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On a mostly dry and flat continent, nothing says challenge like the snow-clad and mountainous Australian Alps.
The Alps span New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Victoria and embraces 16 national parks and reserves. Ride a mountain bike along contour-hugging trails, bushwalk to a heritage hut or horse ride along gentle alpine tracks. Fly fish in the streams and lakes, go white water rafting, run or four wheel drive along mountain tracks to character-filled country pubs. Cross-country ski amongst the snow-gums or try the wide range of downhill ski slopes at the various ski resorts. Hike part of the Australian Alps Walking Track or take in the range-upon-range mountain views driving the Great Alpine Road.
Five ways to experience the Alps:
1. In New South Wales: Snowy Mountains for skiing and summer adventure
See glacial lakes, snowgum woodlands and colourful alpine meadows on the climb to Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s tallest peak. At the top you’ll find a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with 20 species of plants found nowhere else in the world. In winter, hit Australia’s highest ski slopes at Charlotte Pass or carve up the snow at Thredbo and Perisher Blue. In summer, hike past fields of snow daisies, alpine buttercups, billy buttons and other wildflowers. Don’t miss the show of autumnal leaves around Tumut, the place to explore the huge stalactites and thermal pool of the Yarrangobilly Caves. Fish for trout from the clear streams around Tumbarumba and historic Cooma or throw your line in Lake Jindabyne. Adventure beckons across the Snowies, but Jindabyne is a great base for cycling, caving, rafting, kayaking, four wheel driving and horse riding.
2. In Victoria: a High Country of powder and historic mountain towns
Ski or snowboard at Mount Hotham, Australia’s powder capital, or on the steep slopes of the winter playground of Falls Creek. Tackle winter sports, biking or four wheel driving at Mount Buller and marvel at Mount Buffalo’s unique granite beauty. Drive up to Mount McKay for some of the region’s best mountain vistas or bike, horse ride and cross-country ski on Mount Stirling. Go fishing, houseboating and waterskiing at Lake Eildon. Bike ride the Muscat Trail to wineries fringed by gum trees in Rutherglen and feast on fresh berries, cheeses, chestnuts, chutneys and trout in the Alpine Valleys. See the courthouse where Ned Kelly stood trial in the historic gold rush town of Beechworth and old cattle huts in the Bogong Plains. Or base yourself in Bright for walking, cycling and easy access to snowfields and gourmet delights.
Namadgi Ranges, Namadgi National Park, ACT
3. In the Australian Capital Territory: bushland, breathtaking views and rich Aboriginal history
Climb or abseil the granite rock outcrops of Booroomba Rocks in Namadgi National Park. Then mountain bike along the fire trails or bushwalk into the Bimberi wilderness. Four wheel to the top of Mt Coree, fish from trout-filled streams and cross-country ski the winter slopes. You’ll see kangaroos, wallabies and northern corroboree frogs in amongst the snow-gum woodlands, wetlands and wildflower-cloaked plains. Explore the campsites, ceremonial stone arrangements and rock art sites left by the Ngunnawal people thousands of years ago. In nearby Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, you can visit the 21,000-year-old Birrigai Rock Shelter and Bogong Cave, where tribes once gathered to harvest bogong moths. Then trace the trail of pastoralists and gold hunters and visit the memorial at the Apollo space tracking station at Honeysuckle Creek.
4. On the Australian Alps Walking Track
Wind through the high country of Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory on the challenging 650 kilometre Australian Alps Walking Track. Start in the old gold-mining town of Walhalla in Victoria and climb up past the cattlemen’s huts of the Bogong Plains, the snowfields of Mount Wills and Falls Creek and the rugged Viking-Razor-Howitt peaks. Scale Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest peak, before entering Namadgi National Park and finishing at Tharwa near Canberra. On the way you can fish in Kosciuszko National Park and canoe the Snowy River and upper reaches of the Murray River. Horse ride in the Snowy River National Park and go caving at Yarrangobilly Caves near Tumut. Hit the ski slopes from Mount Hotham to Mount Selwyn. You can walk the track in ten weeks or tackle shorter sections such as the Baw Baw plateau, Bogong High Plains and the Jagungal wilderness.
Great Alpine Road, VIC
5. Driving with mountain views
Travel from Wangaratta in Victoria’s north-east to Bairnsdale in the heart of Gippsland on the Great Alpine Road. Wind past the Rutherglen wine region, the alpine resort of Mount Hotham and the vast Gippsland Lakes on Australia’s highest sealed road. Stop to bike ride near the scenic town of Bright, sample local food and wine in the Rutherglen and ski or bushwalk in Alpine National Park along the way. Or travel the Alpine Road from Jindabyne to Khancoban on a scenic 350-kilometres round trip through New South Wales and Victoria. See towering Alpine Ash trees at Clews Ridge and take in an unforgettable view of Mount Kosciuszko at Scammel’s Spur lookout. Spot wild horses at Dead Horse Gap and pass through the pretty alpine resort of Thredbo. Finish on the shores of Lake Jindabyne, where you can go yachting, boating and trout fishing.
More Holiday Ideas
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Challenge yourself in the mountainous Australian Alps in south-eastern Australia. Climb Mount Kosciuszko, Australia's tallest peak, in the Snowy Mountains. In Victoria's High Country, hit the snow slopes or visit gold-rush towns on the Great Alpine Road. Bushwalk and mountain bike in Namadgi National Park, near Canberra, or walk the alps end-to-end on the epic Australian Alps Walking Track.
Travel from Melbourne through the Australian Alps to the lakes, beaches and national parks of Gippsland. Stop in Milawa for cheeses and Rutherglen for wine. Horse ride and mountain bike in Mount Buffalo National Park. Connect to gold-rush history and the legend of Ned Kelly in Glenrowan and Beechworth. Ski on Mount Hotham or walk through spring wildflowers on the Bogong High Plains. Canoe down the Mitchell River and swim, fish and surf on Ninety-Mile Beach. On Australia's highest accessible sealed road you can feast on fresh produce and fish, cycle, ski, climb or ride every step of the way.
Cross three states, four national parks and some of Australia's highest peaks on this tough long-distance walk. The trail follows the crest of the Australian Alps for 65km, from Walhalla in Victoria to Tharwa just south of Canberra. Wind up and down the Baw Baw Plateau, Mt Howitt, the Bogong High Plains and the Cobberras in Victoria. Traverse the rugged mountains of Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales and the rocky wilderness of Namadgi National Park near Canberra. Pitch your tent in the wilderness, stay in camping grounds, historic huts or alpine resorts close to the track. Do day treks or combine shorter, more manageable sections of the trail. The end-to-end walk takes about 50 to 60 days and is strictly for the intrepid traveller.