It's no secret that Australia is huge. I knew that, yet when I recently got the chance to go on a four-day road trip to the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales, I was left in awe of the sheer grandiosity of it all—there was so much to see and take in, and this is only one small part of the state.
The Snowy Mountains—or 'Snowies', as the locals fondly call it—is the highest mountain range in Australia. It's a six to seven-hour drive from Sydney. Alternatively, you can opt for a flight to Canberra, which takes just an hour, then take a leisurely drive (two to three hours) and admire the vast, diverse landscape outside your window as you make your way to the Snowies.
So if you've been to Sydney before, or even if you're planning to go there for the first time, perhaps you can consider to slip in a road trip out into the Snowies into your itinerary for a healthy dose of adventure. Read on for some of our recommendations:
For the adrenaline junkies
Despite its name, it does not snow throughout the year in the Snowy Mountains. However, snow season (June to October) is in full swing at the moment. Read: it's the best time to go skiing! Take on the popular ski runs on Mount Perisher or Thredbo—you'll also be able to find the longest run in Australia, Crackenback Supertrail, on the latter.
Even if you're not a fan of skiing, tons of other adventurous activities await you on the mountains, from trekking up to Mount Kosciuszko—the highest peak in Australia!—to rock climbing and abseiling, both of which are all-year round activities. And trust us when we say the trek is not as intimidating as it sounds. It starts only at the top of the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift, and covers a distance of 15km (return).
Buro recommends: K7 Adventures for experienced guides to bring you on your adventures on the unfamiliar terrains. Our guides for the trip, Jeff and Acacia, were informative and absolutely lovely company to be around.
Down in Thredbo Valley, take it down a notch with horseback riding into the heart of the Snowy Mountains. Remember 'The Man from Snowy River' segment from the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics? Well, what better place to go for a ride than the place where the "the man" from the fable came from? Rest assured you'll be in good hands with the folks at Thredbo Valley Horse Riding.
Where to stay
To truly immerse in the winter experience, you can opt to stay in one of the ski resorts, which are often bustling with activity during snow season, or take a back seat from the crowd and seek accommodation in surrounding townships.
Our stay for the trip, Lake Crackenback Resort and Spa, was just about 20 minutes away from Thredbo Village. Here you'll find tranquility in nature, as the cosy chalets and apartments are surrounded by the majestic mountains, with a lake nestled in the heart of the property. It's located on the border of Kosciuszko National Park, so don't be surprised to see a deer or two on your way to breakfast—where the view is amazing, by the way.
Eat and drink
For the ultimate dining experience in the Snowies, a meal at Eagles Nest is a must. Perched at the top of the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift, it isn't just Australia's highest restaurant, food here is hearty and delicious to boot. The gnocchi with cream sauce and truffle shavings is still fresh in my mind. So good.
We also had a delightful meal at the Crackenback Farm Restaurant & Guesthouse, a homey and picturesque little establishment serving up wonderful French farmhouse style cuisine. If the weather permits, you can even enjoy your meal with a view out in the sun-filled terrace.
Definitely stop by some of the wineries and distilleries in the region if you have the time. Here are a few you can take note of to see if they'll fit in your itinerary: Shut the Gate Wines in Berridale (I tasted what was possibly my favourite white wine to date here), Wildbrumby Schnapps Distillery in Crackenback (really good schnapps, and all their gins have won the gold medal at the Melbourne International Spirits Competition), and Courabyra Wines in Tumbarumba (beautiful vineyard and excellent sparkling wines).
Go off the grid
Make sure you have a car GPS ready for this part of the journey, because you're likely to lose all telecommunication signals about an hour before arriving at the destination—Yarrangobilly Caves, where spectacular limestone caves are waiting to be explored. Thrill-seekers will be glad to know that adventure caving tours are available aside from the regular guided ones too.
Book a stay at the historic Yarrangobilly Caves House and experience life off the grid for a few nights. No calls, no e-mails, no social media; just you and good ol' nature. While it was a little unsettling to be so disconnected at first, that feeling soon went away and it felt great to just bask in the majestic yet peaceful surroundings. In fact, this was one of my favourite legs of the trip.
Our four-day trip in the mountains seemed to just fly by, and we can't wait to be back for more. Till next time, Snowies!
There are multiple Qantas flights from Sydney to Canberra daily.
For more information on Snowy Mountains and Destination New South Wales, visit their website.