Snowy Mountains Mini Road Trip: Our Family Trip to Australia’s High Country

Watching the Campfire in the Snowy Mountains
Watching the Campfire in the Snowy Mountains
Snowball Fight at Thredbo!
Snowball Fight at Thredbo!

Our children cackled as they hit me in the face with a snowball.  I quickly reciprocated the favour by setting up a rapid fire of snowballs right back at them as they quickly scattered in all directions, with their laughter and screams following behind.

During the spring school holidays we went on a mini road trip to Canberra and the Snowy Mountains.  This is the story of our visit to the Snowy Mountains, and you can see the story of the first half of our trip in Canberra Mini Road Trip:  Our Family Trip to Australia’s Capital City.

Our Snowy Mountains Trip Background

In the most recent school holidays my husband’s parents decided to visit and suggested that it would be great to visit Cooma in the Snowy Mountains near Canberra as it is a place they used to live many years ago when my husband was just starting school.

After discussing options we quickly agreed that a family road trip to Canberra and the Snowy Mountains over a 4-5 day period sounded like a good option and I proceeded to research options to create a trip itinerary and book our accommodation and other attractions.  Our three children aged 9, 8 and 5 years old were excited to discuss options for our trip, and they also influenced our decisions on what to see and do during our short time in the Snowy Mountains.

Day 4 – Road Trip from Canberra to the Snowy Mountains

That morning we had to pack up and load the vehicles to prepare to depart from Canberra and head to the Snowy Mountains.  We stopped in to see a few final sights in Canberra and to stock up on some essentials before we departed.

The road trip from Canberra to Cooma takes about one hour.  As Canberra is only a relatively small city we quickly transitioned from the urban environment into rolling hills and farmland.  After a short picnic stop for a late lunch at a road side rest stop we finally arrived in the small town of Cooma, which is the gateway to the Snowy Mountains.

Exploring Cooma in the Snowy Mountains

My husband and his family had lived in Cooma for only one year when he was in his early years of school, and they were keen to revisit their old haunts.  My husband had previously talked about his memories of Nanny Goat Hill, but I was surprised to see how large a hill existed only a short distance from the main road.

After a very steep incline we finally reached the top and to my surprise there was actually a bronze statue of a nanny goat there!  The top of the hill had sweeping views over Cooma and surrounds and was a great place to visit.  Our children enjoyed climbing to the top of stairs to the top of the hill and pretending to be in a castle.

Nanny Goat Hill in Cooma, Australia
Nanny Goat Hill in Cooma, Australia
The View from Nanny Goat Hill in Cooma, Australia
The View from Nanny Goat Hill in Cooma, Australia

After enjoying the views we then did a trip to revisit old houses, schools and churches where my husband and his family used to live.  We were in good time so were able to take a relaxed approach to re-exploring the area.

I diverted to do the grocery shopping for our farm stay while my family continued to explore further, before finally heading off for our farm stay which was located close to Jindabyne

Snowy Mountains Accommodation Issues

When we planned our visit I had a lot of issues finding an affordable place to stay in the Snowy Mountains.  I was amazed at how many accommodation options were charging a significant premium for a group of our size.  I would see an option and initially think the pricing was reasonable and then realise that that price was for only two people, and additional people were around $20-25 extra per person per day which was really going to blow our accommodation budget.

I subsequently realised that the skiing season was extended to include the early part of the school holidays but I wonder how much of the accommodation was left vacant as a result of the high pricing, as there certainly weren’t many vehicles or skiers at Thredbo on the day we visited.

After doing 3-4 unsuccessful research sessions to look for accommodation options I finally chanced across the Snowy River Cabins website and thought that I had finally found an option which was going to suit us in both size and being an affordable price.  After receiving agreement from my family I made the booking and hoped that what I had booked was going to provide us with a great family experience.

Getting to Our Farm Stay near Jindabyne

We were all excited to turn off the main road and start our trek through the dirt roads to get to our farm stay.  I was driving the lead car with my mother-in-law as the navigator with the detailed directions at hand.  We set the car’s odometer and started our journey.  As it had been a while since I had driven on dirt roads I was initially cautious, but as I became more comfortable we sped up.  The directions were mostly good, and we finally reached our turn off from the public dirt roads to the private dirt road to access the property.

Our first real obstacle came when we had to cross some planks over an obviously muddy part of a field.  After carefully easing the car onto the planks we crossed without scraping the bottom of the car too much.  And then we had to do it again over a second set of planks.  As we went along the bumpy ride I glimpsed our other vehicle out of my rear vision mirror and all I could see were three very wide grins!

Off Bitumen Driving in the Snowy Mountains, Australia

We finally reached the piece de resistance of the off bitumen road trip which was the double water crossing to reach the property.  The advice provided was that the water was at a depth of 15cm which is safe for 2WD vehicles to cross.  After some initial concern I continued forward at slow speed and was relieved to get through OK.  We stopped to watch our other vehicle also cross the water before proceeding to the property.

Snowy River Cabins near Jindabyne Australia

As we arrived at Snowy River Cabins we had to beep some cows off the road, before some friendly looking dogs came to have a look at us.  We checked in with the owner and discovered that we were the only guests for the weekend.

It turns out that the water flow is regulated by the Jindabyne Dam, which is why they can have confidence to tell people what the water depth is.  Four times per year the dam releases a larger volume of water and the river water level rises which makes it impossible for guests to get in and out, so they usually close bookings during that period.  The next water release was scheduled for the day after we were due to depart which is why there were no other bookings.

We finally headed to our cabin and were pleased to finally call it a day for driving.

We were very pleased to see our cosy cabin.  It consisted of two separated bedrooms, with additional bunk beds in the main living area.  We decided to put my husband’s parents in the double bed, our boys in the second bedroom in the bunk beds, and my husband and I and our older daughter in the beds in the main living area, so we could reasonably stagger our bedtimes.

Snowy River Cabins, near Jindabyne Australia
Snowy River Cabins, near Jindabyne Australia
Snowy River Cabins, near Jindabyne Australia
Snowy River Cabins, near Jindabyne Australia
The view from our cabin at Snowy River Cabins near Jindabyne Australia
The view from our cabin at Snowy River Cabins near Jindabyne Australia

Our cabin was great!  We had a firepit outside which we quickly lit.  There was no phone signal, internet or television so it was a great place to do a short digital detox.

Our children loved watching the fire, and helping us to cook potatoes on the coals before finally having the opportunity to melt/char marshmallows on the fire.  My daughter cobbled together s’mores using some sweet biscuits I had bought.  The cabin had a great view over the river and the hills so it was also great to watch the sunset in beautiful clear skies.

A Classic Australian Family Experience - Watching the Campfire
A Classic Australian Family Experience – Watching the Campfire

After a nice home cooked dinner we turned off the exterior lights and went for a short walk outside to see the stars.  Our children were initially a bit frightened by the dark, noting that there was no moonlight that night.  But once their eyes adjusted they realised that they could see enough to get around and not be scared, and the stars were amazing.

We all settled down to sleep having had a lovely day.

Day 5 – Day Trip to Jindabyne and Thredbo

One of our main goals for our visit was to see some snow.  While it was the end of the snow season we felt confident that there should be some snow still around, especially when we were aware that the ski season had been extended.

Visiting Jindabyne

After a late start we packed up our snow gear and headed towards Jindabyne.  Along the way we caught our first glimpse of snow covered peaks which we had not seen the previous day due to low clouds.

Our First View of the Snow Capped Snowy Mountains!
Our First View of the Snow Capped Snowy Mountains!

After traversing the river crossing and dirt roads again (although a bit faster this time!) we returned to the main road and shortly afterwards arrived in Jindabyne.  We stopped to have a look at Lake Jindabyne, which has been created as part of the Snowy Mountains hydro Electric Scheme.

Beautiful Views along the dirt road to Snowy River Cabins near Jindabyne Australia
Beautiful Views along the dirt road to Snowy River Cabins near Jindabyne Australia

Beautiful Views along the dirt road to Snowy River Cabins near Jindabyne Australia
Beautiful Views along the dirt road to Snowy River Cabins near Jindabyne Australia

False Attempt to Visit Perisher

After initially planning to visit Thredbo my father-in-law suggested that we might want to visit Perisher instead so we got moving.  Shortly afterwards we realised that we had an issue – we started to see signs which advised that to enter the Snowy Mountains National Park that we needed to be carrying snow chains, otherwise a $3000 fine could be applied.  We didn’t have chains in either car…  We reached the entry point to the national park and paid our fees and then asked what the story was, and the attendant advised us that the police had been checking, even this late in the season.  We also received advice from them that we did not need chains to go to Thredbo, so as a result we turned around and head back towards Thredbo.

Thredbo River Picnic Area

Our drive up towards Perisher was not wasted – on the way in I had spotted a small picnic area beside the Thredbo River so we decided to stop there for lunch.  It was a great spot and we were almost the only ones there.  We had a close look at the river, and my husband and our children went for a short wade in the edge of the river – they were a bit cold when they got out!

The picnic area was also the start of a larger walking track, so we went for a short walk along the path to have a look.  You could quickly see that a flood had occurred, probably when the snow melted.  There were many tree trunks and other debris in unusual places.  We pointed this out to our children and they were amazed to realise how high the water must have flowed.

Thredbo River Picnic Area, near Jindabyne Australia
Thredbo River Picnic Area, near Jindabyne Australia
Flood Remnants at the Thredbo River Picnic Area near Jindabyne Australia
Flood Remnants at the Thredbo River Picnic Area near Jindabyne Australia
Beautiful river Views near the Thredbo River Picnic Area near Jindabyne Australia
Beautiful river Views near the Thredbo River Picnic Area near Jindabyne Australia

We then got on the road again to head to Thredbo.

Experiencing the Snow at Thredbo Resort

We were relieved to find that the information we had received about no requiring snow chains for Thredbo was correct.  After parking the cars, changing into our cold weather clothes we decided to purchase a ticket to catch the chairlift to the top of the Thredbo Resort area.

The main chairlift at Thredbo runs all year round and can be used to shorten the walk to Australia’s highest peak of Mt Kosciusko.  I had been interested in doing the Mt Kosciusko walk, however there was still too much snow for us to realistically make an attempt.  We decided instead to have a look at the view and find a place to do some snow play with our children.

On the Chairlift to the Top of Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains Australia!
On the Chairlift to the Top of Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains Australia!

The snow was already well melted – only the top third of the surrounding mountains still had natural snow, and snow making equipment had obviously been used to maintain the main trails down to the bottom of the chairlift.

Views from the top of Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains Australia
Views from the top of Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains Australia

After initially being a bit scared our children then settled in for the long chairlift ride to the top of the mountain.  We finally got cold enough to put on our gloves and beanies as we neared the top.

Views from the top of Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains Australia
Views from the top of Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains Australia
Views from the top of Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains Australia
Views from the top of Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains Australia

After admiring the view we then caught the chairlift back down and then caught a second chairlift to the recommended snow play area.  When we reached the top there was a great area for us to play, and we had a lovely family snowball fight using the mushy snow.  Our children really enjoyed running around and taking each other and us out with snow balls!

Family Snowball Fight at Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains Australia

After returning to the bottom we rendezvoused with my husband’s parents and indulged in well-earned (and super expensive!) hot chocolate drinks and hot chips.

We were happy that we had mostly dressed them for the snow as we each have ‘not so fond’ memories as children of visiting the snow and not being dressed correctly, and freezing as a result.  Upon returning to the car we got all of the children changed into their dry clothes (yes, another lesson learned from when we were kids!) and departed to head back to our farm stay.

After a much faster trip again down the dirt roads we arrived back at our cabin and had dinner and settled down quickly after our big day out.

Day 6 – Road Trip from the Snowy Mountains to Sydney

After so many great experiences it was finally time to pack up and head for home.  After loading our two vehicles we stopped close to the river to play on our host’s playground equipment and to play with their dogs.  We finally got going for the long drive home, which was a trip consisting of 458 km/5:07 hrs.

Playing With the Dogs at Snowy River Cabins near Jindabyne Australia
Playing With the Dogs at Snowy River Cabins near Jindabyne Australia

On the way from Canberra to Cooma my husband had noticed that there was a huge Bredbo Christmas Barn and had suggested that we stop and have a look on our way home.  I have never seen such an extravagantly decorated Christmas shop – the number of colour schemes available and on display were amazing!

Bredbo Christmas Barn between Cooma and Canberra Australia

We had a relatively uneventful drive, with the only ‘excitement’ being on the highway out of Cooma when a stone flew up and succeeding in causing a big crack in my windscreen.  We did a brief stop in Canberra to check whether the windscreen would be OK for the rest of our trip home, and after being assured that it would be fine we then kept going.

We stopped in at Lake George for lunch – yes it is a lake but without much water at the moment!

Lake George near Canberra Australia
Lake George near Canberra Australia

We were pleased to finally arrive home by mid afternoon after having such a busy trip away.

Road Trip Reflections

We all really enjoyed our family road trip to Canberra and the Snowy Mountains.  We had a really diverse range of experiences, and while we would have liked more time to explore we felt like we had a great trip.

As I write this it has been six weeks since we completed our trip, and our children regularly mention how they really enjoyed particular elements of the trip.  I think overall it was just great for us to get away as a family with Grandma and Granddad and spend some time together outside our normal home environment.

If you are thinking of doing a road trip I strongly recommend both the Canberra and Snowy Mountains areas.  We really enjoyed exploring both areas and I am sure you will too.

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Have you visited or are thinking about visiting either Canberra or the Snowy Mountains?  Please share your thoughts below.

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