SOUTHERN CHARM: A quick 90 Min dash to Europe,The Southern Highlands of NSW ( June & July 2020

As NSW is still locked down to travel within the state we are featuring all the great locations within NSW that can be visited, either as a short trip or as an extended stay. The NSW tourism industry has been severely impacted by COVID and we encourage you to explore your state and support all these local businesses. We hope that you enjoy our blogs and they encourage you to go out and explore and enjoy all the venues and locations as much as we have!

JUNE 2020

It has been a few years since we have been down to the Southern Highlands so when a recent opportunity came up for a meeting we decided to explore the charms of the area and see what else new had emerged. This was just as the Covid restrictions were lifting so we were tentative with what would be open and how ready they would be.

Normally for a winter or autumn getaway the more well known and marketed Hunter Valley had been the go to destination but this was a real opportunity to explore what the region offered. It was a picturesque easy 90 min drive from the centre of Sydney.

Our first stop was for lunch  at the picturesque and scenic Bendooley Estate winery which was open for lunch. We drove down the charming tree lined driveway and went to the cafe entrance attached to the beautiful Berkelouw bookshop, with its charming woodfire crackling and filling the room with a woodsmoked scent. We ordered a lamb tagine and butter chicken, the perfect comfort food to go with the crackling fire and brewing storm outside. The cafe has picturesque views over the fields, vineyards and small lake. It was the perfect spot to enjoy an autumn lunch and watch as the storm rolled by.

The next day we drove down to visit a highly recommended local garden called Red Cow Farm. It was a total hidden gem and if we hadn’t spoken to locals who recommended it, it wouldn’t have been on our radar. The gardens were absolutely beautiful at this time of year with the foliage in all different hues of orange and red. Each corner you turned revealed a new hidden vista and even more perfect instagram shot! The gardens were surprisingly large and made for a perfect morning stroll in a hidden Southern Highland Gem.

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We saved the best for last when we decided to visit the Mt Ashby estate just out of Moss Vale. The estate is perfectly positioned on an elevated plateau at the top of a grand tree lined drive and encompasses a cellar door, and stunning provincial French farmhouse with a fireplace and big wrought iron windows overlooking the lush green lawns and surrounding farmland. We immediately fell in love with this awesome find which was better than most of the winery restaurants that we had visited in Australia. This was the perfect romantic dining spot eating by the roaring fire and enjoying the misty southern highland weather. We ordered the Beef bourguignon pie and freshly baked Quiche off their Pronvencal French menu that was perfectly suited to the surroundings. When we found that we could also enjoy a wine tasting with our meal we knew we were in heaven! The Mount Ashby Estate Wines were surprisingly good from their Chardonnay through stunning Merlot ranges and paired perfectly with our hearty meals. The estate also has a quaint to die for homewares shop that was once the oldest structure in bowral and lovingly transported and reconstructed. It houses all the chic provincial rustic furniture that would be perfect for your farmhouse escape or Mosman mansion. Mt Ashby Estate was truly the trip highlight and such a romantic setting especially sitting by a cosy wood fire with the mists rolling over the verdant farmlands. It’s a must visit when in these parts and you are immediately transported to the French Provence just a short drive from Sydney!

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Unfortunately after this we had to make our way back to Sydney with so many more great places to visit, we will have to leave that for another trip but be sure to put the southern Highlands on your hit list and visit these 3 beautiful locations, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

JULY 2020 Update

We were fortunate to have a second trip down to the southern Highlands in July to visit a few clients as well as look at a few other  establishments we didn’t get time to visit on the first trip. This time down it was a totally different story! The ban on local travel had lifted in the last few weeks and weekend business was booming! Where we were the first few travellers on the last trip this time it seemed all of Sydney was getting their country dive and visit in!

The first stop was a quick detour about halfway down from Sydney at the newly renovated Camden Valley hotel to visit family and see why the newly renovated hotel is the buzz of the Camden area. The quaint original structure has been renovated and still stands but the new modern extension added on is  3 times the size and the grounds have been manicured to suit. There is something for everyone at the Camden Valley Inn and it exudes a country charm, the perfect entree to the rest of the Southern highlands trip.

Our next stop this time was to the beautiful Centennial Winery in Bowral. One of the most picturesque , grand and quaint dining rooms in NSW. We made it down for their famous Devonshire tea, that is a must do in Bowral and a quintessential English experience. ( Essentially Tea and Scones by the fireplace) Even though we were there for Breakfast , their lunch and high tea menu looked amazing as well.

It’s on their website here. https://www.centennialvineyardsrestaurant.com.au/about-restaurant

Also in the current environment they have a large dining room and have everyone appropriately spaced apart.

After breakfast, we headed across to their cellar door next door and was served by a delightful and extremely knowledgable sommelier who delighted us with her story telling and tasting notes during a highly entertaining wine experience! We were pleasantly surprised at the great range and quality of wines on offer from the southern highlands as it hasn’t been one of the more well known wine regions in NSW. This cellar door experience was better than many in the Hunter region and much closer to get to. Bookings are recommended on their website here: https://www.centennial.net.au/

It was then off to check into the beautiful Berida Hotel http://beridahotel.com.au/ again that we stayed at the last time. This time with a room upgrade, it was a huge spacious room, with a sunny garden outlook and renovated bathroom. It would be our accommodation of choice in the southern Highlands based on location, price and beauty.

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The next day we were invited to lunch at a spectacular nearby Air BnB where friends were staying. The country hideaway was breathtaking and perfect for groups of up to 10 people. The house was decked out in a glamorous Ralph Lauren Country Chic style and perfect for large scale entertaining for family or friend groups. There were several fireplaces to relax by, including a large firepit outside overlooking the vistas of the vast valley and views for as long as the eye could see. The pictures say it all!

The final day after checking out was spent visiting the Bendooley Estate, https://bendooleyestate.com.au/,  who’s restaurant, cellar door and cafe was now  open again and full of with people enjoying the winter sun in the grounds outside and  meals by the fireplaces inside.

We then headed to the famous Milton Park Country house hotel  http://www.miltonpark.com.au/ to look around the grounds and experience the ambience. It was reminiscent of a rambling English Country Estate and its high perched setting a great destination in it’s own right and the perfect setting to escape the business of the rest of the Southern Highland’s towns.

We also managed to visit the picturesque town of Berrima, full of beautiful and quaint craft shops and cafes to wander through. It would also not be complete without takeaway from the famous Gumnut Patisserie  https://www.gumnutpatisserie.com.au/ who have been winning many awards fro their pies and pastries over the years. It’s best to head down and order early as they sell out easily. They have a few branches in the Southern highlands, and you can’t miss them, they all have queues of hungry fans outside! No trip would be complete without one for the road and a picturesque dessert at the pretty as a picture Mount Ashby estate.

Unfortunately our trip was over quickly and it was time for the drive back to Sydney until our next Southern adventure.

The accommodation providers, wineries , cafes and restaurants of the Southern Highlands have been badly hit by the COVID lockdowns and really appreciate the visits from visitors. It’s great to see the joy and relief on their faces when they get to welcome guests back to their venues. Please support the local tourism industry and make sure you head down for a visit sometime!