Aussie Odyssey

The fashion and chic set unwind in New South Wales Southern Highlands.

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Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Scoop issue 09/29/2008
With its four distinct seasons and crisp temperatures, which can be up to 10 degrees Celsius cooler than Sydney’s, the area quickly proved a hill station for Sydney’s well-heeled English settlers—notably following the arrival of the railway in 1867. The NSW governor’s 1882 acquisition of the Sutton Forest property Prospect, renamed Hillview, as a permanent country retreat made the area more fashionable still.

Some of Sydney’s most prominent families established retreats in the region with English-style gardens, such as the Hordern retail dynasty, which built Retford Park (1887) and Milton Park (1910). Set on 300 acres with 10 award-winning gardens, Milton Park since has been transformed into a luxury country resort and one of the Highlands’ most iconic properties.

Although the region never really went out of style, its charm was somewhat eclipsed by the lure of beach property from the Sixties through the Eighties.

Over the past 15 years, however, the Highlands has been rediscovered in earnest by new generations of Sydney-ites—and others much further afield—who are setting up homes or weekenders. They include author Bryce Courtenay, actor Reg Livermore, artist John Olsen, television mogul Reg Grundy, Midnight Oil front man–turned–federal environment minister Peter Garrett, rocker Jimmy Barnes, British actress Miriam Margolyes and veteran photographer Sam Haskins. Now 82, Haskins, the South African–born author of Five Girls and Cowboy Kate & Other Stories, among other books, relocated to Bowral in 2002 after three decades in London. His recent fashion clients include French Vogue, Allure and Harper’s Bazaar Australia and he shot Kidman for the latter’s January/February 2004 cover.

“Everything which a big horrible city is not, Bowral is,” says the photographer. “It’s quiet, there’s lots of space, beautiful fresh air. The climate on the whole is very good. And I can get to Sydney in a hurry if I have  to. I moan about it if I have to go.”

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