The southern New South Wales alpine region is great for skiers in winter but have you been in the spring sunshine? Now it’s a wildflower-speckled adventure paradise for hikers, mountain bikers, wine lovers and anyone searching for a fun holiday with kids. A five-and-a-half hour drive south of Sydney, the Snowy Mountains and their lush valleys are ready to play. Here’s where to stay, eat and explore…
Hike and bike scenic trails
Snow still clings to the slopes but sun-yellow billy buttons and purple eyebrights are bursting out in technicolour around Kosciuszko National Park. “The Thredbo Valley Track that follows the river between Thredbo village and Jindabyne is my favourite in spring,” says Ruth Kennedy from K7 Adventures, which can organise bikes, guides and picnics along the trail. “The scent of native herbs and snow gum is incredible. It’s 36 kilometres all up but you can do sections: the first 10 kilometres is mellow and family-friendly, then you get into fun switchbacks and short climbs.”
Prefer hiking? The exhilarating nine-kilometre Guthega to Charlotte Pass walk, opened in 2022, takes about three hours (it’s the first section of the 55-kilometre, multi-day Snowies Alpine Walk set for completion in 2023). Accessible only by cross-country ski until October, the landscape bursts into life in late spring as trees reemerge from the blanket of snow at the top of the world. See Spencers Creek swell with melting ice as you cross Australia's highest suspension bridge and stop awhile to dip your toes.
After a hike, soothe your body and soul in the waters of Yarrangobilly Caves thermal pool, hidden 90 minutes’ drive north-west of Cooma. After a short-but-steep walk from the car park you’ll discover a sparkling 20-metre pool that cascades into a kids’ wading area. Fed by an underground natural spring, the mineralised waters hover at a blissful, tension-melting 27 degrees Celsius year-round.
Taste wine country in bloom
The Tumbarumba wine region, nestled in the western foothills of the Snowy Mountains, is at its prettiest as veraison (colour change in grapes) signals the upcoming harvest. Time can slip by easily as you sip award-winning sparkling and eat parmesan-crusted barramundi at Courabyra Wines. If you’ve brought the family, kids will be happy in the winery’s playground while you savour the long, golden afternoon.
… and eat with epic view on the side
For a three-cheese toastie and an eyeful of the Snowy in all its glory, hitch a ride up on the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift at Thredbo to Eagles Nest, Australia’s highest restaurant. From here, it’s a two-kilometre walk to the Mount Kosciuszko Lookout or a 13-kilometre return trek to hit the summit of Australia’s highest peak itself. The Market in Jindabyne is the top spot for coffee and casual organic bites (the locally smoked trout bagel is a springtime favourite) when you’re driving around the valley instead.
After a mountain adventure, little is more satisfying than pulled pork burgers or woodfired pizzas from Lake Crackenback Resort’s Alpine Larder. A shot of pink lady apple schnapps at high country distillery Wildbrumby might be one of the only exceptions.
Stay in a dream cabin
Couples seeking escape can’t go past Crafters Cabin, a 10-minute drive from Jindabyne. Located on five hectares of pristine bushland, this is the ultimate off-grid bolthole with a fireplace, an outdoor tub with uninterrupted views of Thredbo Valley and a kitchen for cooking in.
Equally luxurious but more country-cute in execution, Nimbo Fork Lodge, which lies at the top end of Kosciuszko National Park between Gundagai and Tumut, has 11 well-situated suites and cottages, while the onsite Three Blue Ducks restaurant serves farm-to-table fare such as Gundagai lamb rack with caponata, rosemary and lemon salt for dinner.
The best stay for the family? The three-bedroom Barn das Holzhaus chalet set apart within Lake Crackenback Resort is the high-end dream, with access to the resort’s heated pool, tennis courts and trampolines. The lower key Creel Lodge overlooking Lake Jindabyne sleeps up to eight.
Image credit: Eugene Tan (Thredbo Diggings Camp and Yarrangobilly Hot Springs); Destination NSW (Courabyra Wines); Thredbo Resort; Destination NSW/Crafters Cabin (Nimbo Fork Lodge and Crafters Cabin).