Bowral Road Trip

In which I explore the gorgeous town of Bowral, nestled in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales … where to shop, sleep and eat...and what audio books/Spotify playlists to listen to on the 7+ hour drive each way to stay awake and sane!

We decided to drive to Bowral, for a friend’s wedding, because neither of us had driven that far interstate before…and neither of us loves flying so we avoid it if we can! It was one of those mornings where mist and fog settle comfortably over the hollows and foothills like a sodden grey blanket, reluctantly letting daylight of any note filter through. Rural fence lines strung with droplets not large enough to fall, misted spider webs and muffled sounds of a landscape awakening to the day.

Luke, knowing that my coffee had barely had time to make a dent in my usual morning zombie state, treated me to a loud rendition of “Let it Go” from Frozen...no backing track...because he’s sweet like that ;) I countered with a looong playlist of my choice :) Here’s what I learned from the drive:

  • Australia is freaking huge...you forget that until you’re out there, racking up the kilometres, high fiving every time another hour clicks by
  • My imagination keeps me entertained for far longer than you’d expect it to in a rural landscape. Usually it drifts to the Tomorrow When the War Began series, contemplating invasions, and where I would hide, and surely it wouldn’t even be possible because Australia is freaking huge
  • Twisties (cheese not chicken...you chicken fans mystify me!) always taste better on a road trip
  • I get photography-pangs-of-regret every time we pass any crumbling old shed/house...I think, outside of food photography, this is where my favourite subjects lie. Sidenote: I sat next to a photographer at the wedding, currently living in Copenhagen...he too loves abandoned/crumbling architecture and street art as a subject...but struggles with the fact that in Denmark they’re so clean and efficient maintenance wise that old buildings don’t really get a chance to sit around and decay…which I thought was really interesting!

We didn’t have heaps of time to wander and browse as we got there late in the afternoon and the wedding was the next evening. Because I wanted to make the most of the small amount of time we had, I emailed Bespoke Letterpress before we left...asking whether they had a bricks and mortar store to visit and if not, could they recommend anywhere in the area. I got a lovely reply from Renee saying sadly they’re online only with studio tours occasionally, but she shared some gems that I made good use of...in combination with some Googling of our own...so here goes:

  • Stayed at the Sebel Heritage Park...all good except don't bother paying for their internet. Even the cabled version ($24 for 24 hours with a 1GB download limit) peaked at a speed of 15.5k. To put that into perspective...the first dial-up modems that came out were 14k...and my 3G phone reception is many times faster. Reception and the support line didn't appear to understand why that would be an issue *insert incredulous look here*
  • Wood-fired takeout pizza just after arriving from BD's
  • Breakfast next morning at Flour Water Salt Cafe...small cafe/bakery with beautiful sourdough breads, pastries, cold pressed juices in jars in the fridge, take home meals...real Belgian hot chocolates...and the perfect vantage point to watch the comings and goings of the main street of Bowral. Came back for lunch (take home zucchini soup)
  • Bowral has some crazy old antique/vintage stores. Lancelot Hill Antiques was virtually across the road from breakfast...somewhere that I kind've expected to happen across Miss Havisham languishing in the back corner amongst old wooden soldiers and trunks full of goodness knows what.
  • But above all else, dear reader, you must go to Dirty Janes. There are really no words for the antique/vintage experience here. Even I got overwhelmed, and I love a good rummage. The store goes on and on and on and just when you think you've gotten to the end, you're in a courtyard full of jumbled greenery and behind giant pot plants and old pieces of flourished metal there are more sheds and alcoves...all of them full of many little vintage stores...and places like Suzie Anderson Home where I got my paws on Hale Mercantile linen for the first time. It really is a market...and you literally lose track of time and have no idea what you might find. This is how Luke and I found ourselves pondering over an old tweed jacket with legit elbow patches because we'd been brainwashed by Bowral and it seemed like the logical next step to take ;) 
  • To counter my dragging him through the vintage goodness, I dropped him off at the Sir Donald Bradman Museum (one of Australia's greatest sporting heroes) / International Cricket Hall of Fame....and I popped on a playlist and went for a random drive. I was craving wide open space and walking along dirt tracks amongst paddocks, and didn't really want to follow a map. So I found myself on the outskirts of Bowral...parked by an unused farm gate...my shoes crunching on the gravel as I walked any which way...taking sneaky photos of beautiful country estates from afar...admiring stately and uber-secure front gates to said estates...and being encouraged on my way by two gorgeous white guard dogs.
  • There may have been a winery stop...and a random detour to the nearby hamlet of Berrima...I pretty much enjoyed just having the road and camera to myself...taking in the hills and the expanse of the sky...the cattle and the forests...to just be.
  • The wedding was across the road from our hotel at Biota Dining...a beautiful intimate space with polished concrete floors and roaring fires inside and out...kind've a minimalist Scandi feel which matched the simple romantic feel of the ceremony. The guests gathered around the fire, vows were taken, the bride and groom signed the register at the bar whilst we mingled with champagne. In amongst it all, we sampled the most beautifully rustic charcuterie "platter" I have ever seen. Biota grow a lot of their own food on-site (I was so sad it was completely dark so I couldn't explore the grounds!) and the tastes are just so fresh and immediate as a result. The platter was in fact a giant wooden table, with plates perched amongst logs and cuttings from the garden. Then we were lead into the reception where we were lucky enough to sit at a table with the bridal party, and pretty much dine like kings....'twas so relaxed & beautiful and I had to pause for a moment to take it all in :)
  • Across the road to home, heels kicked off and Sacha Drake tucked away safely, we packed like crazy people ready for our early morning departure home. Here is where you will find a good coffee and nice breakfast at 7:30am on a Saturday morning when most other places are closed.
  • To and from NSW we listened to this audio book, and much Spotify including this playlist.
  • Places we didn't get time to visit but came recommended were Janek's Cafe and Burrawang Hotel

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