Known and loved by tourists and locals alike as the aristocratic capital of the NSW Southern Highlands, Bowral is an elegant little township teaming with charm, nostalgia and an impressive spread of stylish cafes, discerning restaurants, aesthetic art galleries and bustling boutiques. A ninety-minute drive from Sydney, Bowral is the go-to port of call for the well to do, and its stately homes and mansions, as well as some of Australia’s oldest cultivated gardens, lend it a distinct Scottish Highlands feel.
As Australia’s best-known Book Town, it too is a dream destination for bookworms, with a lively literary festival, which only adds to its dignified charm. Boasting a wide selection of bookshops, eateries and boutique accommodation, this charming town is a paradise for anyone with a love for all things literary.
Said to be the inspiration behind a popular children’s book, and just a short drive from the Southern Highlands beautiful Berkelouw Book Barn, read on for my definitive book lovers’ guide to Bowral.
Where to stay
A collection of luxury cottages just a stone’s throw from the beautiful Berkelouw Book Barn, Bendooley Estate is a book lover’s dream. With views of the nearby rolling hills, private patios, immaculately designed interiors, and a breakfast of yogurt, figs and strawberries, local breads and jams delivered to your door, these cottages offer a relaxing retreat set against one of Australia’s most beautiful backdrops.
Nestled away tastefully behind garden hedges and trees, Biota’s twelve Queen-sized rooms offer a secluded and a private feel, despite being located on a main stretch of road. With Scandi interiors the rooms are minimalist, but are decorated with good taste and the bathrooms feature Aesop products for anyone looking for extra indulgence.
The Loch guest house is a beautiful barn conversion in the heart of historic Berrima in the stunning Southern Highlands of NSW. With four stylish rooms sitting above the original stables, they each offer unrivalled luxurious comfort and a captivating rural view.
Where to eat and drink
Located in the nearby historical town of Berrima, The Little Hand Stirred Jam Shop specialises in small batch cooking using recipes passed down from generations and sells a beautiful collection of jams, chutneys and sauces, lovingly created in their Berrima kitchen. The cosy on-site cafe and ice creamery serve home baked treats, fresh salads, sandwiches, tasting platters, ice creams and a selection of teas and coffees, and every morsel of food bursts with the type of freshness you only find when eating such lovingly prepared dishes.
One of Australia’s most hidden bookish gems, Harry’s on Green Lane is a bustling bistro brimming with greenery and floor to ceiling shelves of books. With an impressive wine and food menu, a roaring open fire and stylish interiors that nod to the nurseryman and horticulturist after which the eatery is named, it’s the perfect place to while away a morning or afternoon with friends.
This eatery-cum-letterpress shop is a must visit for anyone who likes their coffee freshly brewed, and their stationery bespoke. Situated on the corner of the main high street in Bowral, with the most elegant of entrances, The Press Shop fuses fine stationery with specialty coffee, welcoming staff and a tasty menu to boot. Try their coconut hot chocolate and whipped ricotta on sourdough if you’re in the mood for something sweet!
Where to shop
Built at the beginning of the twentieth century, and located on the edge of the quaint Southern Highlands village of Berrima, the Berkelouw Book Barn is a haven of books. A paradise for bookworms, the barn is home to tens of thousands of new, secondhand, rare and antiquarian books, and features an enormous stone fireplace perfect for guests to sit around and enjoy their newly purchased books. If you’re feeling peckish, the barn is also home to a cafe with a delicious spread of drinks and nibbles.
Just next to Harry’s on Green Lane, Dirty Jane’s is a treasure trove of vintage pieces, antique-wares and second hand books. Boasting over seventy-five dealers spanning three large warehouse spaces, it’s the sort of place to lose yourself in for hours, while perusing the endless shelves of well-thumbed tomes, stunning antiques and rustic chic homewares.
A haven for readers since 1992, The Brown Bookshop offers a friendly ambience, welcoming space, and a wide range of books picked with book lovers in mind. They also run an extensive program of events, regularly hosting in-store signings, author talks and the popular Centennial Supper Club.
Leura Books of Bowral sells out of print and used books, and is one of this township’s most popular bookshops. Located on the charmingly named Bong Bong Street, they stock a wide variety of books that are suitable for all ages.
With a wide range of new, used, vintage and antique books for all discerning tastes and ages, The Good Reader is another of Bowral’s brilliant bookshops.
What to read
While the much loved children’s classic Mary Poppins is synonymous with all things quintessentially British, its author, Pamela Lyndon Travers, was in fact an Australian-born author who spent much of her youth in Bowral. Originally born in Queensland, after the death of her father Travers moved to Bowral with her mother and sisters where they lived in a cottage rented by her wealthy aunt. In the midst of a heavy downpour when she was just eleven years old, Travers gathered them around the fire and told them a story about a magical, flying white horse and by the time Travers wrote the first Mary Poppins book, published in 1934, the white horse had become a magical nanny who flies into the lives of the Banks family.
Why not spend a nostalgic afternoon with your nose in a book, reminiscing about this magical nanny?
Based in the Southern Highlands, Lucy Palmer is an award-winning journalist, documentary maker, author and editor, and her memoir, A Bird On My Shoulder is the story of a family devastated by the loss of a husband and father and an unforgettable and moving memoir about love and the unexpected gifts that loss and grief can bring. A Bird On My Shoulder conveys the toll of grief and the journey of mourning a loved one – including the unexpected gifts and moments of joy such a tragedy can inspire.
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Images: Harry’s on Green Lane; The Press Shop, Dirty Jane’s Bowral.