Exploring the Top Attractions of the Snowy Mountains, NSW
Part of the Great Dividing Range, the spectacular Snowy Mountains encompass the highest peaks in Australia. At 2,228 m, Mount Kosciuszko is the granddaddy of them all, presiding over a land of wind-whipped plateaus, alpine heathlands, snow-gum forests, meadows, mighty rivers, and vast mountain lakes. The Snowy Mountains rise to the southwest of Canberra, near the border with Victoria, and in winter, avid skiers and snowboarders make a pilgrimage here to play on the slopes. In summer, the mountains attract nature lovers seeking fresh clean air and ample opportunities to hike, climb, water ski, raft, kayak, mountain bike, and fly fish for trout in the alpine streams and lakes.
In the 1950s and 60s, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme diverted water from the eastward-flowing Snowy River to irrigate the interior and generate electric power. This involved the construction of many artificial lakes and power stations in Kosciuszko National Park. The government also built roads through previously inaccessible mountain country, a feat that opened up the region for recreation and tourism.
Today, all the winter sports resorts in the Snowy Mountains lie within Kosciuszko National Park. They are easily accessible, and the larger resorts have excellent facilities for downhill skiing. The winter sports season usually begins towards the end of May or beginning of June and lasts until the middle or end of October.
Kosciuszko National Park
Magnificent Kosciuszko National Park covers 6,000 sq km of snow-capped peaks, alpine meadows, limestone gorges, snow gum forests, and the headwaters of the might Snowy River. Mount Kosciuszko, the highest mountain in Australia at 2,228 m high, also lies within the park.
Kosciuszko National Park is a popular recreation area all year round. The snow lies for months in winter, allowing cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. In summer, the fascinating variety of flora and fauna attracts bush walkers, climbers, anglers, mountain bikers, and water sports enthusiasts. Another fascinating feature of the park includes Yarrangobilly Caves, five limestone caves contorted with stalagmites, stalactites, and other bizarre formations. After exploring the caves, visitors can take a dip in the thermal pool. In summer all roads into the mountain region are open. During winter, snow chains must be fitted on some roads within the park from June 1st to October 10th, while some roads may be completely closed during that time. The resort town of Jindabyne is a great base for exploring the park.
Perisher Blue Ski Resort
In Kosciuszko National Park, Perisher Blue Ski Resort incorporates the popular Perisher Valley, Smiggin Holes, Guthega, and Mount Blue Cow resorts. Previously, all of these resorts were separate. The combined resorts form the largest ski resort in the southern hemisphere. At 1,720 m above sea level, Perisher offers a range of accommodations on the snowfields, as well as restaurants, cafés, and shops. Visitors here can enjoy both alpine and cross-country skiing as well as snowboarding. The underground Skitube runs between Perisher Valley and Mount Blue Cow, while ski trails and chairlifts connect the other resorts.
At the foot of the Crackenback Range in Kosciuszko National Park, Thredbo Village is a world-class resort with a top-notch giant slalom course. The Thredbo River carves through the center of this charming resort. Skiers here will find runs to suit all abilities, and the chair lift to the summit of Mount Crackenback operates throughout the year. In the summer, mountain bikers and hikers hit the slopes, and golf, tennis, swimming, and fly fishing expand the list of sports. Thredbo Village is well equipped with facilities for visitors, including many restaurants, lodges, and entertainment venues.
Perched near the summit of Mount Kosciuszko, Charlotte Pass is the highest resort in Australia. At 1,760 m, it's a great base for ski tours to the highest peaks in the Australian Alps and is often the venue of ski competitions. The resort was named for Charlotte Adams, the first European woman to climb Mount Kosciuszko in 1881. Today, skiers and snowboarders will find runs to suit all abilities here, from gently rolling beginner slopes to expert chutes. In the summer, hikers come here to ascend the summit of Mount Kosciuszko, 18 km round-trip, or hike the Main Range Walk, which threads past glacial lakes and offers spectacular views. Access to the resort in winter is via snow vehicle only. In summer, visitors can make the 40-minute drive from Jindabyne.
Jindabyne, a new settlement on the shores of Lake Jindabyne, is a holiday resort and a great base for trips to Kosciuszko National Park. The town's original site, on the banks of the Snowy River, was submerged by the damming of the river under the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. When lake levels are low, the remains of the old town are sometimes still visible. For panoramic views over the lake, visitors should head to Waste Point Lookout.
In winter, Jindabyne attracts hordes of skiers and a shuttle bus service takes guests to Perisher Valley and Smiggin Holes. In summer, trout fishing, kayaking, bush walking, mountain biking, white water rafting, and horseback riding round out the wilderness adventures. After the snow melts, it's possible to drive to Charlotte Pass, a great base for climbing Mount Kosciuszko.
Snuggled at the junction of the Monaro and Snowy Mountains highways, Cooma is the largest town in the region and a gateway to the surrounding alpine wilderness. Cooma was established in 1849, but it was the discovery of gold in 1859 at Kiandra, 90 km west, that spurred the development of the town. When the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme was under construction in the 1950s and 1960s, the town's population swelled with the influx of workers. The Avenue of Flags in Centennial Park displays the flags of the 27 nationalities of the workers.
Today, visitors can explore the town's rich heritage along the Lambie Town Walk, where 19th century buildings, such as the Raglan Gallery, the town's first inn; the courthouse; the old jail; and the post office sit side-by-side with art galleries and cafés. Another must-see in Cooma is the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre where visitors can learn about one of Australia's most important infrastructure projects through interactive exhibits and movies. South of Cooma, on the Monaro Highway, Bombala offers excellent trout fishing.
Kosciuszko Alpine Way
The Kosciuszko Alpine Way is a scenic self-drive route through the Snowy Mountains, from Canberra to Albury on the border of Victoria. Along the way, travelers can explore stunning Kosciuszko National Park with its alpine lakes and rivers, flower-flecked meadows, and magnificent mountain scenery. Stop for a bite to eat at one of the quaint country towns and browse some of the local art galleries. Learn about the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme at the Education Centre in Cooma, fly fish for trout in the vast mountain lakes, horseback ride among the heathlands, water-ski on Lake Jindabyne, or admire the beautiful flowers at the Lady Hudson Memorial Garden in Khancoban.
About an hour drive from the town of Tumut, this skiing area at the northern end of Kosciuszko National Park is best suited to beginners and families. Mount Selwyn is also one of the main centers for cross-country skiing.
Wadbilliga National Park
About 40 km from Cooma, Wadbilliga National Park takes in the unspoiled catchment areas of the Brogo and Wadbilliga Rivers. In the northwest of the park are beautiful waterfalls and the impressive Tuross River Gorge. The western part of the park is a region of tall eucalyptus forest and great expanses of heathland. Bush camping and walking are popular in the Brogo and Wadbilliga valleys, and the park is excellent for mountain biking with its granite cliffs and rolling plateaus. The abundant wildlife includes species such as the endangered spotted-tailed quoll, pythons, and sooty owls.
Tips and Tactics
The following Tips and Tactics will help maximize the potential for fun when visiting the spectacular Snowy Mountains:
- Chains are required to be carried at all times for 2WD's only.
- Always check road conditions before departure by calling the RTA Hotline on 132 701 or check the Live Traffic NSW website.
- When heading out into the Snowy Mountain wilderness during summer, it's essential to wear sunscreen and a hat. The sun can be especially strong at high altitudes. Hikers should also seek shelter in the scorching heat of day and wear sunglasses to protect their eyes.
- Take binoculars for a close-up view of birds and other wildlife.
- Hikers should consider bringing a topographic map and compass, or a GPS.
- When packing for long hikes, take basic first aid equipment, register the planned route and advise friends and family of an estimated return time.
- A network of sealed roads leads to the main points in the Snowy Mountains. The Alpine Way runs from Jindabyne to Khancoban, the Snowy Mountains Highway between Tumut and Cooma, the Monaro Highway runs south from Canberra, and the Elliot Way from Tumbarumba to Cabramurra.
From Canberra to Cooma:
- Travel 95 km along the Monaro Highway to Cooma
- Visitors can fly into Canberra airport. From here it's a 2.5-hour drive to the Snowy Mountains.
Kosciuszko National Park is open all year round, but at times some roads and trails close due to weather conditions.
Vehicle entry fees for Kosciuszko National Park are $16 per vehicle per day in the summer and $27 per vehicle per day in the winter.