Of course, we found the car. It was on the last floor we searched. If it wasn’t a manual drive care then I would have been banned to the back seat. But it was a manual so taking the helm, I set sail for Bowral in the southern Highlands of NSW. Using the GPS we drove directly and trouble free to our apartment at the Sebel Apartments in Bowral. Our apartment (contained in the building in photo 4) is part of a settlement of self -contained houses set in a pleasant surrounding with undercover pool and gym.
Bowral’s history extends back for approximately 200 years. During the pre-colonial era, the land was home to an Aboriginal tribe known as Tharawal. The first European arrival was ex-convict John Wilson, who was commissioned by Governor Hunter to explore south of the new colony of Sydney.
The town grew rapidly between the 1860s and the 1890s, mainly due to the building of the railway line from Sydney to Melbourne
Gardens and European plants flourished from 1887, when citizens of Bowral started planting deciduous trees to make the area look more British. This legacy still lives on throughout Bowral. Notably, the oaks at the start of Bong Bong St are a characteristic that makes Bowral distinct from other rural towns, giving it strong autumn colour. The town became somewhat affluent, as many wealthy Sydney-siders purchased property or land in the town and built grand Victorian weatherboard homes.
As our apartment was within walking distance of downtown Bowral, we went walking through town in oppressive heat through to the Coles supermarket to stand in front of the open refrigerator cabinets and pick up supplies including a different make of gin and saw some of its historic buildings like the Town Hall on the way.
Cootamundra was the birth place of Don Bradman, but he played his early cricket at the Bowral Public School and later the Bowral Cricket Club. After a most successful career as a cricketer Bradman has been immortalised at the Bradman Museum Bowral. The Bradman Museum has evolved into the Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame. It was Sir Donald Bradman’s vision that ‘cricket continue to flourish and spread its wings. The world can only be richer for it.’ To honour this vision, the museum has been expanded to not only show the importance of the Don’s contribution to cricket and Australian history, but also cricket’s important role throughout the world.
Outside of the museum is the statue of the Don and the Pavilion of the Bowral Cricket Club.
Bowral and the Southern Highlands are known for their wines and there is a published wine trail for tourists like us to follow. In fact, there are Coffee, and Pie trails as well but these are seasonal. After the museum we explored around Bowral stopping at Blaxlands Estate, Cuttaway Hills Estate, and Cherry Tree Hill Estate. Our favourite by far was Cuttaway Hill.
It is also known for its National Parks such as Morton National Park and its water falls. Fitzroy Falls is one such place. In the rugged Southern Highlands, we discovered the Visitors Centre for Morton National Park. Entering the centre we felt we were being watched from up above. Leaving the Visitors Centre the falls are a short distance along a well maintained path. Before getting to the falls the path divides one track going east and the other to the west. We chose the West Rim walk across a footbridge and out into a lookout opening up the valley below. Bending around to look east I capture a view of the beauty and grandeur of Fitzroy Falls. The West Rim walking track provides wonderful vistas of gorges and waterfalls and sweeping views across Kangaroo Valley at the Manning lookout. We decide to back track and taken the Eastern Rim walk to see the spectacular waterfall that dramatically drops more than 80 metres more clearly. There is a lookout on the Eastern Rim walk looking directly at the falls and we take lots of photos. After appreciating the magnificent falls, we explored the enchanting wilderness on well-marked walking tracks. We passed a gnarled old tree which had lumps and bumps all over it. The East Rim and Wildflower walking tracks took us to lookouts with superb views of the valley and sheer drops of dry waterfalls .
From Fitzroy Falls we moved onto the village of Kangaroo Valley which was bursting at the seams with visitors. Quite a number of old buildings have been re-purposed with a new use such as an old bank into a café. The first inhabitants of Kangaroo Valley were the Aboriginal Wodi-Wodi people. The area was first settled in 1817 when Charles Throsby, an explorer and Captain Richard Brooks, a cattleman, opened the area for white settlement. The felling and exporting of cedar trees quickly became the main industry in Kangaroo Valley. By the 1870’s activity had begun to concentrate in the area that is now the village. The local public school was built in 1884 of local sandstone. The local courthouse was built c.1910, also of local sandstone. The main buildings include a residence and lock-up as well as the courthouse itself. The local school and the courthouse are both listed on the Register of the National Estate.
The valley has changed very little in the past 130 years with reminders such as the Hampden Bridge, the oldest suspension bridge in Australia completed in 1898, and old Barrengarry School serving as a testimony to the past when Kangaroo Valley was home to a flourishing dairy industry. Agriculture still exists, though other industries such as tourism and outdoor recreation have since taken over as the primary source of income.
From here we moved onto Shoalhaven, and the beach. Without any knowledge of the area and relying on maps from the café in Kangaroo Valley we arrived at Cunjurong Point, I think. Anyway, there is a beach where a creek/river runs into the ocean and a point of land or an island (not sure). Again, a stinking hot day so a walk along the beach was nice. We relaxed under some trees and consumed our chicken sandwiches and a flask of coffee before returning to the road and home.
However, as we journeyed back to Bowral we discovered the Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventure – a tree top walk not for the feint hearted. A sign on the side of the road and a little knowledge from the tourist brochures in our room we thought it would be worth a visit. We were not the only ones to stumble across it. After paying the entry fee we walked passed a donga where other visitors were being briefed on the use of the zip line. Dotted along the forest walk to the treetop bridge are fairy houses – why I don’t know because I did not see any fairies so that I could ask them. The sky bridge is cantilevered at each end of the bridge and in the middle is a tower reaching another 30 metres above the trees. After proving that heights did not bother her but they tested me, we went back to our apartment in Bowral to turn on the air-conditioning have a gin and tonic and contemplate our day. We were stuffed.