You could say that fate has preserved the history of Berrima.
This wonderful, enchanting town sits snuggled against the gently-flowing Wingecarribee River in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.
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Originally, Berrima was designed to be the capital of the Southern Highlands. Those plans went awry when the railway was built. The Old Hume Highway ran right through Berrima, but the railway was diverted in another direction, passing through Mittagong, Bowral and Moss Vale, which allowed those towns to flourish and Berrima to remain rather sedentary.
That was a good thing because Berrima is now a very charming place to visit.
Berrima is a town in which there is no need to rush.
If you have driven there, simply park your car and go for an amble around town. The less hurried you are, the more you will enjoy its ambience.
This lovely Georgian hamlet is mostly flat, so walking is a breeze.
The historic courthouse
There is a rise at the western side of the town, where the courthouse sits overlooking the hamlet, imposing its grandeur on the citizens below.
The Courthouse itself is not Georgian, but was built in Greek Revival style.
Today it is a museum, but when it was completed in 1839, Australia’s first trial by jury was held there.
The quality of the exacting workmanship is extraordinary. My favourite features are the huge, curved interior doors which were each carved out of a single piece of massive cedar which was harvested from nearby Robertson and Fitzroy Falls.
One highlight of the courthouse tour is to witness the re-creation of a notorious murder trial from the 1800s. The mechanic of the trial are similar to those being held today, but the punishment for the guilty couple was particularly grizzly.
The building has had a colourful history. Since it ceased to be a working courthouse, the building was used as a school of arts, and during World War I captured German officers were housed in the building.
For convenience, right next to the courthouse is Berrima Gaol which, at the time I visited, was still being used for its original purpose.
Although the building has imposing sandstone walls, it is the only gaol I have visited which looks somewhat welcoming. The gardens surrounding it are well-manicured and quite lovely.
In latter years Berrima Gaol has housed some high profile prisoners, including former politicians who were found guilty of corruption.
A pub with good cheer
Berrima’s most important buildings are very well connected. Possible the most important place is the pub, which is right next to the gaol.
The Surveyor General Inn was established in 1834 and is Australia’s longest continuously licensed Inn.
Of solid stone construction, tall people, like myself, need to bend down to avoid hitting heads on the low lintels when entering the pub. Although the Cobb & Co coach company used to refresh its passengers here, the inn has evolved with the times, but without losing any of its charm.
You can get a good meal here, have a drink, arrange a stay and, most importantly, still enjoy its rustic atmosphere.
Berrima has an enjoyable village feel.
As you would expect from a pristine town with such an interesting heritage the shops appeal to those with a love for arts and crafts, books and good food.
Berrima is geared to appeal to visitors, but there is no gaudy tack here.
Residents are house proud, and as you walk around the town, you admire their well-kept, unique dwellings.
Nowadays, Berrima has seen the Hume Highway bypass it too.
However, I felt that the town is better for the diversion.
Berrima is serene. A perfect place in which to base yourself when you visit the Southern Highlands.
For more visit http://berrimavillage.com.au/
Disclosure: The writer explored Berrima at his own expense