These campsites are a destination in themselves where you can happily read a book and listen to the rush of a river for hours, but if you feel like a little action you can always use the extensive recreational facilities at Lake Crackenback Resort with the purchase of a day pass. At $10 per person it’s great value, giving free rein on the nine-hole golf course, archery, disc golf, canoeing, trampolines, low ropes course, tennis courts, and loads more.
You’re deep in the heart of The Man From Snowy River country here, which makes it a really appealing option to mount your own horse and take a scenic trail ride through the beautiful Thredbo Valley. Anyone from complete beginners to experienced riders can have a go.
This ski resort village pumps even in summer, with dozens of kilometres of hiking and biking trails, a 700m alpine bobsled track, two chairlifts and a gondola accommodating sightseers, hikers and mountain bikers, plus a nine-hole golf course and tennis. After a day playing on the mountains, grab a bite at The Local Pub or, if there is an event on, the Alpine Bar is a great place to grab an alfresco drink while sitting around the fire pits and listening to live music.
Thredbo is one of Australia’s best biking destinations with cross-country and downhill trails, a skills park and skills clinics. The new 3.2km Sidewinder trail is ideal for beginners wanting to roll with gravity on a gentle rollercoaster from the top of Merritts Gondola through some beautiful terrain. If you don’t have your own steed, you can rent one.
Just cruising the village loop on an e-bike is a great way to soak up the views — but if you really want to stretch your legs, try the Thredbo Valley Track which meanders 35km along the banks of the Thredbo River and through open grasslands and eucalyptus forests between Thredbo and Jindabyne (avoid the eastern end unless you’re an advanced rider).
The Snowy Mountains are often touted as one of the best bait and fly fishing destinations in New South Wales, and its pristine rivers and lakes are regularly topped up with rainbow and brown trout by NSW Fisheries.
In fishing circles Lake Eucumbene is one of the most popular, and it’s huge with gnarled fingers reaching across 145 square kilometres. The surrounding landscape is pretty barren but has its own appeal, and a couple of camping areas around the shore allow plenty of room to spread out and enjoy your own patch. On the southern point, Buckenderra Holiday Village covers 100 acres of bush and campers are able to set up right on the 8km of shoreline. At the western edge, Braemar Bay Holiday Park is another good choice and has a boat ramp.
In such a huge lake, places to drop a line are abundant — but a few top spots include James Creek Inlet, Big Tolbar Inlet, and Anglers Reach. Summer is when you’ll find the most fish, although in winter they’re larger and closer to the surface.
At 1200m, temperatures can get pretty fresh at Lake Eucumbene all year round (snow can fall in summer!). It’s pretty isolated, so go prepared with everything you need. Cooma, a 25-minute drive away, is your closest town for food resupply.
Braemar Bay, Lake Eucumbene is a popular spot
Officially the largest town in the Snowy Mountains, Cooma has all the services you’d expect from a regional base but probably its biggest attraction is the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre, which is actually much more interesting than it sounds. Much of the region was built on the back of The Snowy Scheme, a project that began construction in 1949 and attracted workers building towns and infrastructure, and creating the lakes that so many now flock to.
The visitor centre does a great job of explaining the history of what was a hugely ambitious engineering feat and why it’s often credited with being the launching pad of multiculturalism in Australia — of the 100,000 workers needed, 60 per cent were migrants from more than 30 different countries. There’s loads of memorabilia, including photos from the construction period, old equipment and personal stories of the workers who came from far and wide, bringing their food and culture with them. It’s also pretty cool to see live data (aka ‘scheme intelligence’) on the workings of a system that encompasses nine power stations, 16 major dams, and 145km of tunnels.
On your way there from Jindabyne, drop in at Shut the Gate Wines in Berridale, a super cute and leafy cellar door which is not only bursting with tasty wines but also lots of gourmet food and pre-packaged meals to go.
Although it is 34 kilometres from the nearest ski run, there’s a definite ski town vibe in ‘Jindy,’ perched on the shores of Lake Jindabyne. It’s friendly, compact, and easily walkable. Timber and stone buildings are full of cosy bars, cafes and outdoor shops bulging with fishing tackle, snow gear, mountain bike accessories and outdoor clothing, and you’re never far from beautiful views of its sprawling cobalt lake backed by rolling hills.
Situated 400m lower than Lake Eucambene, Lake Jindabyne is a more appealing (read, warmer) option if you’re looking to do some water skiing, kayaking or jet skiing, and the fishing is great too. Several campgrounds let you set up within a stone’s throw of the water’s edge.
With fishing being such a draw for the region, a visit to nearby Gaden Trout Hatchery makes for an enlightening visit where Atlantic salmon, brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout are bred to stock the region’s lakes and rivers. From tiny fingerlings to lively big fish in the brood stock ponds, visitors get to understand the hatchery’s operations on a guided tour and maybe pick up some wood-smoked trout on the way out.
If good food matters, a visit to Wildbrumby Distillery, a 10-minute drive from Jindabyne, is a must. Here you can sample some award-winning gin and schnapps with flavours like Pink Lady apple, butterscotch and sour cherry at the Distillery Door, or settle in for a leisurely meal at the indoor/outdoor cafe. Wildbrumby has been known to host artists in residence, and their expansive sculpture garden makes for a lovely amble.
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of knowing you’re the highest person in the entire country. The scenic Kosciuszko Road used to go from Jindabyne all the way to the top, but in 1976 it was cut short to finish at Charlotte Pass so now you need to walk or ride a bike the remaining distance if you want to summit. A fairly gently climbing gravel road goes most of the way (18km return) or, if you’ve got the ener›y, a far more spectacular option is to hike the 22km Main Range loop which undulates past some stunning alpine lakes and mountain views en route to the summit.
Another alternative is to start in Thredbo and ride the Kosciuszko Express chairlift to 1930m from where you can walk the remaining 7km to the summit at 2228m. If you’re going to explore these alpine trails, be sure to check the forecast and go prepared for all weather conditions. You can easily go from t-shirt to rain jacket and beanie and back again in a day, and getting scorched by the alpine sun is a real possibility.
A far less well-trodden option is to take a half day guided walk from Charlotte Pass with Snowy Mountains Walking Company to Mt Stilwell and the ruins of the old Thredbo Chairlift. In the 1960s, it was the longest chairlift in the world until it closed within two years when it became evident that strong crosswinds were making operations unfeasible. Few would discover this pretty walk filled with wildflowers and twisted snowgums without a guide, and ‘Didj’ is a real character and hugely knowledgeable on the history, flora, and geolo›y of the region.
Any which way you explore the roof of Aus, you’ll end up on a high.