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Why this NSW destination should be on your travel bucket list
A (long) weekender’s guide to the best things to eat, see, drink and do in Bowral, NSW.
If a weekend in the Southern Highlands isn’t on your radar, it should be. At just over 90 minutes’ drive from Sydney (or a scenic, two-hour train ride), this flourishing New South Wales wine region, the closest to Sydney's CBD, is fast becoming the country’s hottest gourmet playground.
The Highlands (as locals refer to it) is a culinary cornucopia teeming with award-winning wineries, artisan pie dealers, hatted restaurants and trendy breakfast spots. And Bowral, with its rolling hills backdrop and bucolic Bong Bong street shopping strip, is the region’s unassumingly elegant epicentre.
Whether you’re planning a wine-soaked weekend away, an extended cellar-door escape or a quick gourmet getaway, here is our guide to the 20 of the best things to eat, see, drink and do in this burgeoning gastronomic hinterland.
Slides: Bendooley Estate, The Book Barn at Bendooley, Scenic views over Centennial Vineyards (Photo: Destination NSW), Stones Patisserie, Dirty Janes, Eccetera, Artemis Wines.
20 things to add to your Bowral bucket list
Restaurants and cafes
The menu at this two-hatted, modern-Australian eatery is designed to showcase local producers, farmers and artisans. It’s helmed by chef James Viles, whose farm-to-table philosophy, innovative food and focus on ethical, sustainable produce have made him one of the country’s most revered young chefs. Biota Dining – housed in a minimalist, modern setting – is a must-do restaurant experience. Choose from a five- or seven-course set menu, with optional matched wines.
18 Kangaloon Road, Bowral. biotadining.com
For more laid-back dining, look no further than Eccetera Trattoria & Pizzeria. Here, the food is inspired by the flavours of southern Italy and is made using the best-quality Italian ingredients. The menu boasts everything from woodfired pizzas and handmade pastas to delicious Italian wines.
2/6 Boolwey Street, Bowral. eccetera.com.au
Whether you’re after a relaxed brunch or a pre-dinner aperitif, Harry’s has you covered. With a focus on rustic fare made using fresh, seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, this eclectic eatery-come-wine-bar feels like a home away from home.
21 Banyette Street, Bowral. harryswinebarbowral.com
Keep it casual with a leisurely lunch at converted warehouse cafe The Mill. The vibrant community hub, which is housed in a former timber and hardware store from the 1850s, is also home to a co-working space, kitchen-garden and concept stores. Stop in for coffee, cake and an interior design consult, or pull up a table in the courtyard and treat yourself to a feast of locally procured produce.
Corner Bong Bong and Bundaroo Streets, Bowral. themillbowral.com.au
The Grand’s succulent, seven-hour slow-cooked lamb salad with rocket, crushed potatoes, walnuts, pomegranate and a tangy preserved lemon-yoghurt dressing has garnered something of a cult following among Bowral’s foodie literati. The mouth-watering dish has been a staple on the modern Australian restaurant’s menu for years and is a must-eat when visiting the region.
The Grand Arcade, 295-297 Bong Bong Street. grandbistro.com.au
Bendooley is one of the jewels in the Southern Highlands' culinary crown.
Best Bowral wineries and cellar doors
Set on 130 hectares of rolling Highlands paddocks framed by steep vine-blanketed slopes you’ll find Centennial Vineyards. A grand circular driveway guides you to the entrance of this five-star, Halliday-rated winery, where premium cool-climate wines reign supreme. The Dolce Classico (a sweet red made in the style of Italy’s famous Recioto-style wines, which uses partially dried grapes to create a full-bodied wine with more intense fruit sweetness) is a standout. So too the 2016 Reserve Tempranillo.
252 Centennial Road, Bowral. centennial.net.au
Attention architecture addicts and history buffs. If you want to eat exquisite crab linguini under the cathedral ceilings of an antiquarian bookshop, explore an 1818 homestead built using convict-hewn stone, or drink wine from a cellar door against a backdrop of pristine, private gardens edged by some of the country’s oldest oak trees, you’ll love Bendooley Estate. This historic winery offers something for everyone – from the grape lover to the foodie to the book worm. Side note: Bendooley is near the historic township of Berrima, which is recognised as the best-preserved example of a Georgian village on mainland Australia.
3020 Old Hume Highway, Berrima. bendooleyestate.com.au
It’s all about old-school hospitality at Tertini. The warm and welcoming nature of this unassuming cellar door, where wine tastings are accompanied by free cheese platters, belies the fact that this humble winery is producing some of the region’s highest-rated wines. Pull up a stool at one of the barrel tables and settle in for a relaxed wine flight featuring some of the region’s best pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling or branch out and try more interesting drops, including arneis, pinot blanc, refosco or corvina. The 2018 Private Cellar Lagrein (a red grape native to northern Italy that is closely related to shiraz and pinot noir) is well worth the trip to the Highlands.
Kells Creek Road, Mittagong. tertiniwines.com.au
For a more modern vine affair, look no further than Artemis. Housed in a recycled river gum-clad shed, this rustic cellar door blends old and new to create a relaxed ambience that is ideal for easy wine weekenders. Head down on Sundays for a guided tasting and some scrumptious woodfired pizza. The pretty-in-purple 2017 The Artsmith Petit Verdot will go down a treat with The Carnivore pizza (smoked beef brisket, hot salami, bacon and chorizo drizzled with a smoked paprika aioli).
46 Sir Charles Moses Lane, Mittagong. artemiswines.com.au
If you haven’t yet fallen in love with biodynamic wines, Tractorless Vineyards might just change your mind. Made using sustainably grown and biodynamic farmed grapes, these complex, experimental and undeniably delicious wines are proof that mother nature knows what she’s doing. If you’re after a break from the grape juice, they’re also brewing their own beers and ciders.
3/11 Pikkat Drive, Braemar. tractorlessvineyard.com.au
Wine and dine at Harry's.
Must-do Bowral cafes and coffee spots
Raw & Wild
Part organic grocer and health food store, part conscious cafe, this is your go-to for feel-good (and allergy-friendly) food and sustainable coffee. Hungry? Why not try the breakfast degustation? Because what’s not to love about a four-course morning feast.
250 Bong Bong Street, Bowral. facebook.com/RAW-WILD
The Press Shop
If you haven’t yet experienced breakfast gnocchi, stop whatever you’re doing and make it your top priority. We say experienced because one does not simply eat breakfast gnocchi. These are about the pillowy-est potato morsels on the east coast, so trust us when we say you need to try them. On the coffee front, they’ve got respectfully roasted beans by Cultivar Coffee, teas from Little Wildling and all the lattes – velvet, turmeric, minty matcha and mermaid. They’ve also out-hipstered Melbourne with a frothy new brew called a London Fog (which, Google tells us, is an earl grey tea latte).
5/391-397 Bong Bong Street, Bowral. thepressshop.com.au
Keep it a little more mainstream at Primary Espresso, where the focus is on wholesome food and fair prices. The huevos rancheros are a delight or, if you’re more of a sweet tooth, go for the crepes with ricotta and date custard, orange and cardamom syrup and almonds. Coffee by La Casa Del Cafe.
23 Boolwey Street, Bowral. facebook.com/primaryespresso
Rush Roasting Co
This family-owned espresso bar-come-coffee roastery has been pouring specialty blends in the Highlands since 2014. Tucked away in the Grand Arcade, stop in for an award-wining coffee, a bite to eat and a chinwag with the friendly owners.
The Grand Arcade 4, 293-295 Bong Bong Street, Bowral. rushroasting.com.au
If pastries are more your style, you won't be able to resist the tempting treats from Stones Patisserie. As well as a range of delectable tarts, cakes, croissants and other house-baked goodies, they're also slinging gourmet, award-winning pies.
High Street Arcade, Bowral. stonespatisserie.com
See Bowral in full bloom at Tulip Time festival.
Things to do in Bowral
Dirty Janes Emporium
Go treasure hunting with a wander through the sprawling, Dirty Janes vintage warehouse and antiques emporium. Covering more than 1600 square metres of undercover space, it is the largest indoor market in the Southern Highlands, selling everything from records and jewellery to pre-loved fashion and furniture. Once you’ve finished perusing the cave of vintage wonders, head to the Tea Salon for crust-less cucumber sandwiches and scones with jam and cream.
13-15 Banyette Street, Bowral. dirtyjanes.com
Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame
It’s not all food and fashion. Cricket lovers can be bowled over at the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame. While away the time watching live footage from around the world, check out Sir Donald Bradman’s first cricket bat or be surrounded by legends of the game in the Hall of Fame. Refreshments – who wouldn’t want to try the Bradman Burger – are available from Bradman Cafe.
St Jude Street, Bowral. internationalcrickethall.com
See Bowral in all its blooming glory at Corbett Gardens. Though the gardens are open year-round, from 24 September to 7 October, the public park wil be transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour when the annual Tulip Time festival sees 90,000 tulips saluting the arrival of spring. There is also live entertainment, market stalls and more Instagram opportunities than your selfie stick has ever seen.
Bendooley Street, Bowral. southern-highlands.com.au/tulip-time
Step back in time at Springett’s Arcade. This shopping arcade was opened in 1972 by the Springett Family, who also opened a general store in Bowral in 1926 and, later, became the first to sell soft drinks and sliced bread in the Highlands (their soft drinks plant was the first to make Passiona in Australia). The historic arcade is now brimming with boutiques, bustling cafes and small businesses.
302-306 Bong Bong Street, Bowral. springettsarcade.com.au
Mary Poppins statue
Have your photo taken with Mary Poppins. A statue of the world’s favourite nanny was erected in Bowral’s Glebe Park to commemorate the birthplace of the beloved Spoonful of Sugar singer, with the idea for her character conceived when author Pamela L. Travers (real name Helen Lyndon Goff) lived in Bowral during her teens.