If it’s edgy you are after — a town on the cusp of hipster gentrification — then Bowral may not be your first pick.
But if you are chasing high-quality food in a vibrant town that is close to major centres then Bowral, the largest town in the New South Wales Southern Highlands, might be right for you.
“It’s known as the Double Bay of the Southern Highlands,” says owner of B&B Arcadia House and Chelsea Park, Div Williams.
And, if you happen to be a cricket fan, you will definitely want to spend some time in this town, which was home to cricketing legend Sir Donald Bradman, also known as “the boy from Bowral”.
What’s to love
Well, according to local Paul Millward, quite a lot.
“We moved here with our family from Sydney as I just hated Sydney, but we love Bowral,” says Mr Millward. “We have been here for 12 years and have raised three kids here.”
Bowral is nestled at the base of Mount Gibraltar, 136 kilometres south-west of Sydney. It is home to more than 12,000 residents, and is the largest town in our top ten. It might also be the most expensive, with a median house price of $610,000.
“There is plenty to do here and the schools are wonderful,” says Mr Millward.
“We also have a wide choice of restaurants considering the size of our population.”
Bowral is a stone’s throw from other lovely southern highland towns, including Berrima, and our researchers rate it highly for its proximity to Sydney, Wollongong and Canberra. The Sydney-Melbourne railway even runs right through the middle of town.
Bowral scores top marks for its food and arts scene, but falls down on the property scale because of those relatively high housing prices.
The Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame is the obvious first port of call, which not only celebrates the life of Bradman, but the sport of cricket more broadly.
During springtime, Bowral is the setting for “Tulip Time”, a springtime celebration of tulips and other flowers planted in the town centre. The festival also features a number of beautiful formal gardens that are opened to the public.
There is some great nearby bushwalking, too, while Bowral Lookout offers a scenic view overlooking the town, the Wingecarribee River Valley and nearby Moss Vale. Once you have worked up an appetite tuck into a traditional Italian meal at the well-regarded Onesta Cucina.
What the locals say
There is plenty to love about Bowral, and chief among its many plusses, according to the locals, is the climate.
It gets warm in summer, but you are unlikely to suffer through any oppressive humidity.
“Being an ex-Pom, I like to see the four seasons of the year and it never gets as hot as Sydney,” says Ms Williams.
“People can grow really beautiful gardens here, as long as the plants are frost-tolerant.”
Bowral is large enough to appeal to a diverse swathe of people, and locals agree it would suit active families who want to take advantage of bushwalking in nearby national parks, and mountain biking. It is also a popular holiday home hotspot for stressed-out Sydneysiders, who spend their weekends enjoying Bowral’s gentler pace.