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. 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!).
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.