The Snowy Mountains is a dream destination for the weekend motorbike rider, offering roadside retreats, stunning views and, of course, plenty of twists and turns.
Keen to pull on the leathers, wheel out the sports or touring bike from the garage at long last and hit some twisty tarmac to blow away the cobwebs? Then forget about winding coastal roads – some of the best windy-road itineraries in NSW twirl around the High Country of the Snowy Mountains.
The good news is that this stunningly beautiful alpine region features plenty of off-the-radar attractions. Swing by the Yarrangobilly thermal pool, for instance, to take a dip in the warm waters. Culinary entrepreneurs have also arrived with an exciting venture within Nimbo Fork Lodge north of Tumut. Check out these itineraries below and see which one revs your engine.
First up is a 68km ride along the Snowy Mountain Highway, passing Blowering Dam. Pull in at The Pines campground if you want to marvel at this reservoir that’s three times the size of Sydney Harbour. It’s famous as the setting for the world water-speed record, set in 1978 by Ken Warby who hurtled along this dammed section of the Tumut River in his jet-powered boat, Spirit of Australia, at a speed of 511.1km/h. His record still stands today.
Another option for reaching Yarrangobilly from Tumut is to ride via the Goobragandra Powerline Road – it winds through tall forest and a tricky-at-times river crossing. This route (gates are locked June to October due to snow) will add 45min to the journey but could be worth it for the challenges involved.
Allow time at Yarrangobilly for exploring some of the six caves fashioned from a stretch of limestone laid down about 440 million years ago. You can explore the largest, South Glory, on a self-guided tour, but other caves such as Jillabenan can only be toured with a guide. Afterwards, stroll to the stunning spring-fed thermal pool to lounge in its soothing waters, which clock in at 27°C year-round.
Fifteen minutes’ ride south is Kiandra, once a bustling gold town on the alpine plains. All you can see of that era today are the cemetery, chimneys, cottages, dams and mullock heaps. It’s also remembered as the birthplace of Australian skiing. From here, take the Link Road to reach Goat Ridge Road. Enjoy the buzz of its stupendous corners as it switches into Elliott Way. This much-loved alpine shortcut was closed in 2020 following storm damage, but it’s set to reopen in May 2021. Take Tooma Road, stopping for a peek at Paddys River Falls, before reaching Tumbarumba. The final stretch back to Tumut can be travelled via Batlow, famous for apples and home to the Weemala Lookout.
Tumut Loop: where to eat, drink & stay
North of Tumut is Nimbo Fork Lodge – stay in the main lodge or a luxe riverside cottage, and dine at the latest outlet in the Three Blue Ducks culinary empire. In Tumut itself, head into Tumut River Brewing Company to sample what’s on tap and a gourmet pizza (the Snowy Mountains smoked trout with a sour-cream base is a winner; breakfast hangover rolls are also available). Near Tumbarumba is the much-awarded Courabyra Wines. The cellar door does tastings (the sparkling is a standout and a worthy souvenir) and serves regional produce platters. Tumbarumba is home to the wonderful Nest – a cafe that also houses a 25-seat cinema and bookshop.
It’s 52km to Adaminaby home of the Big Trout (obligatory selfie stop here). Next, sweep past Providence Portal and dip into Kosciuszko National Park to reach Cabramurra, which claims to be one of Australia’s highest towns (it remains closed following the 2019-20 bushfires). Push onwards to the picturesque lakeside town of Khancoban, leaning into some glorious bends and noting the changing vegetation as you descend in elevation along the way. Once you arrive, check out Khancoban Pondage, a pretty lake that’s part of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme.
Larger Loop: where to eat, drink & stay
In Cooma, book accommodation early – the town is buzzing with workers for the Snowy 2.0 Scheme. Try your luck at the Altair Motel. Khancoban is home to several accommodation options, including the 36-room Khancoban Alpine Inn, Khancoban Lakeside Caravan Park, cottages and units. If you decide to push further south along Alpine Way, you can spend the night at set on the banks of the upper Murray River, within cooee of Victoria. From here, you can stretch the legs by striking out along a section of the Bicentennial National Trail.
It’s also the springboard for hiking to Australia’s highest point – Mount Kosciuszko. Continue along the Alpine Way to Jindabyne, stopping to admire the view across the lake, before making a final push across the stark Monaro Plains to finish back in Cooma.
Returning to Cooma: where to eat, drink & stay
There’s no shortage of accommodation options in Thredbo. Try the historic Thredbo Alpine Hotel, which channels the Euro alpine vibe nicely. It also houses The Local Pub where you can down a cold one on Thredbo’s largest balcony. At Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa in the Thredbo Valley, stay the night or pop in for a meal in front of the cosy stone fireplace at the Alpine Larder Cafe.
A few kilometres down the Way is Wildbrumby Schnapps Distillery, home to a cafe, a sculpture garden and, most importantly, a working distillery that uses local fruit. This is the place to tuck into hearty European fare such as schnitzel, goulash and dumplings. Finally, back in Cooma, reminisce about one hell of a motorbike trip over a strong brew at The Lott Cafe, which prides itself on its coffee. Fill up with a feed that showcases local fare, such as the gravlax bruschetta, using in-house cured salmon, or pancakes with stewed seasonal fruit.