Weekend escape

From the recent COVID-19 restrictions to the devastation of last summer’s bushfire season, it’s been a tough year for tourism operators across Australia. But with months of lockdowns behind us, travellers have the opportunity to not only scratch that holiday itch but give a much-needed boost to businesses left reeling from a lack of tourist trade.

For those in the Hunter seeking a weekend away or long-awaited short break, why not head to one of the NSW destinations unlucky enough to have copped the disaster double whammy – the Southern Highlands.

The gateway to this region is located around three hours south of Newcastle at the tiny historic village of Yerrinbool, about 12km north-east of Mittagong.

Sharing many similarities to the Hunter, the Southern Highlands is a rich, diverse area known for its rolling green hills, unspoilt bushland and quaint heritage towns such as Berrima, the best preserved Georgian village in mainland Australia.

It has a well-regarded wine region, which produces some of Australia’s leading cool climate wines and is known predominantly for its Pinot Noir and Sparkling varieties.

With more than 60 vineyards and 15 cellar doors to explore, there’s plenty to whet the palate for wine lovers, with highlights including the renowned family-owned Artemis Wines in Mittagong and Bowral’s famed Centennial Vineyards, which has a selection of about 30 different wines.

Bowral is the perfect all-round base for a visit to the region, offering an eclectic collection of homewares and antiques stores, cosy cafes and exciting eateries, including the award-winning hatted restaurant Biota, which is known as one of Australia’s best regional dining destinations.

Bowral is also a must-visit for sports lovers, with the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame showcasing an impressive collection of memorabilia associated with legendary Australian cricketer Don Bradman, who grew up in the town.

Nature-lovers also have plenty to see throughout the Southern Highlands, from the springtime tulip festival in Bowral, which brings the village to life each September with more than 100,000 colourful blooms, to the thundering beauty of Fitzroy Falls, where cascades of water drop 81m down sheer cliffs into the untouched bushland of Morton National Park.

Check out all this and plenty more at www.visitsouthernhighlands.com.au.