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If the idea of perusing quaint old bookshops and exploring leafy national parks takes your fancy, you’ll love the Southern Highlands, NSW. Situated just over 100km southwest of Sydney and accessible by train or car, Southern Highlands is an ideal destination for a short NSW escape.

Top Southern Highlands attractions include quirky antique stores, the annual tulip festival in Bowral, walking trails around gushing Fitzroy Falls and the opportunity to detour into picturesque Kangaroo Valley. 

To find out what to do in the Southern Highlands, whether you’re planning a day trip or a weekend getaway from Sydney, read on to learn more!

Things to Do in Bowral

Bowral is a quaint country town sitting at the foot of Mount Gibraltar. Bowral attractions include bookstores, antique shops and boutiques, as well as lots of cute cafes.

Cafes and Food in Bowral

We had a coffee at the cosy Elephant Boy Café on Bong Bong Street, which was lined with old books and felt like a set from Harry Potter! 

Next, we enjoyed pastries from Gumnut Patisserie, which had lots of outdoor seating. The Southern Highlands is well known for its pies, so you’ll see plenty of bakeries!

Visitor enjoying coffee in Elephant Boy Cafe, Bowral, on a day trip from Sydney.
Coffee in Elephant Boy Cafe, Bowral

Tulip Festival Bowral

The best time of year to visit Bowral has to be September (early spring), as the annual Tulip Time Festival is on!

Corbett Gardens in Bowral is the main attraction, with over 75,000 tulips on show, lots of craft stalls and plenty of family-friendly events to enjoy, including a sunset cinema.

Flowers and parkland at Bowral Tulip Festival in Corbett Gardens, Bowral.
Tulip Time Festival in Corbett Gardens, Bowral

Things to Do in Mittagong

If you’re on a day trip from Sydney, Mittagong will be your first stop-off point when you reach the Southern Highlands region. Mittagong information centre is situated on Main Street, so pop in for more information on tourist attractions in the Southern Highlands.

Things to do in Mittagong include admiring heritage buildings, visiting craft shops and art galleries, and eating in stylish cafes such as The Shaggy Cow. The hilly backdrop reminds you that you’re not in Sydney any more!

Mittagong - a quaint country town in the Southern Highlands, NSW.
Bowral Road in Mittagong

Vintage Shops & Antique Stores in Mittagong

Mittagong is more spread out than Bowral and not quite as quaint, but the shops on Bowral Road are fantastic to browse.

We spent ages rummaging through all the clothes and accessories in Twisting Vintage, and even if it’s not your thing, don’t miss a look around Hunters and Collectors Antiques. This was by far the most interesting and eclectic antique store I’ve ever been in, selling everything from mopeds to tiger taxidermy!

Vintage shopping in the Southern Highlands NSW.
Twisting Vintage in Mittagong
Explore the quirky antique stores in the Southern Highlands NSW.
Hunters & Collectors antique shop, Mittagong

Mount Gibraltar Lookouts

If you’re driving to Mittagong, make sure you take the short detour up Mount Gibraltar for scenic views across the Southern Highlands. It’s one of the main tourist attractions in Mittagong.

Head along Oxley Drive, and you’ll pass some impressive country mansions before taking the loop road to Mittagong Lookout and Jellore Lookout. Further along, Bowral Lookout also has toilets and a picnic area.

Map of Bowral Lookout up Mount Gibraltar.
Map of Mount Gibraltar lookouts
How to get to Bowral Lookout at Mount Gibraltar in the Southern Highlands NSW.
View from Jellore Lookout on Oxley Drive

Things to Do in Bundanoon

Further down the Southern Highlands trainline sits the historical town of Bundanoon. The town has a much smaller shopping strip than Bowral and Mittagong, but it’s extremely charming, with well-preserved heritage architecture.

The other main attraction in Bundanoon is its proximity to nature. Bundanoon is walking distance to Glow Worm Glen, which lights up after sunset, and it’s only 3km from Morton National Park (where you’ll find Fitzroy Falls).

Explore the Southern HIghlands NSW on a trip from Sydney.
Historical town of Bundanoon


On the way to Bundanoon is the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village of Exeter. I only saw two shops there but I had to stop for a photo of the antique store!

The Village Pump antique store in Exeter, NSW.
Antique store in Exeter

Things to Do in Morton National Park & Fitzroy Falls

A visit to Fitzroy Falls is one of the most popular things to do in the Southern Highlands. Morton National Park, where Fitzroy Falls is located, also boasts multiple walking tracks, rushing waterfalls and plenty of breath-taking viewpoints.

Morton National Park in the NSW Southern Highlands Australia.
Morton National Park

Fitzroy Falls

Fitzroy Falls is an 80m-high waterfall that gushes down into the valley below. It has to be one of the most well-known attractions in the Southern Highlands, as well as in Morton National Park. The falls is located 16km southeast of Moss Vale.

You can park at Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre on Nowra Road (it cost $4 when I visited, coins only), which has a cafe, toilets, information, souvenirs and a picnic area with barbecues.

Blogger Lisa Bull and friends, standing in front of Fitzroy Falls, New South Wales.
Setting off for a walk at Fitzroy Falls
Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park, Southern HIghlands NSW, Australia.
View from Fitzroy Falls main lookout

Walking Tracks in Morton National Park

From Fitzroy Falls visitor centre, it’s only a two-minute walk to Fitzroy Falls main lookout. If you prefer a longer hike, there’s actually 10km of walking tracks that you can enjoy.

We walked as far as Richardson Lookout, which was a pretty flat and easy stroll, but you could easily continue on further.

Richardson lookout in Fitzroy Falls, Australia.
Richardson Lookout at Fitzroy Falls

Camping in Morton National Park

If you want to go camping in the Southern Highlands, check out Gampbells Rest Campground., which has picnic facilities, showers and toilets.

Grand Canyon Lookout

To enjoy stunning views without hiking, there are parking spots on Bundanoon Loop Road at the Sunrise Lookout and Grand Canyon Lookout.

Grand Canyon lookout in Morton National Park.
View from Grand Canyon Lookout

Things to Do in Kangaroo Valley

Stunning Kangaroo Valley lies 16km south of Fitzroy Falls, and a visit there is definitely one of the most popular things to do in the Southern Highlands, NSW. I think Kangaroo Valley is the most picturesque area in the Southern Highlands region. 

To get to Kangaroo Valley, you’ll need to drive down a steep descent from the elevated highlands, where you’ll zig-zag down through beautiful rainforest. It reminded me of all the mountain roads in Tasmania!

Hampden Bridge

You’ll know you’ve arrived in Kangaroo Valley when you pass over Hampden Bridge, Australia’s last surviving wooden suspension bridge.

The bridge is flanked by impressive gothic Victorian sandstone towers. If you pull over before the caravan park, just after you’ve crossed the bridge, you can get out and take photos. There’s also a little track leading down to the riverside.

Hampden Bridge in Kangaroo Valley, NSW.
Hampden Bridge, Kangaroo Valley

Kangaroo River

Flowing underneath Hampden Bridge is Kangaroo River, which is popular with kayakers and a great spot for a picnic.

Osborne Village

A little farther down Moss Vale Road, you’ll come to the village of Osborne (the main centre of Kangaroo Valley), which is full of cute heritage buildings from the late 1800s with a lush backdrop of greenery. You can even have coffee in the 1891-built bank!

Cafe in Kangaroo Valley, Southern Highlands NSW.
Coffee Kangaroo Valley-style!
Heritage buildings in Kangaroo Valley, Southern Highlands.
Cute shops in leafy Kangaroo Valley

How to Get to the Southern Highlands

You can reach the Southern Highlands by train or car, but you’ll obviously have more freedom in a car, particularly to get to Morton National Park and Fitzroy Falls. However, all the towns I’ve listed (apart from Kangaroo Valley) have train stations, so they’re easily accessible.

Driving to the Southern Highlands

The distance from Sydney to Mittagong is 114km via the M31, which takes around an hour and a half to drive.

Southern Highlands Trainline

The train from Central Station in Sydney to the Southern Highlands takes just over two hours and only costs around $6 each way. Just be aware that the trains only run every hour or two, so check the Southern Highlands train timetables in advance!

The Southern Highlands trainline is really picturesque, passing through lots of open countryside and villages. Make sure you pick the journeys that state you can use your Opal card, as some trains run all the way to Canberra and cost much more.

For more ideas for NSW getaways, check out my other New South Wales travel guides. If you’d like to extend your trip, I’d thoroughly recommend a visit to stunning Jervis Bay in South Coast NSW. Have a great time exploring the Southern Highlands, NSW!

Top things do in the Southern Highlands, NSW - a great day trip from Sydney. Includes quaint old towns such as Bowral, stunning waterfalls at Fitzroy Falls & the beautiful Kangaroo Valley.
Lisa Bull
Written by Lisa Bull

Lisa Bull, founder of Dreaming of Down Under, has been living in Australia as a British expat since 2015. After travelling to every state and territory in Australia and living in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney, Lisa knows from first-hand experience the best destinations to visit in Australia and the best budget travel tips. Her guides on this blog have been read by over 700k readers and helped thousands of people achieve their dream of living in or travelling Australia.