At little more than two hours’ drive from the national capital, the Snowy Mountains are an iconic part of Australia, and ought not be overlooked as a getaway destination.
An area of both historic and literary significance, the Snowies were immortalised in bush poet Banjo Patterson’s 1890 poem The Man From Snowy River – the full text of which can be read in microscopic type on today’s $10 notes.
But there’s much more to the story than that.
In the mid-20th century, the Snowy Mountains became known as the site of one of Australia’s earliest and most innovative renewable energy projects: the post-Second World War Snowy Hydro scheme.
In 2016, the scheme was added to the Australian national heritage list, and Snowy Hydro still provides nearly a third of all renewable energy available to the eastern mainland grid.
While history buffs will find much to marvel at in the Snowy Mountains region, the area also offers some of the nation’s best outdoor adventure opportunities.
ACT residents can easily do a day-trip to the alpine region. For those who live in neighbouring states, it’s worth remembering the Snowies are close enough to be considered a worthwhile long-weekend trip.
When I visited the area for the first time in September, I was surprised to discover that the mountains were still covered in snow, with skiing, snowboarding, and snow-shoeing in full swing.
Indeed, spring could be the perfect season to experience the region – enjoy the blue skies, sunshine and strolling in the wilderness, then wend your way up the mountains to take in the views, inhale the crisp mountain air, and try your hand at snow sports.
The Snowies are home to some of Australia’s premier skiing spots – big-name resorts Perisher and Thredbo – so those looking to slice through some fresh powder won’t be disappointed.
When summer arrives and the snow melts, the Snowies – which boast Australia’s tallest peak, Mount Kosciuszko – offer spectacular hikes. From December through to March is the ideal period to visit for both walkers and mountain bike riders, with alpine wildflowers in full bloom.
The Mount Koscuiszko summit walk can be completed along a 13-kilometre return journey – or the 18.6-kilometre alternative for those who feel up to it. There are plenty of picturesque picnic spots along the way. Visitors to Kosciuszko National Park can also explore caves and swim in thermal pools.
However, if it’s luxury and relaxation rather than physical exertion that you’re after, modern dining, entertainment, and accomodation options are just a short drive from the slopes.
The stay: Boutique luxury at Tinkersfield
At the foot of the Snowies in Crackenback is the charming country haven Tinkersfield.
Covering about 800 hectares, the property was once home to a post-office and timber field, but has been transformed into its sumptuous escape by former-hotel stylist Sonja Schatzle and chef Warren Hickey.
Guests stay in ultra-glamorous corrugated-iron cabins – the luxury version of “how cattlemen used to live”.
Tinkerfield is popular with wedding parties as well as weekenders, and it’s easy to see why – dining in the main hall, with its huge windows looking out across the tranquil surrounds, is a delight.
There’s a cornucopia of food, with produce sourced locally wherever possible, and watching the chefs work in an open kitchen that features multiple wood-fired ovens is part of the experience in itself.
From furnishings to fittings, everything at Tinkersfield has been cleverly repurposed from discarded or otherwise unwanted items. This includes the ceilings, which are lined with old fridge panels, and buildings made using pre-fab sheds originally intended to house troops in the Vietnam war.
That resourceful, DIY ethos inspired the property’s name.
“We’re tinkerers,” Sonja says.
“It shows what you can do with stuff that no one likes.”
The writer travelled to the Snowy Mountains as a guest of Mazda.