Just over one hour southwest of the centre of Sydney, it’s not long after leaving behind the sprawling suburbs that you’ll arrive at the start of the Southern Highlands region. Home to country estates, historic villages and cool-climate vineyards, it’s perfect for a weekend away from Sydney.
Centred around the towns of Bowral and Moss Vale, this NSW region offers up plenty of dog-friendly choices, including many accommodation options. In winter time it’s tempting to just curl up next to a roaring fire, with a dusting of snow possible on the coldest days. But that’s not the only option for a dog-friendly getaway to the Southern Highlands…
Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in the Southern Highlands
Whether visiting the Southern Highlands for just the day or a long weekend, fill your days with some of these dog-friendly things to do.
1. Explore the Heritage of Berrima
My favourite village in all of the Southern Highlands is Berrima, and it’s a great spot to visit with you pup. Established in 1831, Berrima is the only largely preserved example of an Australian Georgian colonial town.
Two of the most significant buildings are the Berrima Court House and Old Berrima Gaol, both built in the 1830s. The surviving Surveyor General Inn, a dog-friendly pub, also dates to the same decade.
Due to the railway line bypassing the town, there were no new buildings built in the town for decades, and its historic buildings have been largely retained. These days the the village as a whole is listed on the Register of the National Estate, with many individual buildings heritage listed.
To explore the town on foot along with your pup, follow the Berrima Historic Walk, commencing at the Berrima District Museum. You can buy the map for a small fee at the museum or download it online. Follow the route to find out more about over 30 historical sites around Berrima.
2. Visit Bradman Oval
One of the region’s most famous sons is Sir Donald Bradman, the legendary Australian cricketeer with an average of just under 100 runs. He grew up in the town of Bowral, and these days the local cricket oval, where he played many times in the 1920s and his ashes were scattered after his death, has been renamed after him.
While the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame on site aren’t open to four-legged visitors, don’t miss checking out the statue of Don Bradman located outside it or taking a walk around Bradman Oval with your pup on a leash. (The cafe onsite perviously allowed dogs in its large outdoor area, but it is temporarily closed.)
For devout cricket fans, the 1.7km long Bradman Walk starts from the museum, visiting a variety of sites associated with Bradman, including his childhood home only a few blocks away. Your pup is welcome to join you on a leash.
3. Visit a Dog-Friendly Winery
The Southern Highlands is a small but premier cool-climate wine growing region, and many of the cellar doors dotted around the area are dog-friendly.
My top pick is Artemis Wine, who made myself and my pup feel very welcome. Dogs aren’t allowed inside, but in outdoor areas on a leash. Make a booking for a tasting outside the cellar door, and the staff will regularly pop outside to pour you a tasting.
A small charge applies for tastings, which isn’t just limited to wines. The vineyard also has a distillery onsite, producing a range of spirits, including gin, Eau De Vie, brandy, whisky and Chinese-style Baijiu spirits. The spirits are also available to taste.
If you’d like to stay longer, book a spot on the lawn overlooking the vineyard, with cheese and charcuterie platters available to purchase from Monday to Friday, as well as wood-fired pizzas on the weekend.
4. Explore an Historic Property
The Southern Highlands is home to two National Trust properties that welcome dogs to join you, although only in the gardens.
On the edge of Bowral, head to Retford Park. Built in the late 19th-century, this Victorian Italianate homestead is surrounded by gorgeous heritage gardens, dotted with sculptures, that are a delight to explore with your pup by your side. The gardens are open year round from Thursday to Sunday.
Harper’s Mansion is located in Berrima and is open on weekends between 11am and 3pm. Built in the 1830s like many of Berrima’s other historical buildings, the mansion is surrounded by cool-climate gardens, including one of the largest hedge mazes in Australia.
Dogs are welcome to join you in the gardens, including in the maze. At both properties, keep your dog on a leash and clean up after them.
5. Browse the Local Shops
The Southern Highlands is a great shopping destination, especially for antiques and homewares. It’s still possible to fit in some shopping on a visit with your pup. In Berrima, Sticky Beaks Vintage Emporium on Jellore Street has a large sign out the front welcoming dogs.
I’ve also heard reports that Dirty Janes in Bowral, a vintage emporium with over 80 stallholders, and many shops in Moss Vale are dog-friendly.
Dog-Friendly Walks in the Southern Highlands
For a gentle stroll through Bowral, check out the Cherry Tree Walk. Over 500 cherry trees have been planted as part of a Vietnam War Memorial along the Mittagong Rivulet. The cherry tress stretch for just over 1km from the Bowral Swimming Centre to Boolwey Street, close to Bradman Oval, but you can continue further along the walking path.
The walk is best appreciated during August or September, during the blooming of the cherry trees. It’s also great during the Autumn months when the leaves turn colour. There’s plenty of parking available at the Bowral Swimming Centre, or walk from the centre of Bowral. Just remember to keep your dog on a leash.
For a more wild walk, hike the Box Vale Track. The track starts just off Box Vale Road near the Hume Motorway overpass and follows the route of an historic railway line, passing through cuttings, along embarkments and most interestingly through an 84m long tunnel.
Dogs are allowed on leash on the trail. It’s 4.4km long in each direction, leading to a lookout overlooking Nattai Gorge. Allow about 3 hours for the full walk and pick up a map from the Mittagong Visitors Information Centre or download the fact sheet online.
There’s the option of taking a 1.8km side track to Forty Foot Falls, if you want to further explore. Some recent reports mention the walk is somewhat overgrown in parts, so make sure you wear proper footwear.
Note: As of December 2022, the Box Vale Track has been closed, with no forecast reopening date
Dog-Friendly Parks in the Southern Highlands
Amongst the parks in the Southern Highlands region are four off-leash dog parks, roughly one for each of the larger towns. The off-leash areas are located at:
- The western end of Alexandra Square, in Mittagong
- A central section of Centennial Park, in Bowral
- The southeast corner of Seymour Park, in Moss Vale (including a Stick Library!)
- Jordan’s Crossing, just north of Bindar Crescent, in Bundanoon
Each of the off-leash exercise areas are fenced, except for Jordan’s Crossing, although there are plans for a fenced dog park to be built. Check out the signs at each park indicating the rules for usage, including to keep your pet under effective control.
Dog-Friendly Cafes in the Southern Highlands
The most dog-friendly cafe in the region is RAW & WILD Market & Cafe in Bowral. As well as dogs being welcome in the outdoor dining area, they also have their own menu. In the past it has included Doggie Organic Beef Pasta, plus ask about Dogacinos.
The cafe can also provide mats and water bowls for your pooch. Enter the outdoor dining area from the carpark at the rear of the cafe.
Other dog-friendly cafes on the Southern Highlands include Magpie Cafe in Berrima and Bendooley Estate, where dogs are welcome at the outdoor tables and wood-fired pizzas are on the menu.
Alternatively, stop by the long-running Robertson Pie Shop, with a huge range of sweet and savoury pies, in both small and large sizes, available for takeaway.
Dog-Friendly Pubs on the Southern Highlands
If it’s a cosy dog-friendly pub you’re after, head to the Surveyor General Inn in Berrima. At this historic pub dating back to 1834, Australia’s oldest continuously licensed inn, dogs are allowed in the front bar, to relax with you next to the fire.
Dogs are also welcome at the Burrawang Village Hotel. Dogs are allowed on a lead anywhere in the garden and outdoor areas.
Dog-Friendly Accommodation in the Southern Highlands
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There’s plenty of pet-friendly places to stay at in the Southern Highlands. Many of the local cottages available for holiday stays welcome pets, or alternatively there are some pet-friendly inns.
A great dog-friendly house within walking distance of the centre of Moss Vale is Must Love Dogs! Time to Paws. This four bedroom house with a fireplace can accomodate up to six guests, plus up to two dogs under 25kg.
Complete with a dog door and enclosed yard, dogs are also required to sleep inside during the chilly nights. Just keep them off the beds and furniture, otherwise an additional cleaning charge will apply.
Another great option is the highly-rated Bundanoon Lodge, a luxury bed and breakfast. It’s best to book directly with the lodge, so that there is no additional charge for your dog. There’s also only a handful of pet-friendly rooms and dogs are not permitted without prior arrangement. Up to two small dogs or one large dog is permitted per room. For more details, see their regulations.
Alternatively, consider Links House in Bowral, a small hotel that was built in 1928 and aims to capture the charm of that era. Small pets are welcome to stay with you – call to discuss the options available. A full a la carte breakfast is included with all stays in the onsite restaurant.
For a stay in the bush, head to Wollondilly River Station. The farm is located down Wombeyan Caves Road, 50km west of Berrima. (Note that about 45 minutes of the drive is along a windy and bumpy dirt road.) All pets are welcome, and previous guests have loved that dogs are allowed off-leash, plus the beautiful spread-out campsites. The nightly rate for adults is $20, while pets stay for free.
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About the Author
Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.
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