If you’re looking for a unique day trip from Sydney, check out the charming and chic countryside town of Bowral – full of so many great things to do!
With eclectic antique markets, delightfully trendy cafes, wineries, as well as being surrounded by stunning countryside and many impressive waterfalls and walking trails nearby, the list of things to do in Bowral is endless!
Bowral makes for the ideal weekend getaway destination from Sydney to relax and unwind if you’re a foodie, love quirky shops and the rolling green hills, or you just need a break from city life!
There are also some lovely towns and attractions nearby that are easy to visit, so you can easily spend a whole weekend exploring the area!
If you’re heading to Bowral this weekend or in the new future, this ultimate guide to Bowral will uncover all the best things to do in the area!
Where Is Bowral NSW?
The town of Bowral is located in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, roughly 120 kilometres southwest of Sydney.
Click here for the Google maps location.
How To Get To Bowral NSW
The drive from Sydney to Bowral takes roughly 1 hour 30 minutes via the Hume Highway (M31 – the inland motorway that connects Sydney and Melbourne).
The direct train from Sydney takes almost the same amount of time as it does to drive, so even if you don’t have a car – there’s no excuse not to visit Bowral as it’s so convenient to get to!
In fact, Bowral is one of the easiest day trips to take from Sydney by train, plus it is so easy to explore on foot!
It’s also easy to get to Bowral from Canberra – the journey is 170km and it takes just under 2 hours by car. Bowral makes a great halfway stop-off point on a Canberra to Sydney road trip.
The Canberra-Sydney train stops off at Bowral and if you wish to get the train from Canberra to Bowral it will take just under 2.5 hours.
If you’re driving to Bowral from Sydney, a great way to explore more of the local area is to drive the direct route to Bowral, then on your way back head up the coast towards Sydney along the scenic Grand Pacific Drive and Princes Highway.
This route is around 170 kilometres and will take roughly 3 hours.
It’s a longer drive back but you’ll get to see lots of stunning places such as the Sea Cliff Bridge (+ lookout), as well as lovely beaches such as Wombarra Beach, Austinmer and Stanwell Park Beach.
Do I Need A Car To Visit Bowral?
Bowral town centre is very easy to get around on foot, so if you’ll be coming by train you’ll still be able to visit most of the places in this article.
If you’re planning to just stay in the town centre, relax and enjoy the cafes, shops and restaurants Bowral has to offer then you’ll be fine taking the train.
Visiting the surrounding countryside and the famous waterfalls however does require a car. The waterfalls are absolutely incredible so I would personally recommend driving.
You’ll be able to see so much in the local area if you drive, including the surrounding towns, stunning walking tracks, country drives and waterfalls.
What Is Bowral Known For?
The largest town in the NSW Southern Highlands, Bowral is known for its lovely cool climate, as well as its beautiful gardens.
It’s also renowned for its chic independent boutique stores selling unique homewares, garden plants and designer clothing, as well as several gourmet restaurants.
The town of 12,000 people does have an air of affluence to it, with lots of wealthy Sydneysiders having second homes here as they enjoy the cooler climate due to the high altitude.
Bowral is known as a popular weekend destination for tourists, especially during autumn and spring.
Whilst Bowral is the largest town in the Southern Highlands, it is still a small town, surrounded by lovely countryside which makes it very appealing.
In addition, Bowral is known as the birthplace of Don Bradman, the greatest cricketer of all time!
When Is The Best Time To Visit Bowral?
Many people visit Bowral during the spring and autumn.
In the spring when the tulips and cherry blossoms are in bloom and look stunning, and in the autumn the autumn foliage in the Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens and Corbett Gardens looks spectacular.
The leaves turn bright orange, yellow and red and it’s really a sight to see.
Equally, the winter months are popular here as it feels very wintery!
It’s a lot colder here than in Sydney, so sometimes it snows, and most of the cafes and restaurants will have the open fireplace lit so you can cosy up to the fire and stay toasty!
THINGS TO DO IN BOWRAL
1. Explore Bowral’s Famous Green Lane
Green Lane is a must-visit when in Bowral, full of lovely boutique shops and cafes.
It has similar vibes to The Grounds Of Alexandria in Sydney, and is home to the likes of the iconic Harry’s On Green Lane, Plantation Cafe, Dirty Janes (all absolutely recommended as places to eat!), as well as The Potting Shed and The Orangery that both sell lovely plants and are decorated so beautifully!
Wander round and enjoy the unique vibes here!
2. Visit Harrys On Green Lane – the most unique restaurant in the highlands!
The most famous restaurant in Bowral is the stunning Harry’s On Green Lane! It’s a great place to treat yourself for a special occasion and it’s so unique, full of character.
Different rooms are covered floor to ceiling with books as well as lovely hanging plants, there’s such a nice cosy vibe about the place. The beautiful restaurant is very popular so bookings are essential – no walk-ins are allowed!
They are open 7 days a week for lunch, and for dinner just on Friday and Saturday nights, and the menu is a set menu.
3. Head to the Eclectic Dirty Janes Emporium
Opposite Harry’s On Green Lane, the antique store of Dirty Janes is certainly a quirky place and is delightful to stroll around.
It’s a bit of an institution in Bowral, and you can’t visit this town without popping into Dirty Janes! Admire all sorts of unique vintage and retro items for sale presented beautifully in this large warehouse.
4. Explore The Southern Highlands Wine Region
The Southern Highlands is actually an ideal location to cultivate cool-climate wines due to its rich volcanic soils and mild temperatures.
There are many excellent wineries in the Southern Highlands, with around 15 cellar doors open for wine tasting, and dozens more wineries dotted around the area.
Some of the most popular Cellar Doors include Bendooley Estate – with wine tasting overlooking the vineyard, and the stunning Joadja Estate – which is the oldest vineyard in the Southern Highlands.
If you don’t feel like driving, the perfect option is to do a wine tour. Local resident Peter will pick you up and take you to some of the best cellar doors as well as some hidden gems!
Going on a wine-tasting tour is a great way to support local businesses in the area, plus the vineyards are stunning, so go on – it’s a great activity to do especially if you’ll be visiting with friends!
5. Visit the Cherry Tree Walk War Memorial In Settlers Park
In the north of Bowral town centre you’ll find the picturesque Cherry Tree Walk, created in memory of all the soldiers that lost their lives in the Vietnam War.
The Cherry Tree Walk has one tree for each soldier that never made it back home to Australia. There are 526 Japanese Cherry Blossom trees in total, and as you walk down the path you are surrounded by the cherry trees on either side.
It’s an absolutely beautiful war memorial, and is incredibly moving to see a War Memorial that isn’t manmade but rather made of something living.
The walk between the cherry trees is over a kilometre, it’s a lovely walk and the walk really draws significance to just how many soldiers lost their lives.
The cherry blossoms are in bloom during the spring (late September and early October), and this is when the cherry trees look the most beautiful. The walk starts from just behind Bowral Swimming Pool at Rivelut Park.
6. Relax At Corbett Gardens
Corbett Gardens is a great place to visit in Bowral when the weather is good.
Corbett Gardens is full of beautiful colourful flowers year-round, but from mid-September until the beginning of October, Corbett Gardens hosts the Tulip Time Festival – with 75,000 tulips in full bloom that attracts thousands of visitors to Bowral!
Corbett Gardens is a great place to escape the crowds and have a picnic when Bowral gets busy with tourists on the weekends!
7. Visit the Bradman Museum Of Cricket
Bowral is famous for being the home of the greatest cricket player of all time – the late Sir Donald Bradman. The Bradman Museum is a must-visit in Bowral for anyone who is a cricket fan!
You’ll get to see where Don’s career began at the commemorative museum and the heritage-listed Bradman Oval – where he played many of his earliest cricket games.
The Oval now encompasses the International Cricket Hall of Fame, as well as exhibits dedicated to Don Bradman’s origins in Bowral.
To give you an idea of how great a sportsman he was, Don Bradman had a test batting average of 99.94, which is double that of anyone else who has played cricket!
Entry to the Bradman Museum is $25 for adults.
8. Walk the Bradman Trail
A free self-guided walk you can do in Bowral is The Bradman Tail! The tail starts and finishes at The Bradman Museum – where you can pick up a free map, and along the 1.7km walk you’ll see many of the sites linked to Don Bradman.
There’s around 10 sights that are all well-signposted and the walk should take around 45 minutes.
Some of the stops include Bradman’s childhood school and the two homes he grew up in.
9. Mary Poppins Statue
Bowral is actually the inspiration behind the Mary Poppins character!
Pamela L Travers – the author of the book, lived here in her teenage years, and you’ll find the Mary Poppins birthplace statue behind the Bradman Museum at Glebe Park.
10. Retford Park Gardens
Open from Thursdays until Sundays each week, the gorgeous Italianate-style residence Retford Park has stunning gardens that are definitely worth exploring!
The heritage house was built in 1887 and has great historical significance, plus you can go inside and do house tours on Saturdays and Sundays.
Feel free to bring a picnic and relax in the gardens. Entrance fee is $15 for adults(free for National Trust members)
11. Bowral Lookout
In the north of Bowral, halfway between Bowral and Mittagong – located off Oxley Drive on the Mount Gibraltar Reserve is Bowral Lookout. Here you can get some fantastic views over Bowral.
There’s parking right at the lookout, as well as public toilets if you need them.
12. Watch The Sunset At Jellore Lookout Or Mittagong Lookout
Just a 2 minute drive from Bowral Lookout will take you to Jellore Lookout and adjacent Mittagong Lookout – the best places in Bowral to watch the sunset!
Located at a former quarry, the views are lovely. This is the highest point between Sydney and Canberra at 863 metres above sea level, and offers stunning views out across the Southern Highlands.
On a clear day you can even see as far as the Blue Mountains and Sydney!!
13. Enjoy the many restaurants and cafes in Bowral!
Despite being a little country town, Bowral is full of great places to eat.
During the day check out the famous high tea at Dirty Janes, as well as the stunning trendy cafes The Press Shop and the plant-filled Plantation Cafe, or The Mill for cool street food (and a great co-working space!).
There are so many options for food in Bowral!
And in the evening, The Bowral Asian, Biota Dining and Onesta Cucina are particularly popular.
Waterfalls Near Bowral
There aren’t any waterfalls in Bowral but there are many nearby, the most famous ones being Carrington Falls, Belmore Falls and Fitzroy Falls. Fitzroy Falls is the closest waterfall to Bowral and is my personal favourite!
All the waterfalls are fairly close to each other so you can visit them all in one go if you wish!
14. Check Out Belmore Falls
Just 35 minutes drive from Bowral is Belmore Falls. Belmore Falls is a double-drop waterfall and is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in NSW – it is truly very impressive!
What’s great about Belmore Falls is that, unlike many of the other waterfalls around Sydney that can often dry up if it hasn’t rained for a while, Belmore Falls always seems to have a consistent powerful flow of water.
In addition, there are several viewpoints from which you can enjoy the falls so you can get lots of great photos!
15. Visit Carrington Falls
The stunning 90ft Carrington Falls is another popular waterfall located 30 minutes from Bowral. If you visit it after Belmore Falls it’s just a 20-minute drive.
16. Head to Nellies Glen For Some Wild Swimming
Just opposite Carrington Falls is Nellies Glen. At Nellies Glen you can swim under a waterfall! Nellies Glen is set in a stunning location, although the water is very cold so you might have to wait until a hot day to get in!
17. Enjoy The Stunning Fitzroy Falls
Just a 25 minute drive from Bowral is Fitzroy Falls, the closest of the major waterfalls in the Southern Highlands to Bowral.
Fitzroy Falls is simply fantastic – one of the best waterfalls in the whole of Australia, and is a must-visit when in the area. The waterfall is so dramatic and powerful, with the water plunging down 80 metres into the valley below.
The viewpoints offer stunning views, and are really easy to get to – with the main viewing platform (the Fitzroy Falls Lookout) being just 150 meters from the car park.
From this viewpoint you’re at the top of the falls so it’s a really unique viewpoint, if not a bit daunting looking down over the edge of the railing!
The second viewing platform is actually my favourite as you see the falls head-on in all their beauty. Head along the West Rim Trail to the Jersey Trail which is less than a kilometre from the Fitzroy Falls Lookout.
Parking at Fitzroy Falls is $4 (unless you have an NSW Parks Pass and then it’s free).
18. Look Out For Glow Worms At Fitzroy Falls!
There’s also a secret glow worm colony at one lookout at Fitzroy Falls known as The Grotto!
Viewing is best in the summer months of December to February as there are more glow worms at this time of year, and it’s incredible to see all the lights illuminating inside the cave on the overhang of the waterfall!
The walk is 650 metres from the car park, and definitely bring a torch as the steps can be slippery. Remember to turn your torch off to be able to see the glow worms inside the cave!
19. Walk The Big Hill Cutting On An Abandoned Railway Line
Enjoy a 350m walk along an old railway line to get to the tall cliffs of Big Hill Cutting. This is one of the deepest cuttings in Australia, and it is so impressive.
Bill Hill Cutting was made using just dynamite and hand tools and is very easy to get to. Just park at the start of Coates Road where you see the old railway line.
20. Enjoy The Beautiful Garden at Red Cow Farm
Red Cow Farm Garden is an absolutely beautiful place that you should really visit!
Set behind a quaint county cottage, Red Cow Farm Garden has a stunning turquoise lake in the middle of the gardens, with beautiful flowers and trees where you can stroll around.
Autumn is a lovely time to visit when the tees turn fantastic shades of red and orange.
Entry to the gardens is $15 for adults and the gardens are open 7 days a week between late September and late May.
21. Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens
Located just outside of Bowral and sprawling across 15 hectares, the Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens is a lovely place to visit, especially if you have children.
Get lost in the Meadow Labyrinth, visit the bird-filled Winter Garden, or track down the 15 teddy bears hiding amongst the foliage.
Things To Do In Bowral When It’s Raining Or During The Evening:
22. Visit The Highlands Entertainment Centre
If it’s raining in Bowral, head to The Highlands Entertainment Centre where you’ll find an 18-hole miniature golf course, 10 ten-pin bowling lanes, and plenty of arcade games!
23. Watch a movie at the Empire Cinema
The 1915 Empire Cinema is one of Australia’s oldest regional cinemas, as well as being one of regional Australia’s best independent cinemas.
With 4 screens, it showcases all the latest movies, as well as shows from London’s National Theatre and New York City’s Met Opera, so there’s something to suit everyone!
Other Places To Check Out In The Southern Highlands
While Bowral is the main Southern Highlands hub, it’s also so close to a handful of other charming towns that are definitely worth exploring when you are in the area.
A 10 minutes drive can take you to Berrima, Moss Vale or Mittagong, all of which have a unique special character and attractions.
24. Moss Vale
Moss Vale, 10 minutes drive south of Bowral, is a lovely quaint town set amongst the countryside and vineyards.
Stroll around the town and soak up the heritage and landmarks of the town. Enjoy the wetlands known as Cecil Hoskins Nature Reserve, as well as the flowers at Leighton Gardens.
And if you’re keen on golfing, Moss Vale has one of NSW’s most picturesque golf courses!
A 10 minute drive north of Bowral takes you to the historic town of Mittagong, full of antique stores and cafes in beautiful colonial sandstone cottages.
26. Box Vale Walking Track Near Mittagong
Just outside of Mittagong is the Box Vale Walking Tack – a beautiful and easy flat 5 km countryside walking trail that takes you to the Nattai Gorge Lookout.
It follows the old railway line and takes you in between cliffs, as well as through stunning fern valleys and forest. There is also the impressive 80 mete Box Vale Track tunnel here which is cool!
27. Sixty Foot Falls Near Mittagong
Whilst not as big or powerful as the other waterfalls, Sixty Foot Falls is a lovely local spot that’s never crowded. You can go for a swim in the pool opposite the falls, or just pop your feet in!
Berrima is a gorgeous historic village 10 minutes drive west of Bowral that totally makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time!
Set on the banks of the Wingecarribee River, this is honestly one of NSW’s most picturesque villages, with so many quaint cottages and historical buildings that you can’t stop looking at!
Berrima is home to one of Australia’s oldest pubs – Surveyor General Inn which was built by convicts (and is great for a sunset drink!), as well as the stunning Regency-style Berrima Courthouse, built in the 1830s.
29. Harpers Mansion Maze In Berrima
Harper’s Mansion has a National Trust listed maze that is one of the largest hedge mazes in Australia! The maze is only open on the weekends but kids will love this one, it’s like being in the English countryside!
30. Look For Wild Platypus!
If you’ve ever wanted to see the elusive wild platypus, then Berrima is the best place in the Southern Highlands to go!
Park on Argyle Street and follow the sign for the Stone Quarry Walk along the Wingecarribee River. The walk along the river will take a few minutes, and then you’ll reach a rocky platform.
Sit on this platform, which offers a great elevated view so you’ll be able to look out for the platypus easily. Platypus are more active around dawn and dusk so go around this time.
Remember to be quiet as platypus hate noise and dive down if disturbed!
Where to stay in Bowral
Here are some of the best hotels in Bowral:
Right in the centre of Bowral is The Imperial Hotel. With 2 restaurants, 2 bars and live entertainment on Saturday nights, this is a great budget-friendly place to stay when in Bowral.
Cheap and cheerful motel-style accommodation a 3 minute drive from the centre of Bowral.
Berida Hotel is a really charming and affordable hotel situated in a Manor House right in the centre of Bowral.
It has a spa, heated swimming pool, sauna and tennis court, and is surrounded by stunning gardens, making Berida Hotel a great place to stay in Bowral.
The stylish and elegant hotel also has a restaurant on-site.
Peppers Craigieburn Resort is an 1887-built country estate located just a 5 minute drive from the centre of town.
Complete with perfect immaculate gardens, a 9 hole golf course and a restaurant and bar, this is a fabulous place to stay when in Bowral.
Milton Park Country House Hotel & Spa
Another great accommodation option in Bowral is Milton Park Country House Hotel & Spa. Built in the 19th century, it comes complete with an indoor swimming pool, a spa and tennis courts.