Best pies at Bernie’s Diner in New South Wales

SPECTACLE: Fitzroy Falls is a cascading king surrounded by walking tracks which you can use to work up an appetite. Bernie’s Diner was the winner of the region’s top pie last year.

A coast and highlands self-drive combo is a winning formula for a blissful roadie from Sydney.

Pulling out of Kiama, I ventured west on Tourist Drive 9 to Robertson, a stirringly picturesque driving route that winds through lush and rolling hills and dales, criss-crossed with quaint leafy lanes, on its steady climb into the Highlands.

Rolling through such a bucolic escape-hatch from the rat race, I was struck by the hundreds of dry stone walls that lace the landscape, interwoven into the dreamy tapestry of pastoral greens. Had a leprechaun spirited me away to Ireland?

It turns out that many of the walls were constructed in the 19th-century and have stood the test of time. If you’ve done some pre-trip planning, you’ll soon discover there are a plethora of delightful detours and stopovers along the way.

Jamberoo is a charming village en-route, with an Insta-worthy Tudor-style historic inn lording over the main street. Heading up Jamberoo Mountain Rd, I took the short diversion to Minnamurra Rainforest, a rare remnant of temperate rainforest thronging with ancient fig trees, rock orchids and elkhorns.

A sense of serenity washed over me as I strolled up the path to clap eyes on the sublime Minnamurra Falls, gracefully tumbling over the canyon’s cliff edge. Back in the car, I purred through the forest-draped mountain road to reach Robertson, famous as the town where the BABE film was made.

They’re also very proud of their potatoes, Robo Spuds. Like all towns and villages across the Southern Highlands, I soon discovered they are particularly parochial about their prowess in pies.

With more pie outlets per square km than anywhere else in Australia, the region has crafted a dedicated Pie Trail, with scores of outlets touting their hero product.

June is prime “Pie Time” when an annual festival is staged on the back of the latest pie judging results. Robertson Pie Shop is a proven performer, if you’re feeling peckish.

From Robertson, I took Tourist Drive 15, to layover at Fitzroy Falls, en-route to Moss Vale. The Highlands brim with water-curtain spectacles, but Fitzroy Falls is the cascading king, with a spectacularly-sized waterfall and wonderful walking tracks, abuzz with wildflowers, wildlife and stirring views across sandstone escarpments. After recent rain, it’s euphoria-inducing.

Moss Vale is a gem of a town, cultivating a fiendish following for its magnificent homeware specialty stores. Top stops include Bowerbird on Argyle, a luxurious emporium of fine textiles, artwork and quirky gifts, while Suzie Anderson’s Home is an equally elegant hive of homeware temptation and inspiration.

Peckish? Hot-foot it to Bernie’s Diner, a Moss Vale main street institution for nearly a century, and proud winner of the region’s Best Pie last year. It’s a very short drive from Moss Vale to Bowral, the biggest town in the Southern Highlands, abuzz with attractions.

Cricket fans rejoice – Bowral is the hometown of one of the sport’s most famous sons, Sir Donald Bradman.

Driving down the town’s golden mile, the inimitably-named Bong Bong Street, the rain started tumbling in heavy, fat bullets. Eager to venture indoors, I headed for Dirty Janes. This remarkable emporium is spread across three repurposed warehouses, groaning with over 75 dealers specialising in quality vintage, antiques and retro goods, from all over the world.

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