Southern Highlands

From Academic Kids

The Southern Highlands is a geographical area in New South Wales, Australia, southwest of Sydney. The term specifically refers to the Southern Villages area of Sutton Forest, Exeter, Bundanoon, Penrose, Wingello, Tallong and Marulan, but it is often used more broadly to describe an area that includes parts of the Southern Tablelands as well as the Highlands, and extends from the town of Mittagong to the city of Goulburn. The region takes in the southern part of Wingecarribee Shire and the former Mulwaree Shire, which is now combined with Goulburn as part of the Greater Argyle Council. The area is included with the Southern Tablelands in the tourism district that is known as Capital Country.


While bustling little towns in the northern highlands like Mittagong, Bowral and Moss Vale are well known tourist spots and the weekend havens of affluent Sydneyites, the Southern Villages have had a boom-and-bust economic cycle. Bundanoon, for example, became a well-known tourist destination early in the 20th Century; its picturesque nature and the exquisite scenery of what is now Morton National Park, combined with being a stop on the CityRail line, made it a pleasant and convenient holiday area for city dwellers who could not afford the upscale accommodation at the popular Blue Mountains resort area. By the 1950s, however, changes in lifestyle, particularly the affordability of the motor car, gave city folk many more options for weekend getaways, and Bundanoon declined.

Similarly, Marulan, once thriving, had its economy crushed when the Hume Highway was built and bypassed the village.

Recently, an ever-expanding Sydney with record high real estate prices has renewed interest in the Southern Highlands, and the area is undergoing a resurgence. Mulwaree Shire was, until its dissolution early in 2004, the fastest growing Shire in NSW outside of Sydney itself. Tallong, an otherwise insignificant village known only for having the oldest continuous one-teacher schoolhouse in Australia, and for a devastating bushfire in 1965 that crippled its economy, has seen a dramatic increase in real estate prices over the last five years, with the price of vacant land almost tripling in areas close to the village.

The Southern Highlands is within commuting distance of Sydney, Goulburn and Canberra, the nationís capital, and this may account for its renewed popularity.

Local attitudes towards the encroachment of civilization are varied, with citizens apparently desiring to have the conveniences of modern life, while living somewhat removed from it. The recent decision by Michael Costa, the Transportation Minister, for example, to reduce service on CityRailís Southern Highlands Line, aroused a storm of protest from indignant commuters. A proposal for an internet cafť in Marulan was received enthusiastically by its villagers. By contrast, an announced proposal for the building of Sydneyís second airport near the village of Sutton Forest met with strong opposition. Many small businesses and single proprietors in the area welcomed the proposal, with its promise of increased trade, but other individuals, fearing the noise, pollution and increased congestion that an airport would bring, organized a citizens committee against the proposed scheme.

Local attractions

The villages attract visitors who travel considerable distances for a few special events. In April, itís the annual Brigadoon Festival in Bundanoon, which is also home to the spring Garden Ramble; Tallong holds a popular Trail Ride in aid of the Rural Fire Brigade each April, and Wingello hosts Sled Dog Trials in June.

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