ellaslist reviews: Blissful Bowral - An Easy, Idyllic Weekend Escape

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Ah, the elusive weekend – those two itty bitty days are supposed to be a blissful escape from the daily grind, yet are often hijacked by looming assignments and a restless teen. However, I have discovered the secret to stretching time and feeling truly content at the end of the week: taking a real circuit-breaking sojourn outta' town.

With this pearl of wisdom under my belt, I took a recent weekend jaunt to Bowral with my favourite little travel buddy - and it worked a treat.

Blissful Bowral: An Easy, Idyllic Weekend Escape

There was a definite sense of satisfaction and excitement as we reached the city limits, transcended the Sydney traffic and eased into the serenity of the Southern Highlands. Straight away the cool crispness of the country air enlivens the senses and the splendour of Autumn creates a kaleidoscope of colours. It is one of the best regions to experience the simple joys of nature's changing seasons, after all.

Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral: A Hidden Gem in the Highlands

Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral
Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral

Our two-day home away from home and the launchpad for our highland escapades was the Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral - and it is in itself a breath of fresh air. Beckoned into the space by the woody scents and earthy tones, this ultra-modern, gallery-esque retreat is dotted with arty light fixtures, plush furnishings and grand pianos. It is a sanctuary that would not be out of place in the most lively urban landscape, yet it maintains a warm ambience and air of tranquillity, tucked away amid the vineyards and mountain vistas that this quaint historic town is renowned for.

The beautifully styled room boasted two double beds and generous proportions that suited my teen and me perfectly, and a cute teepee and hobby horse that little ones would love!

Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral Golf Course
A room with a view at the Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral.

We were immediately awestruck by the expansive windows that offered streams of sunlight and stunning panoramic views across the 18-hole golf course and the mountains. Resident wildlife abounds, birds are chirping sweetly and cute duck families waddle across the greens.

Our complimentary cheese plate and bottled water were just what we needed after the commute, and hearty stocks of coffee, tea, hot chocolate and biscuits awaited us, as did quintessential fluffy white robes and slippers: all the irresistible inclusions I love in a hotel, that had us feeling like pampered VIPs.

Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral Pool
Aqua therapy in the hotel leisure centre.


Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral
A plunge pool that's as pretty as a picture!

We plunged straight into the hotel's heated indoor swimming pool to wash off any lingering city stress and soak up the Southern Highlands holiday vibes - the lounge chairs make it an ideal place to unwind. The leisure centre also boasts a smaller plunge pool and a well-equipped gym.

It is worth noting too that the hotel has ample free parking - another stress buster!

Dining Delights at the Observatory

Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral Observatory
Sunset dinner at the Observatory Restaurant.

Our culinary adventures kicked off with a two-course dinner at the hotel's in-house Observatory Restaurant, which again takes full advantage of the hotel's stunning location, showcasing the view of the surrounding countryside through a breathtaking wall of windows. The menu boasts mostly modern Australian cuisine, peppered with some Asian influences, and their meat is sourced from local farms.

Date night with my daughter was a symphony of flavours from her faithful favourite - chicken nuggets and fries - to my expertly cooked eye fillet. It's a skill I just can't seem to master at home and always relish the opportunity to savour a good steak - and good it was. Medium rare with creamy mash, charred broccolini, crispy onions, cherry tomatoes and a red wine jus: a perfect plate!

Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral Observatory
Dinner is served - and it did not disappoint!


Despite our generous mains, the dessert menu lured us in and we opted for the Apple & Rhubarb Crumble and the Exotic Pot Coconut Mousse: fruity delights, beautifully presented and so sweetly satisfying.

For those that fancy a tipple, the swanky Harvey’s Bar is right next door, however with my teen in tow and feeling suitably sated, we retired to our room for some much-anticipated relaxation. Sinking into the fluffiest white pillows and blankets, we streamed Netflix on the box via some high-tech chrome-casting wizardry and floated away on a cloud of comfort.

Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral
Sweeping views to start the day!


Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral Breakfast
Buffet breakfast at the Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral.

The following morning we were back at the Observatory, which was transformed for its breakfast banquet. We fueled up for the day from an abundant buffet including continental classics like cereals, toast and spreads, yoghurt, fruits and pastries, plus an array of hot food that satiated our country fare cravings: poached and scrambled eggs accompanied by bacon, sausages, tomatoes, baked beans, hash browns, spinach and mushrooms. And, of course, a steady flow of coffee, tea and juice.

High Tea at Centennial Vineyard

High Tea at Centennial Vineyard
High Tea at Centennial Vineyard.

What's a weekend in the Southern Highlands without a spot of high tea? Just down the road from the Park Proxi, the multi-award-winning Centennial Winery and Restaurant is perched amid endless vineyards and gorgeous gardens.

Enraptured by the flurry of wedding preparations, we were escorted to our seats overlooking the picturesque grandeur of the estate. Indulging in a Bowral High Tea for Two - a favourite pastime of this mother-daughter duo - we were presented with an elegant three-tiered tower of sweet and savoury treats. We delighted in delicious finger sandwiches, soup shots, savoury tarts, decadent desserts, and plain and fruit scones with homemade jam and cream, with a variety of exotic teas to choose from.

Exploring Harper’s Mansion

Harper’s Mansion
Stepping back in time at Harper’s Mansion.

With fine dining well covered, we ventured to the neighbouring town of Berrima for some historical sightseeing at the heritage-listed Harper’s Mansion, a charming house built in 1834. Stepping through the doors of this vintage gem is like stepping back in time, and our expert guides, Doug and Ilma, shared fascinating stories of its colourful past and timeless beauty, from the unique Georgian design to the lush gardens.

Harper’s Mansion Maze
Straight out of a storybook - the Harper’s Mansion hedge maze.

Harper’s Mansion is also home to one of the largest hedge mazes in Australia and we were whisked into a fairytale as we got lost within its myriad walls - a whimsical highlight.

Retail Therapy on Bong Bong Street

Bowral Sweets & Treats
The super impressive Bowral Sweets & Treats store!

The heart of Bowral is buzzing Bong Bong Street with its charming boutiques and thriving cafe culture. To my teen's delight, it is sprinkled with some of the more typical temptations, like Ghanda and Peter Alexander, amid the unique vintage emporiums, ops shops and gift stores. The cleverly curated new High Street precinct was a charming space to stroll through, with the impressive Bowral Sweets & Treats store, the gorgeous Blooms of Bowral Florist and an outpost of the hugely popular Hungry Monkey cafe among its many offerings.

We also had to drop into Bong Bong's famous, multi-award-winning Gumnut Patisserie and grab a treat for the road.

Gumnut Patisserie
Treats galore at the famous Gumnut Patisserie.

Our getaway to Bowral transformed a humdrum weekend into a fun-filled, re-energising mini-break. Luxurious accommodation, gourmet dining and unforgettable experiences fed our mind, body and soul, and we were whisked a million miles away from our everyday hustle and bustle for a blissful escape - and that is precisely what we needed.

So, if you too need a circuit breaker within an easy drive from Sydney, grab your favourite travel companion and embark on an adventure to Bowral. Trust me, you won't regret it!

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