Small group tour to the Southern Highlands and Canberra. 

This is a small group tour of NSW for the mature and senior traveller interested in contemporary Australian history of the Southern highlands, Canberra and the UNESCO World heritage listed Blue Mountain region with a focus on Katoomba.

Currently this small group tour is offered ONLY to NSW residents.

An Odyssey small group tour of NSW seeks to go beyond the beautiful beaches, major tourist attraction often listed as places to visit in NSW, such the Hunter Valley,Coffs harbour,Darling harbour, Byron bay or Bondi. This is a small group tour that will take you out of Sydney and away from the beach culture to see in the Blue Mountain and the hidden gem landscapes inbetween as a day trip collection to some important cultural and natural attractions within regional New South Wales.

During this 7 day period, with like minded travellers you travel to and learn about some of the beautiful hidden places in NSW.

Departing Sydney

Leaving Sydney, we first break at Bowral for a walk around the town and a short guided tour of the National Trusts Retford house. For those joining us in September it is tulip season in Bowral and Canberra and these plantings in 2020 take on a greater perceived value this year as a result of Covid-19 as this small group tour makes it stops to visit NSW. Travelling via Kangaroo valley where we break for lunch and is often regarded as one of the places to visit in NSW, we continue on to stop for one night in town of Batemans bay on the NSW South coast.

Travel to Canberra

From Batemans bay and its pristine beach and town environment we head inland, leaving the NSW south coast for a short journey of less than 3 hours to Canberra. In the nations capital we spend some 2 and 1/2 days (3 nights) exploring the museums and galleries and places of historic importance such as the Australian war memorial and the national gallery of Australia.

Canberra to Orange

On the 6th day we depart Canberra to travel across the Central west region of to reach a key place to visit in NSW, Cowra and then travel onto the popular regional NSW town of Orange,breaking for morning tea and lunch along the way. This small group tour of the Southern Highlands and other places to visit in NSW spends its last night here in Orange. This regional town some 45 minutes from Bathurst is ofgten regarded as one of the beautiful hidden places in NSW, with its acclaimed wineries and wine tasting, restaurants and locally sourced food. Orange is a popular weekend Getaway.

From Bowral to Cowra, through to Bathurst the Irish convicts attempted to settle and farm this region with success. However, the central West includes a flash gold boom in the mid 1800's and WWII POW camp for the Japanese. The group have the opportunity to visit NSW's only Japanese designed and managed garden. The garden a popular tourist attraction is certainly a beautiful hidden place in NSW and the garden is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. The design of the garden is a copy of the first Japanese landscape garden (Strolling garden) built by the first Japanese Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. The Tokugawa Shogun ruled from Edo Castle from 1600 until 1868, when it was abolished during the Meiji Restoration. This garden is an often overlooked one of those places to visit near me garden The gardens cover some 4 hectares and is considered to be a leading contender for the beautiful places in NSW to visit.

Return to Sydney

From Orange, this small group returns to Sydney, with scheduled stops in Bathurst for morning tea and the popular Blue Mountain town of Katoomba for lunch during the day.

Your program leader (tour guide) meets you and your travelling companions in central Sydney late on a Sunday afternoon for introductions and a welcome dinner. The following day we depart for Bowral in the Southern Highlands first as this small group tour heads to Batemans bay for the night.

This, like all Odyssey Traveller small group tours is limited to 12 people.

An Odyssey Traveller tour is a small group tour of NSW designed especially for seniors, for mature travellers who want an in-depth and authentic experience of their chosen destination. Since 1983, we have specialised in bringing Australian travellers to the world: now, our goal is to enable you to rediscover your own country on a day tour collection for mature and senior travellers for couples or solo travellers in a small group of 12 people of key places to visit in NSW and Canberra.

This small group tour is also offered as a private tour for small groups with a tour guide.



Odyssey Traveller’s tours are designed for mature and senior travellers. Typically, our clients begin travelling with us in their mid-50s, but we’ve had clients in their 80s travel with us!

If you’re concerned about your health or mobility on our city tours, you may want to look at our tour activity levels before you book with us. Our tour of Canberra and Southern Highlands is graded Level 1 – Introductory to Moderate meaning that the tour is suitable for most fitness levels. Bear in mind that:

Participants must be able to carry their own luggage, climb and descend stairs, moderate walking on uneven surfaces for 3 – 5 kilometres over the course of a day.


In addition to this tour, Odyssey Traveller can visit other parts of NSW with our “Heritage Sites of the Southern States” tour, where we travel the south-western corner of the state, as well as crossing into the neighbour states of South Australia and Victoria, in NSW we visit Broken Hill, Mungo N.P. and Balranald. To explore mid and north-west area of NSW we recommend our “Broken Hill and back – an Outback tour” where we drive from Broken Hill to Tiboourra before crossing over to South Australia.

Canberra, the capital city of Australia, is known for a number of things, including:

  • It is an entirely planned city, outside of any state – it sits just north of the Australian Capital Territory, in a similar way as Washington D.C. in District of Columbia.
  • It is a fairly small city making it easy to explore by foot, riding a bike or using the local public transport.
  • Although it’s a landlocked city, it has plenty of rivers, lakes and waterways around to explore, including the man-made feature Lake Burley Griffin.
  • Home of the National Gallery of Australia, National Portrait Gallery, War Memorial Museum and many others you can immerse yourself in many art exhibitions.

Canberra is easily accessed by car, rail or plane. There are frequent international and domestic flights to Canberra and as well as trains from Sydney or Melbourne.

Canberra is located approximately 300 km south of Sydney and 660 km north from Melbourne.

According to the official A.C.T. website, Canberra is Ngunnawal country, the Ngunnawal are the Indigenous people of this region and its first inhabitants. The neighbouring people are the Gundungurra to the north, the Ngarigo to the south, the Yuin on the coast, and the Wiradjuri inland.

People from Canberra are generally called Canberrans. 

Canberra has four distinct seasons, with a warm and temperate climate. Canberra has warm and dry summers however it can get quite cool in winter!

During summer, the average temperature range from 13°C – 27°C (55°F – 80°F).

The weather cools down in Autumn with averages between 7°C and 20°C (45°F – 68°F).  Spring temperatures are very similar, but tends to be a bit more rainy, with November being the wettest month.

Winter is quite cool with temperatures averaging between 1°C and 12°C (34°F – 54°F) and can sometimes drop below 0°C at nights. Nearby in the Australian Alps there’s plenty of snow!


Articles for Southern Highland & Canberra small group tour.

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PDF of Tour PDF of Reading List

Overview: This small group tour meets in Sydney late in the afternoon for introductions and a welcome dinner

Accommodation: Ibis World Sq, Sydney or similar

Overview: This morning after breakfast we leave Sydney and drive to Bowral in the Southern Highlands. Here we will visit the the Corbett Gardens and (if available) the grounds of Retford Park.

Corbett Gardens, established in 1911 is worth a visit any time though, unfortunately, the Spring Tulip Festival has been cancelled for 2020.

Retford Park, once the home of James Fairfax and now owned and managed by the National Trust. If the gardens are open to the public we will take time to visit. In 1964, James Fairfax bought the property and started to turn it from an agricultural property to a gentleman’s residence. The house and grounds were left to the National Trust and according to them, “Having been in the caring hands of Mr Fairfax for over 50 years, the garden is a delight to wander through. As you venture up the driveway the grand Victorian Italianate homestead appears from a towering arboretum of magnificent trees.”

There will be time for lunch in Bowral before we head down Macquarie Pass to Minnamurra. Here we will visit the Rainforest Centre and take the easy one hour loop walk through rare remnant rainforest. Those preferring not to take the walk will be able to enjoy afternoon tea in the café.

From Minnamurra we will drive to Kiama to visit the famous “ Blow Hole” before checking into our accommodation for the evening.

Dinner tonight will be in a local restaurant.

Accommodation: Sebel Hotel Kiama or  similar

Overview: After breakfast this morning we make our way to Canberra via Nowra, Braidwood and Bungendore.

Braidwood is a National Trust classified town and the first to be listed on the NSW State Heritage register. Braidwood developed during the gold rush period and many of its buildings date back to that era.

Bungendore was established in 1837 and many of the original buildings still stand. Here we’ll have time to stroll around the streets and visit the  Bungendore Woodwork Gallery. It is an institution, showcasing some of the best wood art and contemporary furniture in Australia. After exploring its collection, you can have a coffee or poke around the town’s galleries, antique stores and gift shops.

From Bungendore it is a relatively short drive to Canberra via Queanbeyan.

Once in Canberra we check into our hotel for the next three nights.

Dinner tonight will be in a local restaurant.

Accommodation: Novotel Canberra or similar

Overview: This morning its time for a little art! Canberra has what (in my opinion) is one of the world’s best portrait galleries. Even if you’ve been there several times there is always something new to draw your interest. The portraits are great but the stories attached to each one are often just as interesting. We’ll also take time for a quick visit to the National Library (who wouldn’t like a second look at those magnificent stained glass windows) and visit the National Galery.

Those interested in lunch will be able to find it at either the Portrait Gallery or the National Gallery. Both have excellent cafes.

After lunch we’ll meet to walk around the lake, across Kings Avenue Bridge and past the carillon to Blundell’s Cottage.This cottage gives us a taste of what life might have been like in the Canberra area in the 19th century, well before there was any thought of it becoming the new nation’s capital. The stone cottage was built in 1860 to house the Duntroon estate’s head ploughman, William Ginn, and his family (1860-1874). It was later  occupied by George Blundell, a Duntroon bullock driver and his family (1874-1933) and finally by shepherd Harry Oldfield and his wife Alice (1933-1958). The cottage has only limited opening hours but we’ll be able to continue our walk and visit nearby St John’s  Anglican Church, consecrated in 1845. (Those preferring not to do the 30 minute walk will be able to take the coach.)

After exploring the church we’ll rejoin the coach and drive to the National Botanic Gardens for a guided tour. The 50-hectare National Botanic Gardens are spread across the slopes of Black Mountain. In the carefully tended collections, you can admire representatives of all the important species of Australian flora. The rain forest area is particularly impressive. Look for water dragons among the lush foliage. Other highlights include The Red Centre garden, with its red earth and spinifex grassland. The gardens are also a haven for birds and butterflies.

After time in the Botanic Gardens we’ll return to the hotel. The rest of the afternoon and evening will be at yours to relax.

Accommodation: Novotel Canberra or similar

Overview: Our second day in the national capital will begin with a visit to the Australian War Memorial where we will take a guided tour. More than just a war memorial, the site combines an excellent museum, archives, art gallery, and library.

In the afternoon we will drive to historic Lanyon Homestead. The station is set at the foothills of the Brindabella Ranges on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. The 1859 station homestead has been restored and furnished. The convict built outbuildings provide an insight into station like in the 1850s and should be open for visitors.

We return to our hotel in the late afternoon. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy.

Accommodation: Novotel Canberra or similar

Overview: This morning we leave Canberra after breakfast and drive to Bathurst via Cowra.

If it is open we’ll visit Cooma Cottage near Yass. This National Trust property was once the home of explorer Hamilton Hume. The  original colonial bungalow, built by pioneering pastoralist Henry O’Brien, forms part of the earliest complex of dwellings and stables on the site. Hume bought the cottage and the 100 acres for ₤601 in 1840 and lived there for the rest of his life. Hume spent 20 years enthusiastically building extensions; adding his own version of Palladian-style wings and a Greek Revival portico. Cooma Cottage now stands as a fine example of the way our pioneers constructed their dwellings and how they lived.

From Yass we continue north through Boorowa to Cowra, where we will have lunch and explore the superb Japanese gardens.

Cowra was home to the largest prisoner of war breakout in modern military history.  At 1.50am on 5 August 1944, over 1000 Japanese prisoners launched a mass escape from the Prisoner of War campsite. In the attempt the lives of  two hundred and thirty four Japanese prisoners and five Australian soldiers were lost. In 1978-79 the Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre (the true highlight of any visit to Cowra) was established with the aid of the Japanese government to honour both Australian and Japanese dead.

From Cowra we will continue to Orange where we will spend the night. Time permitting we will visit the outstanding “ Age of Fishes Fossil Museum” in Canowindra. This museum is one of only two of its kind in the world, the other is in Lebanon.

Dinner tonight will be in a local restaurant.

Accommodation: Mercure Orange or similar.

Overview: This morning we head back towards Sydney with stops at Bathurst and in the Blue Mountains.

Our tour ends this afternoon in Sydney.

Visit the National trust’s Retford House and gardens in Bowral
Tour the National Gallery in Canberra
Visit the acclaimed Japanese garden in Cowra
Explore the regional town of Orange

What’s included in the tour.

  • 6 nights accommodation.
  • 6 breakfasts & 4 dinners.
  • Transport by modern and comfortable coach.
  • Entrances and sightseeing as specified.
  • Services of Tour Leader for the duration of tour
  • Detailed Preparatory Information

What’s not included in our Tour

  • Return Domestic airfares.
  • Airport/Hotel transfers.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature, such as telephone calls and laundry
Cowra Japanese Garden
Sydney Opera House
Parliament - Australian Capital Territory
Japanese garden, Cowra
Cowra Japanese Garden
Cowra Japanese garden
Sunset on Canberra
Keukenhof Garden, Tulips, Netherlands