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Whenever I tell people that Australia has snow-capped mountains, they are shocked! Australia is home to so many diverse landscapes, why not add snow-topped ski resorts to that list?
The Snowy Mountains, or The Snowies as we call them in Aus, are an adventurer lovers paradise.
They have the highest peaks in the country, are lined with adventurous trails for hiking, or skiing, and even boast some magnificent caves and hot springs. Needless to say, there are plenty of things to do in The Snowy Mountains.
One of the best ways to explore the mountains in all their magnificence, is on a Snowy Mountains Drive, starting from Yarrangobilly and finishing in Jindabyne.
This drive encumbers all of the sites that make the Snowy Mountains famous. So when you’re ready, let’s take a look at the things to do on the Snowy Mountains drive…
Where is the Snowy Mountains?
The Snowy Mountains are Australia’s highest mountain range in Kosciuszko National Park and a popular tourist destination NSW.
They are located 49km from Sydney and 151km from Canberra.
What is the best time to visit Snowy Mountains?
When most people plan a trip to the Snowy Mountains they are usually heading straight to Thredbo or Perisher for some skiing action in the winter.
And I don’t blame them, it’s one of the best winter holiday destinations in Australia! While June to September is the perfect time to visit the Snowy Mountains for ski season, it’s not exactly the best time to go driving. After all, who wants to worry about getting stuck in snow?
It’s time to rethink about the Snowy Mountains as only a winter holiday; it’s a fantastic destination in the summertime. From December until February, you’ll be met with clear blue skies, warm weather and bright green plants and flora.
It’s the perfect time of year for a Snowy Mountains drive or getaway.
We loved experiencing this region during our trip to the Snowies in October. We recommend spending at least a week to appreciate the drive fully.
Stops on the Snowy Mountains Drive
Now you know a little bit about when to visit the Snowies, it’s time to start mapping out the Snowy Mountains Drive itinerary. Below are all the suggested stops and attractions to visit, as well as a list of things to do on the Snowy Mountain Drive.
Stop 1: Yarrangobilly Caves
Yarrangobilly is in the northern part of Mt Kosciusko National Park and is well worth exploring. It’s most famous for its caves, but it also offers a quiet nature retreat with some lovely river walks and nature trails to explore..
We highly recommend staying the night in the Yarrangobilly Caves House and exploring the nearby caves and take a dip in the outdoor thermal pools.
From here, you van take a tour of the Jersey Cave, the North and South Glory Hole Caves, and walk the easy 3km Yarrangobilly River Walk. If you’re lucky, you might even see some platypus playing in the waters here.
Press play to see the beauty of the Yarrangobilly Caves:
The Long Plain Drive
From Yarrangobilly take a day trip out to the Long Plain Drive. The Long Plain Drive is only open after the October Labour Day for the warmer months.
It’s a unique Australian drive that extends for 49.6km and is also frequently used by cyclists and those towing caravans, so be careful when you drive along here.
The drive takes you up through the mountains, overlooking vast plains and gorges, and is one of the best scenic drives. But don’t just stay in the car, stop off to see…
Stop 2: The Wild Brumbies of the Long Plain Drive
The barren plains of the Long Plain Drive stretch for miles and amongst the small rolling hills you are almost guaranteed to see wild brumbies. These are a group of wild horses who roam the plains of the Snowies.
We saw mobs of them along the drive, but they are more visible in the open areas.
Stop 3: Check out the Murrumbidgee River
Make sure you stop to visit the humble beginnings of the Murrumbidgee River, Australia’s third biggest river and second longest river.
Along the river, you’ll find rich and diverse environments. The river is not only used as a source of water for much of NSW, but it also feeds into the valleys and creates the lush landscape you see around you.
There is only a small sign indicating the river, so keep your eyes out for it or you might easily drive past it. It looks like this…
Stop 4: Coolamine Homestead
Drive a little further along the Long Plain Drive, through small pockets of mountain ash and smoky gum forests, and visit the Coolamine Homestead.
Coolamine is a heritage homestead, and offers a rare glimpse into isolated ranch life of the early 1900’s.
Hop out of your car and walk around the property and old farm buildings – decide if you think this could have been the life for you!
Stop 5: Clarke Gorge walk
Again, the Snowy Mountains will surprise you with its diversity and beauty. Clarke Gorge is not much further on from Coolamine Homestead.
It is a 2.5km return walk through a narrow gorge cut by Cave Creek. Spectacular limestone cliffs and cave formations on either side lead you to Cave Creek Falls.
The landscape is dotted with snow gums and black sallee, and vibrant yellow billy buttons. There are about six small creek crossings on the walk, making it a fun adventure the kids will love.
Alpine Way Drive
After exploring the Long Plain Drive, head back to Yarrangobilly, and take the Snowy Mountains Highway to the Kiandra – Khancoban links road, and drive through breathtaking mountain forests.
This is the beginning of the Alpine Way Drive.
You can see reminders of Kozzi’s gold-seeking past, as well as dams used in the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.
We stopped at Khancoban for lunch before taking a couple of hours to enjoy the Alpine Way Drive, a spectacular drive that takes you through tall mountain forests and past snow-capped peaks all the way to Jindabyne.
It was the first time we saw snow in Australia and were so excited! We stopped off in Thredbo for five nights to enjoy some summer time fun.
Stop 6: Thredbo
Relax in this beautiful alpine village and enjoy all it has to offer in the warmer months. The village is best known for being the gateway to the Snowies ski resorts, and in the winter, it becomes part of the Perisher Ski Resort, one of the top ski resorts in Australia.
The resort extends are far as Perisher Valley, Smiggin Holes, Guthega, and Mount Blue Cow, which makes it the largest ski resort in the Southern Hemisphere.
But in the summer, skiers and snowboarders can swap their skies for bikes and go mountain biking instead.
We recommend checking out the YHA Hostel in Thredbo as a place to stay. Since the village is small, it’s not so easy to find accommodation, especially on a budget in such a popular resort area.
During the winter it has ski in/ski-out facilities but in the summer it offers bike rentals and has a place to store your bikes.
Be sure to wander around the Thredbo Village Square, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the mountain views.
Stop 7: Climb Mount Kosciuszko
If the weather is in your favour, a climb to the top of Australia’s highest peak is very achievable. Take the Kosciusko express chairlift to Eagles Nest and follow the board walk to the rounded peak. It’s a 13km return.
You won’t believe you have reached one of the highest summits in Australia!
Alternatively, you can walk the 4km return to The Charlotte Pass Lookout. This was as far as we got with the girls, as the conditions were unfavourable with strong winds, low temperatures, and snow on the peaks.
Colourful, wildflowers carpet the area during the summer time, making it that extra bit special.
Stop off at the Eagles Nest restaurant (Australia’s highest restaurant) for a gourmet hot chocolate before taking the chair lift back down.
We recommend spending the afternoon bobsledding down the mountain and exploring the area by bike. There are plenty of mountain biking trails (which are slopes in the winter).
If you are really adventurous, you can bike down the mountain. We preferred the gentler rides along the river through the bush.
We stayed at the YHA Thredbo, which is a great budget option. You’ve got to love the views from the deck.
Stop 8: Wildbrumby Schnapps Distillery
Why not toast to the wild brumby you just saw on the long plains at this fabulous distillery owned by an Austrian couple.
The meal we had at the Wild Brumby Schnapps Distillery was amazing-hearty mountain food – and included the best hot chocolate I think Craig and I have ever had.
The distillery is not only a great place to see mountain views, but it also has a large variety of schnapps, which if you’re not familiar with, is a flavored alcoholic spirit which is actually quite low in alcohol content.
Our visit was of course, topped with some schnapps – peppermint for me and Butterscotch for Craig – the perfect accompaniment to alpine living.
On the list of flavors to try are peach, butterscotch, Pink Lady apple, or if you’re feeling adventurous, chilli-infused “Devil’s Tongue”. If you don’t like schnapps, they also serve gin and vodka.
Stop 9: Jindabyne
You know you want the Man from Snowy River horse-riding experience. I think it’s in everyone’s secret dreams.
There are numerous horse riding companies to choose from that can be found on the periphery of the park, near Jindabyne. We took our daughter for an afternoon pony ride.
It’s no wonder she thought the Snowy Mountains was the best part of our trip around Australia so far.
There are also bike trails around the lake and beautiful views to be found as you head north on the Kosciuszko Rd.
We also recommend the Little Thredbo walk that starts at the Lake Crackenback.
For a longer walk combine it with the Bullocks Track walk to Thredbo Diggings. It snowed while we were on this walk – such an exciting moment to share with the girls.
Here is the moment we saw snow:
After the thrill of driving through the mountains, why not stop for some refreshing craft beers?
Not only can you enjoy some delicious beers from Jindabyne Brewing but you can also sit out on the balcony and enjoy incredible views over the mountains.
Stop 10: Dalgety and Snowy Vineyard and Microbrewery
Head over to the small township of Dalgety for a quiet countryside escape. Walk around the town and the nearby windy plains, or walk along the banks of the Snowy River.
The town is famous for being surrounded by granite outcrops and grasslands, a similar setting you might find in Lord of the Rings.
Be sure to stop by the Snowy Vineyard and Microbrewery for some delicious homecooked food and to enjoy drinks from their beer garden.
Stop 11: Eucumbene Trout Farm
Stop off to try you hand at trout fishing at one of the best trout fishing holes in the area. If you’re lucky, you can even prepare your freshly-cooked catch for lunch.
Stop 12: Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre
While most of the stops on this drive have been nature stops, why not finish off with something educational?
You can learn about renewable energy and hydro power at the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre. See how for the past 70 years, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme has operated.
There are many different tours and experiences at the Hydro Discovery Centre, so be sure to check online to see what’s happening before you go.
Map of The Snowy Mountain Drive
To help you navigate your way along this drive, here is a map of the route to take and the stops to visit…
Final Thoughts on The Snowy Mountain Drive
So there you have it, those are the top things to do do in the Snowy Mountains and the stops you should take on the Snowy Mountains scenic drive.
As you can see, there is so much for to the Snowies than just skiing! We hope this guide helped you plan your trip and gave you some inspiration for what to do in the Snowy Mountains.
What are your tips for enjoying a Snowy Mountain drive? Where’s your favourite road trip in Australia? Let us know in the comments!