By Jill Weeks
‘Tell them I don’t want any more people coming to live here’, the well-known Australian entertainer exclaimed. We were having lunch in a café in the Southern Highlands and had told the waitress we were researching the area for one of the Where To Retire In Australia editions. She had repeated the story in the next room. It wasn’t long before we could see why the musician didn’t want to share his patch in the beautiful Southern Highlands.
Many other household names have also called Bowral home, such as Mary Poppins author, P.L. Travers, Ginger Meggs producer James Kemsley and Arthur Upfield, author of the ‘Bony’ books.
For the tourist, however, the picturesque Southern Highlands offers so much and it’s an easy 90 minute drive from Sydney. With a population of around 13,000, Bowral is over 600 metres above sea level and has a median age of 54 years (ABS 2016).
There’s much to do including browsing the many boutiques, restaurants, cafes, farmers’ markets, bookshops, art galleries, playing sport or visiting vineyards,
A good place to view Bowral is from Mount Gibraltar. Standing at 864 metres, ‘The Gib’, as the locals call it, is a short drive from the town. It’s also a popular area for picnics (stock up at one of the local providores).
For garden lovers, a visit to Bowral, during Tulip Time is a must. With around 75,000 bulbs planted, it is a magnificent, colourful display. We have the spirited Ada Corbett to thank for the gardens. With her foresight and perseverance, she overcame a lot of resistance to the idea of establishing a garden for the Bowral community.
Previously named ‘Deadmans Paddock’, there was more controversy when it was named after the determined Ada. ‘Some day, I hope to sit in Corbett Gardens and think of the time when the Garden was a tip for old cans, dead cats, etc, a blot on Bowral’, she wrote to the editor of a local newspaper in 1929.
The first Tulip Time, in 1961, attracted 7,000 visitors. Over the years it has become a much-loved annual event for all ages. The Corbett Gardens are also a pleasant place to wander in non-Tulip Time.
Bowral is also home to the Bradman Museum International Cricket Hall of Fame. It’s a fascinating attraction that would also appeal to those who don’t follow cricket. Close by is the Bradman Oval. Allow plenty of time to wander and take in the wonderful display of cricket memorabilia. You can sit next to a ‘player’ in a change room, measure your height against a cricketing great, admire the brightly coloured flags of cricketing nations, indulge in the interactive displays or see the story of World Series Cricket and the Big Bash League.
Just across the nearby Bradman Oval with its white picket fence, at 20 Glebe Street, is the house where Sir Don lived from 1924 to 1928. If you have time, consider doing ‘The Bradman Walk’ that starts at the Cricket Museum, and covers 1.7 kilometres. As it’s a self- guided tour you can pace yourself and visit various historical sites connected with Sir Don Bradman, such as the school and church he attended and a building where he worked as a clerk.
Gardens, lifestyle, cricket, Bowral has a lot to offer. And – we found the other locals we met to be very welcoming.