“The flowers that bloom in the spring,
Breathe promise of merry sunshine —”
The Mikado, Gilbert and Sullivan
For a good dose of both flowers and sunshine, Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands, is a great place for a short break or a week or two. The well-known attraction of spring-time Bowral is the tulip festival, which, despite two spring visits, we’ve never managed to see! At least on our first trip, there were still tulips in Corbett Gardens and they were stunning. On our recent trip in early November (still spring by the way), all the tulips had been dug up and most of the beds were bare.
But there is so much more for the nature lover in Bowral and surrounding areas. There are fabulous walks and views, lots of wildlife and, in spring, an assortment of open gardens exhibiting a range of magnificent blooms including some quite exotic species not usually found in Australia. This time we visited the Chinoiserie near Mittagong after seeing a vase of peonies in the visitor information centre. I have never seen such huge flowers in my life. Bowral was also having an exceptional season for roses, with absolutely beautiful displays in abundance.
Nearby Berrima, is a quaint and historic village established in the 1830s. It is well-known for its historic gaol which, we hadn’t realised, is still in commission today. The town trades on tourism these days and has a plethora of cafes, and arts and crafts shops to potter around. It is ill-advised to visit on Melbourne Cup afternoon as all the shop-keepers have closed up and gone to the pub! For a splurge try the Magpie Cafe, just walking through the door will have you drooling!
Fitzroy Falls is a 20 minute drive from Bowral and is a popular destination. The walks are along easy trails and the wild flowers in spring are spectacular. Unlike the ostentatious displays of the exotic flowers, the native flowers are often very small and you need to be attentive to appreciate them. We saw large stands of flowering isopogon (drumstick) which were impressive. I’ve only ever seen them in isolation before. Take a walk on both sides of the river as the vegetation is very different.
We also had the best hot chips ever at the cafe at the visitor centre!
If you are lucky, and observant, you may see a range of wildlife too. On our most recent trip to Fitzroy Falls we found a very busy lyrebird, had an incredible encounter with an echidna which snuffled right up to our shoes before deciding we weren’t edible …
… and spotted a (rare) glossy black cockatoo which excited the Rangers considerably when we showed them the photo! We also spotted two water-rats swimming across the river, too distant to photograph. They also excited the Rangers as they were unaware of the presence of a pair.
The Box Vale Track is a 9km return walk along the, mostly flat, dismantled rail line which serviced the Nattai Gorge coal mine in the 19th century. The walk passes through several cuttings and a tunnel 84 metres long. It was a good walk with lots of wild flowers, the occasional Rosella, obvious signs of wombat activity and the cutest little Mountain Dragon that allowed itself to be caught.
“As we merrily dance and we sing,
We welcome the hope that they bring,
Of a summer of roses and wine,
Of a summer of roses and wine.
And that’s what we mean when we say that a thing
Is welcome as flowers that bloom in the spring.
Tra la la la la,
Tra la la la la,
The flowers that bloom in the spring.”
Ah, they don’t write songs like that anymore!