A writer sharing travels, experiences, a love of festivals & events. Life is a journey and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at https://www.travelwithirenke.blogspot.com
Published April 29th 2017
Escape the city and discover the delights
A year ago I wrote an article on a day trip to Bundanoon and a lady from Robertson saw it and suggested a number of things to see in her town that I could write about. Well, I finally made it one year on to Robertson and was surprised by how much this town has grown.
It has been, at the very least, several years since I've travelled along the Illawarra Highway through Robertson, using it as a pit stop on the way to somewhere else. This road trip, taking a closer look, was well worth it with more to the town than first meets the eye.
If you love food, you will love Robertson. If you love retro and rockabilly, you will love Robertson and if you love getting back to nature then you will love Robertson. A variety of activities are available for you to delve into that are not seen by first impressions on a drive through the town.
If you love travelling the country and taking photos of Australia's big things then you'll be happy to hear Robertson is also potato growing country and home to the Big Potato, our first stop. It's big and brown, some would say ugly, but appropriate for the area.
Right next to the Big Potato is The Potato Shed with some interesting businesses. The Einsteinium is the quintessential country shop selling a variety of items, from books to party supplies, art sets, sewing kits, gifts and greeting cards but what peaked my interest was the pop culture and limited edition memorabilia. You'll find iron fairies, Harry Potter and more. Last year they even had some potion-making classes. Murcho's Movies are also housed in this store. The Perfume and Skincare Company graces the shed space as well as does a real estate, Rockabella's diner (more on that later) and CC's Retro, selling homewares. The latter's lovely Sonja is involved in the Artists and Makers Shed around the back and showed me around this workshop area where classes are run in spinning, weaving and printmaking. A new Nuno felt making class is scheduled for 25th June where you create your own wearable scarf from silk and wool. More detail can be found on their Facebook page. A Bag Swap is another creative initiative happening here where material shopping bags are made and given to different businesses for a donation. The bags are then given to customers in place of using plastic bags. Love this eco-friendly idea. Altogether, the Shed is an interesting area, complete with a 200 year old spinning wheel and a printer of the carousel type, like you've most likely never seen before.
Top: Left - CC's Retro, Right - Bag Swap; Bottom: Left - Spinning Wheel, Right - Carousel Printer
Hubby was getting hungry so it was across the road to the Robertson Inn for lunch that we headed next. This country pub had a fresh coat of paint on the outside and a number of bars and eating areas inside, along with a lit fireplace making it very cosy.
A big variety of choices on the menu include pub favourites like Chicken Parmigiana, burgers and steaks in addition to house-made potato Gnocchi Porcini, slow cooked Beef Cheek and Veal Scaloppini. Shared plates of terrine and cured meats as well as Buffalo wings and seafood are other options amongst many others. I went with the Chicken Parmy and its accompaniments of Potato Roesti, Sauerkraut and green salad. You could also choose to have it with chips and veggies. It was a huge piece of chicken cooked with tender care and the salty Roesti was a nice change. My other half went with a 400gram local grass fed T-Bone steak that came with mash and greens. He topped this with King Prawns in a garlic cream sauce. It was bigger than huge but he managed to eat the lot, declaring it exquisite.
These massive meals needed some walking off so we headed first to the railway station to check out the Heritage Museum but, unfortunately, it was closed. So we wandered nearby amongst the autumn colours of large leafy trees and found a Reconciliation Garden containing three carved totems. Featuring various Australian fauna, boomerangs and symbols, it was a nice surprise in this quiet little area.
Next was a 9km away drive to Belmore Falls in Morton National Park on a partly tarred and partly gravel/dirt road with the end resulting in breathtaking views of the double waterfall and surrounding landscape of Kangaroo Valley, from Hindmarsh Lookout.
A 1.8km return walking track starts at the lookout car park, taking you around the escarpment through sandstone flora to several other lookouts. With photos snapped and some calories eroded, it was back to the car and we drove a little further down to more bushland and running water at a crossing of the Barrengarry Creek on Belmore Falls Road. The flowing water has a very calming effect. Birdwatching is popular in this spot, evident with photographers perched on rocks awaiting the perfect photo. If you have more time, Fitzroy Falls are also worth seeing in this national park and a popular way to get around faster is by mountain bike.
This beautiful day then saw us return back to town and to the Old Cheese Factory which now houses a gift emporium, dairy store and cafe. Remnants of the old factory exist amongst delights of hand-made soaps, candles, clothing, hats and homewares. You can still get your cheese fix in the Dairy along with other treats, such as bags of lollies, shortbread, chocolate, fudge, jams and gelato. Lots of goodies had me pulling out my purse a few times after I thought I had all I wanted. The vintage green pepper cheese and the salted caramel fudge I took away are both recommended. One savoury, one sweet - two times delicious.
It was then back to the Potato Shed for afternoon tea at Rockabella's Roadside Diner. Having spotted the great decor earlier, we just had to return even though we weren't that hungry. This retro diner and rockabilly shop has some wonderful and unique items on display and for sale, from the pictures on the wall to the iron guitar and motorbike replica, retro clothing, jewellery and knick knacks.
Food-wise, the diner serves up Rockabilly soul with burgers, loaded spuds, soups, salads and sweet treats whilst drinks to be had include craft beers and cocktails. Mexican Thursdays are popular with tasty tacos and loaded dippers filled with chilli con carne. Owner Ellie also has a 'Crop Swap' happening here on Saturday mornings from 9am-10am where farmers bring along their produce and swap it with others. So you never know what Ellie may have on the specials menu next.
Our afternoon temptation was a chocolate brownie and scones to share with cream and jam plus some cappuccinos to spike us up for the 2 hour drive back to Sydney. Well, the scones were gigantic but oh so fresh, light and airy. They were a wonderful end to our stay in Roberston. The brownie had to be wrapped up for takeaway as our eyes were way bigger than our stomachs.
You can find most of our experiences here in the main street, Hoddle Street, all in close proximity to one another.
Other things to see and do in and around Robertson include a drive to the nearby and popular Nellies Glen picnic area at Carrington Falls, the views of Lake Illawarra from the top of Macquarie Pass and Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk with its zipline and premier rainforest adventures. The Robertson Pie Shop and Le Petit Fleur French patisserie are also local favourites whilst Small Cow Farm offers cheese making workshops throughout the year. Click here for more info.
Oh, and its also wine country, boasts an 18-hole golf course, river cruises, game drives, horse riding and canoeing. So on your next trip to the Southern Highlands, make a date with Robertson. I'm glad I did. I only wish I had more time to spend here.
It's an easy drive with the best route from Sydney being via the Hume Highway. Multiple turnoffs will then lead you onto the Illawarra Highway that becomes Hoddle Street upon reaching town.