Apart from the obvious snowfields in winter, Kosciuszko National Park, NSW offers lots of sights and activities in the summer months.
With the warmer months fast approaching, a beach and ocean excursions sounds a great idea, but how about thinking outside the box and visiting the mountains instead?
The Snowy Mountains in NSW are breathtaking at any time of the year. They include Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko (2229m), which falls within the mighty Kosciuszko National Park. This 690,000ha park is the largest in the Snowies and indeed in the whole of NSW.
The ski resorts of Thredbo, Perisher Blue, Charlotte Pass and Selwyn snowfields all lie within the park and are at their busiest during the snow season, but Thredbo in particular has much to offer during the less-busy summer months as well. At this time of year you can embark on any of the myriad walking tracks within the national park and even climb the great mountain itself.
TOP OF AUSTRALIA
Kosciuszko National Park began life as the National Chase Snowy Mountains in 1906, became the Kosciuszko State Park in 1944, and then received its national park status in 1967. There are numerous well-preserved stone huts formerly used by drovers, and a history of gold mining is evidenced in the ghost town of Kiandra high on the plane.
We found an ideal base at Kosciuszko Mountain Retreat, a short drive north-west of the town of Jindabyne – a large town good for stocking up on supplies. The retreat itself is wonderfully isolated, and with free firewood for your campfire beside the caravan, staying warm under the stars and among the natural alpine bush surroundings is a simple delight – up this high, evening temperatures are always a bit chilly even in summer.
A few miles up the road are the ski resorts of Perisher and Charlotte Pass, which are very quiet in summer. Continue to the end of Kosciuszko Road where you can begin the walk to the top of Australia.
Anyone with a good level of fitness can reach the summit. The walk is 18km return and there are decent rest spots en route. You pass through snowgums, heath and herbfields, and are treated to views of the Main Range and the Snowy River.
There is also a 21.5km circuit combining the Main Range Walk and the Summit Walk, crossing the Snow River and taking in four glacial lakes. Perhaps foolishly, this was the route we took, and although very rewarding, we needed good fitness and plenty of time! The delight at reaching the monument on the summit of Kosciuszko was well worth the effort.
Thredbo offers a slightly easier way up Mount Kosciuszko. The chairlift in the resort town operates year-round, and from the top of this, it’s only a 13km round trip to the summit via an elevated walkway.
There are also guided walks around Thredbo, including a Kosciuszko Sunrise tour for the early risers, and far shorter trips for those not keen on the trek to the top of Australia.
If you decide to climb Kosciuszko, don’t forget to take enough food and water for a long day out (no little cafes up here!). These higher areas can have their own weather systems, so prepare for cold, windy and wet weather even if it looks fine when you set out.
Thredbo itself is a great town to visit in summer. We were amazed at how busy it was (perhaps something to do with a country music festival that weekend) and how excellent the available activities were. For thrill-seekers, the Cannonball Run involves taking a mountain bike to the top of the chairlift and making your way down a trail that drops 672m.
There’s a 50m swimming pool, tennis courts, Australia’s highest golf course, fly-fishing, horse riding, white-water rafting and rock climbing. A 700m metal bobsled track winds its way down the mountain, or if you fancy a good view, the 15-minute one-way scenic chairlift offers a relaxing yet exhilarating journey.
If you’re travelling to the northern end of Kosciuszko NP, the Yarrangobilly Caves are a string of limestone caves well worth a visit. They are set in the deep gorges of Yarrangobilly River and feature stunning decorations and a natural thermal pool at a constant 27°C – don’t forget your bathers.
Swimming is also possible at mighty Lake Jindabyne, a huge body of water that was created by damming the Snowy River as part of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
Water-skiing and sailing are popular here, with all the equipment available for hire, while the lake has a reputation as one of the best places to catch trout in Australia. It was the site of the 1999 world fly-fishing championships, highlighting the quality you should expect here.
All these activities might have you feeling tired just reading about them, but the real bonus for caravanners are the incredible sealed road routes and the diverse, spectacular scenery that you can enjoy from the comfort of your tow vehicle. Simply base yourself in a caravan park, unhitch the van and get touring.
Top suggestions would be the Alpine Way from Jindabyne to Khancoban, the Snowy Mountains Highway between Tumut and Cooma, and the Elliot Way from Tumbarumba to Cabramurra. If you’ve always fancied a driving holiday in the European Alps, these routes offer stunning landscapes to challenge such overseas offerings.
The aforementioned Kosciuszko Mountain Retreat is the only caravan park actually within the park but there are alternatives just outside it.