|Tulips in bloom in
Fashionable and attractive township in the Southern
Highlands. Once a kind of hill station for Sydney's wealthy,
it is now a retreat for those wanting to enjoy city living
in the country.
Located 126 kilometres from Sydney and 661 metres above
sea-level the Bowral area was first traversed by Europeans
in 1798 when ex-convict John Wilson and his party were sent
south by Governor Hunter with the aim of accumulating
information about the southlands to discourage convicts who
were escaping and heading south in the belief that China was
only 150 miles away. Wilson had been living with the
Aborigines for some years and had almost certainly been in
the area prior to the expedition.
Over the next decade there were expeditions into the
district by John Warby and a botanical collector for Joseph
Banks named George Caley. The Hume brothers, probably in the
company of their uncle John Kennedy, investigated the area
in 1814. With pastures around the Sydney area becoming
scarce, John Oxley, with his stockmen, followed the route of
what is now the old Hume Highway to the Berrima district in
1815. Charles Throsby, usually in the company of Hamilton
Hume and Joseph Wild, undertook a series of explorations
between 1817 and 1819, travelling over the Mittagong Range
to the sites of present-day Moss Vale and Sutton Forest.
Oxley and Throsby were rewarded with land grants in the
area. Oxley was granted 2400 acres in 1823 and was
authorised to purchase a further 5000 acres which he named 'Wingecarribee'.
The family homestead is still standing.
The property incorporated part of Mt Gibraltar, called
'the Gib' by locals and 'Bowrel' (thought to mean 'high') by
the local Aborigines. It is under the shadow of this rocky
outcrop to the north that the present town of Bowral stands.
A road from Gib Gap to Bong Bong was built in 1852 which
increased traffic through the area. However, it was the
coming of the railway that was really crucial to the town's
establishment. John Oxley's son subdivided 81 ha of the
Wingecarribee property in 1859 when he heard the railway
would soon be built, reserving a townsite and selling
adjacent lots as farms. The prospective village was surveyed
that same year.
The district's first school (Anglican) was set up,
principally for the children of the railway workers, in
1861. In 1862 a collection of 'stores and public houses,
chiefly for supplying the wants of railway navvies', was set
up. The township was proclaimed the following year when the
first inns were built. A post office was opened in 1864.
The first religious services in the district (Anglican)
had been carried out in a house on the Oxley property in
1853. The first Church of England was built in 1863.
Methodist services commenced that year and a Wesleyan chapel
was built the following year.
The townsite, initially known as Wingecarribee, soon
changed to Burradoo and, by the time the railway station was
built in 1867, it was known as Bowral. By 1871 the town had
a population of 133. It was correctly believed that the
railway would attract Sydneysiders to the pleasant country
air and the European climate, particularly in summer when
the humidity of Sydney became oppressive. The town started
to grow rapidly. New and more substantial buildings
appeared. The first bank branch was opened in 1877. By 1881
the population had risen to 363 and was increasing. Wealthy
Sydneysiders began to establish grand country homes and
English-style gardens, some of which are still flourishing.
It is a sign of the prosperity and expansion that the
years 1881-1892 saw the construction of new Wesleyan,
Methodist, Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian churches, a
school of arts, post office, police station, courthouse and
hospital, as well as numerous residences and three sawmills.
It was declared a municipality in 1886.
In the 1920s the town experienced another building boom
and the area became a popular retreat. Families would stay
at guest houses and hotels like Craigieburn (at the western
end of town on Centennial Rd), where golf and tennis were
popular leisure activities. The hotel has not been
modernised and still has a certain 'bygone charm' with
formal dining rooms, gracious lounge rooms and a private
9-hole golf course.
Grazing and cattle-breeding drove the economy. Bowral
became, and still is, the commercial centre of the Southern
Highlands, as well as a service centre to the surrounding
Today Bowral is a decidedly up-market, some would say
yuppified, tourist centre full of boutiques, gift shops,
antique dealers, restaurants and cafes, bookshops and art
galleries. It is possessed of a healthy climate and scenery
reminiscent of rural England. There are a number of
excellent municipal parks and playgrounds. With an economy
focused on tourism, vegetables, dairying and grazing the
current population is over 8000.
Things to see:
|Bradman Oval before the
Museum was built
Bowral's most famous son is cricketing legend, Sir Donald
Bradman. The Bradman Museum, located in Glebe Park (follow
Boolwey St east from the main streets), takes a
comprehensive look at the history of cricket, particularly
in its early days, and has an interesting display of Bradman
memorabilia, including the bat he used to score 304 at
Headingly in 1934. Other items include an oak bat dating
back to the 1750s.
The museum is open from 10.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m. daily and
has a 100-seat cinema with Bradman footage and newsreels. It
was opened by 'the Don' with much ceremony in 1989. John
Howard opened stage two in 1996. There is a tea shop and
admission charge and you can obtain a leaflet to guide you
through the Bradman Walk taking in the town's Bradman
iconography, including the two family residences.
Bradman arrived in Bowral as a child, scored a century
for the local school at the age of 12 and lived for three
years at 20 Glebe Road opposite the oval. It is popularly
believed that Bradman played regularly on Bradman Oval but
this is untrue. The oval was a timbered swamp prior to its
development in 1927-1928 and by 1926 he was playing for the
Sydney cricket club, St. George. In fact 'the Don's' local
matches were conducted at Centennial Park. People interested
in Bradman's early history should travel one block north of
Glebe Park to Shepherd St where, at no.52, you will find the
family home. It was in the backyard here that the young
Bradman mastered batting by hitting a golf ball with a
cricket stump against a water tank and continuously
volleying the rebounds. He also practiced at the horse
paddock on the corner of Merrigan and Una Streets.
|The Bradman Museum
The town's famous 'Tulip Festival', held during the
September school holidays, offers spectacular floral
displays and a rare opportunity to wander through the
sumptuous English gardens of some of the town's larger
private homes. The centrepiece of the festival are the
rather beautiful Corbett Gardens in Bendooley Street, one
block east of Bong Bong Street. The Southern Highlands
Visitor Centre in Mittagong can furnish all details about
the pertinent attractions at Tulip Time and their
whereabouts, contact 1800 656 176.
Autumn Garden Festival
There is also an Autumn Garden Festival in May and the Open
Garden Scheme ensures that some of the most impressive
gardens can be visited throughout spring and autumn, albeit
by arrangement. Furthermore, in October, there is a series
of lectures featuring horticulturalists and gardeners from
all over the world. The town is alive with dahlias in
Also in Bendooley St are a number of old cottages made from
trachyte, a volcanic rock mined at a local quarry in the
past. The stone was used as the basic material for the piers
of the first railway bridge over the Hawkesbury River, for
Australia House in London and for buildings in Sydney.
Heading south along Bendooley St from Corbett Gardens
there are a number of older buildings - the courthouse
(built of trachyte in 1896), the police station (1887), the
council offices (1890), and St Jude's Church of England.
The original St Jude's, consecrated in 1874, was designed
by the famous architect Edmund Blacket (the designer of
Sydney University's quadrangle). Amazingly, his unusual and
impressive Norman-style building was found wanting. It was
thought too small, though snobbery played its part. The
prevailing view was that Norman churches were only
appropriate for 'primitive' societies. The Bishop Charles
Barry said that 'he liked to see churches simple and rude
when the houses round them were simple and rude also; but he
did not like to see the church building rude when the houses
around them showed increasing signs of improvement'.
Consequently a new church was built in 1886-87 and only the
bell turret, the western end of the vestry, the font,
communion rails and the stone beneath the communion table
remain from the original building. The gracious rectory was
built in 1880.
The public school opposite was opened in 1863 but has
been greatly altered. It houses the Bowral Schoolhouse
Museum and Gallery which contains a range of local history
memorabilia. It is open in summer and at Tulip Time or by
arrangement, contact (02) 4861 1086.
Turn right into Banyette St. The first crossroad is Bong
Bong St, so named because it originally led south to the
village of Bong Bong. At the end of Banyette St is the Roman
Catholic Church, built in 1891.
Return to Bong Bong St and head north. The north-east
corner of Boolwey and Bong Bong Streets was the site of the
town's first dwelling - a log cabin owned by an Aborigine
The Grand Hotel on the corner of Bong Bong and
Wingecarribee Sts was erected in 1887 where the town's
cricket oval once stood. Continue north for one block to
Bundaroo St. The Port-O-Call Hotel on this corner dates back
to 1863 when it was allegedly built by Mittagong's first
settler William Charker as the Prince of Wales. It was, at
the time, the second hotel in town and the first brick
Wingecarribee House and Other Mansions
Out of town are three residences of historical interest that
are privately owned. 'Wingecarribee', the house built in
1857 by the Oxley family on the original land grant, was
entirely imported from England. A cast-iron parapet on the
roof supports a series of iron urns. The Classical Revival
mansion 'Retford Park', on the Old South Road, was built in
1887 for Sir Samuel Hordern on property purchased from
Bowral's first shopkeeper, George Riley. The extensive
gardens were established by his wife. 'Robertson Park', on
Kirklands Rd at Glenquarry (south-east of town) is a large
sandstone mansion built in the 1850s for the prominent
politician Richard Hutchinson Roberts.
Arts and Crafts
There are a number of art, craft, antique and homeware shops
in town on Bong Bong St and in Springetts Arcade, and an
antiques and collectables shop called the Old Produce Store
in Banyette St. The Berrima District Art Society Gallery is
in Short St, contact (02) 48614093, and Gallery J,
specialising in arts and crafts, is at 327 Bong Bong Rd, at
the Empire Cinema Centre, contact (02) 4862 2310.
|View over Bowral from
Mt Gibraltar's Lookouts
Mt Gibraltar (863 m) on the northern side of town is the
highest point between the Illawarra coast and the Great
Dividing Range. The drive to the summit is very pleasant.
Head north out of town along the Mittagong Rd and turn off
to the right into Oxley Drive which will take you to the
summit. It leads past four scenic lookouts.
The Bowral Lookout takes in Bowral (180 m below) with
Wingecarribee Dam, Moss Vale and the Cuckbundoon Range near
Goulburn in the distance. The next is the Oxley View,
overlooking the first European land grant in the area,
issued to explorer John Oxley (1825), which he named
'Wingecarribee'. Jellore Lookout faces west and north-west
to Mt Jellore (a conical volcanic summit which was a
significant landmark in Major Thomas Mitchell's early
mapping of the district). In the distance are the Blue
Mountains. The Mittagong Lookout faces north and north-east
over Mittagong (240 m below) backed by Mt Alexandra with
Sydney visible in the distance on a clear day and Mt Keira,
adjacent Wollongong, to the right. There are barbecue and
picnic facilities en route.
Walking in the Area
It is actually possible to walk to the summit from the
picnic area at the intersection of Cliff and Ellen Sts at
the north-eastern end of Bowral. The Gib Track (marked by
white posts) leads 300 m to an intersection with the 1.2-km
Rim Track (marked by yellow posts) which connects all four
lookouts. Bowral Lookout is to the right.
50 m west of the Mittagong Lookout the Reservoir Track
(red) heads northwards off the Rim Track through 'the
Cavern' and down to the Mittagong-Bowral Rd (1.4 km return).
En route you will pass The Ravine Track (blue) which heads
east to the junction with a fire trail (1.2 km return).
Starting at the roundabout at Kangaloon Rd proceed eastwards
towards Robertson. After about 5 km Horderns Rd heads off to
the left to Milton Park, a huge stately home in a 285-ha
rural setting, now a fashionable hotel and conference
centre. The homestead was built in 1910 by noted livestock
breeder, Anthony Hordern, grandson of the Anthony Hordern of
Sydney-department-store fame. Although the building has been
modernised with fashionable pastel hues and modern designer
furniture the magnificent 8-ha gardens, created by the
Horderns, are still sumptuous and immaculately kept and the
original 'Garden Room', now the restaurant, allows the
visitor a hint of past genteel luxury and offers a splendid,
relaxing view once enjoyed by the original owners. There are
bicycles available, horseriding, bushwalking, golf, tennis,
croquet, swimming and other activities.
|Tiny church at Bong Bong
Other Activities in the Area
Opposite the Kangaloon-Horderns Rd intersection is the Bong
Bong racetrack site where the famous, or infamous, Bong Bong
Picnic Races are held in the second week of November.
Continue east along Kangaloon Rd through what is dairying
country towards Robertson and the reservoir will eventually
appear to the right. Further east again is some beautiful
scenery and the villages of Kangaloon and East Kangaloon.
Highlands Trips and Treks, P.O. Box 298, Bundanoon NSW
2578. Phone/Fax 02 4883 6523 or Mobile 015 244 714 and email
firstname.lastname@example.org offer 4WD tours and bushwalks in the
Southern Highlands and will pick you up from your
accommodation, be it in Sydney or the highlands.
Another way to see the area is through Balloon Aloft who
run dawn flights, with champagne breakfast, through the
Southern Highlands, contact (1800) 028 568.
Bowral has two golf clubs - the Country Golf Club and the
Bowral Golf Club. The local markets are held on the third
Sunday of each month at the Rudolph Steiner School on the
corner of Kirkham and Centennial Roads, west of the town
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