The Southern Highlands, also locally referred to as the Highlands, is a geographical region and district in New South Wales, Australia and is 110 km south-west of Sydney. The entire region is under the local government area of the Wingecarribee Shire. The region is also considered a wine region.
The region specifically is the area centered around the commercial towns of Mittagong, Bowral, East Bowral, Moss Vale, Bundanoon and Robertson as well as the historic town of Berrima. Smaller villages like Burradoo, Colo Vale, Yerrinbool, Exeter, Welby and many more that make up the Wingecarribee Shire are spread in between and around these main centres and serve mostly as residential areas.
The Highlands geographically sits between 500m and 900m above sea level on the Great Dividing Range. Moreover, like other regions along this plateau such as the Blue Mountains to the north and the Australian Alps to the south, the Southern Highlands is known for its cool temperate climate.
The Southern Highlands as a region is part of the larger Capital Country Region with the Highlands forming the northern part of the region and the Southern Tablelands forming the southern part of the region.
Main article: Demographics of Wingecarribee Shire
The Southern Highland’s council, Wingecarribee Shire, is home to approximately 44,379 (2006) residents and is growing at a rate of 2.1% per annum. Majority of the residents (84.5%) are Australian-born with the minority of the population being (15%) born overseas, primarily Europe. The population density of the Highlands is 16.5 persons/km2.
The centre of population of the Highlands is based in the twin-towns of Bowral and Mittagong which is home to a population of approximately 19, 500.
The Illawarra Fly Tree Top Walk, also known as Illawarra Fly is located south-east of Robertson in the area known as Knights Hill. The facility is a 500m long and 25m high walk facility that opened in mid 2008. The project is similar to the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk in Victoria, Australia. The project consists of a 1500m walk. Moreover, 500m of the 1500m walk is 25m high among the Blackwoods and many other trees of the temperate rainforest of the Budderoo National Park and Illawarra Escarpment. In addition, the project has a 45m high lookout along with the walk that offers panoramic views far south to Bass Point and as far as north to Bundeena which is part of south of the Sutherland Shire. Other views include Wollongong, Lake Illawarra, Tasman Sea, Shellharbour, Kiama and other localities of the South Coast, as well as various localities of the Southern Highlands, the Illawarra Escarpment and Budderoo National Park.
Fitzroy Falls is a waterfall found in the Morton National Park near the Highlands’ village of the same name, Fitzroy Falls, and located near Kangaroo Valley. The Fitroy Falls reserve offers lookouts of the waterfall and of panoramic views of the Morton National Park. The waterfall and village is located near the lake Fitzroy Reservoir. The waterfall’s and lake’s reserve includes lookouts, bushwalking trails and picnic areas. (For more information, see Fiztroy Falls).
Joadja is a historic abandoned ghost town about 32 km west of Mittagong. The town was established in the 1870s by the Australian Kerosene Oil and Mineral Company as Joadja valley’s walls contained a vast reserve of shale. Notably, the town back in its time was one of the most populous towns in the Highlands. However, at the turn of the century when the shale ran out, the town’s population began to dwindle and the town would be eventually abandoned by the early 1900s.
Joadja at its height had a post office, theatre, general store, bakery, school of arts, refinery, railway line, miner’s cottages and many other buildings. Notably, it was one of the first rural towns in New South Wales to be connected to the telephone.
Joadja’s legacy still remains with many of the historical buildings remaining in ruin such as some of the miner’s cottages, a school house, church, cemetery and refinery devices such as shale ovens. These ovens are protected and are on a World Heritage listing.
Morton is a national park is 170 km southwest of Sydney.
The most notable attractions are the Fitzroy Falls, just off the main road from the Highlands to Kangaroo Valley and Pigeon House Mountain west of Milton. The park consists mostly of a flat plateau dissected by steep gorges, tilting gently to the northeast. It stretches between Bundanoon to the north and west of Ulladulla to the south. It contains part of the Budawang Range and to the south is adjacent to Budawang National Park. To the north, Fitzroy Falls and Belmore Falls plunge off the plateau into rainforest gullies. In the north and northwest of the park, the Shoalhaven River flows. In the east is Mount Tianjara, 768 metres high.
The Highlands in the last decade has become a small yet significantly growing wine and cellar door region in New South Wales. It is believed that temperate climate, high annual rainfall as well as quality basalt soil makes it a perfect place for Viticulture. There are many reputable wineries and vineyards that are located in the Highlands such as Centennial Winery, Bou-saada Winery, Cuttaway Hill Estate Winery, Southern Highland Wines, Eling Forest Winery and Blue Metal Winery. Some of these wineries have won awards nationally as well as internationally for the optimum quality of their wines.
The cultivated that are primarily grown in the region is chardonnay, riesling and sauvignon blanc.
Berrima is a village located 10 km west of Bowral and 14 km south west of Mittagong that once served as the main town of the Highlands. Notably, the region of Bowral, Mittagong and Berrima and various villages including the Northern Villages used to be known as the Berrima District. Berrima contains many historic buildings including the historical Berrima Gaol and Courthouse which is in use today and many other historical buildings.
Bradman Museum is a tribute museum to Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman who grew up in and spent his life in Bowral until his death. The museum contains artifacts of Bradman’s life and also serves as a museum of cricket and contains historical cricket memorabilia. The museum is located adjacent to Bradman Oval where the Australian Cricket Team play a friendly game annually.
The Southern Highlands has a reputation of being an upscale area due to its upscale-style accommodation which include reputable resorts such as Craigieburn, Briars, Berida Manor House and Peppers Manor House. Each of these places are historical and have an historic significance to the local area.
Bowral is considered the commercial centre of the Highlands and may be the most well-known towns of the Highlands. Bowral is well known for its boutiques, rich coffee culture, gourmet restaurants, Corbett Gardens and renowned Springetts Arcade. The town is also home to the Sir Donald Bradman or Bradman Museum.
Brigadoon is a cultural Scottish Festival that occurs one day annually in April at Bundanoon every year. The festival celebrates Highland Scottish culture where Bundanoon becomes the fictional Scottish town of Brigadoon. Festivities of the day include; massive band parades playing various Scottish instruments such as bagpipes; Scottish dancing such as Highland dancing and scottish country dance; and highland games such as caber toss and stone put. In addition, Scottish cuisine is available during the festival such as Scots pies and haggis.
Tulip Time is a historical flower festival in Bowral where nearly 100,000 tulips that are planted in Bowral’s Corbett Gardens bloom into flowers in late September and early October. The first festival started in 1961. The festival usually lasts 14 days and includes various activities such as band parades, house and garden fairs, food and wine fairs and many other activities.
The festival donates proceeds to various charities and this year[when?] will be sponsoring Westmead Children’s Hospital. In the past, the festival has supported local churches, hospitals, youth centres, elderly centres and disadvantaged people of the community.
Wingello hosts Sled Dog Trials in June.