A Botanical Tour of Gardens of the Southern Highlands with the AAFBG

29 Oct - 4 Nov 2023
  • Cultural Tours

About the tour

Run in association with the Australian Association of Friends of Botanic Gardens, this boutique tour to the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales explores the botanical, historical and culinary offerings of this historic area.

With lush rolling hills, award-winning food, cool climate wines, gushing waterfalls, national parks, country markets and galleries in enchanting towns and historic villages and four very distinct seasons, the Southern Highlands is a destination like no other in NSW.

This bespoke tour with the AAFBG examines the diverse botany of the Southern Highlands, with visits to several important and historic gardens, including private gardens not usually open to visits, and a wide range of specialist visits and fascinating talks by botanical experts.

There will be local guides on walks and at all Botanic Gardens (Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens, Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens and Mt Annan).

Spaces on this tour are strictly limited. Those who are interested are encouraged to book promptly.

There is the option to join the tour without paying for the hotel night in Sydney – please see the costs page of the tour brochure for details.

Your tour leader

Picture of JBT tour leader, Kate Heffernan

Kate Heffernan

Now semi-retired, Kate Heffernan's career in horticulture spans over 40 years. The last two decades have been spent in professional and volunteer roles with Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens (GCRBG) and as a consultant to other botanic gardens in Queensland and Victoria. Kate is a former Chair of BGANZ Queensland, later National Representative, and also a member of BGCI and AAFBG. She has made presentations at Australian and international conferences.

Kate was also a vocational horticulture and landscape teacher, undertaking the development of many community landscape projects on the Gold Coast and Brisbane as a practical component of student training.

A feature writer from 2003, Kate wrote for journals including Horticulture Australia, weekly articles for Gold Coast papers and was Saturday Morning Garden presenter for ABC Gold Coast. Kate recently published a book ‘Celebrating Regional Biodiversity‘ which tells the story of the unique South East Queensland flora through the lens of GCRBG.

A keen traveller, with an emphasis on garden-based travel, Kate has led tours to the gardens of France, United Kingdom, Ireland and a wildflower tour to Western Australia. She has travelled widely in Australia and overseas.

Kate has been awarded - Gold Coast Australia Day Environmental Achievement Award for her role in the establishment of GCRBG; Queensland Australia Day Award for Vocational Training and was Gold Coast Teacher of the Year. With husband Alan Donaldson, Kate is an Honorary Life Member of Friends of GCRBG.

Need more information?

  • Tel: (Toll Free) 1-8777-398-764
  • Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
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Itinerary at a glance

  • Day 1: Sydney (Sun, 29 Oct) Check in to Radisson Blu Sydney and visit the nearby Royal Botanical Gardens (around 2.30pm). Welcome drinks and dinner in the evening.
  • Day 2: Sydney-Bowral (Mon, 30 October) Drive to Menangle to visit Camden Park House, one of the most important historic houses in Australia, withone of the country’s oldest and best-preserved colonial gardens. Hear an introductory talk, take part in a tour of the stunning house and visit the gardens. There will be a box lunch provided at Camden Park. Visit Jeanne Villani’s Highdown Cottage on Nott’s Hill in Bowral. This historic garden boasts significant trees, sweeping lawns, perennials, a dam and a lake. Check in to Links Hotel in Bowral and at leisure.
  • Day 3: Bowral (Tue, 31 Oct) Visit the Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens in Bowral to meet with the volunteers and enjoy a morning tea. Lunch at Sturt Coffee, a boutique art café at Sturt Gallery. Visit the Florescence exhibition in the gallery, which is a joyous spring-themed vase and flower show featuring ceramicists, floral artists and painters. Visit Mount Gibraltar Reserve and take a walk, with excellent views of the area from three lookouts.
  • Day 4: Fitzroy Falls (Wed 1 Nov) Visit Fitzroy Falls National Park and explore the East Rim wildflower walking tracks. Lunch at The Hearth Café before visiting lovely Coombe Wood Gardens in Sutton Forest, which has been developed under the philosophy of ‘slow gardening’ for over 37 years, much of the garden raised from seed or cutting. The owners aim for botanically interesting plants and the garden displays many influences. John Stowar writing in Highlife Magazine in an article on Coombe Wood in 2012 summarised it thus: “As the garden further matures Coombe Wood will be a treasure trove of the rare and beautiful, sought out by the horticultural cognoscenti.”
  • Day 5: Berrima/Fitzroy Falls (Thurs, 2 Nov) Visit Berrima District Museum and visit the Landscapes of the Southern Highlands exhibition. Take a historic town walk of Berrima, visiting Harper’s Mansion and accredited rose garden on the way. Enjoy lunch at the charming book barn at Bendooley Estate, where a roaring fire warms a space lined by walls of books. After lunch continue to Fitzroy Falls to visit Prittlewell Gardens. Acclaimed as one of the loveliest gardens in the Southern Highlands, Prittlewell is sited on 29 acres adjoining Fitzroy Falls Reservoir and overlooking a beautiful lake.
  • Day 6: Sutton Forest (Fri, 3 Nov) Full day excursion at Oldbury Farm, Moss Vale. Oldbury Farm is a stunning heritage-listed residence, built between 1822 and 1828. Every section of its garden is impressive, with a very wide range of cold climate styles, from formal parterres to woodland gardens, native plantings and topiary. Spend the whole day here, with a break for lunch at the lovely Southern Highlands Winery in Sutton Forest. Farewell dinner in the evening.
  • Day 7: Bowral/Sydney (Sat, 4 Nov) Check out of the Links Hotel before visiting the Australian Botanic Garden Mt Annan, which contains over 4000 plant species amidst more than 400 hectares of natural woodland, stunning gardens and wide, open spaces. Enjoy morning tea with the Friends of the Botanic Garden before a guided tour of the garden and the heritage plant bank. Lunch at the gardens before returning to Sydney, arriving mid-afternoon.

NB: All itineraries are subject to change according to local conditions.

Tour cost

The cost of the tour is $3,392 per person sharing ($3,120 without Sydney hotel night). The cost of the tour with a room to yourself is $4,082 ($3,660 without Sydney hotel night).