Mt Kosciusko; unique alpine and montane environments; Snowy River country; high country cattleman's huts and other historic sites; wildflowers; trout fishing; summer vegetable and berry picking; winter snowfields; Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.
WHAT TO DO
Day walks and extended hiking, trekking with pack llamas; white water rafting, canoeing and kayaking; bike riding; horseback trekking and trail riding, cross-country and downhill skiing; annual music, riding, and heritage festivals; experience Australian pioneer history.
HOW TO GET THERE:
From Sydney: Straycat, Greyhound Pioneer. From Melbourne: Straycat, Countrylink Coach/Rail. From Canberra: Countrylink Coach, Greyhound Pioneer, Murrays (Jun-Oct). Countrylink Coach service also connects Bega, Merimbula, Eden to Cooma and Canberra via Snowy Mountains Highway.
WHERE TO STAY
Cooma, Jindabyne - range of backpacker and budget accommodation; Thredbo - YHA and other budget accommodation; Dalgety, Adaminaby - pubs, caravan parks, farmstay.
"He hails from Snowy River,up by Kosciusko's side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough;
Where a horse's hoofs strike firelight from the flintstones every stride,
The man who holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horseman since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen."
-"The Man From Snowy River" A.B. "Banjo" Patterson.
Cooma is just about at the geographic centre of South East New South Wales. From here, you can connect to the mountains at Jindabyne, Thredbo, and Adaminaby, the New South Wales coast at Bega, Merimbula, and Eden, the Victorian coast at Cann River, passing through Bombala on the way, and Canberra.
Cooma has the main Visitor Information Centre for the Snowy Mountains region, and is a good place to stop while you decide what to do next. It has a good shopping centre, with camping supplies and good clothing and second hand shops if you need to pick up any bits and pieces before heading on. An overnight stop in Cooma is usually needed to make bus connections to the mountains.
Just north of Cooma there is a large vegetable grower that takes pickers from December through to June. You must agree to stay at least six weeks to be accepted. Check your visa requirements. Cooma has several good budget places to stay. Check the directory at the back of this guide for more details.
South of Cooma, just past Dalgety, is a budget farmstay that offers hands-on experience of life in the high country. The old shearer's cottage where you will stay is very cosy, and there is plenty to do around the farm. You'll get a warm welcome, and the chance to be involved in whatever work is happening around the farm at the time. Pick-ups from Cooma can be arranged.
Also near Cooma is the village of Numeralla, that has an annual folk festival on the Australia Day weekend in January. The festival brings together local talent from all around the region. Dance your socks off into the night with bush music that brings alive the spirit of the mountain people. A little further east the Tuross River tumbles down from the top of the escarpment through a magnificent gorge on the edge of the Wadbilliga wilderness. Access to the Cascades campsite on the Tuross River is limited to 4WD vehicles.
Further south on the Monaro Highway is Bombala. It is an old timber town, untouched by tourist traffic. On an evening or early morning stroll down to the Bombala River you are certain to see platypus feeding in the clear water. Several new national parks have been declared in the Bombala region. These conserve stands of old growth and tall eucalypt forest, and have been fought over by greens and loggers for many years. The National Parks and Wildlife Service has recently produced a new touring map covering the whole of the South East Forests, and if you have a car or can join a tour, these forests are well worth exploring. Just over the border into Victoria, the Errinundra Plateau has stands of myrtle and cool-temperate rainforest that are unique on the Australian mainland.
Heading west from Cooma takes you into the mountains. On the Alpine Way, the Greyhound Pioneer service goes through to Thredbo which is a good base to explore Kosciusko National Park. Thredbo is an alpine resort village that has things going on throughout the year. There is a YHA, and other budget accommodation is available. Many activities in the mountains can be booked at Thredbo, including white water rafting on the Upper Murray, mountain bike touring through the mountains, trail riding, and horseback trekking from the cattle station at Tom Groggin. The chairlift from Thredbo takes you up on to the Main Range for walks to The Ramshead and Mt Kosciusko. No matter what the season, you need to be aware that weather conditions can change very quickly in the mountains, and that conditions may be different on the exposed areas of the range. Always be prepared for cold, wet, and windy conditions. Be aware of other park users, and make sure you know and practise the Minimal Impact Bushwalking Code. For more information, contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service in Jindabyne.
Kosciusko National Park includes both the highest peaks and biggest wilderness areas in the Snowy Mountains. A wide variety of wonderful plants and animals surround the glacial lakes and alpine meadows of the park. The mountain pygmy possum and the corroboree frog, as well as many plants, occur nowhere else in the world, and the mountains are home to over 150 species of birds. There are many marked walking trails and tracks. Some walks traverse superb montane forest, creeks, and waterfalls, and you are likely to get glimpses of wildlife. Others include glacial lakes and alpine meadows. From Walhalla in Victoria to Canberra, the Alpine Walking Track covers 655km of ridges and high plains through Australia's unique alpine, sub alpine, and montane environments. In Kosciusko National Park, a marked trail through the Jagungal Wilderness section will lead you into part of this special country.
Car based camping is available at 23 sites within the park. Walk-in remote camping is also OK. Some alpine camps are being loved to death, and sites may be difficult to find during the Christmas and Easter periods. Please do the right thing, and follow signs and restrictions. If there is a permanent fireplace, you may light a fire, but use only dead wood that is lying on the ground. Some campsites have no rubbish collection, so be prepared to take your rubbish with you, after all, if you carried it in, you can easily carry it out. Where there is a toilet, please use it. If there is not, waste and paper should be carefully buried at least 100m from any water. Take a spade and cover your waste well to discourage animals. This protects your health, and the health of the streams and lakes. Carry your own water, as many streams in the park are not suitable to drink unless boiled first.
When remote camping, you will need to be properly equipped, including tent, good maps, a compass, and the skills to use them. Always use a fuel stove when remote camping. Huts are for emergency use only. Do not rely on finding or staying in a hut. If you need to use a hut, leave it clean and restocked with firewood. Most huts have historic value, so please protect them. Keep fires small, and carefully put the fire out when you leave. Never walk alone, and always tell someone reliable where you are going, and when you plan to be back. Mostly, enjoy safe walking in this magnificent national park. Get detailed information from the National Parks and Wildlife Service in Jindabyne.
Jindabyne is good spot to use as a base to explore the mountains. There is excellent budget accommodation and plenty to do right in town. Lake Jindabyne has sailing, boating, and lake cruises. Paddy Pallin and Wilderness Sports are both in Jindabyne, and they can get you up into the mountains for extended walking in wilderness areas, white water canoeing and kayaking on the Snowy River, rafting, trail rides, mountain bike tours, abseiling, and more. Jindabyne is also a pick up point and a base for the Canberra company River Runners. If you want to do your own thing, there is a shuttle bus company in Jindabyne that has special drop-off and pick-up trips for walkers. In winter, cross country skiing is the best way to explore Kosciusko National Park. There are one day trips, and longer guided expeditions, exploring the Jagungal Wilderness.
When the spring snowmelt off Kosciusko transforms the mighty Murray River, you can take off on the white water. The Murray descends off the mountains through alpine country between Tom Groggin and Khancoban. At first, the gentler rapids meander through alpine forests, before the river descends into the unforgettable Murray Gates Gorge. Then there is the exhilarating rush of six kilometres of continuous rapids, including "The Wall", "Shark's Tooth", "Hole in the Head", and "Roller Coaster". Near the end of the gorge, the river gradually eases, allowing time to enjoy the spectacular alpine wilderness all around you. There are one day and overnight rafting trips available.
West from Cooma, along the Snowy Mountains Highway, are several working station properties which maintain large stables. Among those who live and work with horses daily, you can have the chance to experience a vanishing lifestyle, learning to handle horses from people who really know. These local people know every track and path, and can lead you back to a bygone era of bullockies, billycans, and bulldust. These properties run horseback treks ranging from an hour's trail riding to a week sleeping under the stars. You need no previous experience to be able to enjoy learning to be in charge of a well trained horse before hitting the trail. Equally, expert guidance and willing mounts with lots of heart will have you riding like never before. Pick-ups from Cooma or Jindabyne can usually be arranged for groups.
If you like walking, but not carrying all that gear, guided treks accompanied by pack llamas start from Lama World, not far along the highway from Cooma. Make friends with these endearing animals on a mountain hike. Also out this way is Coolamine Homestead, one of the very early settlements in the mountains, and Tumut 2, the only underground power station open to tours in New South Wales.
Along the Snowy Mountains Highway is the town of Adaminaby. The Snowy Mountains have a rich settler heritage. Near Adaminaby, you can stay on a family property established generations ago, and gain an understanding of the lifestyle of early settlers. Guided by the people who grew up with their pioneer heritage, you can study the architecture, building methods, tools, and technologies of a past age. From Adaminaby, you can explore any of dozens of stockmen's huts, mining sites, sawmilling sites, and other examples of European and Aboriginal occupation and industry, often wonderfully preserved by the snows of winter.
Beyond Adaminaby in Kosciusko National Park are the Yarrangobilly Caves. Tracks at Yarrangobilly Caves offer you both guided tours and self-guided exploration of caves, and Yarrangobilly Gorge. There is also a naturally heated thermal swimming pool.
You will need to be resourceful with transport to get out to Adaminaby and beyond. A local bus operator, Gordon Burgess, does run on request for groups, and you may be able to pick up a ride. Check at the Tourist Information Centre. Alternatively, school buses are available for use by the public, but of course they only run in school term time. Mail bus services can also be useful. Hiring a car for a while is also a very good option for exploring the area independently.
There is so much that is worth checking out in the Snowys, take a bit of time and do some careful planning to get the most out of the whole area.
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