enjoying a stroll and stopping for coffee and cake at Small Town Food & Wine .

Navigate your way to the hills behind Milton for lunch and you’ll be rewarded with a wine-and-dine experience in the hinterland at picturesque Cupitt’s Estate . We do recommend, however, that you have the ‘designated driver conversation’ before  you start your meal.

Once you’re suitably fed and quenched, it’s just an hour’s drive to Batemans Bay, where there’s plenty to see and do. Do it right and time this leg so as to arrive for a restorative afternoon swim. Make a note to return to the property without the kids to stay in the luxury new pods. And don’t leave before picking up more provisions from Cupitt’s Estate, home to a fromagerie, brewery and winery.

places to visit in southern nsw

Enjoy a tasting at Cupitt’s Estate winery.

Make sure you build in some time to sample at least one of the many culinary gems dotted around Milton and the neighbouring towns of Mollymook and Ulladulla.

This area is well-endowed with excellent eateries, from the sleek and polished Rick Stein at Bannisters and Tallwood in Mollymook to Milton’s inviting Harvest Bar and Ulladulla’s Maverick Coffee.

You can also treat your tastebuds to lunch at The Ruse overlooking Ulladulla Harbour.

places to visit in southern nsw

Inside the sleek and polished Rick Stein at Bannisters.

The next leg of the South Coast NSW itinerary steers visitors into Batemans Bay for the night. But if you’re altogether captivated by Milton and its surroundings, you can opt to bed down at nearby  Surfside Cudmirrah Beach .

If you are continuing on, however, there’s a good chance you’ll arrive late in Batemans Bay. Know that when you do turn up, you’ll be warmly greeted at  The Esplanade , a boutique hotel where you’ll likely want to add a second night.

But what are road trips, if not flexible, right? You can also plump for a few nights at Pebbly Beach Escapes , just a 20-minute drive away in magical Murramarang National Park. The newly renovated Bay Breeze Motel is another boutique option located on the waterfront in Batemans Bay.

Building facade, The Esplanade, NSW Australia

Be greeted warmly at the boutique hotel, The Esplanade.

Day three and four: Batemans Bay to Bermagui (one hour and 25 minutes)

Before you put tyre to bitumen on the Bay to Bermagui leg, we strongly suggest you spend a good portion of the day exploring this country town in the heart of Australia’s Oyster Coast.

Batemans Bay

You might choose to do so by bike and pedal your way along the Batemans Bay cycleway, or perhaps you will decide to paddle along as part of a kayak tour with Bay and Beyond in the gentle waters of the Batemans Bay Marine Park.

Bay and Beyond Sea Kayak Tours, NSW Australia

Join the kayak tour by Bay and Beyond.

Be sure to block out some beach time at Mossy Point, which is often overlooked by visitors travelling along George Bass Drive. Stop off at the Mossy Point Cafe for coffee and healthy food options. Mossy Point is located smack-bang between the pristine Tomaga River and Candlagan Creek and one of the best ways to explore the coastal village is via kayak with Region X . You can also cycle all the way from Candlagen Beach to South Broulee.

Coffee art, Mossy Cafe, NSW Australia

Don’t forget to grab yourself a cuppa at Mossy Cafe.

Before setting off bound for Bermagui, head to the Oyster Shed on Wray St to pick up a cheeky dozen. Foodies will love the fact they can also arrive at the Oyster Shed by paddling along the Clyde River with Region X. You can also go for a twilight seafood cruise on the Clyde/Bhundoo onboard the MV Merinda , operated by the Innes family, long-term South Coast locals.

Continue onto Bermagui on the stunning Sapphire Coast. This picturesque harbour town is well known for its impossibly fresh seafood and deep-sea game fishing. While you may not be here to throw a line out, you can certainly indulge in the catch of the day at the Bermagui Fishermen’s Wharf .

The traditional owners of the land around Tilba are the Yuin people and Gulaga is the sacred mother mountain of the region. After European settlement, the region’s rich volcanic soil lured dairy farmers and this industry is still evident at makers such as Tilba Real Dairy . You can also enjoy artisan produce at the famous heritage-listed Dromedary Hotel .

places to visit in southern nsw

Welcome to Batemans Bay.

If you’re travelling with children, we advise you swing through historic Mogo and pay a visit to  Mogo Zoo before continuing onto Bermagui. There’s also a Rock Platform Discovery Walk near Depot Beach along the intertidal zone in Batemans Bay Marine Park where you can spot colourful crabs walking sideways to their homes in the rock pools. For parents with teens, there are quality points and beach breaks dotted between Mollymook and Batemans Bay.

Order some meals online from Eastwoods Deli & Cooking School , pop into the Camel Rock Brewery Bar & Grill for woodfired pizzas and pints, and enjoy fine dining on the grounds of Mimosa Winery in the heart of the Sapphire Coast. Make sure you restock your picnic hamper with bakery items from Il Passaggio and Honorbread.

Plate of Oysters, Il Passagio, Bermagui Fisherman's Wharf, NSW Australia

Try the fresh oysters from Il Passagio at Bermagui Fishermen’s Wharf.

If you choose to drive to Bermagui via Bega, you can enjoy the South Coast’s award-winning premium gin experience.

Although the name implies that the gin is made in Eden, North of Eden distillery and cellar door is actually located closer to Bega. North of Eden Gin runs gin-making classes – a must for an interactive experience in the region – and bookings are essential.

Chelsea sidecar, North of Eden Distillery, NSW Australia

Learn how to make a variety of cocktails with North of Eden Distillery.

Buy some local oysters from the iconic East Lynne Store roadhouse and enjoy a seafood feast by the pool at The Anchorage Bermagui before retiring to your self-contained apartment.

places to visit in southern nsw

Enjoy a barbecue and retreat to your room at The Anchorage Bermagui.

Oakleigh Farm Cottages is half an hour’s drive from Bermagui and another family-friendly option for accommodation on the Eurobodalla South Coast of NSW. You can also bunker down at Mimosa Wines farmhouse, which sleeps nine guests – perfect for a few families or group of friends – or nestle down in Narooma at the Bermagui Beach Hotel, which has great food and magic views.

Other accommodation options in the area include Mystery Bay Cottages, Mountain View Farm at the base of Gulaga and Tilba Lake Camp.

Oakleigh Farm Cottages, NSW Australia

Oakleigh Farm Cottages is another family-friendly option.

Day five: Bermagui to Merimbula (70 minutes) then Merimbula to Eden (25 minutes) and back to Merimbula overnight (25 minutes)

Rise and get the day off to a shining start with some more baked delights from Bermagui’s Honorbread . Once you’ve inhaled some delicious carbs, head to the famous Blue Pool just off Pacific Drive for an invigorating dip. The pool is still worth a visit in the cooler months as it offers a great vantage point for whale-spotting.

places to visit in southern nsw

Start the day with some baked delights from Bermagui’s Honorbread.

Enjoy Red Brick Coffee and supreme plant-based cuisine at Boneless , a vegetarian café in Bermagui. Enjoy aperitivos at the Harbar overlooking – you guessed it – Bermagui Harbour before finding a place to perch at Il Passaggio, a modern Italian restaurant located at the Fisherman’s Wharf.

It’s time to roll on to the Merimbula Wharf Aquarium and Restaurant where you can feed the fish in this remarkable location that clings to the coastline. Stop in at Toast Pambula for a healthy brunch, then cross the road to the  Wild Rye’s Baking Co  to pick up some coffee and pastries that will sweeten the short drive to NSW’s most southerly town of Eden.

Do not leave town before dining at Valentina , the hottest (and most sophisticated) ticket in town and sister restaurant Dulcie’s Cottage, which serves craft cocktails and beer alongside local oysters and fries.

Exterior of Toast, NSW Australia

Stop in at Toast Pambula for a healthy brunch.

Eden is a town of deep beauty, where the verdant bush virtually tumbles down craggy cliffs and into the sea. It also has a fascinating (and horrific) whaling history, which you can explore at the home-spun  Eden Killer Whale Museum  and by driving the Killer Whale Trail on the Sapphire Coast.

If you’re wild about whales, plan your visit in November to coincide with the Eden Whale Festival. Keen bird-watchers will appreciate the gentle pace of a kayak tour with Kiah Wilderness Escapes, as guide Jen Robb points out native flora and fauna in the local environment. Grab coffee and a toastie or healthy salad at Sprout, a cafe on the main street of Eden that also puts together epic picnics.

Calm waters, Kayak, Kiah Wilderness Tours, NSW Australia

Appreciate the calm waters through a kayak tour with Kiah Wilderness Escape.

Head to Green Cape Lookout for mesmerising vistas from the jagged peninsula, where you might even spot a fur seal or an albatross. Join a Cat Balou  cruise of Twofold Bay for a more in-depth interaction with this coastal beauty or a Wharf to Wharf Walk with Sapphire Coast Guiding Co . Guide Cam Read also conducts e-bike tours of Mimosa Rocks National Park and can tailor a tour of the Sapphire Coast to suit. Foodies can also pinball between oysters, distillers, brewers, makers and bakers along the newly launched Gourmet Coast Trail .

places to visit in southern nsw

Join a Cat Balou cruise of Twofold Bay.

Keep it low-key at one of the many Airbnbs or camping parks in the area or stay at the newly made-over Hillcrest Merimbula which is luring style-savvy road-trippers with its retro vibes.

The two-storey motel, which is located at the top of Merimbula Drive, faces seaward and has the feel of a lighthouse. It also has a tennis court, pool, and fire pit and can arrange a private sit-down dinner catered to by local chefs.

Outdoor dining, Hillcrest Merimbula, NSW Australia

Keep it low-key at the newly made-over Hillcrest Merimbula.

Day six: The return journey to Sydney from Eden to Tathra (50 minutes) then Tathra to Narooma (70 minutes)

Sadly, it’s time to point the nose of your car homeward. Stop at Sprout Eden for brunch where you can stock up on local smoked seafood from the  Eden Smokehouse before your cruise north.

Then it’s onward to Tathra, where you can find yourself an ocean-side picnic spot and decant the smoked goods from your esky, supplemented with some  Tathra Oysters  you’ve picked up on the way.

Walk along the new Tathra Headland Walk to arrive at the iconic Tathra Wharf, before heading to the Tathra Hotel for lunch. Pividori’s Tathra Beach is the new sister eatery to Blend and a prime spot to perch. Burn off those calories by hiring an e-bike from Tathra Beach & Bike and exploring the region’s 55 kilometres of trails.

Tathra Hotel, Dining, NSW Australia

After all the exploring, head to the Tathra Hotel for lunch.

The biggest takeaway message when exploring the tiny coastal hamlets on the NSW South Coast is that you will have a multitude of reasons to return. If you didn’t get to Narooma on the way south, head there on your way northward to check out what hotelier Justin Hemmes has contributed to the local amenity.

Hemmes, who owns a coastal homestead nearby, has given a very considered zhoozing to the tiki-style Quarterdeck pub and cocktail bar, The Inlet next door and the 17-room The Whale Inn .

Tiki Style Cocktails, Quarterdeck, NSW Australia

Help yourself to some tiki style cocktails at Quarterdeck.

Believe the Narooma rumours: Hemmes has done a wonderful job of reimagining all three properties, which are still a work in progress. In taking that slowly-slowly approach, Hemmes is being led by the community and giving them what they need and want.

Take a tour out to Montague Island with Montague Island Adventures where you can snorkel with the seals, take a penguin tour and enjoy hearing the history of the island with a National Parks & Wildlife Guide.  Fisherfolk should also factor in an offshore adventure with Charter Fish Narooma.

places to visit in southern nsw

Landscapes at Tilba Valley Winery and Alehouse

The clear waters of Narooma in the Eurobodalla region invite swimmers, surfers, snorkellers and divers into its pristine depths. But if you have the time, a must-visit itinerary item is a day trip to  Montague Island with Montague Island Adventures . Here,  you’ll find incredible sea life, birdlife (including penguins) and a fur seal colony, all just nine kilometres from Narooma.

Hire an e-bike from Southbound Escapes and burn off some of those Quarterdeck calories on your way to the quirky food van known as The Oyster Farmer’s Daughter , located overlooking the Coxon family’s oyster lease on the banks of Wagonga Inlet.

Beer nerds will also appreciate craft beer and tacos and live music on offer at Big Niles Brewery , another noteworthy Narooma operation run by Cam White, a former pro BMX rider turned brewer.

places to visit in southern nsw

Montague Island is practically begging for a day trip.

As aforementioned, The Whale Inn was snapped up by Justin Hemmes in 2021. And the bar tsar, who calls Narooma home for much of the year, has built on the previous owners’ vision for a destination restaurant with rooms. Check into The Whale Inn before taking a short drive to Tilba for a lazy afternoon at the Tilba Valley Winery and Alehouse.

If you have time, take a side trip to explore Cobargo, Tilba Tilba and Central Tilba, where lunch at the Dromedary Hotel is a must. Reserve a table at The Whale Inn for dinner so you can enjoy some Merivale magic.

You will also enjoy views over Montague Island from your room at the Amooran Apartments just opposite the cliff-top Narooma Golf Course.

Bed down beachside at the adorable  Mystery Bay Cottages, where you have your own, private four-star cottage set on a beachfront 12-hectare property or step it up a notch again and treat yourself to a night in a converted barn studio at Tilba Lake House , set against the sacred Mount Gulaga.

For something a little more low-key and family-friendly, try Big4 Narooma East’s Holiday Park and Tathra Beach House Apartments .

Mystery Bay Cottages NSW Australia

Have a restful stay at the adorable Mystery Bay Cottages.

Day seven: Narooma to Kiama (three hours, four minutes)

Today is the day you will be making your way from Narooma to pretty Kiama. Enjoy a pop-up breakfast picnic on the shores of Wagonga Inlet via Southbound Escapes or visit the takeaway window at Mr Bold Catering Co. in the industrial area of Narooma to stock up before you set off. Mr Bold Catering takes pre-orders of local grazing platters on Wednesday afternoons with a rotating roster of heat-and-eat meals that you can enjoy at your local accommodation. You can also pre-order a picnic platter and cocktails or the full dinner party feast.

Sunset over beach and ocean

Head down for an afternoon surf and catch this breathtaking sunset in Kiama.

When you do arrive in the coastal village of Kiama, you must take a tour of those breath-snatching blowholes before settling into the laidback-luxe vibes at Diggies  at Blowhole Point for a well-rounded afternoon of good eats and cooling cocktails.

places to visit in southern nsw

Laidback-luxe vibes at Diggies.

Still hungry? Head to The Hungry Monkey and The Brooding Italian for burgers. Miss Arda  is the sister venue of  Otis Deli , both opened by chef Emily Herbert (the former head chef under Yotam Ottolenghi at Ottolenghi Belgravia in the UK).

The Kiama Coastal Walk is a 20-kilometre track that curls gently from Minnamurra River to Gerringong’s Werri Werri Beach. For such a staggeringly beautiful coast-fringed walk, it’s remarkable how under-the-radar this experience is. You needn’t do it all; simply choose the section that suits you best and be entirely captivated by this special place.

Weriweri Beach, NSW Australia

See views of Werri Werri Beach on this staggeringly beautiful coast-fringed walk.

Kiama has a sparkling new boutique hotel. Complete with 32 stylish rooms, a pool, and coffee dispensed from a ‘Kombi’,  Nova Kiama will bring your road trip to a well-appointed end.

Room interior, Nova Kiama, NSW Australia

Nova Kiama will bring your road trip to a well-appointed end.

Day eight: Kiama to Sydney (one hour, 42 minutes)

It’s time for the final leg of your NSW South Coast escape. You came, you spent money, and you’ve left these communities in slightly better shape than before your visit. There’s no doubt you’re also feeling restored by this enriching experience punctuated by clear waters, astounding wildlife and friendly locals. This is what we call mutually beneficial tourism. Well played, travellers.

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places to visit in southern nsw

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?

kangaroo-valley-waterfalls

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

sydney-to-bowral-map

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.

mermaid-pools-waterfalls-in-sydney

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.

BEST-WATERFALLS-IN-SYDNEY(1)

19 Best Waterfalls In Sydney 2024 Guide (Plus Swimming Holes!)

Via coastal route to kangaroo valley.

paragliding-stanwell-tops

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.

sri-venkateswara-temple-helensburgh

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

things-to-do-in-kangaroo-valley

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

harrys-on-green-lane-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.

Where To Stay In Bowral

Budget: Bowral Boutique Motel has clean rooms and is located in the centre of town.

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.

Bowral Restaurants

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

the-orangery-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!

harrys-on-green-lane-bowral

28 Best Things To Do In Bowral NSW 2024 Guide

You can’t miss the beautiful berrima.

berrima-southern-highlands

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.

Berrima Restaurants

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

Berkelouw-book-barn-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

red-cow-farm-moss-vale-sydney

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-moss-vale-sydney

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

places to visit in southern nsw

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.

Where To Stay In Bundanoon

Budget: Bundanoon Country Inn Motel is a fantastic choice for budget friendly, with a swimming pool and tennis courts.

Mid Range: The Bundanoon Guesthouse has fantastic reviews, complete with a spa bath and kitchenette for a country escape.

Bundanoon Restaurants

Check out DeliLicious in Bundanoon for breakfast and lunch and Bottega Ristorante for an Italian dinner.

Things To Do In Bundanoon

MEDITATION-RETREAT-IN-SYDNEY-SUNNATARAM-FOREST-MONASTERY

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.

MEDITATION-RETREAT-IN-SYDNEY-SUNNATARAM-FOREST-MONASTERY

Best Weekend Meditation Retreat In Sydney At Sunnataram Forest Monastery

Visit the epic waterfalls in kangaroo valley.

weekend-getaways-from-sydney-kangaroo-valley

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

Couples Tiny 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.

Groups or Families: Discover this amazing rainforest retreat we stumbled across in the heart of the Kangaroo Valley.

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

kangaroo-valley-australian-bank-cafe

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.

READ OUR KANGAROO VALLEY GUIDES

13 Best Waterfalls In Kangaroo Valley

42 Best Things To Do In Kangaroo Valley

More Waterfalls & Pies In Robertson

best-things-to-do-in-robertson

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.

Where To Stay In Robertson

Mid Range: Stay at Greengate Bed & Breakfast for free breakfast with mountain views

Mid Range: The iconic Robertson Hotel has a beautiful outdoor pool and on site bar.

Robertson Restaurants

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

carrington-falls-southern-highlands

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.

best-things-to-do-in-robertson

15 Best Things To Do In Robertson NSW

Adventure in jamberoo.

Minnamurra-Falls

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.

Jamberoo Restaurants

Head over to Ananda Green Kitchen for breakfast, Kings Patisserie for lunch and the Jamberoo pub for dinner.

Things To Do In Jamberoo

jamberoo-lookout-southern-highlands

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

berry-doughnut-van

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.

Luxury: Mt Hay Retreat is worth splashing out for a special occasion.

Berry Restaurants

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

drawing-room-rocks-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
  • Meditation: Bundanoon
  • 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!

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The ultimate guide for southern highlands.

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Top Things to Do in the Southern Highlands, NSW

by Lisa Bull | Last updated Jul 20, 2022 | Illawarra

What to see and do in the Southern Highlands, NSW - a great day trip from Sydney. Includes quaint old towns such as Bowral, stunning waterfalls at Fitzroy Falls & the beautiful Kangaroo Valley.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for more details.

If the idea of perusing quaint old bookshops and exploring leafy national parks takes your fancy, you’ll love the Southern Highlands, NSW. Situated just over 100km southwest of Sydney and accessible by train or car, Southern Highlands is an ideal destination for a short NSW escape.

Top Southern Highlands attractions include quirky antique stores, the annual tulip festival in Bowral, walking trails around gushing Fitzroy Falls and the opportunity to detour into picturesque Kangaroo Valley. 

To find out what to do in the Southern Highlands, whether you’re planning a day trip or a weekend getaway from Sydney , read on to learn more!

Things to Do in Bowral

Bowral is a quaint country town sitting at the foot of Mount Gibraltar. Bowral attractions include bookstores, antique shops and boutiques, as well as lots of cute cafes.

Cafes and Food in Bowral

We had a coffee at the cosy  Elephant Boy Café on Bong Bong Street, which was lined with old books and felt like a set from Harry Potter! 

Next, we enjoyed pastries from Gumnut Patisserie , which had lots of outdoor seating. The Southern Highlands is well known for its pies, so you’ll see plenty of bakeries!

Visitor enjoying coffee in Elephant Boy Cafe, Bowral, on a day trip from Sydney.

Tulip Festival Bowral

The best time of year to visit Bowral has to be September (early spring), as the annual Tulip Time Festival is on!

Corbett Gardens in Bowral is the main attraction, with over 75,000 tulips on show, lots of craft stalls and plenty of family-friendly events to enjoy, including a sunset cinema.

Flowers and parkland at Bowral Tulip Festival in Corbett Gardens, Bowral.

Things to Do in Mittagong

If you’re on a day trip from Sydney , Mittagong will be your first stop-off point when you reach the Southern Highlands region. Mittagong information centre is situated on Main Street, so pop in for more information on tourist attractions in the Southern Highlands.

Things to do in Mittagong include admiring heritage buildings, visiting craft shops and art galleries, and eating in stylish cafes such as The Shaggy Cow . The hilly backdrop reminds you that you’re not in Sydney any more!

Mittagong - a quaint country town in the Southern Highlands, NSW.

Vintage Shops & Antique Stores in Mittagong

Mittagong is more spread out than Bowral and not quite as quaint, but the shops on Bowral Road are fantastic to browse.

We spent ages rummaging through all the clothes and accessories in Twisting Vintage , and even if it’s not your thing, don’t miss a look around Hunters and Collectors Antiques . This was by far the most interesting and eclectic antique store I’ve ever been in, selling everything from mopeds to tiger taxidermy!

Vintage shopping in the Southern Highlands NSW.

Mount Gibraltar Lookouts

If you’re driving to Mittagong, make sure you take the short detour up Mount Gibraltar for scenic views across the Southern Highlands. It’s one of the main tourist attractions in Mittagong.

Head along Oxley Drive, and you’ll pass some impressive country mansions before taking the loop road to Mittagong Lookout and Jellore Lookout. Further along, Bowral Lookout also has toilets and a picnic area.

Map of Bowral Lookout up Mount Gibraltar.

Things to Do in Bundanoon

Further down the Southern Highlands trainline sits the historical town of Bundanoon. The town has a much smaller shopping strip than Bowral and Mittagong, but it’s extremely charming, with well-preserved heritage architecture.

The other main attraction in Bundanoon is its proximity to nature. Bundanoon is walking distance to Glow Worm Glen, which lights up after sunset, and it’s only 3km from Morton National Park (where you’ll find Fitzroy Falls).

Explore the Southern HIghlands NSW on a trip from Sydney.

On the way to Bundanoon is the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village of Exeter. I only saw two shops there but I had to stop for a photo of the antique store!

The Village Pump antique store in Exeter, NSW.

Things to Do in Morton National Park & Fitzroy Falls

A visit to Fitzroy Falls is one of the most popular things to do in the Southern Highlands. Morton National Park, where Fitzroy Falls is located, also boasts multiple walking tracks, rushing waterfalls and plenty of breath-taking viewpoints.

Morton National Park in the NSW Southern Highlands Australia.

Fitzroy Falls

Fitzroy Falls is an 80m-high waterfall that gushes down into the valley below. It has to be one of the most well-known attractions in the Southern Highlands, as well as in Morton National Park. The falls is located 16km southeast of Moss Vale.

You can park at Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre on Nowra Road (it cost $4 when I visited, coins only), which has a cafe, toilets, information, souvenirs and a picnic area with barbecues.

Blogger Lisa Bull and friends, standing in front of Fitzroy Falls, New South Wales.

Walking Tracks in Morton National Park

From Fitzroy Falls visitor centre, it’s only a two-minute walk to Fitzroy Falls main lookout. If you prefer a longer hike, there’s actually 10km of walking tracks that you can enjoy.

We walked as far as Richardson Lookout, which was a pretty flat and easy stroll, but you could easily continue on further.

Richardson lookout in Fitzroy Falls, Australia.

Camping in Morton National Park

If you want to go camping in the Southern Highlands, check out Gampbells Rest Campground ., which has picnic facilities, showers and toilets.

Grand Canyon Lookout

To enjoy stunning views without hiking, there are parking spots on Bundanoon Loop Road at the Sunrise Lookout and Grand Canyon Lookout.

Grand Canyon lookout in Morton National Park.

Things to Do in Kangaroo Valley

Stunning Kangaroo Valley lies 16km south of Fitzroy Falls, and a visit there is definitely one of the most popular things to do in the Southern Highlands, NSW. I think Kangaroo Valley is the most picturesque area in the Southern Highlands region. 

To get to Kangaroo Valley, you’ll need to drive down a steep descent from the elevated highlands, where you’ll zig-zag down through beautiful rainforest. It reminded me of all the mountain roads in Tasmania!

Hampden Bridge

You’ll know you’ve arrived in Kangaroo Valley when you pass over Hampden Bridge, Australia’s last surviving wooden suspension bridge.

The bridge is flanked by impressive gothic Victorian sandstone towers. If you pull over before the caravan park, just after you’ve crossed the bridge, you can get out and take photos. There’s also a little track leading down to the riverside.

Hampden Bridge in Kangaroo Valley, NSW.

Kangaroo River

Flowing underneath Hampden Bridge is Kangaroo River, which is popular with kayakers and a great spot for a picnic.

Osborne Village

A little farther down Moss Vale Road, you’ll come to the village of Osborne (the main centre of Kangaroo Valley), which is full of cute heritage buildings from the late 1800s with a lush backdrop of greenery. You can even have coffee in the 1891-built bank!

Cafe in Kangaroo Valley, Southern Highlands NSW.

How to Get to the Southern Highlands

You can reach the Southern Highlands by train or car, but you’ll obviously have more freedom in a car, particularly to get to Morton National Park and Fitzroy Falls. However, all the towns I’ve listed (apart from Kangaroo Valley) have train stations, so they’re easily accessible.

Driving to the Southern Highlands

The distance from Sydney to Mittagong is 114km via the M31, which takes around an hour and a half to drive.

Southern Highlands Trainline

The train from Central Station in Sydney to the Southern Highlands takes just over two hours and only costs around $6 each way. Just be aware that the trains only run every hour or two, so check the Southern Highlands train timetables in advance!

The Southern Highlands trainline is really picturesque, passing through lots of open countryside and villages. Make sure you pick the journeys that state you can use your Opal card, as some trains run all the way to Canberra and cost much more.

For more ideas for NSW getaways, check out my other New South Wales travel guides . If you’d like to extend your trip, I’d thoroughly recommend a visit to stunning Jervis Bay in South Coast NSW. Have a great time exploring the Southern Highlands, NSW!

Top things do in the Southern Highlands, NSW - a great day trip from Sydney. Includes quaint old towns such as Bowral, stunning waterfalls at Fitzroy Falls & the beautiful Kangaroo Valley.

Lisa Bull, founder of Dreaming of Down Under, has been living in Australia as a British expat since 2015. After travelling to every state and territory in Australia and living in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney, Lisa knows from first-hand experience the best destinations to visit in Australia and the best budget travel tips. Her guides on this blog have been read by over 700k readers and helped thousands of people achieve their dream of living in or travelling Australia.

Travel Made Me Do It

We really enjoyed your blog post. It helped us put together our own weekend itinerary for the Southern Highlands. We really enjoyed all of the amazing waterfalls in the region. We see you got to Fitzroy Falls. Did you get a chance to visit Belmore or Carrington Falls?

Cheers, Dan & Beck

Lisa Bull

Hi Dan and Beck,

Glad you enjoyed the post! I haven’t visited Belmore or Carrington Falls. Thanks for the tip.

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Hi, I'm Lisa, a British expat living in Sydney. I've travelled almost the whole Australian coastline and love sharing detailed travel and migration guides to inspire other adventurous souls to travel or move to Australia. Read more about me!

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15 beautiful country towns to visit in NSW

Beyond the hectic high-rise of Australia’s cities, pretty regional towns and villages show a different side to the country. Here are 15 beautiful country towns to visit in NSW.

Beautiful country towns to visit in NSW

Christina and I have been travelling through country towns and exploring the far-away places of Australia for over 20 years. And I tell you what, it’s never boring.

Every town has a different feel to it. Every village has something new to offer.

And of course there’s the eternal hunt for that holy grail – the best pie in Australia!

There’s nothing we love in the midst of a road trip more than pulling up to a little country town and strolling down leafy streets mounted with metal awnings and flagged with ornate facades.

Beautiful country towns to visit in NSW - door

We love peering in through the windows of the old pub on the corner, poking a nose in through the bakery doorway and admiring the Akubras on display at the general store.

We love seeing what’s become of the old bank or if the town hall has retained its overlord magnificence. We love finding out the secrets each town keeps for its locals – a favourite cafe, the best restaurant, a hidden scenic spot or a key historic moment.

These are secrets that come to you almost before you ask. It’s the way small towns work. We love it.

As we travel through New South Wales, watching the landscape change slowly around us, Christina and I are always on the look-out for a promising spot to stop.

Every chance to get off the freeway and slow our trip down – it’s a mix of extending our time travelling and satisfying our thirst for new experiences.

1. Bundeena – 1h10m S of Sydney

This often overlooked little beachside town is surprisingly close to Sydney. But being tucked away on the edge of the Royal National Park, it feels like you’re a lot further away.

It’s a beautiful drive through the bushland of the national park down into the town. Alternatively, you can get the train to Cronulla and the 35-minute ferry across the bay to Bundeena.

Click here for great hotel and holiday home deals in Bundeena.

NSW country towns to visit - Bundeena

The string of shops near Horderns Beach offer good coffee and a bite to eat, though Jibbon Beach further round is where the locals prefer to go. At the far end is a collection of ancient Aboriginal rock carvings through a short, easy bushwalk.

Bundeena means ‘noise like thunder’ in the local Dharawal language – probably from the sound of the waves crashing at Horderns Beach.

2. Mittagong & Bowral – 1h15m SW of Sydney

With a wealth of ace bakeries and cafes (the region is home to the National Annual Pie Festival ) and tremendous civic pride, these two pretty towns of the Southern Highlands are well worth visiting.

The Southern Highlands is also a developing wine region with some surprisingly good Pinots and other cool-climate medium-bodied reds.

Find beautiful places to stay in the Southern Highlands – from boutique hotels to B&Bs – here.

NSW country towns to visit - Bowral

The Gundangara gave Mittagong and Bowral their names meaning ‘little mountain’ and ‘high place’ respectively.

You should also check out our full review on Moss Manor , a stunning mansion that’s been converted into a beautiful hotel full of lovely art, architecture and decor, just down the road in Moss Vale.

3. Blackheath – 1h25m W of Sydney

A quaint little Blue Mountains village a few Ks past Katoomba, Blackheath and its art deco buildings is exactly what you want in a getaway in the mountains.

Stay at the Parklands Country Gardens and Lodges for that extra level of comfort and luxury you’ll need after a hike through the bushland from nearby Govett’s Leap, and don’t forget to check out Scenic World back in Katoomba for a completely different view of the mountains.

NSW country towns to visit - Blackheath

You can check out our review of Parklands Lodge and Spa here and what it’s like at Scenic World too.

For more accommodation options, here are a few more hotels and guesthouses in Blackheath we love.

4. Berry – 1h50m S of Sydney

Normally, when the freeway bypasses little country towns like Berry, it’s the death knell for tourism there. But for this little place it’s made a huge improvement.

During weekends and holidays, endless lines of traffic would clog the pretty high street. Now, visitors to the town – of which there are still plenty – can enjoy a peaceful pie or a donut from the famous food truck while they stroll Queen Street with its colonial buildings and art deco frontages.

Find the best place to stay in Berry here.

NSW country towns to visit - Berry

You’re also only a couple minutes’ drive from sweeping Seven Mile Beach and its rolling surf. In the hills surrounding Berry, the beautiful romantic Mount Hay Retreat is the perfect spot to relax at the end of a busy day exploring – you can see our full review here .

5. Kangaroo Valley – 2h SSW of Sydney

Tucked into the vale of the Kangaroo River, this tree-filled little village has so much character. After a dramatic drive down through the forest into the valley, you find the pioneer settlement amidst the trees and fields.

You feel so close to nature here. It’s so tranquil.

And if you arrive from the west, you’ll be welcomed by the sight of the historic Hampden Bridge – a Victorian wooden suspension bridge with imposing crenelated stone towers either side.

There are plenty of beautiful places to stay in Kangaroo Valley. Here’s a selection at the best prices.

NSW country towns to visit - Kangaroo Valley

6. Maitland, Morpeth and Lorn – 2h5m N of Sydney

Maitland has long history with impressive facades and an entertainment district right on Hunter River. We were very impressed with the dining options in Maitland .

Lorn is a pretty little town on the other side of the river with perhaps the best bakery we’ve ever been to.

As for Morpeth some 15 minutes out, this little one-street town has an amazing history that once made it one of the most prosperous settlements in the colony .

We stayed at the Bronte Boutique Hotel in Morpeth while we were in town – check out the rates here . And you can read our full review of this fascinating manor house here .

NSW country towns to visit - Maitland, Lorn and Morpeth

7. Port Stephens – 2h45m NNE of Sydney

One of our favourite spots on the NSW coast, this beachy peninsula has lots of little towns worth visiting.

Strangely overlooked and under-visited (though nearby Novocastrians have long known about it), Port Stephens is that perfect mix between relaxed, secluded beachside escape and fully functioning town with all the facilities for an easy break.

Horses on the beach, Birubi Beach Stockton BeachAnna Bay, Port Stephens NSW

We’ve written a lot about Port Stephens over the years, but here’s our Essential Guide to get you started.

Check out accommodation options in Port Stephens here. There are so many great places to stay, some with spectacular beachfront views.

8. Milton – 2h50m S of Sydney

This fun, pretty spot in the Shoalhaven is close to the South Coast beaches and has plenty of great eating options like Pilgrims and Flour Water Salt – not to mention Rick Stein at Bannisters in nearby Mollymook.

Milton’s comfortable, easygoing vibe is reflected in its eclectic architecture that goes back to its founding in the 1860s.

NSW country towns to visit - Milton

If you have time, it’s definitely worth taking a trip to neighbouring Ulladulla to visit Cupitt’s Estate winery. The cheese platter they do there is the perfect match with the delicious wine and stunning scenery.

9. Mudgee – 3h20m NW of Sydney

If there’s an easier country town to fall in love with, I’d like to see it. Mudgee – apart from having an incredible range of top quality local wine and food – has to be the friendliest place in the country.

We stayed at the Mudgee Homestead Guesthouse , which is home to the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in. For real!

As for where to eat, what to drink and what to do there, we’ve got plenty of ideas for you .

NSW country towns to visit - Mudgee

Mudgee gets its name from a degradation of the Wiradjuri Aboriginal term ‘Moothi’ meaning ‘nest in the hills’ – the perfect name for this beautiful little town.

Click here for the best accommodation options at great prices.

10. Jugiong – 3h20m SW of Sydney

This quaint country town on the banks of the Murrumbidgee retains a lot of its pioneer and gold-rush past in its buildings and aesthetic. It’s a favourite of Canberrans travelling to and from Victoria, and we can see why.

In particular, the Long Track Pantry is worth the detour off the Hume Highway on its own. Delicious home-made breakfasts and lunches, not to mention jams and local crafts from the shop behind.

NSW country towns to visit - Jugiong

The Wiradjuri People named Jugiong, which means ‘valley of the crows’ in their language.

11. Scone – 3h25m N of Sydney

Scone (say it the way that rhymes with ‘stone’, never the other) is impressively the horse stud capital of the country and 2nd biggest in world.

Much of this beautiful old colonial town is – as you’d expect – horse-based and the Scone Annual Horse Festival every May fills the town with excitement – not to mention cowboys, blacksmiths, rodeo riders and polo players.

NSW country towns to visit - Scone

You can check out our guide on where to stay and where to eat in Scone here , but make sure you drive around the outskirts of the town to see the rolling hills where so many champion thoroughbreds started life.

12. Orange – 3h35m W of Sydney

My advice is to arrive in Orange hungry and thirsty.

The town itself boasts some stunning colonial architecture, beautiful parks and some amazing places to eat and drink. Something that locals take very seriously.

Orange is the only wine region in Australia that’s designated by altitude – from 600m above sea level up to the top of Mt Canobolas. Anything below that cannot be considered Orange wine.

This big country town has plenty of hotels and guesthouses to choose from. Here are some of the best.  

NSW country towns to visit - Orange

There are so many wineries to visit here it’s almost overwhelming. But here are 7 wineries to get you started . And if you want more of an idea of what to do, we have a quick guide to the town to help.

13. Young – 3h50m WSW of Sydney

The mixture of colonial, art deco and modern facades through the main streets shares the heritage out amongst the functional nature of Young.

But to its spry sounding name and pretty town centre, Young adds the title of Cherry Capital of Australia to its list of amiable assets.

NSW country towns to visit - Young

And if you’re in town during cherry season, picking your own fruit or simply finding boxes piled high with glowing deep red fruit is a real treat.

14. Corowa – 6h SW of Sydney

Sitting on the river border of Victoria, this Riverina village has an abundance of old yet well-kept buildings, an excellent Sunday market in the park and a beautiful whisky distillery that also makes chocolate.

The distillery – Corowa Distillery – is also one of the best places to come for lunch or breakfast. You can read more about the distillery here.

NSW country towns to visit - Corowa

Corowa gets its name from the local Bangerang Aboriginal language. It’s a degradation of the word ‘currowa’, which either refers to the local curra pine trees or a word meaning ‘rocky place’.

15. Newrybar – 8h N of Sydney

In the hills above Byron Bay , this town has so much personality. Tree-lined streets of timber-frame houses and cute little shops with a sense of humour create a chill rural vibe in a place not so far from the tourist hub of northern NSW.

And don’t forget to eat at least once at Harvest .

NSW country towns to visit - Newrybar Antiques

Newrybar is a Bundjalung word meaning ‘place of climbing vines’, which seems to fit with this little town that’s so at one with the leafy nature all round it.

But these are just a few of the gorgeous little towns scattered across New South Wales.

It’s good to take notice of guides like this one, but it’s also sometimes worth just closing your eyes and pushing that pin in to see where your next adventure will take you.

I bet you’ll find somewhere beautiful.

Beautiful country towns to visit in NSW

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A 3-day itinerary in the Southern Highlands

For more than 150 years, travellers have been drawn to the quiet country charms of the southern highlands. today, it’s still the perfect pastoral retreat for busy city folk looking for a weekend of good food, great wine and southern style..

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

Taste cool climate wines at boutique cellar doors 

Explore the stylish shops of Bowral  

Hike to the top of Mount Gibraltar  

Spot celebrities at the Highlands’ cool new members club  

Get arty at Ngununggula gallery, founded by Ben Quilty 

Couple enjoying wine tasting at Bendooley Estate, Berrima

DAY ONE: Soak up Southern Highlands charm

DAY ONE KEY FACTS:  

Moss Manor is located at: 

1A Throsby St, Moss Vale, 2577 

A 1hr 35min drive (136km) from Sydney 

Morning 

Set out early from Sydney and you’ll be in Bowral in time for brunch. The Press Shop is a local favourite, set inside a beautiful heritage building that also houses a boutique letterpress studio . The menu heroes local produce and features inspired dishes like breakfast potato gnocchi, prawn toast and panna cotta.  

Shop interior at Bespoke Letterpress, Mittagong

Bespoke Letterpress , Mittagong

Afternoon  

This little village punches above its weight when it comes to style, so grab a coffee to go and set out to explore some of Bowral’s excellent shops. Along Bong Bong St you’ll find chic boutiques like MicMac Boutique, Hem, ARKKE , Zoë Georgiou and Carousel Lifestyle. For homewares and vintage finds, wander over to Dirty Jane’s and the adjacent Green Lane precinct. If you are feeling peckish, check out Harry’s on Green Lane , a quirky eatery brimming with greenery, wicker chairs, marble tables, bookshelves stocked with antique reads and travel memorabilia.  

Load your purchases into the car and set off for the 15min drive south to your hotel, Moss Manor , in the village of Moss Vale . A grand Georgian building dating back to 1890, the house was once the mayor’s residence and was transformed into a luxurious boutique hotel in late 2022. There are just eight rooms, all with charming original features, opulent furnishings and contemporary artworks. 

Moss Suite with marble bath at Moss Manor, Moss Vale

Moss Manor , Moss Vale - Credit: Moss Manor

Evening 

Take a short stroll down to the main street of Moss Vale tonight for dinner and drinks at Southern Highlands Brewing Taphouse . Order a crafted-locally beer flight alongside a Brasserie-style menu of steals, burgers, pastas and popular mainstays such as pork ribs, garlic prawns and lamb kofta. On the way back to your hotel, drop in to Wine Mosaic Lounge for a glass of something local on one of the comfy couches.

Southern Highlands Brewing Taphouse, Moss Vale - Credit: Elise Hassey | Southern Highlands Brewing Company

Southern Highlands Brewing Taphouse , Moss Vale - Credit: Elise Hassey | Southern Highlands Brewing Company

DAY TWO: Mountain highs & boutique wines

DAY TWO KEY FACTS:  

Mount Gibraltar is located at: 

Oxley Drive, Bowral, 2576 

It’s a 17min (13km) drive from Moss Manor 

Wake up early this morning and explore some of the natural wonders that surround the Southern Highlands. Mount Gibraltar is a short drive from your hotel and the highest point between Sydney and Canberra. Reaching 863m high, the mountain is a 150-million-year-old collapsed volcano, and is threaded with walking trails and spectacular lookouts. Refuel with breakfast at The Shaggy Cow cafe in Mittagong ; the sourdough pancakes with caramelised bacon makes for a sweet start to the day. 

Wine being poured for tasting at St. Maur Wines in Exeter, Southern Highlands

St Maur Wines , Exeter

This afternoon, it’s time for wine. There are more than a dozen cellar doors dotted throughout the Southern Highlands, specialising in cool climate drops like pinot noir, pinot gris and rosé. Because of the compact nature of the area, all the wineries are within an easy drive (though you’ll have to choose a designated driver). Popular cellar doors include Bendooley Estate (also home to the famous Berkelouw Book Barn), PepperGreen Estate , St Maur , Southern Highland Winery and Tractorless Vineyard , where petite, black-faced sheep keep the grass down between the vines. 

If you’d prefer to let someone else handle the details, book a wine tour with The Highlands Tour Co . Every tour is private and can be customised to take in exactly what you want to see – and taste. 

 biodynamic, regenerative and sustainable farm vineyard with man feeding sheep, Berrima

Tractorless Vineyard , Berrima

Finish the day at the one-of-a-kind Berrima Vault House . Inspired by London members’ clubs like Soho House, this convict-built former pub has been reborn as a cosy place to drink, dine, work and play. But don’t worry – you don’t have to be a member to drop in for dinner on a Friday or Saturday night. The menu is eclectic, covering everything from kombu tofu to BFC (Berrima fried chicken), lobster rolls and vegan strudel, but the real fun is the people watching. It’s a hot spot for local celebs and Sydney society visiting their country retreats. 

Business events delegates enjoying beverages at Berrima Vault House, Berrima

Berrima Vault House , Berrima

DAY THREE: Embrace the arts

DAY THREE KEY FACTS: 

Ngununggula is located at: 

1 Art Gallery Lane, Bowral, 2576 

It is a 14min (11km) drive from Moss Manor 

Enjoy a sleep in this morning, making the most of your last few moments in the supremely comfortable bed at Moss Manor . Then grab coffee and a French pastry at Les Gourmandises , a chic bakery cafe on Bong Bong St in Bowral. Then it’s off for a morning of art at the innovative  Ngununggula  the Southern Highlands’ first regional art gallery, which opened in late 2021. It was championed by legendary Australian artist (and Southern Highlands resident) Ben Quilty and occupies the former dairy shed at the 1880s Retford Park . The name means ‘belonging’ in the local Indigenous language and features works from artists like John Olsen and Ken Done, a collection of Aboriginal art, and a vibrant exhibition program. 

Holding on, 2021; Shake it off, 2020; A clap of thunder rising deep inside my soul, 2020, Ngununggula | Retford Park

Ngununggula , Southern Highlands - Credit: Zan Wimberley

There’s just time for one more long lunch as you make your way back to Sydney. Centennial Vineyards is just outside of Bowral and the on site restaurant is one of the best in the Highlands. Owner and head chef Robin Murray focuses on seasonality for his menu, so you could sit down to a rich, slow-cooked beef bourguignon in winter or a broad bean tart with red pepper coulis and zucchini flower in spring. Chef Murray also has a small farm nearby where he grows fruit and vegetables, and raises animals to serve in the kitchen. 

Couple enjoying a Pinot Masterclass experience at Centennial Vineyards, Bowral

Centennial Vineyards , Bowral

Getting there: 

The Southern Highlands is around 90 minutes’ drive south of Sydney. You can also catch the train directly from Sydney to Bowral, which takes around two hours. Once you’re in the Highlands, all the villages are within a 30min drive.  

Cycling mural on the side of the Cafe Bike Shop in Bundanoon, Southern Highlands

Cafe Bike Shop, Bundanoon

Tulip Time Festival

Visit the Southern Highlands in spring to experience the magic of Tulip Time. More than 75,000 bulbs are planted in Bowral’s Corbett Gardens, creating a captivating sea of colour. There are also market stalls, live music, roving performers, art installations and special night-time events. Tulip Time 2023 will run from 19 September to 2 October. 

Tulip Time Festival in Corbett Gardens, Bowral

Plan your trip to the Southern Highlands

Credit: The Seidler House

Southern Highlands highlights

Bendooley Estate in Berrima, Southern Highlands

Eat & drink

The scenic Belmore Falls waterfall at Morton National Park in the Southern Highlands

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Attractions & Activities

There is fun to be had by all ages in the Southern Highlands!  Come and explore our extensive range of cool climate wineries and meander along our wine trail. Take an action packed visit to the Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures and zip line through the trees. History buffs can get their fix at the NSW Rail Museum, Berrima Court House or the Bradman International Cricket Hall of Fame. Garden lovers will be delighted by the open private gardens in season as well as the beautiful Red Cow Farm. Shopaholics will enjoy the abundance of local boutique specialty shops, along with fantastic antique emporiums to peruse. There are amazing art galleries, model railway exhibitions, bargain priced movie tickets at the Empire Cinema as well as local produce markets held every weekend! The region boasts three magnificent water falls with look-outs and walking tracks located at each. You’ll be amazed at how much there is to see and do in the Southern Highlands!

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Sydney Expert

NSW Southern Highlands – a Beginner’s Guide

You have decided it is time to explore the NSW Southern Highlands, but other than that, the Highlands include a bunch of cute towns and waterfalls; you don’t really know much about them. Never fear, we have done the groundwork and today present a quick guide for anyone who wants to find the best experiences to include on your next day trip or getaway from Sydney.

Why Visit the NSW Southern Highlands

Top 6 reasons to visit the highlands, burrawang village, kangaroo valley, sutton forrest, how cold does it really get, driving routes to the southern highlands, southern highlands train services.

This post contains affiliate links. Our full disclosure policy  is here.

Think of this introduction to the major towns as a good starting point for learning more about this fascinating region just south of Sydney. For each town, we have included the highlights and the basics of getting there.

The Southern Highlands of New South Wales has both natural beauty and historic significance by the bucket load. Rolling hills in shades of lush green and English-style villages with their quirky shops, pretty gardens and grand homesteads are big draw cards.

The highlands sit on the Great Dividing Range, the fifth-longest mountain range in the world. It stretches from Cape York to the Grampians in Victoria.

Added to that are seven stunning but less explored National parks, including Morton, Budderoo and Macquarie Pass, dozens of vineyards and a vibrant food scene, and you have more than enough reasons this collection of towns and villages, just 90 minutes south of Sydney should be on the radar for your next city escape.

But first, some history…

This is Gundungarra and  Tharawal  (or  Dharawal ) land; it extends from Camden to Goulburn; at one time, the Gundungarra people were referred to as the Bong Bong tribe, so if you have ever wondered how Bong Bong Street in Bowral came to be now, you know!

Wingecarribee, Burradoo, Mittagong, Bong Bong, Bowral, Bundanoon and Nattai are all Indigenous Australians words

By the time the first settlers arrived, records suggest less than 100 indigenous people had lived in the region. Some worked with the colonials as guides and translators, while others moved further south.

In 1802, when the explorer Francis Barrallier met the Gundungara people, he noted in his journal that the Gundungara “themselves build huts for the strangers they wish to receive as friends.” 

It was not until the 1880s the highlands became a popular place for city dwellers to escape the summer temps. With a landscape reminiscent of England, elegant retreats appeared shortly after that railway line opened. Inns and public houses appeared in number, and like Katoomba, it sprung to life with Sydney’s elite coming to stay.

places to visit in southern nsw

  • Chasing waterfalls – along with the trinity of Carrington, Belmore, and Fitzroy Falls, there are several less known, spectacular waterfalls waiting to be discovered.
  • Hiking – An enormous variety of bush walks with tracks ranging from short family-friendly walks to challenging day walks to hone your navigation skills.
  • Wine tasting – (and of course shopping) – organic, vegan, handpicked, family-operated are popular words used to describe the award-winning wineries that produce a vast range of cool-climate wines.
  • Wildlife spotting – Koalas, platypus and kangaroos are in good numbers in the highlands. In fact, the area has the largest koala population in Southern NSW.
  • Garden visits – The annual Tulip Time festival in spring and the changing autumn tones draw Sydneysiders to these towns every year.
  • Antique and homeware shopping – Dozens of fabulous antique shops, op shops and stylish boutique homeware shopping.

The Main Towns in the Southern Highlands of NSW

If you drive down the freeway from Sydney, Mittagong is the first town you come to is surrounded by walking trails, lookouts, and home to the beautiful Lake Alexandra. Mount Gibraltar, the highest point in the highlands, is just a short drive away, and there are some lovely walks in the area.

What to See and Do in Mittagong

  • Climb or drive to the top of 863m high Mount Gibraltar and check out the views from its three lookouts, Bowral Lookout, Mittagong Lookout and Mount Jellore Lookout
  • Picnic at Lake Alexandra – feed the ducks and take a walk around the lake after lunch. Excellent facilities and lots of space.
  • Take a tour of a working farm for only $20 at The Pines Pastoral.

Where to Shop

  • Mittagong Antiques Centre
  • Twisting Vintage – vintage fashion emporium. 

Where to Eat

  • The Shaggy Cow – great coffee and quality local treats
  • Gumnut Patisserie – the prettiest cakes and pastries in town
  • Paste Australia – Thai Cuisine Restaurant

Paste Thailand

Where to Stay Near Mittagong

  • Mittagong Caravan Park is a brilliant spot if you are road tripping or camping
  • Apple Tree Cottage – a historic 1870s sandstone cottage
  • Old Bank Boutique Hotel – in town and walking distance to the train station.

Wine tasting near Mittagong

  • Artemis Wines – This dog-friendly, family-run winery was the first to plant Pinot Noir in the region.

Location: Google map link Transport : Train from Central to Macarthur then change for the Moss Vale train – average travel time 2hrs 20 minutes.

The largest of the Southern Highlands towns, Bowral is an excellent base if you want resort-style hotels and fine dining on your doorstep. It’s also a top choice for visitors without a car. The town is home to many well known Australians, with those from the arts best represented.

places to visit in southern nsw

International Cricket Hall of Fame (aka the Bradman Museum) – Where a life-sized statue of Sir Donald Bradman greets you on arrival, and plenty of fascinating cricket memorabilia await inspection in the attached museum.

Bowral (originally Bowrall) is said to come from the Aboriginal word that means “high and large”

Things You Should See in Bowral

  • Corbett Gardens – the centre of the action in late September for the Tulip Time Festival
  • Mansfield Reserve – a great place to spot koalas and stretch your legs
  • Retford Park – A stunning Italianate mansion managed by the National Trust
  • The Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame – get the map and do the Bradman town walk too!

places to visit in southern nsw

Where to Eat 

  • Bare Bites and Brews  – vegan plant-based eatery
  • Eden Brewery – Craft beer and great burgers
  • Tractorless Wine and Bowral Brewing @ The Mill Bowral – The Mill complex is a must.

Where to Shop in Bowral

  • Dirty Janes Antique Shop – a well-known spot for fossicking for interesting pieces – they also serve high tea.
  • The Plantation – a cafe that sells some fabulous local food and household products

The Plantation

Where to Stay 

  • Berida Hotel  – luxury rooms with spa and indoor pool
  • Sebel Bowral Heritage Park – studios, 1 and 2-bedroom apartments
  • Peppers Bowral  – 5 minutes from town on a 9 hole golf course
  • Gibraltar Hotel  – high-end rooms on a stunning 18 hole golf course

Wineries in or Near Bowral 

  • Centennial Vineyards – a Haliday’s 5 star rated vineyard and one of the oldest in the region. Hosting the Borealis in the Vineyards this winter!

Location: Google map link Transport : Train from Central to Macarthur then change for the Moss Vale train – average travel time 2hrs 25 minutes.

This historic village is perfect for visitors looking for a day trip from Sydney that includes poking around the shops. Its name is said to mean southward” or “black swan”.

Berrima Gaol NSW

This pretty Georgian Village is jam-packed with historic buildings that have barely changed since the railway bypassed the town in the 1860s.  The town is full of historical significance, including the oldest continuously licensed inn in Australia. Convict labour was employed to build the Surveyor General Inn (1834) was built with convict labour.  

Visit in spring and you can see Canola fields along the way into town.

It’s home to Australia’s oldest surviving gaol, and its impressive courthouse is the site of the colony’s first jury trial in 1841.

  • Take the Berrima River Walk and see if you can spot a platypus
  • Find your way out of the Hedge maze at Harper’s Mansion 
  • See the latest works at Whitewall Art Projects
  • Visit the Berrima Courthouse

Whitewall Art Berrima NSW

Where to Eat in Berrima

  • Berrima General Store  – book or arrive early on weekends
  • The Magpie Cafe – a great spot for a long lunch
  • Gumnut Patisserie – the region’s most popular place for cakes

Where to Shop 

  • Berrima Village Pottery 
  • Sticky Beak’s Emporium
  • Hand Stirred Jam Company
  • Berkelouw Book Barn – books and dining just out of town

places to visit in southern nsw

Wineries In or Nearby

  • Peppergreen’s Tasting Room is right in town
  • Bendooley Estate  is on the road north to Sydney

Location: Google map link Transport : Train to Moss Vale and then 812 bus (30 mins_

One of the biggest towns in the highlands, Moss Vale, was the first Southern highlands settlement site. Once the railway arrived, so did settlers, and it became the hub of the region. The town is still very much a service centre for the highlands. Well known for its English trees and gardens, Moss Vale is now developing a reputation for fantastic food and dining. There is plenty here to keep the food lover happy; you cannot fit it all into one weekend.

places to visit in southern nsw

Must-See Sites in Moss Vale

  • Throsby House – First permanent colonial resident to Moss Vale, Jemmy Moss, a herdsman was employed by the owner and worked at Throsby House.
  • The wetlands at Cecil Hopkins Nature Reserve will delight bird lovers

Where to Eat in Moss Vale  

  • Post Office Cafe  – a great restoration right by the train station.
  • Southern Highlands Brewing & Taphouse  – try to arrive for “Tappy Hour” 3pm – 6pm Fridays
  • Birch Restaurant – degustation and fine dining

Shop in Moss Vale

  • Mossy Store  – homewares and handmade furniture
  • Bowerbird on Argyle – Design store with a fab range of homewares, gifts and fashion items.
  • Reviva at the Resource Recovery Centre – Reuse, recycle and upcycle at the social enterprise run centre. If you love to rummage around in charity shops, don’t miss this one.

Where to Stay in Moss Vale

  • Argyle Hotel   – Budget digs in the centre of town.
  • The Old Nunnery is a lovely BnB in a 120-year-old property.
  • Peppers Manor House – On the outskirts of town, this property offers rooms and suites on magnificent grounds.

Wineries near Moss Vale

  • Mount Ashby Estate – one of the most photogenic wineries we have visited in the region

Location: Google map link Transport : Train from Central Station 2 hours and 30 minutes (Change at Macarthur Station)

A small, quiet town that links the Illawarra coast to the highlands, Robertson is a dairy town famous for its cheese. It is also the largest potato growing area in NSW.

places to visit in southern nsw

Many lookouts in the area offer green rolling hills and distant sandy beaches. This town, which feels much like a small English village, is a fabulous base for visiting the many waterfalls or hiking in Budderoo National Park.  

Many early settlers in the area came from Ireland, among them John Hanrahan, who planted the first potato crops in 1867.

Robertson makes a great base for exploring the national parks and waterfalls. There is plenty of food for the appetite you build after a day of hiking. It’s also a wonderful spot to relax and take in the views!

Natural Highlights Near Robertson

  • Belmore Falls – named after the Governor of NSW and Earl of Belmore 
  • Carrington Falls and nearby Nellies Glen
  • Fitzroy Falls – also named for a NSW governor 
  • Remnant Native Australian Rainforest – take a walk, thought the 600m loop – great for kids 
  • Illawarra Fly – just 10 minutes from Robertson, take the treetops walk for fabulous rainforest views.

Roberson Public House

Where to Eat in Robertson

  • Moonacres Kitchen – Well known for their sourdough, which we rate too!
  • Lucinda’s Pantry – we missed it this time, but locals were really adamant we try it next time.
  • Southern Rise Bakery / Robertson Pie Shop – Do a pie taste test and pick your favourite – Southern Rise won us.
  • Robertson Public House (1887) – the local pub and one of the oldest timber buildings in NSW
  • Robertson Cheese Factory   – way more than just cheese with antiques, fudge, and fantastic gelato.
  • The SHAC – Southern Highlands Artist’s Collective – an eclectic collection worth a look across the road from the pub.
  • The Cool Room – A Country Emporium – In the same building as the Cheese Factory

Where to Stay

  • Robertson Hotel   – Grand old hotel – with friendly service, and unpretentious style is home of the TV Series The Traitors that premiered in 2022.
  • Robertson Public House – pop up to bed after they call last drinks! Lovely rooms but share bathrooms may not appeal to all.

Location: Google map link Transport : Train to Wollongong and then board the Moss Vale bus, which stops in Robertson. The full journey takes about 3hrs and 15 mins.

Famous for its avenue of English trees and rolling mists in April/May, Bundanoon is home to the annual Brigadoon Festival , which sees the population swell to celebrate all things tartan.

The next Brigadoon Festival is on 1 April 2023

There is also a very popular walk to the Glow Worm Glen, where you can see glow worms shine after dark. Sadly, it was damaged in the 2020 bushfires and is currently closed.

Aerial overlooking the town of Bundanoon in the Southern Highlands

Finally, stop in at Sunnatarum Forest Monastery for something completely different, currently only open on Sundays. You can take part in a meditation session and join the monks for lunch. You can also help in the garden in the afternoon.

Location: Google map link Transport : The train to Canberra makes a stop at Bundanoon. Limited services from the Southern Highlands line also make the journey.

Smaller Southern Highlands Towns We Love

Just a short drive from Robertson and a good place to stop off after viewing nearby Belmore Falls. The Burrawang General Store and the Burrawang Pub are the two key places to search out a meal.

places to visit in southern nsw

The southernmost town of the area, Kangaroo Valley, is a very popular town for a weekend away. Paddle the Kangaroo River, or take a swim under the historic Hamden Plenty of great accommodation and a very good caravan park make this a popular weekend getaway spot.

Country retreat for wealthy Sydneysiders in the 1880s and some pretty famous names today. A little over 5km from Moss Vale Sutton Forest once hosted NSW governors at Hillview Estate for their summer vacations. Make time, visit Red Cow Farm and its beautiful gardens. One look at their Instagram feed will convince you that you need to stop here.

Exeter General Store  is the place to head for breakfast if you find yourself down this way at the right time of day. They named the town after an English town in Devon.

A must for history lovers, Joadja is home to an abandoned mining village and a distillery that produces various spirits, including single malt whiskey, gin, brandy and more. Book a distillery tour or visit the old town.

When is the best time to visit the Southern Highlands?

With four distinct seasons, there is no bad time to visit, as each offers unique experiences. Visitor numbers swell in spring and autumn for the floral displays and, in winter when visitors flock to enjoy roaring fireplaces and fine food. June is actually the busiest time of year, and accommodation prices are at their peak. Summer is a close second. Autumn is great hiking weather, and prices are most affordable then too.

The average Sydneysider will need to pack a jacket year-round for a visit to the highlands – we are not used to cool overnight temps, so you will probably reach for it come sundown.

places to visit in southern nsw

  • Summer – day time highs of 23-26 degrees celsius and 12-18 degrees overnight
  • Autumn – 12-18 degrees in the daytime to between 11-2 overnight
  • Winter – 11-13 day time highs and 1-3 degrees overnight
  • Spring- 16-23 and 4-10 overnight

May, July and August see the least rain, and there is only occasional snow in the region. The wettest months are February, June and November.

How to Get to the Southern Highlands

From Sydney, you can approach the highlands via the M5 Motorway and Hume Highway or the M1 along the coast and then the Macquarie Pass to Robertson.

  • The Hume Highway is the best choice if you are planning to visit Mittagong, Bowral or Berrima.
  • To visit The Southern Highlands’s waterfalls and towns of Roberton or Kangaroo Valley, take the M1 and Macquarie Pass or Jamberoo Mountain Road.

The area is well suited to a loop trip, so return the opposite way if you plan to visit most towns during your stay.

If you don’t have a car, you can still enjoy a break here. Trains travel from Sydney to Bowral, Mittagong and Moss Vale. Choose one of these towns as a base, and there is enough to keep you busy exploring for a couple of days.

Southern Highlands Train Station

3 thoughts on “NSW Southern Highlands – a Beginner’s Guide”

Hiking, wine tasting, and waterfalls? Sign me up! It seems like an amazing part of the country to explore. Hopefully I’ll be able to tour around it soon!

Such a beautiful part of NSW and Im grateful that I have visited a few of these places. However looks like there is much more to see. It has been a few years now since. I was living in Toowoomba Qld and we drove down to Melbourne via Sydney and the Southern Highlands. Thank you for a great post.

It’s evident that your passion for travel and storytelling has transformed this guide into a captivating adventure for your readers. Your love for the NSW Southern Highlands is contagious, and you’ve left us eager to immerse ourselves in its beauty. Here’s to more wanderings in this enchanting haven!

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PlanetWare.com

14 Top Attractions & Places to Visit in New South Wales (NSW)

Written by Karen Hastings Updated Sep 24, 2021

New South Wales (NSW) is the oldest state in Australia and one of its most diverse. Sydney shines as the state capital, with famous tourist attractions like the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, as well as top-notch restaurants, galleries, and museums. Venture beyond this beautiful harbor city, and you'll find a state full of surprises, with six of Australia's World Heritage Areas.

Topographically, New South Wales reflects the diverse landscapes of the country as a whole. The Great Dividing Range cuts through the center of the state, carving it into an eastern coastal strip, rimmed by dazzling beaches, while the stark desert beauty of the Outback sprawls to the west.

Exploring New South Wales is easy, and you'll find plenty of rewarding things to do. Climb or ski the rugged peaks of the Snowy Mountains, hunt for opals in red-earthed Outback towns, hike through World Heritage-listed rainforests, dive the coral reefs of Lord Howe island, and step back in time at Norfolk Island's World Heritage historic sites.

Learn more about this dynamic state with our list of the top attractions and best places to visit in New South Wales.

2. The Blue Mountains

3. lord howe island, 4. byron bay, 5. the south coast's beaches, 6. the hunter valley, 7. coffs harbour, 8. norfolk island, 9. port stephens, 10. the snowy mountains, 11. kangaroo valley, 12. outback nsw, 13. armidale, 14. canberra, map of attractions & places to visit in new south wales (nsw).

Sydney

Sydney, the capital of NSW, is one of the world's most alluring cities. Graced by the iconic Sydney Opera House and harbor bridge, the sparkling blue harbor is the city's crown jewel. Hop aboard a ferry or harbor cruise to really appreciate these top Sydney attractions and the city's stunning waterfront location.

In addition to world-class restaurants, festivals, galleries, and museums, you'll find plenty of things to do in Sydney . Stroll along the cobblestone streets of the historic Rocks area; wander through the Royal Botanic Gardens ; or climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can also explore the shops, restaurants, and tourist sites at Darling Harbor , one of the top New South Wales attractions for families.

Sydney is known for its excellent beaches . You can bask on famous Bondi Beach , learn to surf at Manly, or paddle the calm waters at Balmoral.

You'll also find plenty of attractions near Sydney. Stretching northwest from the city, the picturesque Hawkesbury River and surrounding national parks are great day trip destinations, with excellent opportunities for bushwalking, birding, and boating.

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains National Park

The Blue Mountains are one of the most scenic places to visit in New South Wales. For more than a hundred years, this region has been a favorite getaway for nature lovers.

About 65 kilometers west of the city, the mountains rise steeply out of the coastal plain, combining magnificent gorges, waterfalls, rock formations, and sacred Aboriginal sites with excellent tourist facilities. Named for the blue haze created by the many eucalyptus trees, the region forms one of the state's magnificent World Heritage Sites .

Popular things to do in the Blue Mountains include hiking, rock climbing, abseiling, mountain biking, and photographing the spectacular beauty. Save time to see all the top attractions. Highlights include Wentworth Falls , the towering sandstone rock formations called the Three Sisters , and the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah .

At Jenolan Caves , the world's oldest known open cave system, you can view glittering stalactites and stalagmites. The Blue Mountains also host some of Australia's best hiking trails .

Wondering about the best way to see some of the top natural attractions with limited time? Sign up for the adventures offered by Scenic World. These include a Skyway, cableway, an elevated walkway, and one of the world's steepest railways. Better still, book a combination of these adventures to see the park from different perspectives.

Blue Mountains National Park is one of the top places to visit near Sydney by car, but you can also catch a train or join a guided day trip tour.

Read More: Top Attractions & Places to Visit in the Blue Mountains

Lord Howe Island

World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island is a haven for serenity-seekers and nature lovers. Surrounded by the world's most southerly coral reef , this spectacular island, about 660 kilometers off the New South Wales north coast, only allows a maximum of 400 guests at a time.

Lord Howe encompasses a number of islets, which are part of a former volcano. Dramatic cliffs rise along the rugged coast, and other island highlights include white-sand beaches, pristine native forests of pandanus and kentia palms, and spectacular views from atop 875-meter-high Mt. Gower .

Almost two-thirds of Lord Howe is protected, and the island is home to a diversity of flora and fauna. Birding is excellent, with more than 130 permanent and migratory species. Offshore, the Lord Howe Island Marine Park protects coral reefs, and offers superb diving and snorkeling.

Other popular things to do on Lord Howe Island include fishing, surfing, kayaking, and hiking along the many walking trails. Bikes are the best way to explore the island - they are also the island's main mode of transport.

Looking to disconnect from the stress of daily life? You're in luck. You won't find any cell phone reception here, which helps to preserve the peaceful ambience.

Lord Howe Island lies less than a two-hour-flight away from Sydney or Brisbane, and although it's not technically a tropical island, it still ranks as one of the most beautiful islands in the South Pacific .

Byron Bay

On the north coast, Byron Bay is a hot spot for surfers and New Age nature buffs. A wide stretch of golden beach fronts the ocean here, and a lovely hike along the Cape Byron Track leads to the most easterly point on the Australian continent and its famous lighthouse. Dolphins and whales frolic in the waters, and water sports abound.

In the hinterland, you can explore World Heritage-listed Wollumbin National Park (formerly Mount Warning National Park) with tranquil rainforests and waterfalls. Byron is also known for its colorful markets, as well as its health and yoga retreats, spa resorts, and luxury boutique hotels.

Lately, celebrity spotting has become a favorite pastime. Chris Hemsworth is a famous resident, and several other high profile Hollywood stars have spent time here between movie shoots.

To soak up the soul of old Byron Bay, venture about an hour inland to the tiny town of Nimbin , a hippie hub and hotbed for counterculture and alternative lifestyles.

Blenheim Beach, Jervis Bay

If you love beaches, bucolic landscapes, and charming small towns, you'll love the South Coast of New South Wales. Stretching from the southern fringe of Sydney to the Victorian border, this region is home to some of the state's most beautiful white-sand beaches set against the dark summits of the Great Dividing Range . Rolling green hills, lakes, inlets, and forests fringe the coast, and the climate is mild throughout the year.

Strung along the coast are a series of small holiday resorts. Many offer fantastic opportunities for water sports from their beaches, including swimming, fishing, snorkeling, and surfing. Kiama is home to the world's largest blowhole , and Jervis Bay is a standout with its radiant powder-soft sands. Nearby, the dazzling Hyams Beach, reputedly with the world's whitest sand, is one of Australia's best beaches . Batemans Bay is also home to alluring shores, as well as the Batemans Bay Snorkelling Trail.

If you're looking for some of the most beautiful hidden places in New South Wales, you'll find them along the South Coast. Merimbula and its sister village Pambula on the Sapphire Coast are hidden gems, with beautiful beaches, crystal-clear lakes, and fantastic opportunities for water sports.

One of the most southerly places on the coast is the old fishing village of Eden , once a prosperous whaling station. North and south of town lies the Ben Boyd National Park with magnificent views of reddish sandstone cliffs from Boyd's Tower, a former lighthouse.

Hunter Valley

The picturesque Hunter Valley, about a two-hour drive north of Sydney, is one of Australia's most famous grape-growing regions. It's also a popular weekend escape from Sydney - especially for foodies, who come here for the delicious farm-fresh produce, cooking schools, and gourmet restaurants with chef's tasting menus.

Highlights of the Hunter Valley region include the beautiful Hunter Valley Gardens , several excellent art galleries, and vast stretches of unspoiled bushland.

At World Heritage-listed Barrington Tops National Park, you can hike through ancient rain forest and see impressive waterfalls and a diversity of wildlife.

Also in the region, Wollemi National Park is one of the largest national parks in New South Wales. It's home to the famous Wollemi pine and offers excellent bushwalking, rock climbing, and canoeing.

Newcastle is one of the largest towns in the region, and it's a great place to visit if you want an urban buzz after your country getaway. It's one of the biggest New South Wales' cities after Sydney, with museums, galleries, excellent cafés and restaurants, and a lively entertainment scene. Save time to stroll along the Bathers Way coastal walk while you're here. It's one of Newcastle's most popular attractions.

Accommodations in the Hunter region range from luxury spa resorts and boutique hotels to rustic cabins.

Coffs Harbour

Blessed with beautiful beaches and a mild, subtropical climate, Coffs Harbour is a favorite holiday destination for families. The town is famous for its Big Banana , an homage to the local banana-growing industry, with interesting displays, sweet banana-inspired treats, and kid-friendly attractions.

Favorite Coffs Harbour activities revolve mostly around the water. Along the coast, you can bask on uncrowded beaches, fish, surf, dive, kayak, and visit the Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve .

About 50 kilometers west of Coffs Harbour, nature lovers can explore the rainforest and waterfalls of Dorrigo National Park, a World Heritage Area. To the north lies a string of pretty beaches (Emerald Beach is a favorite), and the town of Grafton . Famous for its jacaranda trees, Grafton has six large national parks within easy reach, including the World Heritage Areas of Gibraltar Range National Park (Glen Innes) and Washpool National Park .

Norfolk Island

Once a brutal convict colony, Norfolk Island is now a charming holiday resort with World Heritage-listed historic sites . Although the island is an external territory, it remains part of the Commonwealth of Australia and is home to the Pitcairn Island descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers.

Today, you can tour ruins of the old settlements and learn about the island's Polynesian heritage and colonial past at its excellent museums. A third of this emerald island consists of national parks and reserves, with scenic hiking and biking trails, excellent birding, and sweeping green landscapes dotted with native Norfolk Island pines.

Water sports are a highlight. Diving, swimming, and snorkeling are all popular things to do on Norfolk Island, and beach lovers will find a few secluded coves carved into the rugged and rocky coast. Coral reefs lie offshore, and the fishing is superb in these remote waters.

One of the most unusual places to visit in New South Wales, Norfolk Island is about a 2.5-hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane.

Port Stephens

About an hour's drive north of Newcastle, Port Stephens is a large and beautiful blue-water bay enclosed by two volcanic headlands. Natural bushland fringes many of the 26 white-sand beaches here, and whales and dolphins are often spotted in the bay.

Despite the many vacationers who come here in the summer, you can still find a quiet stretch of beach. This is also one of the top fishing destinations in Australia, especially for big game fishing. Other popular water sports include swimming, surfing, kayaking, and boating.

To see panoramic views of the Port Stephens coastline, take the Tomaree Head summit walk. Another popular activity here is quad biking or sledding on the Southern Hemisphere's largest sand dunes.

The main holiday resorts are Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay, but you can also stay at Soldiers Point, Fingal Bay, and Lemon Tree Passage. Nearby, Myall Lakes National Park encompasses one of the state's largest lake systems and is another great destination for fishing, swimming, and kayaking.

Snowy Mountains

Forming part of the Great Dividing Range , the Snowy Mountains are home to the continent's highest mountains, including 2,228-meter Mount Kosciuszko , Australia's highest peak.

One of the top attractions in the Snowy Mountains is Kosciuszko National Park. This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is a popular recreational area year-round. Snowy winters lure skiers, and in the summer, the easily accessible alpine terrain of snow gum forests and glacial lakes attracts hordes of bush walkers, climbers, anglers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, and water sports enthusiasts.

Wondering where to stay in the Snowy Mountains? Famous for its excellent trout fishing, Jindabyne is a great base for alpine adventures.

The Snowy Mountains are also home to some of Australia's best ski resorts . Perisher Blue Ski Resort incorporates the popular Perisher Valley, Smiggin Holes, Guthega, and Mount Blue Cow. Thredbo Village, at the foot of the Crackenback Range, boasts a year-round chair lift. Near the summit of Mount Kosciuszko, Charlotte Pass is a great base for ski tours to the highest peaks in the Australian Alps.

With all these snowcapped peaks, it's not surprising the Snowy Mountains are one of the most popular places to visit in New South Wales in winter.

Kangaroo Valley

Gorgeously green, the Kangaroo Valley is a quintessential Aussie country town. Surrounded by lushly cloaked escarpments and rolling pastures, it lies about a two-hour drive southwest of Sydney in the scenic Shoalhaven Region.

Perhaps the town's most distinctive landmark is the handsome, historic Hampden Bridge spanning the Kangaroo River, Australia's only remaining wooden suspension bridge. Driving across its single-lane between the soaring sandstone pillars sets the tone for a relaxed visit here, encouraging visitors to slow down and smile at passing drivers.

You'll find plenty of things to do in the picturesque Kangaroo Valley. Horseback riding, hiking, golfing, kayaking along the rivers and creeks, and absorbing some local history at the Pioneer Village Museum are all popular activities.

Nature is also a highlight. Don't miss the impressive Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park, and while you're in the valley, keep an eye out for the namesake marsupials, as well as wallabies, especially at Tallowa Dam , where you can also kayak and fish. Beautiful Bendeela Camping and Picnic area is one of the best spots to see wombats in the wild .

The Kangaroo Valley is also earning a reputation as a foodie destination, with its abundance of fresh produce, cute tea rooms, and farmers market. Try to squeeze in a cooking class , and don't miss the fresh-baked pies at Kangaroo Valley Pie Shop in Barrengarry Old Store .

Outback NSW

Outback New South Wales is a land of sacred Aboriginal sites, harsh deserts, and haunting beauty. Mungo National Park in the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area holds records of Aboriginal life dating back some 40,000 to 60,000 years.

At Warrumbungle National Park , in the zone of transition between the arid areas to the west and the rainy east, spectacular rock buttresses and domes are the result of volcanic activity. Snow gums crown the surrounding hills, and deep spring-fed gorges lie in the valleys. You can explore this park on an excellent network of hiking trails and see colorful displays of wildflowers in the spring.

In addition to exploring the rugged national parks, the country towns in the Outback are some of the most unique places in New South Wales, with plenty of unusual things to do. You can hunt for opals at the mining towns of White Cliffs and Lightning Ridge, visit the Living Desert Sculptures of Broken Hill , and ride a bike around Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

Saints Mary & Joseph Cathedral, Armidale

In the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales, the elegant university town of Armidale is a city of four seasons. Just shy of 1,000 meters in altitude, it's the state's highest town, with relatively mild summers, riotous spring blooms, fiery fall foliage, and even a sprinkling of snow during winter.

Highlights of a visit here include heritage tours of the town's lovely old buildings, which were funded by the region's rich agricultural wealth, as well as visiting the excellent galleries, gardens, and museums. Saints Mary & Joseph Catholic Cathedral is a famous landmark, and the University of New England adds a youthful buzz to this stately town.

Pristine wilderness areas surround the city, with attractions for families and nature lovers, as well as plenty of outdoor adventures on tap. Trout fishing, mountain biking, canyoning, hiking, and bird-watching are just some of the popular things to do.

If you're driving to Armidale, don't miss Waterfall Way. This 185-kilometer scenic drive connects the coastal town of Coffs Harbour with Armidale, revealing beautiful scenery around almost every bend, from river-carved valleys and World Heritage-listed rainforest to picturesque cascades. Ebor Falls is a highlight.

The road also passes through five national parks, including Dorrigo National Park ; the Wollomombi Gorge and Falls, with one of Australia's highest waterfalls; and New England and Oxley Wild Rivers national parks .

New Parliament House, Canberra

Brimming with cultural treasures, the Australian capital city of Canberra lies about 280 kilometers southwest of Sydney. It's technically in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) a 2,400-square-kilometer self-governing federal district, rather than the state of New South Wales, but it is entirely surrounded by New South Wales and is an easy weekend getaway from Sydney.

Besides the city's excellent museums and memorials, it's also known for its fun family-friendly festivals - in particular, the Floriade festival, usually held in September to October, which celebrates the city's many spring blooms.

Canberra was carefully planned. Its streets are laid out on a generous scale, with many of them flanked by colorful flower gardens and thousands of trees with glorious autumn colors. A central feature is sparkling Lake Burley Griffin , a long artificial lake surrounded by parks, picnic areas, a walking trail, and many of Canberra's top attractions .

Canberra's principal buildings lie within the Parliamentary Triangle and include the National Gallery of Australia, with three levels of exhibitions and a sculpture garden; the National Library of Australia ; Old Parliament House , now a museum depicting the story of Australian democracy; and New Parliament House .

Don't miss the poignant Australian War Memorial , and make sure you save time to stroll around the impressive collection of native plants at the Australian National Botanic Gardens .

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Shops and stores on Water Street n Decorah, Iowa. Image credit Steve Heap

  • 7 Adorable Small Towns in Iowa to Visit in 2024

As an atrium of the American heartland, Iowa has some of the loveliest sites to visit in 2024. Many are snuggled in the prairies and valleys, giving roadtrippers a pleasant surprise during desolate drives. But they do not have to be a surprise. Instead, one can plan an Iowa vacation with those underseen attractions in mind. To help you plan your journey, discover seven small communities with super-sweet attractions. You will be in hog heaven in these adorable Iowa towns.

Victorian-style properties along Main Street in Decorah, Iowa.

True to the first five letters of its name, Decorah is a decorative community. Bridging east and west Decorah is the Pulpit Rock Brewing Company, which makes "modern yet modest craft beer" in contrast to the Toppling Goliath Brewing Company, which brews just outside town in a large, bright red building. Downtown Decorah has its own stately, scenic structures, such as the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, which honors Decorah's Norwegian-American settlers, and the Nordic Fest, which is held each July.

The festival, whose 57th edition is scheduled for July 25 to 27, 2024, attracts over 10,000 visitors and more than doubles Decorah's population. Although the city gets extra ornamental in July, it is garnished year-round with ornate flowers, animals, and crystals thanks to preserves like the Decorah Community Prairie, Dunning's Spring Park, and Ice Cave Park. The first has a butterfly sanctuary, the second has a 200-foot waterfall, and the third has an ice-covered geologic anomaly that creates a winter wonderland in summer. Go tend the all-season garden that is Decorah.

Mount Pleasant

Mt. Pleasant is a small Community in Southern Iowa

Another small Iowa "city" with a somewhat accurate name, Mount Pleasant, has no mountain but is quite pleasant. Roughly 9,300 people get day-to-day access to Miss K's Homemade Delectables, the Sorta Sweet Boutique, and the Airport Road Vineyard & Winery. Tourists can join residents in those adorable haunts and also on the Midwest Central Railroad, a heritage railway right inside Mount Pleasant. It offers rides on historic steam locomotives during annual events. Crowding 2024's calendar is the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion from August 29 to September 2, Midwest Haunted Rails during the last three weekends of October, and North Pole Express sometime in December.

Girl in kayak paddling on Lake MacBride Iowa on a sunny day with small puffy clouds in clear blue sky on calm waters near Solon, Iowa.

Solon is a cozy bedroom community for both Iowa City and Cedar Rapids . It not only has a tiny population (3,018 according to the 2020 Census) but also quaint shops and refreshing parks. After traipsing through an uncongested downtown, stop for sushi at Uncle Sang's or beer at the Big Grove Brewery, and then appreciate scenic solitude in the Solon Recreation and Nature Area.

But if you really want to cure your big city blues, get lost (in the best of ways) at Lake Macbride State Park, a neighboring oasis great for hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, birding, picnicking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and camping. You can either rough it outdoors or stay in town at The Literary Hotel.

Downtown Waverly, Iowa.

After saying "So long" to Solon, wave "Hello" to Waverly. Similar to many Iowa communities, Waverly is classified as a city despite its small population. About 10,000 people are privileged to awaken every day in one of the best places in the Midwest. Waverly has amazing shops, bars, restaurants, parks, gardens, historic buildings, and, as seems to be standard in Iowa, a highly-rated brewery. Further beautifying such sites are murals and sculptures that comprise the Waverly Public Art Trail.

They include Downtown Waverly Mural on the side of The Mixing Bowl and Butterfly Garden Lighted Chrysalis Sculpture in the Waverly Butterfly Garden at the Waverly Public Library. But the most enriching attraction is Wartburg College, whose 1,500ish students and dozens of eclectic programs make Waverly a liberal arts college town in rural Iowa.

Strawberry Point

Franklin Hotel, 102 Elkader St. Strawberry Point, Iowa.

Strawberry Point's name is cute enough, yet the name and city mix into one big slice of strawberry shortcake that you can taste for the first time in 2024. Visit the Strawberry Foods Deli & Bakery, Strawberry Point Ball Fields, Quilted Strawberry quilt shop, and the historic Franklin Hotel, where you can eat actual strawberry shortcake.

Do not try to eat the "World's Largest Strawberry," which is 15 feet tall and sits atop a pole on Commercial Street, or you will get a mouth full of fiberglass. You can safely sample the large selection of strawberry-based treats served at Strawberry Days. Unfortunately, since it runs on the second weekend of June, you will have to wait till 2025 to hit up this berry-good festival.

Winterset, Iowa: Downtown view from the courthouse square.

Is there anything quainter than a quilt museum? Winterset, a compact community in Madison County, contains the Iowa Quilt Museum, whose mission is "to promote appreciation of the American quilt and the art of quilting through displays of quilts and information about quilt history." Your mission in Winterset is to see whether the Quilt Museum is the queen of quaintness or if it can be dethroned by the city's other attractions.

In contention is the Roseman Covered Bridge, a historic red structure spanning the Middle River. It was featured in the novel The Bridges of Madison County and its Clint Eastwood-led film adaptation. Roseman is one of six surviving Madison County covered bridges celebrated at the Covered Bridge Festival, which is held in town each October. If you are set on visiting Winterset in winter, attend the Festival of Lights and see if visits with Santa, horse-drawn carriage rides, and a light parade are the true Winterset winners.

Mount Vernon

American Gothic Barn in Mount Vernon, Iowa.

Although it lacks a mountain like Mount Pleasant, Mount Vernon has almost everything the other towns have—and more! One can explore the adorable yet regal campus of Cornell College, including its palace-like King Memorial Chapel, before attending the Lincoln Highway Arts Festival in September (an even brighter festival, Chalk the Walk, happens in May) and then viewing the American Gothic Barn, a barn painted like Grant Wood's iconic depiction of Americana. The trip can be capped off with a show at the Bijou Movie Theater or a sleep at the Brackett House B&B.

If Iowa was not on your list of adorable 2024 destinations, there is still time to change your mind. There are few things cuter than Decorah's Nordic Fest, Mount Pleasant's heritage railroad, Solon's nature area, Waverly's butterfly garden, Strawberry Point's giant strawberry, Winterset's covered bridges, and Mount Vernon's chalk art festival. There is limited time to catch these attractions before the year ends. Go picking while they are ripe.

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