Experiences for Macarthur and the Southern Highlands
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Find out more about the features, attractions and landscapes of Macarthur and the Southern Highlands.
For many thousands of years the Dharawal and Gundungurra people have lived in the Macarthur and Southern Highlands and beyond.
The local Aboriginal people were some of the first in New South Wales to feel the impact of European settlement, suffering new diseases, violence and occupation of their lands. The Thirlmere Lakes area is called couridjah, which is believed to mean honey and refer to the nectar of the banksia flowers found there in abundance.
- Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council
- Level 1, 103 Moore St, Liverpool
- Phone: 02 9602 5280
- Web: www.glalc.org.au
- Tharawal Local Aboriginal Land Council
- Phone: 02 4681 0059
National park style camping with good facilities is available at Wombeyan Caves (bookings 02 4843 5976) and Gambells Rest at Bundanoon (bookings 02 4887 7270). Fees apply.
Several of the Thirlmere Lakes provide opportunities for a quiet paddle with the waterbirds.
Galleries, Museums and Collections
As well as huge range of art and craft galleries, the region has many notable museums and collections open to the public. Entry fees apply to most, and some provide guided and self-guided tours.
They include Richmond Villa and Quandong Museum, both at Campbelltown, the Wollondilly Heritage Centre (The Oaks), the Camden Museum, the Rail Transport Museum at Thirlmere, with 60 locomotives and100 carriages on display, the Berrima Courthouse Museum, the Bradman Museum of Cricket (Bowral) and the National Trust property of Harper's Mansion at Berrima.
Travellers to the Macarthur and Southern Highlands areas can take advantage of a number of guided tours with a focus on natural or cultural heritage.
- Mount Annan Botanic Garden offers self-guided tours and a wide range of guided walks and tours. For details contact 02 4648 2477.
- You can take a self-guided tour of the underworld of Wombeyan Caves at any time, and guided tours operate throughout the year. Contact 02 4843 5976.
- National Parks Discovery runs open days at Throsby Park Historic Site, as well as guided walks and other activities during school holidays and at other times in some of the local national parks. For details contact 1300 361 967.
- Several museums offer guided tours, including Berrima Courthouse Museum and the Bradman Museum of Cricket.
Historic Sites and Heritage
Many historic buildings and villages have survived from the rich colonial heritage of the region. Some of the most significant are open to the public including Gledswood Homestead (at Catherine Fields), Belgenny Farm (Camden), Camden Cottage, Berrima Courthouse and Harper's Mansion at Berrima. Entry fees apply in some cases.
Throsby Park Historic Site, a well preserved colonial estate near Moss Vale dating from 1834, is only open by arrangement (02 4887 7270) or on scheduled open days.
In Thirlmere Lakes National Park you can take short rides on Slades Road, W.E Middleton Drive and Dry Lakes Road.
The management trails east of Little River and north of Wattle Ridge Road in Bargo State Conservation Area are also open for cycling.
Otherwise cycling is prohibited in the Nattai Wilderness and in both Schedule One and Schedule Two Water Quality Protection Zones (as shown by signs).
The Wombeyan Discovery Trail is suitable for mountain bikes, while the better roads of the Thirlmere Discovery Trail suit touring by road bike.
Mountains, Forests, Rivers and Lakes
Most of the World Heritage Area is made up of sandstone plateaus, deeply divided by creeks and rivers. Only a few mountains rise above the general level of these tablelands to become landmarks for some distance around.
The Colong sector of the greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is named for the square-topped basalt peak of Mount Colong, in the Kanangra-Boyd Wilderness north-east of Wombeyan Caves.
Most of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is covered in an enormous variety of eucalypt forest and woodland - from the tall and straight blue gums and mountain gums of the sheltered valleys and mountaintops to the twisted angophoras and scribbly gums on the dry ridges. In the most sheltered places grows warm temperate rainforest.
A special remnant of rainforest on basalt is preserved in Robertson Nature Reserve, near Robertson.
Rivers and lakes
The Georges, Nepean, Little, Bargo, Nattai and Wingecarribee Rivers all rise in the Macarthur and Southern Highlands region. The Little River and Nattai River flow through the World Heritage Area into the Lake Burragorang water storage.
As the largest lake in the area, Lake Burragorang supplies most of the water for the greater Sydney region. The lake was formed in 1960 when the scenic Burragorang Valley was flooded with the completion of Warragamba Dam.
The headwaters of the Nepean River have also been captured in four older water supply lakes: Cataract, Cordeaux, Nepean and Avon.
All these water storage lakes are closed to the public to protect water quality, but visitor access and picnic facilities are provided near each of the dams.
The five Thirlmere Lakes were formed naturally, when earth movements tilted the valley in which they lie and trapped the creekwaters. The lakes are incredibly old, some 15 million years, and today provide visitors with tranquil opportunities for picnicking, walking, birdwatching and canoeing.
The 416 hectare Mount Annan Botanic Garden was opened in 1988 and will eventually have most of Australia's 25,000 plant species on display.
Information signs on natural and cultural heritage are also displayed at Thirlmere Lakes, Wollondilly Lookout and Wombeyan Caves.
As well as the larger conservation reserves of the region, there is the National Trust's Wirrimbirra Sanctuary and the Dingo Sanctuary, both at Bargo, Cecil Hoskins Nature Reserve at Moss Vale and Robertson Nature Reserve at Robertson - great places to discover something new about native plants and wildlife.
Experienced bushwalkers can plan walks into the wilds of Nattai National Park, Blue Mountains National Park, and even as far as Katoomba! - but not within three kilometres of Lake Burragorang.
Bushwalkers must be skilled and self-reliant because there are few tracks in the wilderness areas. Entry points include Blue Gum Creek (the Couridjah Corridor) west of Thirlmere Lakes and Starlights Trail from Wattle Ridge Road to the Nattai River.
Bushwalking is also permitted in those parts of Nattai State Conservation Area and Burragorang State Conservation Area outside the Schedule One Water Quality Protection Zone.
- Mount Annan Botanic Garden has extensive picnic grounds
- Burragorang Lookout and two sites beside the Thirlmere Lakes
- Wombeyan Caves has a large grassed picnic ground with all facilities
- Cordeaux Dam, Avon Dam, Cataract Dam, Nepean Dam and Warragamba Dam each have extensive picnic grounds
- childrens' play equipment
- Picnic areas are also available in Morton National Park and Cecil Hoskins Nature Reserve, and many local town parks.
- Burragorang Lookout (Burragorang State Conservation Area)
- Views over Lake Burragorang and Kanangra-Boyd Wilderness. Open 9 am to 5 pm in winter and 9 am to 6 pm in summer. Entry fees apply.
- Wollondilly Lookout
- This roadside stop on the Wombeyan Caves Road gives spectacular views over the Wollondilly River valley towards Lake Burragorang and the ridges of Blue Mountains National Park.
- Mount Alexandra Reserve (Mittagong)
- Looks out over Nattai National Park.
- Mount Gibraltar Reserve (Mittagong)
- Urban views of Mittagong.
- Morton National Park
- Many lookouts can be visited around Bundanoon and Fitzroy Falls.
- A 7 km circuit track goes around three of the Thirlmere Lakes - Gandangarra, Werri-berri and Couridjah.
- At Mount Annan Botanic Garden, a large network of paths wind through the plantings and open spaces.
- The bush and limestone features of Wombeyan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve can be explored on a variety of walking tracks of up to half a day in length.
- A range of local walks can be enjoyed near Mittagong, in the Mount Alexandra and Mount Gibraltar Reserves. The Box Vale Walking Track follows an historic railway through an 84m tunnel.
- In the east of the area, numerous walking tracks explore Morton National Park around the centres of Bundanoon and Fitzroy Falls, the rainforest of Robertson Nature Reserve and the wetlands of Cecil Hoskins Nature Reserve near Moss Vale.
- Other local walks can be found at Appin, Georges River Nature Reserve, Cataract Dam and Tahmoor.