The streets of Bowral are lined with deciduous trees so in Autumn the landscape is awash with shades of red, yellow, orange and green. It's late April, and I know if I leave home on the northern side of Sydney, taking the M2 then M7 motorways, I will be breakfasting in the pretty Southern Highlands of N.S.W. in just two hours time. I set off at 6.30am and, at that time of day on a Saturday, traffic is very light. One of my favourite parts of the trip is reaching the outskirts of the suburban sprawl. Like a scene from Star-Trek, I've been beamed to another planet - the landscape of green, rolling hills envelopes me and the surrounding space washes over me. I wind down the window a little and take a deep breath. Fresh country air smells and feels different and immediately invigorates me.
Autumn colours everywhere
As I drive down the main street of Bowral at 8.30am, the autumnal avenue of trees is welcoming and beautiful. I park at the southern end of town and make a bee-line for The Acre. This prominent corner acre-block has recently been renovated and, in my mind, has 'reclaimed' Bowral. Where much of the main street has been taken over by chain-retailers that you find at any Westfield, The Acre and Dirty Janes (a collaboration of friends who bought the building, rather than see it bulldozed by developers), has restored and reinvented the southern highlands retail experience. Dirty Janes
opens at 10am and by 10.30am people are streaming through the gates. Little wonder - the massive development has created a series of shopping 'rooms', including a huge vintage fair with antiques, art-deco, furniture, clothing, lighting and jewellery. Passing through seamless doorways, I pass the Potting Shed (plants and flowers), the Tea Salon offering your choice of fresh tea served in bone china cups with, of course, hand-made scones and jam, the Bespoke Letterpress (fabulous stationery), and Campbell and Roberts Fabrics. Workshops
are held on the upper floor and I could easily spend the entire day here.
Cnr Bong Bong & Banyette Streets
The Acre and Dirty Janes covers the entire block
different shopping 'rooms' have been created
It's also an open-garden weekend (organised by the new Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens Ltd
), so I have a full and exciting day planned. But breakfast first at The Acre. I'm greeted so warmly by the maître d' that I feel like I'm a regular. It's hard to choose but I can't resist the brown sugar, apple and cinnamon scone and latte. Both are beautifully presented and delicious so I feel well-nourished (to say the least!) for a busy day. I need to stretch my legs after the drive so I decide to 'do a lap' of the main street, and immediately find 'Gingermoon'
at 337 Bong Bong Street. It's a decadent boutique full of shoes, handbags, bamboo clothing and a range of aromatic candles they make themselves. Linda, the shop assistant, is extremely friendly and helpful, and I can't help but pick up a couple of gifts.
boutique shopping at Gingermoon
Gingermoon's own range of candles made with essential oils
Further along the street I pass well-known retailers I see around Sydney, so I cross over to Springetts Arcade at 302 Bong Bong Street. There are public amenities on the first floor, and the ground floor provides a peaceful atmosphere by virtue of a regular pianist playing in the central court. The arcade also has a great shoe shop with quality European brands. I'm lucky there too so, loaded up with a few bags, I head back to my car.
Historic Springetts Arcade
I'm off to the gardens.
the croquet lawn at Yarrawin
a blaze of colour at Yarrawin
At 39 Burradoo Road, Burradoo, 'Yarrawin' was formerly a guesthouse, until purchased by the Ramsay family in 1938. Four hectares of gardens surround the main building, and include eucalypts, camellia hedges, exotics, and even a vegie patch and hen-house with chickens and ducks. Pathways meander and lead along Buxus hedges, past a croquet lawn, and around English-style flowering perennials.
Grand Retford Park House
Millenium Canal and grounds at Retford Park
The original house and eight-hectare property of 'Retford Park'
, on Old South Road, Bowral, was bought by the late James Fairfax AC in 1964. Over the years he developed and added to the estate, incorporating the Green Room, the Millennium Canal and the Knot Garden, expanding its size to a magnificent 33 hectares. After his recent death in early 2017, he gifted the grand property to the National Trust of Australia, ensuring this historical property remains for the enjoyment of future generations. All sustainable and organic principles are used to care for the rare and unusual oaks, the 130-year-old Bunya, clipped hedges, emu and poultry run, sprawling lawns, camellia hedges, and a diverse range of deciduous oaks, maples, pistachio and elms.
warm and inviting Carisbrooke
plenty of private spots to perch at Carisbrooke
At 16 Myosotis Street, Bowral, 'Carisbrooke' fills two delightful acres with woodland, roses, a conservatory and summerhouse, a croquet lawn, a parterre positioned near the kitchen, natives, exotics, and plenty of private places to sit and enjoy the serenity of the space. This property is cared for by passionate gardener, Merryleigh Brindley. She receives no outside help in its maintenance and has planned it to be an easy-care garden.
There were three other gardens to see a little further out of town - 'Wildewood', 'Dragon Farm', and '5th Chapter Estate' - but the day was closing in and I needed to head home. They will all be open again in Spring and for further information click here
. The open gardens are surely a bonus to the day, but just wandering the streets of the town and surrounds still gives you an Autumnal shower of colours. It's an easy day-trip from Sydney and refreshing at any time of year.