This weekend in Robertson is a fantastic escape from Sydney. With five waterfalls, several charming small towns and an abundance of wonderful food you will arrive home feeling totally relaxed and wondering why you had not visited sooner!
Our base for this weekend was Robertson a small town on the Illawarra Highway in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.
- Day One: Sydney to Robertson via the coast
- Day Two
- How to get to Robertson
Here’s how we did it
Day One: Sydney to Robertson via the coast
There is so much to see taking the coast road from Sydney that we knew we would be rewarded by an early start. We set off from our home in Sydney’s south bright and early at 6am and made our way down the M1 to Shellharbour, where we took the A48 to Macquarie Pass.
While the Hume highway route is slightly quicker, we wanted to call in at Macquarie Pass National Park to visit Cascade Falls.
These southern highlands waterfalls have to be the easiest to reach in the country. You can visit all five of today’s waterfalls with very limited walking – all are less than 1km from their car parks so it’s perfect for kids, families and anyone who is not up to much walking.
Stop 1. Cascade Falls Macquarie National Park – 2km return
You need to be on the lookout for the Cascade Falls parking area because if you miss it there is nowhere to do a turn until you are almost at Robertson. How do we know? Because, of course, we missed it!
The walk to the falls is just under one km each way and well worth the stop. The rainforest is lush and while the waterfall is not a huge one unless there has been heavy rain, we really enjoyed the twisted trees and birdlife.
There are several other falls in the park if you want to stay awhile – check out this guide for how to reach them.
If you don’t fancy the bushwalk we suggest you stop off at the Illawarra Fly at Knights Hill for their treetop walk. This 1.5km walk is suitable for the whole family. They also have a sunrise walk that is a fabulous way to view the coastline.
Breakfast – If you are hungry, do as we did and make your way to Moonacres Kitchen. Alternatively, the famous Robertson Pie Shop might appeal. It was a bit early for a pie, even for Charles, we went with some Moonacres sourdough which was highly recommended, and a bread and butter pudding!
Stop 2. Carrington Falls Budderoo National Park
A short 600m loop track that offers a couple of lookouts over the falls. The walk is flat, however, there are stairs to the lookout platforms. The falls drop 90m down to the Kangaroo River. You could easily carry kids to the lookout if you need to.
Depending on how much water is in the river it’s possible to walk from across the top of the falls to Nellies Glen. We ended up doing the 3-minute drive.
Allow 30 minutes here at least
Follow signs to the Carrington Falls Campground for your next stop.
Stop 3. Nellies Glen Budderoo National Park
Our favourite spot for the day, we had Nellies Glen all to ourselves which is apparently unusual, visiting mid-week is highly recommended.
The small waterfall is again less than 500m from the car park and there is a picnic table nearby. Nellies Glen is culturally significant to the Gundungurra People.
Save the location of Nellies Glen to your phone.
Detour – you can walk from here to Warris Chair Lookout, we were on a bit of a time limit so decided to save that for our next visit.
Stop 4. Belmore Falls Morton National Park
Two lookouts to see here – Hindmarsh Lookout over the valley may not have a waterfall but it is a lovely view and only a very short walk from the car park. The view out over Kangaroo Valley is stunning and reminds me very much of the views from Medlow Bath in the Blue Mountains.
From here you can cut back across the car park or follow a path to the right that runs you around the edge of the valley to the falls.
There are two viewpoints at Belmore Falls. The first gives you a view of the two drops here.
Note: Access to the base of Belmore Falls is prohibited and while many brave thrill-seekers make their way here we had no plans to do this and do not recommend it to anyone who does not have considerable experience hiking off track. The fine last time we checked was $450 p/p.
Stop 5. Fitzroy Falls
So we had planned to do the round trip from Belmore to Fitzroy Falls today but there was some hazard reduction burning right by the falls and we decided against it as we have been several times before. If you have not we would suggest you make your way here. The drive is only about 20 minutes and the Visitors Centre is the largest in the region.
From the Fitzroy Falls Visitors Centre take the West Rim walking track for the best views of the falls. You can pick up a map but you won’t need it.
If you are travelling with small children or not up for a walk you can view the top drop of the falls via a flat 200m walk which is almost no effort at all. Another few hundred metres gets you to Jersey Lookout and a great front on view.
Stop 6. Robertson Public House and Kitchen
We ended our afternoon at the popular Robertson Public House and Kitchen. Pop in for a local brew, the Highlander Beer. Built in 1887 the Robbo Pub is one of the oldest timber buildings left in NSW.
On offer are all your pub favourites done well. The kitchen is open 11am till 9pm at weekends, a little earlier during the week.
Overnight Stay – The Roberston Hotel
The first hotel in the area, the Robertson Hotel is a grand old beauty and a perfect location to relax after a day of walking in the national parks. The hotel opened in 1924 and has an interesting history. After a decade or so as a hotel, it hit a few rough patches when the tourist boom experienced in the Blue Mountains didn’t really pan out the same way for Robertson.
During WW2 it was home to 250 women from Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force operating as a training centre and barracks!
In the late 1940s, it was acquired by the Roman Catholic Church and became St Anthony’s College, a seminary for the Franciscan order. It was during this time the gardens were extended and the beautiful stained glass windows that feature above the stairs were installed.
We enjoyed pre-dinner drinks in the main lounge area and I really wished I had a spare day to just enjoy this space. There were books and games and the room just had such a lovely feel. The hotel struck me as the perfect space to have a weekend catch up with family or friends.
We dined in the hotel, the meal was very good, the mains exceptional, and the staff and service wonderful.
We were upgraded to the Grand Manor Suite which is spacious and elegant. With plenty of natural light from the sunroom that runs the length of the building, it was a space I felt I didn’t want to leave. The suite is beautifully furnished and very welcoming.
I loved the sense of history in the suite and the fact they had retained that without the old world country hotel style seen in so many similar properties. There was no minibar but there was a model large screen tv and great internet. While the bathroom was original and not what you would call luxurious everything worked and that’s what counts!
Dinner: If you would like something different there are several options in town. Pizza in the Mist is a popular choice for families.
We started the day by exploring the grounds of the hotel. If you are visiting in summer you might want to kick off your day with an early morning swim. For us, it was a stroll through the autumn foliage instead. At the bottom of the property, you will find the historic Ranelagh Train Station.
After working up an appetite it was time to head to the nearby village of Burrawang about a 20-minute drive away.
Stop 1. Burrawang
On this cool winter morning with the autumn leaves just hanging on, Burrawang Village was a delight. The village has a number of lovely old cottages and some really pretty gardens. We took a stroll along the main street shooting photos of leaves before heading to the Burrawang General Store for breakfast.
Burrawang General Store
Since 1867 this corner store has been providing to the needs of Burrawang locals. We loved the collection of old signs on the front balcony. Inside there is plenty of history on display and if you don’t arrive at meal time plenty of great local products on sale to take home.
We were more than ready to eat and I am pleased to report the coffee was great, as were the poached eggs. It was a little dark this morning at our table for photos so instead, we share some shots of the great signage.
We had a chuckle at the Rexona sign, for those of you who are not familiar with the brand, Rexona make deodorant among other things.
Burrawang Village Hotel
The next stop was the local pub, the Burrawang Village Hotel. A lovely country pub with a beautiful garden and fabulous views over the valley. This would 100% be where you would find me every afternoon with a book and a wine waiting for sunset.
We will most certainly be back to try the food which looked delicious!
Burrawang is the Aboriginal word for a native palm which is indigenous to the area.
It was time to head back to Robertson, there was plenty we missed yesterday and we only had a couple of hours before it would be time to head home.
Stop 2. The Old Cheese Factory
The first stop was the Robertson Cheese Factory, don’t let the name fool you, you don’t just visit the Cheese factory for cheese. While the Whey Cafe serves and sells a fantastic range of cheeses the Factory complex is home to lots of other great shops including the Cool Room – a Country Emporium you will find it very hard to leave empty-handed.
There is also a fudge shop, delicious ice cream at SoHi gelato, the dairy shop for stocking up on picnic and gourmet foods and the newest addition Petals and Paddocks for fresh flowers and garden needs.
Robertson is home to the least attractive ‘big thing’ in Australia, The Big Potato which essentially looks like big rust coloured barrel although less affectionately referred to as a giant turd
Stop 3. Robertson Heritage Railway Station
This National Trust-listed station is worth a quick stop, in spring you will find waratahs in flower right by the station.
Stop 4. The SHAC – South Highland Artisians Collective
This not-for-profit hub where you can watch local artists at work in the studios.
Other places you might want to visit are:
- Robertson Truffle Farm
- Coburn’s Whiskey Distillery
- The Friendly Grocer – the town supermarket is a great place to stock up on local produce on the way home.
How to get to Robertson
It’s only 130 km from Sydney via Macquarie Pass to Robertson. You can either return the way you came or take an alternate route back via Bowral or Mittagong.
The Illawarra escarpment is such a beautiful drive I would be tempted to go back the way I came stopping off at a few different spots along the coast road. The Sea cliff Bridge is a great drive if you have not already done it.