The Snowy Mountains, only a couple of hour’s drive from Canberra, are best known for their winter sports but for me the region is equally attractive in summer with great walks, water sports and fishing drawing streams of visitors.
The walk to the summit of Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko, from the top of the chairlift at Thredbo is on many a bucket list and during the summer holidays over 3000 people tackle the 13km return walk on some days. For the fit and keen an alternative is to continue on from the summit to join the Main Range track past Lake Albina, Carruthers Peak, Blue Lake and end up at Charlotte Pass.
Thredbo, Perisher and Charlotte Pass are all situated within the Kosciuszko National Park (entry fees apply to visitors). There are many other walks within the park ranging from short walks on defined boardwalks to tougher and longer walks along the main range. The tracks are well marked and signposted (the excellent information sheet available from the information centre at Jindabyne and elsewhere in the park gives details) and can be tackled on your own; however advice on weather changes, need to take plenty of water and sunscreen – the UV rays can be intense even on cloudy days – should be observed.
If you are only keen to do a shorter walk then I would suggest one of the following.
- Rainbow Lake Trail is a 3km loop from the road between Sawpit Creek and Perisher winds through snowgrass and snow gums to a small lake created as a dam to provide water for the old Hotel Kosciusko (burnt down in 1951).
- From Perisher the 5km loop of the Porcupine Walk leads to extensive views of the Main Range and Thredbo Valley.
- From Dead Horse Gap near Thredbo follow the Thredbo River for 4km trail back to the village past cascades and still pools.
Learning about the unique alpine flora and fauna is a real eye-opener – plants such as mountain gentians and eyebright and conifers that cling to rocks and tiny lizards that trap passing insects. The changing vegetation as you climb from the valley floor at Thredbo to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko is very dramatic. My favourites are the wonderful white snow gums that are often twisted into amazing shapes.
Thredbo has become a key centre for all year round mountain activities. Tucked into the Thredbo River valley the village has great charm with the many chalets, lodges and other buildings all blending nicely into the bushland setting. There was a devastating fire through the valley in 2013 but nature is amazing at ‘repairing’ the damage.
In summer the nine-hole golf course – quite tricky as it is set on the side of the hills – is an alternative to hiking and you can also try your hand on the 700m long bobsled run. At least one chairlift operates throughout the summer whisking visitors to the top of the hills and the start point of some great walks. Mountain bike riders can be seen risking life and limb as they hurtle down the steep slopes. There are tennis courts and the leisure centre has a swimming pool. Horse riding is also available at different venues near Thredbo.
The Alpine Way continues past Thredbo over Dead Horse Gap and down to the Murray River (forming the boundary between NSW and Victoria) at Tom Groggin. It is a wonderful spot for a leisurely picnic beside the burbling waters of the river. The road continues on to Geehi and Khancoban but is not suitable for vehicles towing a caravan.
There is a range of accommodation at Thredbo to suit all budgets including hotels and apartments. I stayed at Lantern Apartments on Banjo Drive high above the village which offers spacious, well-appointed rooms, full kitchen facilities and the balcony is a great place for a late afternoon drink when the sun goes down over the range. There is a supermarket in the village but the prices are steep and if staying at an apartment I would suggest stocking up at Jindabyne.
For hotel accommodation the Denman is a good option and the restaurant is excellent. Just down the valley close to the entrance to the Kosciuszko National Park and near the Skitube (takes skiers through the mountain to Perisher Blue and Blue Cow in winter but does not operate in summer) is Lake Crackenback which has an excellent resort. Only some restaurants operate in summer apart from weekends or during major events.
Jindabyne on the banks of Lake Jindabyne is another popular base for visitors to the region. The excellent information centre has a wealth of information to plan your visit while the town has a variety of accommodations, restaurants and bars, and a comprehensive shopping centre. The lake is well known for its water sports (even power boats are allowed) and fishing.
Another excellent place for fishing particularly for trout is Lake Eucumbene. The closest town to the lake is Adaminaby; the original village was ‘drowned’ when the lake was filled and a new town established.
For something quite different visit Thredbo Valley Distillery and Wild Brumby Schnapps on the Alpine Way between Jindabyne and Thredbo which produces top quality schnapps using the finest produce from the nearby south west slopes.
Thredbo hosts many events throughout the summer including the Blues Festival from 20-22 January this year. Check www.thredbo.com.au for more details.
Pictured at top, view back to Main Range from boardwalk at Charlotte Pass. Photo: Roger Allnutt. Middle, hiker on Mount Kosciusko. Photo: iStock. Above, view over Thredbo ski runs from Lantern Apartments. Photo Roger Allnutt.