A coast and highlands self-drive combo is a winning formula for a blissful roadie from Sydney.
Pulling out of Kiama, I ventured west on Tourist Drive 9 to Robertson, a stirringly picturesque driving route that winds through lush and rolling hills and dales, criss-crossed with quaint leafy lanes, on its steady climb into the Highlands.
Rolling through such a bucolic escape hatch from the rat-race, I was struck by the hundreds of drystone walls that lace the landscape, interwoven into the dreamy tapestry of pastoral greens. Had a leprechaun spirited me away to Ireland? It turns out that many of the walls were constructed in the 19th century.
If you've done some pre-trip planning, you'll soon discover there are a plethora of delightful detours and stopovers along the way. Jamberoo is a charming village en route, with an Insta-worthy Tudor-style historical inn lording over the main street.
Heading up Jamberoo Mountain Rd, I took the short diversion to Minnamurra Rainforest, a rare remnant of temperate rainforest thronging with ancient fig trees, rock orchids and elkhorns.
A sense of serenity washed over me as I strolled up the path to clap eyes on the sublime Minnamurra Falls, gracefully tumbling over the canyon's cliff edge.
Back in the car, I purred through the forest-draped mountain road to reach Robertson, famous as the town where the Babe film was made. They're also very proud of their potatoes, Robo Spuds.
Like all towns and villages across the Southern Highlands, I soon discovered they are particularly parochial about their prowess in pies. With more pie outlets per square kilometre than anywhere else in Australia, the region has crafted a dedicated Pie Trail, with scores of outlets touting their hero product.
June is prime "Pie Time" when an annual festival is staged on the back of the latest pie judging results. Robertson Pie Shop is a proven performer, if you're feeling peckish.
From Robertson, I took Tourist Drive 15 to layover at Fitzroy Falls, en route to Moss Vale.
The Highlands brim with water-curtain spectacles, but Fitzroy Falls is the cascading king, with a spectacularly sized waterfall and wonderful walking tracks, abuzz with wildflowers, wildlife and stirring views across sandstone escarpments. After recent rain, it's euphoria-inducing.
Moss Vale is a gem of a town, cultivating a fiendish following for its magnificent homeware specialty stores. Top stops include Bowerbird on Argyle, a luxurious emporium of fine textiles, artwork and quirky gifts, while Suzie Anderson's Home is an equally elegant hive of homeware temptation and inspiration.
Peckish? Hot-foot it to Bernie's Diner, a Moss Vale main street institution for nearly a century, and proud winner of the region's Best Pie last year.
Home of The Don
It's a very short drive from Moss Vale to Bowral, the biggest town in the Southern Highlands, abuzz with attractions.
Cricket fans rejoice — Bowral is the hometown of one of the sport's most famous sons, Sir Donald Bradman. What would he think of ball-tampering?
Driving down the town's golden mile, the inimitably named Bong Bong St, the rain started tumbling in heavy, fat bullets.
Eager to venture indoors, I headed for Dirty Janes. This remarkable emporium is spread across three repurposed warehouses, groaning with over 75 dealers specialising in quality vintage, antiques and retro goods, from all over the world.
I spent a night at the Gibraltar Hotel Bowral, a leafy and luxurious country retreat overlooking Gibraltar Country Club golf course and backed by the Gibbergunyah Reserve.
Inspired by vistas of Mount Gibraltar, this contemporary designer hotel boasts 76 luxurious rooms, where the furnishings are plush and the creature comforts are laid on thick.
I had the pleasure of dining at San Fior, where the culinary influence is ultra-global and artfully executed. They're very proud of their splendid mixology menu and you must try the signature cocktail, a Southern Highlands Cooler.
Ingeniously served in a bath tub-glass (which are frequently stolen), this blockbuster potion comprises vodka, butterscotch schnapps, malibu, midori, cranberry and orange. What a concoction! And what a salute to this salubrious pocket of New South Wales, pitch-perfect for a flavourful weekend roadie from Sydney. For more insider tips and trip inspiration, head to https://nz.sydney.com/
I booked my accommodation through Wotif.co.nz, a leading online travel site in New Zealand offering access to millions of rooms, hundreds of airlines and thousands of destinations both locally and around the world.