australia's first booktown

Our Booktown Story

Our history

We’re Australia’s First Booktown

Established in the year 2000, the Southern Highlands is the first Australian representative of the international book town movement.

Book towns began in the 1960s with the UK town of Hay-on-Wye, located on the Welsh border. Its eccentric resident and bookseller Richard Booth MBE worked to enliven his small rural community by establishing a ‘town of bookshops’. 

His brazen publicity stunts – including a tearaway bookish ‘kingdom’ with its own passports – attracted visitors, most of whom bought a book or two, and some even became booksellers themselves.

The idea caught on, and other towns and villages throughout the world, typically in rural communities keen to prosper from tourism, were inspired to join the movement and save the printed book.

Among them is the Southern Highlands of NSW where many delightful bookshops and literary point of interest are sprinkled through our picturesque towns and villages.

Book town crusaders cater to people who love books and enjoy the fun of browsing through bookshops in search of literary treasures, old and new.
Book towns thrive on visitors and locals who are passionate about the printed word, especially in a time when technology seems to have become too much.
Books have even been published about these ‘paradises of the printed word’, and British author Alex Johnson summed up the resurgence with these words: “At a time when libraries are becoming an endangered species and independent bookshops struggle against the rise of the e-book, book towns are beacons of hope in the fight to keep the traditional book alive.

“Please visit them and buy a book or two”.