The Southern Highlands of New South Wales has long been regarded as a place that offers a varied range of tourist experiences. Whether it’s a quick weekend getaway or a longer exploration of the area, there’s something for everyone. Locals are very much into showing what they refer to as “God’s own country,” embracing the lush sceneries and gorgeous natural aspects of the region’s surroundings. I must acknowledge that they make a compelling case for their viewpoint.
While several of the townships in this area project a certain air of distinction, the one that has piqued my interest the most is one that separated from many of the, shall we call, airs and graces that others emanate. It offers a very laid-back and comfortable environment. Robertson has an unassuming, localised charm that makes you feel as if you’re allowed to immerse yourself in the surroundings for as long as you choose.
Robertson is located on the Gundungurra Nation’s lands, which stretch from the Wingecarribee/Wollondilly Rivers north to Camden, south to Goulburn, and west to the Blue Mountains. Local Aboriginal sites, including as rock shelters and middens where trading took place, can still be seen in the environment around Robertson. Paintings, stencils, axe-grinding markings and artefacts, as well as scarred trees, have all been discovered. These hallowed sanctuaries of women’s and men’s places should be respected if you happen to come upon them.
Robertson was named after Sir John Robertson, the five-time Premier of New South Wales who was also the architect of the revolutionary Crown Land Acts of 1861. While he was instrumental in shaping the district in the halls of power, it was an Irish-born Kiama councillor who was responsible for transforming the Yarrawa Bush into the district that it is today, and while it was isolated from the surrounding towns for many years, that changed dramatically when the Macquarie Pass was built. I recommend going to Robertson for a more in-depth look at the region’s history.
Dare I say it, a pub is one of my absolute favourite places in this charming corner of the Highlands! This isn’t just any local boozer we’re talking about. Robertson has a long and somewhat eclectic history of its own, and the current owners have embraced the local feel and culture, making it a must visit for anyone passing through or making a day of surveying this earnest and inviting village on the edge of the Illawarra escarpment.
The pub affectionately known as Robbo Pub has long been noted for its warm and friendly atmosphere, having been established in 1887 and having gone by many other names throughout the years. It’s not only the wonderful upgraded “pub cuisine” or the ice-cold beverages that make this watering hole so appealing to me. It is the people who run the facility and the customers who visit it who make it what it is. Throughout my visit, every employee I encountered was warm, polite, and interested in me as a person, not simply a customer. It wasn’t a phoney curiosity, though; it was genuine, and it gave me a wonderful feeling of belonging.
The same may be true for the locals with whom I interacted. Willing to give you a friendly grin, say hello, or ask you how you are going? Don’t be hesitant to respond; they expect to hear from you. Another impressive aspect of my affection for Robbo and its welcome social centre is the present consortium of owners’ commitment to maintaining the home-grown ties.
Because the Robertson region is endowed with excellent soil, there are numerous farming options, and the hotel takes delight in employing as much local produce as possible. Local meats and dairy, as well as the region’s cool climate wines, are always sought after.
Locally brewed beers were first introduced in 2015, when Marcelo Sa, a resident small-batch brewer, brought his Highlander Beers to the party, and they were an instant hit. He now has five different beers on tap, and I recommend giving the Pilsner a try. I certainly rate it.
Another strong local connection is the addition of a locally made Three Creeks Gin by the pub’s good friends at South Coast Distillery, which uses local botanicals and Robertson’s lovely spring water and is, in my humble opinion, equal to any fine Gin I’ve tried among the ever-growing varieties we see today.
Another appealing feature of this historic gem is the recently renovated accommodation available. I enjoy decent pub accommodation, and Robbo has four rooms in a quiet upstairs part of the hotel; however, keep in mind that it is a pub, so you will hear some of the vibe. There are two Queen rooms, a triple room, and a family room, all of which are tastefully decorated in a country comfort style. They provide you the option of bringing the family or sneaking away for a fresh start. Weddings are also a possibility, and the in-house wedding location boasts exposed beams, festoon lighting, and a stylish fireplace, all of which add to the hotel’s historic appeal. If you want the ceremony to take place on the property, there is also a private garden.
While you’re in town – Must see
Carrington and Belmore Falls
The beautiful Carrington and Belmore Falls are only seven kilometres apart in two directions. There are also several simple and easily accessible walking trails to discover.
Great coffee, the best house baked Sourdough for miles, and organic local produce can be found at Moonacres which is adjacent to the hotel.
The Robertson Cheese Factory now has a variety of selections and is definitely worth a visit. With vintage apparel, homewares, and vinyl records, the Whey Café, Dairy Store, and Cool Room Emporium will have you looking for that perfect gift.