Welcome to Australia’s First Booktown

THE Southern highlands - NSW - australia

Come for the books - we’re booktown!

The Southern Highlands has long housed more than its fair share of creative and well-read people but the crowning glory has to be its status as Australia’s First Booktown.

Since 2000 the Southern Highlands of NSW  has augmented its cache of local authors, publishers and book-lovers with a suite of bookshops and literary festivals to lay claim to that prestigious title, and a legitimate right to international fame. Booktown Southern Highlands is inspired by the UK town of Hay-on-Wye. Other towns worldwide have followed Hay’s lead.

Explore our picturesque towns and villages and discover many fine bookshops and literary links that together make us Australia’s First Booktown.

Join us here in the beautiful Southern Highlands to celebrate the art of the book!

Australian Map Booktown Southern Highlands

Our booktown story

Why is the Southern Highlands Australia’s First Booktown?

The Southern Highlands is our nation’s first, established in 2000 through the joint efforts of Churchill Fellow Paul McShane and the Southern Highlands Business Chamber.

Our booktown – midway between Canberra and Sydney – is probably unique in that it doesn’t focus on just one town or village but embraces the whole district, pulling together both dedicated bookshops and shops that sell books, old and new.  Everyone knows the famous Berkelouw Book Barn at Berrima, and the esteemed Bowral Bookshop, but even the Bradman Museum has its specialty in selling cricket-related books. 

what is a booktown?

The Booktown movement & its origins

Way back in 1962, a self-confessed ‘eccentric’ Englishman named Richard Booth bought into a little UK town on the Welsh border, called Hay-on-Wye.

Richard set up a bookshop in the town’s old fire station and began trading in second-hand (‘or antiquarian’) books. 

He did such a good job of attracting publicity with his mad-cap promotions that people began to travel long distances just to see what all the fuss was about.

Taking over the town’s derelict castle, he declared an independent sovereign state and crowned himself ‘King of Hay’.

Richard Booth Booktowns Booktown Southern Highlands
Richard Booth MBE (1938-2019) 'King of Hay'
Book display
Booktown Bookshop at the Mittagong Antiques Centre

on the booktrail

Find it on the Southern Highlands Booktrail

It is in this spirit that we welcome you to the Southern Highlands Booktrail and hope that you enjoy all that this beautiful area has to offer the discerning literary visitor.

“Remember this: the best predictor of adult success in life is the single factor of child reading engagement and ability. Often that factor matches the number of books found in the home.

“Books are our time machines and our mind expanders. Please come and buy a book or two and enjoy the journey in good company”

Fast facts

Did you know the Southern Highlands is home to a host of celebrated writers?