The southern highlands just an hour south of Sydney is a very special place. Not only is there a bucket load of history but its a calm and peaceful place where things nurture in the cool climate that the area has to offer.
Back when Sydney was settled and the push was on to find new pastoral land several expeditions headed south from 1798 towards the southern highlands exploring the area. It wasn’t until 1815 when explorer John Oxley led a herd of cattle into the area and decided to settled that the area was born. Later on, Sir Thomas Mitchell, who in 1829 explored this southern region while surveying a route for a road south that he reported back to Governor Bourke that it would make an ideal site for a town.
What he found was an excellent water source and a huge sandstone quarry. The town grew with the promise of a new rail line heading south, a pub was built, churches, courthouse and gaol, a school and many other grand sandstone structures. But in late 1867 the promised railway line went away from the town and it stopped growing with no chance of major industry.
The towns population dwindled down below 100 and it hurt. Move along to to the early 1900’s when Canberra was settled, Berrima started seeing an increase in road traffic and this kept the little village alive and by the late 1960’s a stack of buildings were heritage listed.
The courthouse and gaol were built as the idea was to have Berrima as the central district hub but when the rail went away the idea was squashed. Today the new freeway bypasses Berrima and the town hasn’t looked back with tourist’s making Berrima their destination with its old style charm, amazing food and wine, museum's, history abound and self guided walks. There are oodles of eateries around town, plus wine cellars and of course the Berrima pub to enjoy what this area has to offer.
On a side note the Berrima Surveyor general Inn is the oldest continuous licensed inn within the whole of Australia going back to 1835. Back in the day there were several other inn’s and today they still stand but are occupied by restaurants and a B & B that was once setup for the Cobb and Co coach’s.
After filling up on some of the best local produce that the area has to offer there are several self guided walking trails around the stunning village. One surprising one is the River walk that starts at the Berrima picnic area. German merchant sailors were house in the gaol during WW1 and built several structures along the river, also, Lambie’s Well can be viewed and its reported to be the towns first water supply named after a local surveyor who was in charge of the convict gangs back in 1830.
Across on the eastern side of the old highway is the Stone Quarry walk where you’ll meander down along the Wingecarribee River where if your quiet Platypus can often be seen. One of the towns original sandstone quarry’s is along the way and to this day, large thick iron tie offs are still implanted in the hard stone. The walk eventually ends near the Trinity Church build in 1849, where on close inspection you can see and feel the pick marks in the sandstone when the labourers shaped the sandstone blocks.
The Berrima Gaol has had a chequered past and is still used to this day. Built by leg clad convicts back in 1839 it was a place to avoid and feared by all, as after it was built the first nine months of their sentence was in solitary confinement. Bushrangers were sent here, some were executed for a host of crimes both inside and out.
The gaol had a special feature as the cells were built in a way that the inmates could not see if the wardens were watching them which some say it was a way of discipline. It was used during WW1 where Germans were kept then used as a rehab centre, today its a all women’s facility.
The town of Berrima is a beautiful place where Heritage listed sandstone buildings stand in amongst stunning gardens that thrive in the cool climate of the southern highlands. It’s a must go to place when travelling south as there is so much more to this village where around every corner there is something new and something old to find. In fact the only problem you may have at Berrima is to find a parking spot, its that popular.