This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure
Planning a NSW Southern Highlands day trip? We’ve put together a perfect one day Southern Highlands itinerary that includes some of the best things to do in the Southern Highlands and our tips for making the most of your visit.
If you’re looking for a great day trip from Sydney that is full of beautiful natural sights, the Southern Highlands region of New South Wales is absolutely a great choice if you love beautiful natural scenery. Especially if you love chasing waterfalls!
We’ve also included tips for extending your stay into a weekend or longer trip.
You will love the Southern Highlands if you’re looking for a Sydney day trip for nature lovers. Think quaint country towns and villages, waterfalls and cascades galore and walking trails.
A day trip to the Southern Highlands is perfect for enjoying the fresh air and good weather outdoors, and this itinerary is mostly focused on enjoying the great outdoors.
However, we have included some alternatives in case you luck out with the weather and need some rainy-day Southern Highlands activities too. The Southern Highlands is easily one of the best places to visit in NSW.
Start the day early to beat the crowds and traffic if you are leaving from Sydney. Earlier if you want to fit a lot into your day
Southern Highlands Visitor Information Centre
The first stop, as you begin your Southern Highlands adventure, is the Southern Highlands Visitor Information Centre.
Located in Mittagong, it’s the perfect first stop to stock up on information, and maps and ask questions about where to visit while you’re here.
They will also be able to tell you if there are any special events happening in the region or closures that may impact your planned itinerary.
You can also pick up some local products like wine, preserves and giftwares too.
The information centre is open from 9:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. on Saturdays.
If the early start has you yawning, park in Bong Bong Street, the Main Street of Bowral and grab yourself a coffee or freshly squeezed juice to perk you up after the long drive.
This is a great chance to explore the centre of Bowral too, which is one of the larger towns in the Southern Highlands and a popular NSW country town.
The main street is lined with restaurants, cafes and boutique stores, so you can take your time exploring the different quirky shops.
There’s also a great selection of antiques to browse in Bowral and the nearby towns.
Bowral is the largest town in the area and perfect for a quick wander while you’re there.
After you’ve refuelled with your morning coffee or grabbed a bite to eat in Bowral, head to what might be your favourite stop of the day (at least it was for us) – Fitzroy Falls.
Fitzroy Falls itself is a village in the Wingecarribee Shire of Southern Highlands, but it’s the actual waterfall within Morton National Park that will capture your heart!
When you arrive at the Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre car park, you will see a parking metre which requires you to pay to visit the area. This is $4 and well worth the small cost that goes towards maintaining the facilities.
Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre is a great place to pop in for a look.
There are educational displays, including taxidermied animals and a giant spider display. There are also snacks, drinks and beautiful gifts for sale.
Now it’s onto the falls.
Note that there is a sign with the distances next to the Visitor Centre. It’s easy to miss and the next sign where the path forks does not have distances. Take the West Rim Track for the best views of Fitzroy Falls.
Depending on how long you want to spend at this stop, you can just do the first lookout which sits just above the falls for a stunning close-up side view. This is just 5 minutes from the car park.
We recommend you go to Jersey Lookout though, which is another 10 minutes approximately and you can see the full height of the 80-metre falls from a distance.
It’s around a 25 to 30-minute return walk if you go this far.
Give yourself around 30-45 minutes for this stop, depending on how long you want to spend admiring the view.
Coming from Fitzroy Falls, we had a creek crossing we needed to cross which was unexpected but fine having no recent rainfall and we crossed it without issue in our SUV hire car. Eek!
There are beautiful views of Kangaroo Valley here and a few different lookouts to stop at. It’s also a great walk during wildflower season.
The view of the pool at the bottom was captured with our drone. Always amazing to see things up closer.
Robertson Cheese Factory
By now you’re likely starving from all the walking and Robertson is a great place to head for lunch.
The Robertson Cheese Factory offers up more than just cheese. Within this building, there is the cheese and meat deli and restaurant area. Perfect for picking up some local cheeses, cured meats and other locally produced products, like sauces, wines and much more.
Here you will also find a chocolate shop with lots of handmade chocolates and some popular old-fashioned sweets.
You might like to stop here for lunch. We wish we had as the meals looked delicious.
There is also an antique shop if you’re keen to check out some vintage finds.
Robertson Pie Shop
The Southern Highlands are quite well known for their pies. In fact, there’s a Southern Highlands pie trail of almost 30 pie outlets, if you’re keen to sample a few along your route.
This could be a Southern Highlands day trip all on its own!
We stopped at one of the more well-known pie shops in the area, the famous Robertson Pie Shop, for lunch.
It was extremely busy, with a line out the door but it moved fairly quickly.
The pies were ok but we’ve had a lot of good pies along our travels. After all, meat pies are practically the national food of Australia!
The biggest issue was that they weren’t very hot. It was also up for sale… But clearly, this is a well-loved stop.
The Big Potato
Australia’s obsession with big things extends to Robertson!
Here you can have a photo with the Big Potato and purchase some Robertson potatoes at the convenience store next door if you so desire!
For the 3rd and final waterfall stop on our Southern Highlands itinerary, head to Carrington Falls. It’s just a quick 7-minute drive to the Falls car park.
Carrington Falls is located in Budderoo National Park and the 50 metre falls drop down into Kangaroo River.
Here you will find a picnic area with toilets (nature toilets) and picnic tables.
The walk itself is an easy loop with a few stairs along the way and it takes around 30 minutes to walk the loop.
A few things to note – there are quite a few stairs on this walk so it is not accessibility friendly.
It also states no access to the top of the waterfall. This isn’t the case.
We saw people up there and thought they had jumped the fence but in fact, there was an open entrance from the track to the pools above the waterfall. This isn’t quite the top of the falls but there was nothing to stop people from climbing their way there.
A place to exercise caution and use your common sense! Especially if you’re visiting with kids.
On our way back, we stopped at Eden Brewery which is located in the town of Mittagong near Bowral. This is around 40 minutes from Carrington Falls, as you’re heading back towards the Greater Sydney area.
They had a food truck set up and it was quite popular already, early on a Friday afternoon.
You can sit and enjoy the local brews or do as Simon did and grab a few takeaways before heading back to your starting point.
Things To Do In The Southern Highlands If You Have More Time
If you have more than one day in the Southern Highlands, there are certainly plenty of ways to spend that extra time.
Here are the best things to do in the Southern Highlands for longer stays or as alternatives to some of the activities within our itinerary above:
Explore more of the Southern Highlands Pie Trail
With around 28 different pie shops and bakeries around the Southern Highlands region, you could easily eat your way around the area to find your favourites.
A few of the award-winning pie shops include:
Gumnut Patisserie in Bowral – (try the massaman curry beef pie)
Southern Rise Bakery in Moss Vale
Samuel Gee’s Pies and Pastries in Mittagong
Heatherbrae’s Pies in Sutton Forest (try the alpine pie)
Visit The Southern Highlands Wineries
I had hoped to visit the wineries in the region and pick up some local wines to take home, but unless this is your focus for the day, rather than chasing waterfalls, you might not have the time.
We only saw one winery cellar door during our day trip and regretfully didn’t stop as we thought we’d see more along our route.
There are actually quite a few wineries in the Southern Highlands though if you are looking to explore one of the best regions for cool-climate wines in New South Wales.
Grab some pinot gris, pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon to share. There are over 60 local vineyards and around 15 cellar doors to visit.
Here are a few recommendations:
Centennial Vineyards (Bowral)
Joadja Vineyards & Winery Cellar Dor (Berrima)
Tertini Wines (Mittagong)
Artemis Wines (Bowral)
Bendooley Estate (Berrima)
Southern Highlands Winery (Sutton Forest)
Visit The Southern Highlands Breweries
If you’re more of a craft beer snob than a wine enthusiast then the Southern Highlands has plenty of local breweries to explore.
The two main ones are Eden Brewery in Mittagong, Highlands Taphouse in Moss Vale and Wyadra Brewing in Tallong.
We stopped at Eden Brewery for a few take-home beers on our way home (as mentioned above) and it was somewhere that would be perfect for a relaxed weekend afternoon drink and burger.
Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall Of Fame
Here’s one for the cricket fans! Did you know Donald Bradman grew up in Bowral?
If so, you likely want to make time for a visit to the Bradman Museum. This museum is dedicated to Australian cricketing hero Sir Donald Bradman, who lived in the area.
You will find the museum in Bowral, full of interactive exhibits and interesting cricket artefacts. It also makes a great option for things to do in the Southern Highlands when it’s raining.
The Museum is open from 9 am until 4 pm Monday to Sunday. Tickets start at $30 for adults and $16.50 for kids aged 5 to 15 years. It’s recommended you allow around 90 minutes to explore the museum.
Yes, if you follow our one day Southern Highlands itinerary, you’ve got plenty of walking tracks to explore, but that’s really just touching the surface of all the different tracks in the region.
After all, the Southern Highlands region is largely surrounded by national parks.
Explore some of the longer tracks mentioned above or discover some of the shorter routes in the region for wildlife spotting, waterfalls, rainforest trails and valleys.
You can find plenty of good walking routes on the NSW National Parks website.
Shopping For Local Produce & Artisan Goods
The Southern Highlands of New South Wales is known for its produce and artisan goods, so it’s worth a visit for anyone looking to stock up their pantry or pick up some unique gifts.
There are markets popping up in the region every weekend, so you can peruse beautiful locally-made items and pick up some fresh seasonal produce, preserves and wines.
The Mittagong Markets on the 3rd Saturday of the month are particularly popular as is the Bowral Market on the second Saturday of the month.
As the markets tend to be held just once a month, many of the stalls will rotate between markets.
Cool Off In A Local Swimming Hole
If you’re visiting the Southern Highlands during summer, you might like the chance to cool off in a local swimming hole. There is something so recharging about natural waterholes and the kids will love it too.
The waterholes here are much cooler than in other parts of the state due to the higher elevation and cooler weather though.
Two great options for swimming are the Blue Pool, near Carrington Falls Campground and Nellie’s Glen. You can find a few other recommendations here.
Just remember to always swim safely – at your own risk and obey any signage.
The Southern Highlands region is well known for wildlife spotting. Birdwatchers especially love the area for the high chance of seeing lyrebirds.
We didn’t get so lucky but you will definitely see plenty of animals and beautiful flora on your walks.
Mount Gibraltar Reserve
The highest point in the Southern Highlands of NSW is Mount Gibraltar, sitting at 863 m above sea level.
Enjoy a relaxed picnic at the reserve or get the best scenic views from Bowral Lookout, Mittagong Lookout or Mt Jellore Lookout.
Best Time to Visit Southern Highlands
The best time to visit the Southern Highlands depends on what you want to do and how long you are visiting.
If you’re visiting for a day trip, mid-week is the best time as it will be quieter and less crowded than the weekend. The same goes for visiting in winter and outside of school holidays.
Just know that it can be very cold in winter so dress warmly.
Where to Stay in Southern Highlands
Although it’s possible to do a day trip from Sydney to the Southern Highlands, you’d be missing out on so much if you don’t spend at least one night here or explore more of the region for a longer stay.
The Southern Highland is the ideal destination for a weekend getaway.
There are plenty of accommodation options in the area. Here are some great options:
The best way to get around the Southern Highlands is to drive. The region isn’t serviced very well by public transport, so having your own car is the best way to get around.
Compare the best prices for rental cars from Sydney Airport or Sydney CBD via Discover Cars.
Alternatively, extend your visit into a NSW road trip and hire a campervan. Check out Jucy campervans for a budget option or Star RV for a more premium option that accommodates up to 6 people.
PLANNING AN AUSSIE ROAD TRIP?
Our favourite way to road trip Australia is by motorhome! Check out Jucy Campervans for a budget option or for extra comfort try Star RV.
Final Thoughts: Southern Highlands Itinerary
A Southern Highlands day trip equips you with an unforgettable experience, offering a unique blend of food, vibrant local culture, and stunning natural landscapes. From tasting your way around the local wineries, breweries and pie shops to soaking in the natural beauty of the walking trails and waterfalls, this is a day trip well recommended for exploring beyond Sydney.
FAQs For Visiting The Southern Highlands
How many days in Southern Highlands?
You can see a lot of the Southern Highlands on a day trip from Sydney if you leave early, however, if you can manage a weekend away or longer then there’s plenty more to see and do, with more time to explore the villages.
Distance from Sydney to Southern Highlands?
Sydney is approximately 134km from the Southern Highlands and around a 90-minute drive.