Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Snowy Mountains in Summer: where to go, where to stay and what to do.

With only a few weeks to go before the Christmas school holidays I thought I might post a guide to Summer in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains.  David and I have spent many summer holidays at Thredbo, a couple at Jindabyne and even one at Perisher. This is my take on where to go, where to stay and what to do. I hope you find it helpful. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.


Don't be offended if you hail from south of the border - my next post will be 'Summer in the Victorian Alps'. When it is published I'll pop up a link here.

Where are the Snowy Mountains?

At nearly 700,000 hectares Kosciuszko is the largest national park in New South Wales.  The southern part of the park, where most of the summer accommodation and activities are to be found, is approximately half way between Sydney and Melbourne and only two and a half hours drive from Canberra.


After the snow has gone, the last skiers have left and the resorts at Perisher Valley and Charlotte Pass have slipped into hibernation, Thredbo Village comes alive with warm weather activities. 

Start with a sunrise walk to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko, finish with a sunset picnic on the village green and fill the hours in between with tennis, golf, bobsledding, abseiling, climbing or walking. My favourite is the bobsled. The little kids can ride with mum or dad and the big kids can get the wind in their hair going much too fast.  Then there’s the Olympic-size pool and water-slide at the Leisure Centre as well as squash courts, climbing wall and gym. For those with a death wish, try downhill mountain biking.  Take the chairlift to the top, point your wheels downhill, let go, and pray.  If you make it to the bottom in one piece …. hop on the chair and do it again! 

Music festivals and other events dot the summer calendar. In January enjoy a weekend of Blues at the Thredbo Blues Festival, in March settle back at the Country Music Festival and in May relax to the sound of the Jazz Festival.  For the more energetic there is the Cannonball Mountain Bike Festival in December and National Runners Week in January.   

Click here for a list of summer festivals and events.

There is no shortage of accommodation in summer and Thredbo's world class restaurants take turns in staying open throughout the week.

 

Thredbo Village shops - no crowds in summer

The Alpine Slide - lots of fun for the kids and adults.


Walking to the Summit

The Snowy Mountains is the only place in the world where you can stand on top of a continent without risking life and limb.  Australia's highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko, is a diminutive 2,228 metres (7,310 ft). 

A paved road runs almost to the top but the last 8 km have been closed to cars since 1977. 
The road starts at Charlotte Pass and runs along the old Kosciuszko Road or you can divert via Blue Lake along the Main Range track.   It's an easy walk, we have done it more than once pushing a stroller, but leave yourself plenty of time and take a picnic because there is nowhere to buy lunch. The walk begins at Charlotte Pass about an hour's drive from Thredbo and half an hour from Jindabyne.

The easiest way to get to the summit is to take the Kosciuszko Walk from the top of the Thredbo chairlift.  This is a 6.5 km gradual climb along a raised metal pathway designed to minimise the impact of tourists on native flora and fauna. You can avoid the cost of the chairlift by taking Merritts Nature Track instead. Merritts starts at the tennis courts and finishes at the top of the chair at Eagles Nest Cafe where you can join the main walkway to Kosciuszko.

The Nature Track will add three or four hours to your return hike. It's steeply uphill most of the way until you reach the top of the chair. We often just do this part of the walk. There's a great sense of achievement at the top. Eagles Nest Cafe with friendly staff and a surprisingly good menu is a nice spot to take a break. Don't expect it to be cheap though.

By far the best way back down is via Dead Horse Gap. Turn left at the Dead Horse Gap sign, about 400 metres past the chairlift, on the way to Kosciuszko. This is a long walk, several hours, but downhill or flat almost the whole way and very pretty.

For a map and description of walks from Thredbo - click here




 Merritts Nature Track


Merritts Nature Track


Almost at the top.



Jindabyne is about 30 minutes' drive from Thredbo and half way between Thredbo and Perisher Valley. In the 1960s the old town was submerged beneath an artificial lake when the Snowy River was dammed as part of the construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme. The Scheme was one of the largest hydro-electric schemes in the world.   The new town sits on the shores of Lake Jindabyne making it the best place to stay if you want to fish, sail, water-ski or just generally muck about in a boat. Close by you will find wineries, golf, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and horseback riding.

Accommodation and restaurant prices are more competitive here than in Thredbo.

Perisher

Perisher is a winter resort. There is very little open in summer. If you want to be completely alone then this is the place for you.

Camping

I'll preface this paragraph by saying, David and I are not campers. The only place we have ever camped is in the Snowy Mountains area. It wasn't a great success. We got bogged and had to be towed out of the mud by a local farmer. It was dark by the time we pitched our tent and we woke up to find that we had chosen our spot badly. The ground around us was literally covered in sheep shit. We spent more than an hour trying to light our camp fire. We were travelling with a friend and the general consensus was 'next time we will bring fire-starters'. We lasted two days. Our three year old son had an absolute ball and we look back now on the experience with humour and fondness but wisely there has never been a 'next time'.

There are caravan parks at Jindabyne and Sawpit Creek. Sawpit is about 15 kms further on toward Perisher Valley. For a good list of camp sites  - click here.  By far the best easily accessible sites are Tom Groggin Campground and Geehi Flats.  If you like seeing wildlife you almost can't avoid seeing it at these two. 


Wildlife

Kosciuszko National Park has wild life in abundance.  Kangaroos, emus, wombats, and echidnas can all be seen in the park, especially around dawn and dusk.  For an up-close encounter with a kangaroo, head down to Tom Groggin or Geehi on the Alpine Way between Thredbo and Khancoban or try your luck in the early evening at Thredbo Diggings. We've seen joeys in their mothers' pouches many times at Geehi.





Both these photos were taken in the late afternoon at Geehi Flats


When to Go?

The season runs from November to May but autumn is undoubtedly the best time to go.  March flies and heat can be a problem in summer and the weather in spring is often cold, overcast and miserable, By early April the flies are gone and the days are crisp and clear.


How Do I Get There?

The Snowy Mountains are accessible by car and coach.  The nearest airport is at Cooma, about 1 ½ hours away by road.  The drive from Sydney takes about 5 ½ hours and about 2 ½ hours from Canberra. Coach services operate from Sydney, Canberra and Cooma.

Do I Need a Car?

If you plan to stay in Jindabyne or any of the smaller towns in and around the park then a car is essential.  You don’t need a car to stay at Thredbo but you won’t be able to explore the surrounding region without one.

Best Cycling Trails?

There are hundred of kilometres of alpine trails in the area but they are steep and rough. Cycling here is only for the super-fit. David has ridden the Cascades Trail and thought it was great. The easiest trail and one of the best if you aren't super fit is the Lake Crackenback Trail. You can take the kids on this one.  Another relatively easy ride is from Perisher along Link Rd to Guthega. It is out of the way enough that you'll hardly be passed by a car but it is not as steep as the off-road trails.

Click here  - for a list of trails.

Questions or comments.

I hope you find this helpful if you have any questions or comments I would love to hear from you.

   

20 comments:

  1. beautiful pictures! Seems to be a great place :)

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    1. Hi Sandra. Thank you. So many people only visit in winter which is a shame because it is quite lovely in summer.

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  2. SO many great memories at Thredbo. I hope to take my wee guy one day and show him Australia.

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    1. When you do take him to the top of Kosciuszko so he can stand on the top of the continent.

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  3. I LOVE the idea of nature, bushwalking, the great outdoors and immersing my children in it and away from the tech they seem cling to for very life. I wish there was a way to make it happen more easily without all the protests! Great photos. #teamIBOT

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    1. Hi Sharon. Thanks for the comment. If you could solve that dilemma parents worldwide would love you.

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  4. I was expecting something a lot more arctic looking, from the name - now I'm just jealous of that lovely summer weather.

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    1. Hi Jess. Thanks for the comment - Lol - I'm not sure the Snowy Mountains look arctic even in winter, although there is a lot more snow then. In Spring and early Summer you'll often see large patches of snow on the walk to Kosciuszko

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  5. Oooh it looks so beautiful! And that slide? I want! :D
    I have only been to Melbourne and Lorne but this place looks so good I will have to return some day.

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    1. Hi Maureen. Thank you for the comment. It is pretty in a stark kind of way but for real beauty you can't beat the Victorian side of the Australian Alps. My next post is going to be a guide to them.

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  6. I was one of the 'only go in winter' people and just discovered it this spring! Fab holiday!

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    1. Thanks for the comment. The Snowies are a great destination in summer/autumn. I hope you got good weather. We have found Spring can be a bit iffy but we were there for a couple of days this year and the weather was stunning.

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  7. It looks beautiful. Would love to get the kids there one day.

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    1. Hi Jess. It is a great place to take the kids. The village green is fantastic for kicking a ball around. There are lots of easy walks and the chairlift is a lot of fun - not cheap though unfortunately.

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  8. I totally expected there to be snow in the snowy mountains, even during the summer. I would love to go down that Alpine slide. Looks like fun!

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    1. Hi Adelina. Sometimes there is snow in summer but usually only old patches on the highest slopes. We once had a light dusting of snow on Boxing Day. The Alpine slide is a lot of fun. If you ever get the chance you should try it.

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  9. I was just speaking to my hubby about heading there for a bit of a break. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Stephanie. If you like bushwalking do the Dead Horse Gap walk or for pretty scenery walk to Blue Lake. The only problem with Blue Lake is it is a fair distance and closest point to start is about an hour's drive from Thredbo.

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  10. Sorry but your camping experience had me laughing! This sounds like a lovely area to explore in summertime though. I never really thought about it in the 'off' season.

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  11. Hi Malinda. Thanks for the comment. We have a friend who went camping in the area in the last couple of weeks of the ski season. He was cross country skiing with a group and they camped out in a snow cave. David and I wouldn't even consider it but if you know what you are doing it sounded like an amazing experience.
    As for our own camping efforts we have some great old video footage of our attempts to build the campfire.

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