Towns & Villages - ROBERTSON


Population: 3226 (inc. rural areas; 2011 census)

Brief History
Robertson lies on the edge of the Highlands, with the escarpment falling away to the sea to the east (drive up scenic Macquarie Pass from Wollongong) and the rolling hills giving way to the river flats of the Wingecarribee to the west.

Today the land is cleared and intensively farmed, but at great effort by the earliest pioneers. For this was part of the Yarrawa Brush - a thick and impenetrable sub-tropical forest discovered before 1820, but avoided by the earliest settlers who worked easier land further west.

The combination of rich volcanic red soils and intensive rainfall on the edge of the Great Dividing Range promotes lush growth, now tamed, and only seen by the side of some lanes, on the roads down to the coast, or in the Robertson Rainforest pocket still remaining - now a national park.

The town's name is derived from a former premier of NSW, whose 'Robertson Land Acts' (1860s) opened up vast stretches of the state for settlement at little cost by selectors.

Soon 1200 settlers had moved into the region to clear the Brush, but the 'government' town of Robertson itself - laid out in 1865 - grew slowly over the next 20 years by which stage it had two hotels, some 10 small stores but few houses.

Some of the earliest public buildings can be seen on a heritage walk around the town today: Public School (1872), St Johns Church of England (1876), Memorial Hall (1939 - on the site of an earlier School of Arts - 1886), bank (1880s), Police Station (1887) and Court House (1888 - now a private home), and Post Office (1896).

St Johns
St. John's Anglican Church (1876)

Farming was the main activity of the early settlers (once the timber-getting industry had helped clear the land) - vegetables (cabbages and potatoes), piggeries, and dairy farms. There were a number of butter factories in nearby villages in the 19th century and the town had a famous cheese factory alongside the railway line producing Robertson cheddar until the mid C20th (now a craft centre).

The Agricultural Society, established in 1880, remains one of the earliest and long lived, with shows still held every year and local farmers prospered despite their isolation from the city markets.

Dairy farming is no longer the main industry of Robertson, although the famous Robertson potato is still flourishing (see its monument in the main street!).

Robertson Hall
Community Hall (1939)

Produce in early days was taken by cart to railheads at Mittagong and later Moss Vale for shipment to Sydney as local residents were unsuccessful in attracting a railway line until the Moss Vale - Unanderra line opened up in 1932.

Local passenger and goods traffic lapsed after just several decades, victim of the motor age, and today the line is mostly used to freight cement or limestone to the coast - and occasionally, heritage steam and diesel trains - a major local tourist attraction.

Although in a isolated corner of the Highlands, Belmore Falls and Carrington Falls attracted tourists from the late 1880s until WW1 after roads were cut to them.

Grander plans led to the building of a tourist hotel in 1924 - now Fountaindale Grand Manor. Built at great expense as the Hotel Robertson it soon failed, as did its re-creation as a golf resort by the Ranelagh Club. During WWII it was used as a training centre for the WRAAF and was then acquired as a seminary and later a retreat centre by the Catholic Church who finally sold it in the late C20th when it reverted to use as a guest house.

Robertson is again a favoured tourist destination, with scenic lookouts and countryside, a large crafts colony, and hospitable accommodation and refreshment venues. The nearby 'Illawarra Fly' offers panoramic views from rainforest treetops across to the coast.

The long awaited railway is now the route of the 'Cockatoo Run', one of Australia's great rail journeys and the station is a heritage site.

And Robertson today is a popular resting place for the many travellers on the Illawarra Highway.

For further details see our Past and Present pages.

County Inn
County Inn (c. 1890s)

Robertson Quick Guide

Accommodation - List All
Yarrawa Hill - self cont.

Noeline Brown - actor
Picnic Areas
Robertson Nature Reserve

Robertson Station
Robertson Station (1932)

Major Events & Festivals
March: Robertson Show

April: Black & Coloured Sheep Festival

September: Open Gardens

Village Markets and Community Dance each month

What to See and Do
For Visitors.

If you are travelling from Wollongong inland up scenic Macquarie Pass, Robertson is a necessary rest stop. (Going down, stop here anyway!)

People from all over Australia, and the world, stop at the famous Pie Shop: picnic in the grounds. Lots of interesting antiques and craft shops, boutiques strung along the highway, not just in the town - watch the craftspeople at work.

Have tea in the grand rooms of Fountaindale Manor, then stroll the gardens; country hospitality at the pub, with great bistro and jazz bands on Sundays. Old Cheese Factory has refreshments, and interesting boutique gifts - not to mention cheese! Good restaurants, cafes and takeaways in town.

Nearby are some good B&Bs and self-contained accommodation with spectacular views down to the coast.

A number of scenic drives - Belmore Falls, Carrington Falls, spectacular drive to Mt. Jamberoo, and via Kangaloon to Bowral through beautiful farm land. A visit to the Robertson Nature Reserve is a must - heritage rainforest enclave, as is the spectacular 'Illawarra Fly'.

Picnic areas, bushwalking, and access to bike trails in the national parks (ride from here to Nowra!). A picnic area on the Common (near the railway station) has signs leading to a number of interesting heritage walks around town.

There is a village dance each month popular with visitors from miles around, and a regular village market.

For a real adventure take a day trip with the family on the Cockatoo Run - one of the great train journeys of Australia. The railway station is a heritage precinct and has an art gallery open from time to time.

Old Cheese Factory
The Old Cheese Factory

For Kids.

Heaps of things to do in Robertson: parks to play in and picnic areas.

Watch the potters, woodworkers and glass workers in the craft shops. Great toy factory and lollie shop in the Old Cheese Factory, and interesting shops in the main street.

Pies to die for at the Pie Shop - have a picnic there! You might even enjoy the jazz bands at the pub for lunch on Sunday.

Go bushwalking, peer down waterfalls, and experience the spooky jungle and incredible birds in the rainforest at the Nature Reserve. Dare to dangle on the cantilever over the forest at the 'Illawarra Fly'.

Last updated 30/3/15