It isn’t difficult to wax lyrical about the beauty of Kangaroo Valley: a delightful, expansive escarpment and small village 159 km south of Sydney via the Princes Highway.
Long before European settlement discovered the rich prowess of the region, Kangaroo Valley was occupied by the Wodi Wodi people. The land is sacred Indigenous country, and was carved out by erosion from Upper River, Barrengarry and Brogers Creeks.
The patchwork quilt of farms, rainforests clinging to steep slopes, lush rivers and bountiful soils have lured many city-dwellers in need of a “tree change”. You can find members of both INXS and Midnight Oil perusing attractions in KV, proving just how persuasive its beauty can be.
If you’re in the market for a getaway packed with plenty to do, or perhaps a backdrop in which to do nothing at all, here’s how to pass the time in Kangaroo Valley.
1. Explore the waters via kayak or canoe
Thanks to the town’s proximity to Kangaroo River, one of the best ways to explore the valley is by kayak or canoe. Paddling brings you eye-level with nature and allows you to glide through otherwise untraversed territory.
Kangaroo Valley Safaris and Kangaroo Valley Kayaks are your best options for exploring the pristine waters, spectacular scenery, rainforest and abundant wildlife. They both offer a pick-up service at the end of the five-kilometre self-guided journey.
Peruse the calm rapids at your own pace, navigating a very different perspective on the idyllic charm of Kangaroo Valley’s flora and fauna.
2. Yarrawa Estate
While the Kangaroo Valley region might not be synonymous with heavy-hitting wineries, Yarrawa Estate Vineyard makes a case for the opposite.
Yarrawa, or ‘windy place’, is the only winery in Kangaroo Valley proper. It’s named after a nearby state forest and is tucked between escarpments on the picturesque Scotts Road.
Owners Mark and Sue Foster are ready to welcome you with open arms. Spend the next few hours indulging in a variety of drops at the cellar door. Make your way through whites like chambourcin, verdelho and semillion, followed by some robust reds such as a cabernet sauvignon and cabernet merlot and an elegant rose named Jasmine Grace.
The highly fertile volcanic and alluvial soils of Yarrawa Estate aren’t only good for producing wine, find citrus, apples, macadamias, pecans, walnuts, Japanese raisins, avocados and other vegetables thriving on the property. Take a tour through the estate to learn more.
3. Go Wild Swimming
Worried about where you’ll cool down at an inland enclave like Kangaroo Valley? Leave coastal waves behind and open your mind to the brave new world of ‘wild swimming’.
Seek shelter from the sun and lounge in the shade at Flat Rock Falls. This natural swimming pool encompasses a large open area with water running from two directions. There is a deeper water for swimming and floating, and a smaller rock pool for kids.
Under the Hampden Bridge
Find this swimming spot in the heart of Kangaroo Valley right under the famous Hampden Bridge. There is a sturdy sandbank to set up your stuff, and a 70-metre pool (swing rope and all) to enjoy.
4. Visit the Hampden Bridge and surrounds
When the Hampden Bridge first opened in 1898 it served as a great milestone for change in the Shoalhaven region. The region evolved from separated settlements into a gateway to the Southern Highlands and the South Coast and the bridge became a vital link in facilitating the continued viability of the Valley.
Today it serves as a remarkable lesson in Victorian engineering, and is the largest surviving wooden suspension bridge in the country. Take a trip while you’re in Kangaroo Valley and be transported to a secret medieval castle. You can also take a self-guided tour to learn about the history, or visit the Pioneer Museum right next door.
5. Peruse the General Store
A café, boutique supermarket, bakery, book shop and newsagent in one – is there anything this seemingly humble store can’t do?
Located right in the heart of Kangaroo Valley – neighbouring the primary school and opposite the bakery – the General delivers classic Aussie town charm in bulk supply.
Stop here for locally made produce courtesy of Kangaroo Valley Kindred Spirits. They have garlic dukkha, chilli pesto, pickles and fresh cheese, alongside all the grocery staples found in most small supermarkets. The bookshelf out the front also houses vintage books.
The café portion of the General serves bountiful breakfasts to the masses next door. The Chef’s Special (named after Head Chef Tony) changes regularly – it could be anything from a fresh cheese, basil and tomato omelette to a lightly spiced congee.
Mrs Bread’s pop-up bakery supplies organic sourdough bread to the café – and don’t miss the adorable honesty system bread shelf out front. Simply leave your money in the tin and grab your bread to-go.
6. Visit Fitzroy Falls
Fitzroy Falls is one of many natural landmarks worth visiting in Kangaroo Valley. A journey here will reward by way of wildlife, walks, wild swimming and plenty of local flora and fauna.
The waterfall itself is an easy five-minute stroll from the carpark. Take a detour through the visitor centre on your way and learn about local history, wildlife and birdwatching, or undertake one of the Aboriginal Cultural Walks on offer.
Once you’re done, continue at your own pace to Fitzroy Falls. The marvel plunges over 80 metres into the valley below, splashing into the untouched bushland of Morton National Park. It’s named after Sir Charles Fitzroy, the Governor of NSW who visited here during his tenure in the 1850s. Since then it has served as a lush escarpment between Robertson and Nowra; a place for many to stretch their legs.
The East Rim Wildflower Walking track runs 1.25 kilometres from the Visitor Centre to Warrawong lookout. In spring, the self-guided stroll is home to diverse florals, native plants and trees. The West Rim walking track (3.5 kilometres) is a great introduction to dramatic gorges and waterfalls, pristine eucalypt forests and lush greenery.
7. Explore the Village Green Nursery
Blink and you’ll miss this charming boutique garden found hidden behind Kangaroo Valley’s main strip of shops.
Wander aimlessly and admire the dedication that has gone into each section. Take your time to stop and consider each of the edible plants, natives, tube stocks, ornamentals and more on offer. The staff are super helpful for the novices among us, just ask!
8. Take a class at Hampden Deli, Dining and School
Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty at Hampden Deli: the cosy deli, café and cooking school that calls Kangaroo Valley home.
Owners Nick Gardner and Stevie-Lee Bounader spent their formative years training in fine dining restaurants. Head Chef Nick trained at Nelson Bay’s Zest before working at some of Sydney’s best restaurants (think Quay and Tetsuya’s).
Hampden Deli now serves as a place where you can learn cooking fundamentals. There’s a bread making course on offer, as well as concept classes on how to pair the right produce, and quick and easy preparation techniques. Be sure to book ahead as they fill up fast.
9. Visit Grandpa’s Shed (and other vintage delights)
One step inside Grandpa’s Shed and you can feel the passion and love for antiques that the space holds.
Located just down the road from Fitzroy Falls, this old warehouse space houses every vintage treasure and trove imaginable. From old farming equipment and glassware to costume jewellery and hand axes.
And while it might not boast the same scale and heritage-factor of Grandpa’s, the equally adorable Valley Vintage is plonked right on Kangaroo Valley’s main street. The kitsch fitout is filled with ample assets, beautifully and thoughtfully assorted throughout the store. There are a range of bags, furniture, gifts and trinkets – all with an heir of valley charm sprinkled throughout.
10. Venture a little further afield
One of the beauties of Kangaroo Valley is its proximity to some of the most beautiful (and coveted) towns in New South Wales.
If you find yourself in the mood to venture on a relaxing, winding drive, there are many places to peruse within a stone’s throw of wherever you are resting your head for the night.
Adventure enthusiasts flock to Nowra for its world-famous rock-climbing spots, boasting around 2000 different climbs just 10 minutes from the town centre.
Bowral, Moss Vale, Robertson and Mittagong are all heroes of the Southern Highlands. Stop here and explore spectacular waterfalls and national parks, cool-climate wines and an array of impressive dining options, plus antique shopping and boutiques.
Whale watching and dolphin cruises are only 45 minutes away at Huskisson in Jervis Bay. And Berry is another must-stop, with its story-book architecture and lushly green foliage, picturesque valleys and backdrop of densely forested mountains.