How to have the perfect family winter long weekend in the Snowy Mountains
When the mercury drops, the Snowy Mountains start to heat up. Whether you’re carving up the slopes or soaking in thermal pools, here’s the ultimate way to spend a long winter’s weekend with your family.
The Snowy Mountains region of southern NSW is beguiling year round, from its wildflower-strewn spring meadows to its boulevards of autumnal colours. But it’s at its most ravishing when the snow starts to fall, dusting Australia’s highest mountain range and its winter sports resorts in white.
When your family’s legs are snowshoed, tobogganed, snow-tubed and boarded out, refuel on truffles and trout, schnapps and hot chocolate, then stretch and soak and rediscover life on the land at welcoming farm stays.
Ski, snowboard, snowshoe and toboggan at a winter resort
Stay on a working farm, replete with friendly animal residents
Soak in warm thermal waters at Yarrangobilly Caves
Savour paddock-to-plate freshness at Crackenback Farm
The Snowy Mountains region is closer to Canberra than to Sydney, but nonetheless, the scenic four-hour drive south from the NSW capital can be part of the adventure. Your epic road-trip takes you through the mist-draped villages of the Southern Highlands, skirting Lake George and passing Canberra before arriving in Cooma, the largest town in the Snowy Mountains. This is the start of the legendary Kosciuszko Alpine Way, a 170km route carving through the range toward Khancoban, with Australia’s loftiest peak (Mount Kosciuszko) your backdrop.
DAY ONE: SATURDAY
Discover farm-fresh winter produce
DAY ONE KEY FACTS
Macenmist Black Truffles and Wines is located at
230 Cappanana Road
Bredbo NSW 2626
A four-hour (370km) drive from Sydney
Plan on arriving in Bredbo, just north of Cooma, by 10.30am so the kids can meet Fahren and Tawdiffu, the pair of adorable dog mascots that race around the grounds of Macenmist Black Truffles and Wines. The winter months are prime season for black Périgords, and the estate’s sharp-nosed pooches will help you hunt them out where they grow, at the base of oak trees. After the kids have proudly dug up a few nuggets of the prized, aromatic fungus, sit down with your hosts to enjoy a three-course lunch laden with your unearthed treasures.
Continue onto Cooma for a reviving caramel milkshake or Snowy Mountains Coffee at Kettle & Seed, which also sells fluffy warm doughnuts to take away (if you can fit anything else in).
Once you’re sufficiently refuelled, set out on the Kosciuszko Alpine Way with your GPS set for Jindabyne, gateway to the high country’s major ski fields of Perisher, Thredbo and Charlotte Pass.
First stop in town is to pick up supplies at The Market, a cafe and provedore selling hyper-local produce, including handy hampers – the ‘Taste of the Snowies’ variant is packed with Margaret’s Kitchen jams and pickles, Market Made protein balls and Avonside Alpine Estate eggs. Starting tomorrow morning, you can collect the latter yourself – Avonside is your base for the next two nights.
This postcard-perfect working farm nurtures 400 chickens, wide-eyed Highland cattle and Southdown baby doll sheep, which big and small members of the family can meet while you explore the orchard and veggie gardens. The two- and three-bedroom guest cabins here are completely off-grid (renewably powered) and self-contained, with Scandi-chic furnishings and outdoor firepits for marshmallow-roasting.
Channel the European Alps at Bacco Italian Restaurant, a long-time Jindabyne favourite in a wood-panelled dining room reminiscent of a chalet. The kitchen prepares the kind of food you crave after a long day inhaling fresh alpine air – think spaghetti tutto mare with Moreton Bay bug, king prawns and squid; or pizza topped with grilled Vienna sausage and mushrooms – perfect for the kids!
DAY TWO: SUNDAY
Pull on your beanie and lace up your ski boots
DAY TWO KEY FACTS
Birchwood Cafe is located at
3 Gippsland Street
Jindabyne NSW 2627
A 15min (22km) drive from Avonside Alpine Estate
Jindabyne’s Birchwood Cafe takes its coffee seriously. While you sip an Axis Roasters blend with a Nourish Bowl, make sure to order hot chocolate, pancakes and grilled Vegemite and cheese on toast for the kids – they’ll need the fuel for their big day on the slopes. Check in at 8.30am for a few hours of snow shoeing through backcountry with K7 Adventures, whose guides offer an off-piste taste of Thredbo along the Ramshead Ramble route, and of Perisher along Porcupine Rocks.
Take your pick of the region’s three snow resorts for an afternoon of skiing and boarding. Thredbo’s 50-plus runs include the longest in the country, not to mention terrain parks and Australia’s only mountain gondola – a scenic ride for both skiers and non-skiers, replete with Merritts Mountain House at the top for a hearty late lunch (and cheeky glass of wine).
Perisher and its surrounding snowfields, meanwhile, comprise the largest alpine resort in the southern hemisphere, with runs for all experience levels across 1,245 hectares. This expanse also includes five terrain parks, half-pipes, cross-country trails, and fields for tobogganing and tubing on the designated slope beside Perisher Valley Car Park on Pipers Ridge. Here, Tube Town – accessed via the Skitube at Bullocks Flat – has specially groomed lanes for a high-speed ride and a lift back to the top.
And finally, there’s Charlotte Pass, only accessible via over-snow transport from Perisher. The exclusive entrance means that when you arrive, you’ll largely have Australia’s highest snow resort to yourself.
Pull off your boots in time to warm up at Wildbrumby Distillery, the glühwein or baked-apple schnapps the only tonic you need to gain a rosy glow. Let the kids loose in the sculpture garden before you drive on to Jindabyne Brewing for hot chips and a Kiandra Golden Ale, brewed using hops grown on the southern side of the range.
In a valley between Jindabyne and Thredbo, Crackenback Farm also comes with a guesthouse. But you don’t have to be checked in to enjoy a paddock-to-plate meal in the restaurant. Book a table by the open fire, and order generous plates of French farmhouse-style fare, whether twice-baked cheese souffle or oxtail pie with red wine jus. The kids will love the hot chocolate mousse for dessert.
DAY THREE: MONDAY
Nurture body, soul & stomach
DAY THREE KEY FACTS
Jindabyne Yoga Shala is located at
12 Thredbo Terrace
Jindabyne NSW 2627
A 15min (22km) drive from Avonside Alpine Estate
Leave the kids with dad and stretch snow-weary limbs in a hatha class at Jindabyne Yoga Shala, before grabbing coffees, hot chocolates and cinnamon doughnuts to take away from Nimmitabel Bakery, the aroma of freshly baked pies and sourdough warming the room.
Check out of Avonside, and drive north to Eucumbene Trout Farm, where you can learn to fly fish in the private lake or hire a rod so the kids can try their hand at catching sustainably farmed rainbow trout – a local delicacy. You can take your catch home, or cook it up on barbecues with garlic butter and a side of chips.
Another 1.5hr drive north leads you to Yarrangobilly Caves, a necklace of astonishing limestone stalactites and stalagmites hundreds of thousands of years old. Take the three-kilometre Yarrangobilly River trail loop to reach a natural thermal pool that’s 27°C year round – perfect for a quick dip, even when surrounded by snow, before continuing your journey back to Sydney.