Canberra and the Snowies: A 6-day road trip adventure

Sunset over Lake Jindabyne. © Robbie Duncan, No Bad Days Photography

Start your trip in Canberra with its natural beauty and close proximity to adventure and lifestyle activities. After immersing yourself in Canberra’s walks, forests and feasting, drive south towards the stunning Snowy Mountains (affectionately known as the ‘Snowies’). At any time of year, the wonders of this country area will test your adrenaline levels and engage your senses.

Day 1: Enjoy Canberra City, Outdoors and Indoors

You will need to be suitably fuelled for a big day, so drop into Penny University in Kingston. A local favourite coffeehouse, you can choose a scrumptious brunch of green eggs and ham or a tasty Pialligo hash. There are many dairy-free and gluten-free options available, too.

Drive 10 minutes to arrive at the glorious Australian National Botanic Gardens; you really won’t believe you’re so close to the city. A serene experience, you can take a number of self-guided walks or join a tour. The misty Rainforest Gully is especially gorgeous. Join the Flora Explora shuttle on a 45-minute expedition around the grounds.

Pick up a delicious and equally artistic picnic hamper from Schmicnics and drive up to Dairy Farmers Hill – a lookout with 360-degree views set above the National Arboretum Canberra. You can sit on the lookout deck to devour your treats. 

The Arboretum is an extraordinary place, with no fewer than 94 forests made up of rare and endangered trees from Australia and more than 100 other nations. Wander freely along the paths or explore the National Bonsai and Peijing Collection, which includes a Yokoso Niwa (Bonsai Welcome Garden), Niwaki pines and a 165-million-year-old fossil in the form of a petrified tree stump.

Now it’s time to take your adventure indoors. Head to the industrial suburb of Fyshwick where you’ll discover BlocHaus Bouldering – think rock climbing, but with shorter walls and a cushy mat below. If you work up a thirst pop next door to Capital Brewing Co. for a refreshing local ale. 

A short drive back into the city for dinner at popular Lazy Su in Braddon is a must. A fusion of Japanese, Korean and American styles, it is a fun, loud and delicious dining experience.

Relax for the evening at Hotel Realm, offering five-star luxury within walking distance to Parliament House and the busy Barton precinct. Packages are available and parking is underground.

Day 2: Canberra’s Natural Tracks

Centenary Trail, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory © VisitCanberra

Rise early because the best way to see Canberra’s stunning scenery is at dawn from a hot air balloon or a stand-up paddle (SUP) board on Lake Burley Griffin. The Paddle Hub hires SUP boards and kayaks in the warmer months.

Head to Highroad in Dickson (a popular choice for coffee lovers) for a full-bodied Ona coffee and omelette in the airy and modern indoor or outdoor setting.

Now it’s time to drive to the start of the 145-kilometre (90-mile) Centenary Trail. For a great taster, try the One Tree Summit trail, which is nine kilometres (5.5 miles) return – about a three-hour walk. Drive to the little village of Hall, pick up some picnic supplies from Daughters at Hall, then walk north along Victoria Street to start your hike

If you still have some energy left, on Canberra’s western outskirts and just 15 minutes from the city centre, is Stromlo Forest Park, home to more than 50 kilometres (31 miles) of mountain biking trails, plus the Handlebar Café. If you’re a beginner, get started at Holden’s Creek. For hardcore cyclists, there are black diamond runs available. Hire a mountain bike fit for your skills from Cycle City. For those interested in the natural surroundings, you can take a walk or even ride a horse on the equestrian trails.

Return to Canberra’s city and head to Sage Dining Rooms for a fine-dining experience – try the five-course degustation menu option. But first, how about a pre-dinner drink in the heritage gardens surrounded by fairy lights? Return to your Canberra accommodation for a well-earned night’s sleep.

Day 3: Canberra to Jindabyne

Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory © VisitCanberra

Start your morning with breakfast at Ritual Café (open Monday to Friday). Set in the bottom of the Little National Hotel, the café offers a range of simple, tasty options and delicious coffee. On the weekend, try a Blue Swimmer Crab omelette from Maple + Clove.  

Spend your morning exploring the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, a couple of minutes’ drive from Barton. This national icon tells an inspiring and clever story of Australian democracy through the decades. Join a 10:45 am guided tour to help separate the political stories from the facts.

Enjoy a delicious and speedy lunch at local favourite Sammy’s @ the foreshore in Kingston; their mouth-watering Shan tun chicken and Sammy’s kitchen special are must-trys. 

Next, drive south from Canberra towards Cooma along the Monaro Highway. On your arrival in Cooma, head up the hill to the headquarters of shopping mecca, Birdsnest.

Finish your time in Cooma with a look through history at Cooma gaol museum in Vale Street – it provides an interesting overview of 200 years of punishment and crime.

On your way to Jindabyne, take a detour via Berridale and Dalgety. Shut the Gate Winery has an extensive wine list and friendly faces, plus a gorgeous grocery offering locally sourced produce. Turn left to Dalgety and take in the stunning Monaro plains before stopping at the Dalgety Microbrewery and Vineyard to say hi to Bart and Liz. Try their onsite-brewed beer, which is mixed with pure Alpine water from the Snowy River.

Now it’s time to head into Jindabyne – the gateway to the Snowies. Enjoy a light dinner of quesadillas and margaritas at Cocina Mexican Grill & Cantina in the Jindabyne Town Centre.

About 15 minutes from the town of Jindabyne is the ultimate country getaway at Moonbah Huts. These little beauties at the foot of the mountains offer the best escape from busy living. Snuggle up by a warm log fire or sit on the veranda to listen to the birds.  

Day 4: Introducing the Snowy Mountains

Lake Crackenback Resort, Snowy Mountains, New South Wales © Tourism Snowy Mountains

Wake to the fresh country air. Drive into town for breakfast at Birchwood with a daily specials board bursting with flavour and creativity.

Hire bikes from Gravity Jindabyne and ride out to Hatchery Bay – passing through cattle grazing paddocks – or some of the other trails around Mill Creek for sensational views of Lake Jindabyne.

Return your bikes and drive 11 minutes towards the Kosciuszko National Park and stop into Wild Brumby Schnapps Distillery, an absolute must-do for any road trip to the Snowy Mountains. Beyond their award-winning schnapps, vodka and gin, the meals are tasty and satisfying. Finish off with one of their alpine desserts or a Schnappygato.

Drive a little further up the mountain to Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa – a great place to stay, centrally located to all the attractions and nestled along the shores of the Thredbo River. You can spend the afternoon being pampered in the day spa or try one of the numerous in resort activities – archery, golf, tennis, or trout fishing, to name a few. Or simply sit back in your luxury chalet and relax. The Resort’s Cuisine Restaurant & Bar looks over Lake Crackenback with stunning views and locally inspired dining.

Day 5: Thredbo Thrills

Thredbo MTB, Snowy Mountains, New South Wales © Tourism Snowy Mountains

In the depths of winter or the relative warmth of summer, Thredbo is an adventurer’s paradise.

Start your day with an Australian Akubra bush hat on your head (actually, a helmet) and ride like The Man from Snowy River with Thredbo Valley Horse Riding. This is a special way to experience the essence and history of the Snowies among the sub-alpine wilderness.

You can then head into Thredbo Village – an alpine town set at the base of the mountain. Keep in mind, to enter the Kosciuszko National Park you will have to pay for a pass. For some fun and frivolity, enjoy lunch at Bernti’s Brasserie & Grill

Depending on the time of year, the Thredbo Valley Track is great for those up for another mountain bike riding adventure (you can even ride all the way from Jindabyne to Thredbo – and back). Or take the chairlift to the top and walk to Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko.

In winter, you can ski the longest runs in Australia or snowshoe to the ‘roof of Australia’. There are skiing and snowboarding lessons available plus a wide variety of terrain to suit all levels.

Keep some energy in reserve to embrace the nightlife in Thredbo Village. From pubs, bars, live music, as well as many regular events, this place has a lively soul all year round.

Stay at the cosy Thredbo Alpine Hotel, which is central to all of the village’s restaurants, bars and activities. It is often the meeting place for special events and festivals. Head to Cascades Restaurant for a pleasant meal surrounded by that exceptional view. 

Day 6: Snowy Mountains Highway

Thredbo Village, Snowy Mountains, New South Wales © Tourism Snowy Mountains

Wander through the Thredbo Village Square for some boutique alpine shopping and drop into the Central Road 2625 for breakfast and a piping-hot coffee.

Start your journey back from Thredbo to Jindabyne and then head towards Adaminaby on the Snowy Mountains Highway – this will take you about an hour and a half. Time for another coffee or snack from Adaminaby’s Bake House near the impressive 10-metre tall Big Trout.

Speaking of trout, this is the place to learn how to fly fish, so organise a lesson with Adaminaby Angler Col Sinclair. Within 30 minutes you’ll be ready to face two of the best stone trout rivers in the region.

Head back into town for a good dose of Thai or bistro food from the Snow Goose Hotel

Now drive on to the golden plains of Kiandra, which was home to a huge, yet brief, Gold Rush in the 1860s. You can take a self-guided walk around the Kiandra township beginning at the courthouse, with helpful signs highlighting the history as you go.

Drive another 40 minutes to lovely Talbingo, a country town with incredible mountain scenery. Rug up and head below ground into Yarrangobilly Caves to discover stalagmites, stalactites and other natural cave ‘decorations’. There are six caves to explore. 

Finish your adventure with another friendly stop and a final road trip ale at the quaint Talbingo Country Club.

This article was written by VisitCanberra. For more information about road trips in and around the Australian Capital Territory, go to visitcanberra.com.

Back to Stories