With the Australian snow season fast approaching… (Yes, if you are reading this from outside of Australia, it does indeed snow here) I thought it would be a good time to put up together a selection of some of my best advice about the Snowy Mountains region here in New South Wales, Australia.
The Snowy Mountains is a small-ish region in the south of New South Wales, on the New South Wales/Victorian border.
Fun fact: The Snowy Mountains are also home of the highest peak on mainland Australia, Mt Kosciuszko.
Every year I try to make sure I get down to the snow resorts in New South Wales at least once to get in my annual snowboarding fix. So it’s somewhere I’ve spent a fair bit of time over the years.
With that in mind here are my top picks of the things you must do while in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains region.
Kosciuszko National Park
The Snowy Mountains region is made up largely by the Kosciuszko National Park, the largest national park in New South Wales.
The scale alone of the Kosciuszko National Park makes it a great place to get outdoors and explore year-round. Let alone the uniqueness of the alpine region compared to the rest of Australia.
If hiking or mountain biking is your thing, then a summer trip to the Snowy Mountains is absolutely worthwhile. The park number of well-maintained trails, scenic vistas and historic pioneer huts to explore.
With a keen eye, it’s also a great area to observe several Australian icons out in the wild, with significant populations of Kangaroos, Emus and Wombats.
The most popular, for good reason, is the Kosciuszko Walk which takes you all the way to the summit of the highest peak in Australia, Mount Kosciuszko at 2,228 metres above sea level.
Starting at the Kosciuszko Express chairlift at Thredbo (which runs year-round), the Kosciuszko Walk will take you a few hours (roughly five) to complete the round trip to the summit. Also making it the most accessible of the Seven Summits. More info – http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/kosciuszko-national-park/kosciuszko-walk/walking
Thredbo Valley Track, Main Range Walk and Illawong Walk are also popular trails within the Snowy Mountains.
Brumbies are also a large part of the history of the region, so why not take a guided horse ride through the mountains if that is more your pace.
Kosciuszko National Park is also home to the New South Wales snow resorts, but I’ll get into that separately.
To find out more about the Kosciuszko National Park, including all the trail maps, head over the National Parks website – http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/kosciuszko-national-park
The Snowy Hydro Project
The Snowy Hydro Project was developed by the Australian government to help relieve the effects of the droughts that regularly impact the country as well as to help generate electricity for NSW and Victoria.
Following World War 2, Australia implemented the project in 1949 which took 25 years to complete. Forever changing the landscape of the Snowy Mountains region, with a series of dams and power stations built to creating several lakes and reservoirs throughout the area.
Fun Fact: The original settlement of Jindabyne actually lies at the bottom of what is now Lake Jindabyne, with the entire township being moved to its current location on the edge of the lake. You’ll also drive over one of the key dams that were built as part of the Snowy Hydro Project as you make your way into Jindabyne along Kosciuszko Road.
The Snowy Hydro Project also diverted water into the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers which feed all the way through framing lands of Victoria and South Australia.
The Snowy Hydro Project is an intriguing part of modern Australian history, impacting not only the Snowy Mountains a large number of sectors in Australia and is well worth discovering more about while you are visiting the area.
The best place to get the full in-depth history is the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre in Cooma. To find out about visiting hours head to the Snowy Hydro website – http://www.snowyhydro.com.au/discover/snowy-hydro-discovery-centre-cooma/
While we are on the topic of Lake Jindabyne, not only is it a functional waterway with the fore mentioned Snowy Hydro Project, but it is also a great spot for a number of aquatic activities.
Adventure seekers heading to the region during the summer to hike and/or mountain bike throughout Kosciuszko National Park will also often take to Lake Jindabyne as well with a boat or kayak.
Fun Fact: Another fun fact about Lake Jindabyne is that when the dam is at less than 45% capacity, which can happen during prolonged droughts, you can see the remnants of the original township of Jindabyne, which was flooded back in the 1960s when the dam was completed.
Lake Jindabyne and its tributaries are also popular with fisherman, with Trout fishing common around its waterways. It’s not for me, but I’ve been told some people find it relaxing and rewarding?
If you are more like myself and the idea of potentially spending all day fishing without a result doesn’t work for you. Then there are a couple of Trout farms in the area as well, like Eucumbene Trout Farm where you can fish with a little more certainty about reeling in a fish. Or just leave it up to the experts.
Wild Brumby Distillery
No matter if you’ve been hiking, mountain biking, snowboarding, skiing or any number of activities while you’ve been in the Snowy Mountains. A bit of variety is always good and for something a little bit different, why not a visit to the Wild Brumby Distillery?
Located along the Alpine Way between Jindabyne and Thredbo, Wild Brumby offers an amazing selection of locally distilled schnapps as well as a cafe for light meals.
It makes for a nice little relaxing change of pace from all the adventure activities and it’s a great way to spend a little bit of time off, especially if you’re giving yourself a day to physically recover after a few big days in the mountains.
I highly recommend the schnapps tasting. The Wild Brumby offers some of the best tasting schnapps I’ve tried outside of Europe.
They’ve also got some art installations and some other things to explore around the property, it that grabs your interest.
I’ll aim to drop into Wild Brumby at least once a year during my annual snow trip to pick up a bottle of their Peppermint Schnapps. Pro-tip: It goes great with Ice Cream.
To find out more about the Wild Brumby Distillery, including opening hours, head over to their website – http://www.wildbrumby.com/
There are also a couple of vineyards in the area, but that’s not something I’ve ever explored.
Sure the peaks of the Snowy Mountains might be the star attraction in the Kosciuszko National Park. But did you know that there is a cave system at the northern end of the park (between Tumut and Cooma), that is also worth visiting?
Yarrangobilly Caves just off the Snowy Mountain Highway is its own a unique and natural wonder well worth the detour.
Not only are the limestone caves features a site the behold with a choice of guided tours as well as a couple of caves that you can explore on your own. But it’s also one of the few places in New South Wales that you can swim in a spring-fed natural thermal pool.
There is just something about snow and thermal pools that just seems right.
For more information about Yarrangobilly Caves head on over to the National Parks website – https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/visitor-centres/yarrangobilly-caves-visitor-centre
As the name suggests… Snow is a big factor in the reason to go to the Snowy Mountains, especially in the winter.
So no doubt one of the four snow resorts in the area will probably be your main reason for visiting the region for the first time.
Each resort has its own unique appeal, varying in size and facilities. But they all cater for all levels of skiing and snowboarding ability.
If you’re not feeling so adventurous as to want to take up skiing or snowboarding, don’t fret. They also have dedicated areas for kids to play in the snow and toboggan. Perisher even offers tube rides. So you can take the opportunity to see and even play in the snow at a much more relaxed pace.
Of the four resorts, Perisher is the largest, and my personal favourite.
It’s divided up into its own four ski areas, which are all interlinked with lift facilities. Perisher Valley, Blue Cow, Guthega and Smiggins Holes.
The altitude of the Perisher Resort means it has the most consistency in terms of snowfall and coverage. It’s usually the first NSW resort to open and last to close during the snow season.
For more information about Perisher including maps and lift pass pricing, head over to their website – http://www.perisher.com.au/
Thredbo Village is the second largest of the snow resorts but it also has the highest peak, backing onto Mt Kosciuszko.
It’s a good contrast to Perisher with some steeper terrain and longer runs more familiar with what you might experience with European or North American ski resorts.
The village, however, is at a much lower altitude compared to Perisher which means the snow coverage down towards the bottom is a little more susceptible to warmer conditions and rain, particularly at the beginning and end of the season. Just something to keep in mind.
To find out more about Thredbo go to – http://www.thredbo.com.au/
Charlotte Pass is routinely one of the coldest places in mainland Australia, making it ideal for the snow. Located near Perisher, Charlotte Pass is only accessible via overland transport which picks you up and drops you off at Perisher Village.
It’s a good alternative to the other two resorts in the area and a good opportunity to get away from the crowds during peak season and explore some different terrain.
Keep in mind tickets for Charlotte Pass must be booked in advance. For more head over to the website – http://www.charlottepass.com.au/
Finally, Selwyn Snow Fields is the smallest of the snow resorts and located roughly 2 hours drive away from the others, halfway between Tumut and Cooma.
Selwyn is more catered towards families but is a good alternative to the bigger resorts especially if you are just learning to ski or snowboard.
To find out more about Selwyn Snow Fields, including the lifts and ticket prices, head over to their website – http://www.selwynsnow.com.au/
(Just a note, Selwyn was ravaged by bushfires in February 2020, and a lot of the infrastructure was damaged. They are expected to re-open in 2022)
For more general information about the Snowy Mountains region head over to the Visit NSW website – http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/snowy-mountains/
I hope you have picked up a suggestion or two to help inspire your trip, I’ve got more invaluable advice for planning a trip to the Snowy Mountains in this other blog post that you should also check out.
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