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Driving From Canberra to the Australian Alps

A Guide to the Australian Alps

Canberra may be best known as home to the nation’s capital, or for its proximity to the famed Australian Alps—but in truth, it is an excellent year-round destination for weekend road-trips. There are national parks — including Australia’s tallest peak, limestone caves, and, of course, the ski slopes. Whether you’re searching to get the most out of your Australian Alps trip or are looking for some itinerary ideas, VroomVroomVroom has you covered.

If you’re going to hire a car to explore the area, it’s best to get a 4WD (SUV) as the Snowy Mountains Highway doesn’t do the region justice. As there are plenty of destinations to experience, allow at least a weekend to explore the area.


Brindabella National Park

A short drive from Canberra, Brindabella National Park offers a remote alpine bush experience. Following scenic roads to the west of the Brindabella Ranges, you’ll find wilderness in both state forests and national parks. All are home to magnificent natural wonders, native wildlife and unique geological features.

A quirkier feature of the region is the many Australian National Alps Huts. Often these little markers tell part of the story of the challenging settlement of the area and all reflect the community philosophy of the Alps. These huts are left unlocked and have a store of matches and firewood so stranded travellers have the resources to survive a cold winter night. If you’re trekking, for safety reasons fill in the log book so that your movements can be traced. The huts are a free service, so be respectful and follow the guidelines if you decide to use one.

Directions:

  • From Canberra, head west along Uriarra Road to Brindabella Road, which will take you to the southern edge of Brindabella National Park.
Highlights:
  • Panoramic views, walking, and fishing.
  • The Brindabellas welcomes wanderers for an out-of-this-world idyllic alpine adventure.

Yarrangobilly Caves

Accessible by the Snowy Mountain Highway as well as Bimberi Road, are the Yarrangobilly Caves. These spectacular limestone caves in the northern reaches of Kosciuszko National Park form a part of the Yarrangobilly River Valley’s rugged gorges. You can do your own self-guided tour or join a group and learn more about the formation and features. Yarrnagobilly is also home to thermal pools which you can swim in. Bubbling away at a toasty 27 degrees year-round, don’t forget to pack your bathers.

Spectacular camping grounds (with fresh water available at many) dot the area. There are also walking tracks, swimmable waterways and plenty of photo opportunities. Make sure to get your map from Canberra Tourism before you start out.

Directions:

From Cooma, turn right onto Snowy Mountains Highway then left into Yarrangobilly Caves Entrance Road. Follow the one-way unsealed road. The Yarrangobilly Village is about 7.5km north of the Yarrangobilly Caves Entrance Road.

Highlights:

  • Tour six caves formed in a belt of 440 million year old limestone in Koscuiszko National Park.
  • The largest cave, South Glory, offers a remarkable chance to explore on a self-guided tour. Visit other caves including Jersey and Jillabenan on a guided tour. These run three to four times daily. Purchase your tickets at Yarrangobilly Caves Visitor Centre.

Lake Jindabyne

Lake Jindabyne foreshore in Australia

Jindabyne is one of Australia’s favourite ski destinations but also a shining star in the warmer months. Formed by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, the artificial lake receives its biggest water flow during the early-spring melt. The flow makes for terrific trout fishing, sailing, windsurfing, and kite boarding.

There is so much to see and do in the warmer months that the best idea is to hire a 4WD, grab a map, and hit the road. Remember to always tell someone where you’re going, and carry plenty of supplies and safety gear.

Directions:

From Canberra, take the Monaro Highway to Cooma. This road then connects to the Kosciuszko Rd which you follow through Berridale and on to Jindabyne.

Highlights:

  • Go sailing on Lake Jindabyne near the Snowline Caravan Park.
  • Try water skiing on beautiful Lake Jindabyne.
Thredbo and Mt Kosciuszko

Landscape with river Snowy in Mt. Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales, Australia

While many associate Thredbo with skiing, the area is a terrific year-round destination for families. Its proximity to Mt Kosciuszko makes it a favourite destination for mountain climbers and bikers, and the Kosciuszko Chairlift is great for photographers. Stop for a cup of tea or some lunch at Australia’s highest restaurant, take a walk on the historical trail, or try a spot of fishing.

Directions:

The Kosciuszko walk starts at Thredbo Village in Kosciuszko National Park. From Jindabyne, follow the Kosciuszko Road, turn left onto Alpine Way, then follow it until you turn right into Thredbo Village.

Highlights:

  • Walking to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko is a must-do.
  • See glacial lakes and colourful alpine meadows on the climb to Mount Kosciuszko.

Snowy Mountain Horse Treks

The romantic image of the horsemen of Snowy River is an integral part of Australian literary history and culture. For a fee, you can join the real horsemen of the Snowy Mountains for a guided trek through the rugged terrain. You’ll gain insights into the local Indigenous communities, astronomy, camping with a semi-traditional swag, fishing, and environmental protection. More comfortable accommodation options are available around the ski fields as many of the resorts are open year-round.

Directions:

Snowy Mountains Airport is a 45 minute drive from Jindabyne and provides direct services to Sydney.

Highlights:

  • Enjoy Thredbo Valley Horse Riding — a premier horse riding experience for both adults and children
  • Tour the Kosciuszko National Park.

This is some of Australia’s most wildlife-rich, environmentally diverse territory. As the saying goes, take only pictures, leave only footprints, and enjoy your trip!

Winter Activities
Visiting the Snowy Mountains in winter? There is no better time to enjoy winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, snow-tubing and more in one of Australia's most scenic settings. The Snowy Mountains feature four ski resorts: Thredbo, Perisher, Charlotte Pass and Selwyn Snow Resort. If you're new to skiing, you can also choose to take skiing lessons at the resorts. If you’re travelling to the area in winter, you might find out article on alpine restrictions useful.