If you are the type who's often found curled up in a comfy chair with a good book, Berkelouw Books, Bendooley Estate and Book Barn Cottage in New South Wales' Southern Highlands are your sort of heaven.
Located on the Old Hume Highway about an hour and a half drive drive from Sydney, Berkelouw Book Barn is a local institution. Recently renovated, the barn contains thousands of new, secondhand, rare and antiquarian books set amongst exposed timber beams, cathedral ceilings and rustic iron pendants, it's a book lover's paradise. There's even a log fireplace, a chair and a spot for a coffee or a glass of wine.
Wrapping around the perimeter of the building Bendooley Bar & Grill is the spot for lunch either before or after a book browse. Chef Jason Hughes loves the areas fresh seasonal produces and takes full advantage of it on the menu. You can expect to find olive oil from Sutton Forest, blue cheese from Roberston, organic vegetables from Fitzroy Falls, chicken and duck from Thirlmere and Belgian chocolate from Bowral.
The lunch menu includes a wide range of wood fired pizzas including a stand out slow cooked pork shoulder with truffle oil and agrodolce (a traditional Italian sweet and sour sauce). One of the most popular dishes is the Bendooly burger with 200g of ground beef and all the traditional accompaniments.
My menu pick was the vegetable tasting board wit house made labneh, broad bean, olive and mint salad, dukkha, lentils with sweet potato and eschallots, truss tomatoes and flat bread.
The Bendooley property was part of the original land grants in Berrima and dates from 1818. There's a grand Georgian homestead built from convict-hewn stone with stunning gardens that serves as a wedding venue. The gardens, with their circular rose garden and century old pine and oak trees, are particularly beautiful.
Berrima is recognised as one of the best preserved examples of a Georgian village on mainland Australia and the village as a whole is listed on the Register of the National Estate.
However you don't have to leave the grounds to find a place to sleep. The former gatekeeper's residents at Bendooley Estate has been turned into Book Barn Cottage.
It's a cute and quirky but definitely stylish fit out with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. There are plenty of luxury touches from the crisp white sheets to the organic toiletries in the bathroom.
The big decisions here are whether to relax in front of the fire in the lounge, pick up one of the many books scattered through the house or stroll through the gardens. A very pleasant stay.
What can you do in this area? Well it's more a question of what you can't do. There's museums, art galleries and antique centres, wineries and cellar doors, restaurants and cafes. Nearby is the Illawarra Fly Tree Top Walk and the Wombean Caves, plus the beaches of Nowra and Kiama. It's a pretty pleasant spot, no wonder than so many Sydney folk like to spend their weekends here and also opt out of the rat race amongst the rolling green hills.
It's a place I plan to visit again.
Find out more from www.visitnsw.com
Disclaimer: Ed+bK travelled and stayed as a guest of Destination NSW.