Twist and turn along the Kosciuszko Alpine Way for a journey steeped in mythology and untold adventure.
The Kosciuszko Alpine Way spectacularly snakes its way up and over the Snowy Mountains, the highest section of the Great Dividing Range, through magnificent landscapes of mountain forests mythologised by Banjo Paterson.
Steeped in intrigue and a storied history that stretches back millennia, this iconic NSW road trip is a well-trodden path. Every summer for thousands of years, Aboriginal people would cross tribal boundaries and travel the Alpine Way to the high country to meet for corroborees, trading, marriages and more, and to feast on bogong moths.
More recently, it was used as a drover’s stock route and for the literally groundbreaking Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme that you’ll learn about en route. And although it’s only just over 100 kilometres in length, squiggling between Jindabyne and Khancoban near the Victorian border, the Alpine Way is a route to be savoured.
Stop off along the way to walk to Australia’s highest peak, immerse yourself in adventure, or simply sit back, inhale the fresh alpine air and sip a crisp Kosciuszko Pale Ale or snow-pure local schnapps. Our action-packed itinerary covers the Alpine Way’s very best bits.
Start at Cooma
Your journey begins at the gateway to the Snowy Mountains in the alpine town of Cooma, just over four hours by car from Sydney and 1.5 hours’ drive from Canberra. It’s an ideal spot to launch yourself headfirst into the adventure of the region and learn about its monumental heritage.
Kick off your Alpine Way road trip at the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre – with its models, interactive exhibits and historical photographs – to learn the story of a modern engineering wonder: the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.
Kids will enjoy the interactive art and science installations. (Image: Destination NSW)
One of the most complex integrated water and hydro-electric power systems in the world, designed to divert water from the Snowy River westwards beneath the Great Dividing Range to drought-proof parts of NSW and Victoria, the scheme plays out in real-time from Jindabyne to Khancoban.
Touring Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre is a truly immersive experience. (Image: Destination NSW)
For a fresh start in the morning, kip overnight at boutique Nebula Motel, a cosy hosted stay on one of Cooma’s historic streets or several campgrounds.
And if you’re visiting on the third Sunday of the month, drop into Centennial Park, right off the main road, where you’ll find the monthly Cooma Rotary Markets stocked with local artisan products and food stalls.
Cooma to Jindabyne
Distance: 62 kilometres
Travel time: About 45 minutes
Head west from Cooma along Kosciuszko Road until you reach Jindabyne. The moment you crest the hill just outside of town and see stunning Lake Jindabyne pool out before you is the first of many ‘wow’ moments you’ll experience along the Alpine Way.
Lake Jindabyne is stunning from every angle. (Image: Destination NSW)
This glassy expanse forms part of a major dam created in the mid-1960s as part of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, drowning old Jindabyne in the process. Today the town sits scenically around the lake’s foreshore and, with its crisp mountain air, serves up outdoor adventure and indulgence in equal measure.
Fiery sunset hues unfurl over Lake Jindabyne. (Image: Destination NSW)
Join fellow adventurers fuelling up for the day at the buzzing Birchwood Cafe, where nourishing breakfasts include avo toast stacked with feta, tomato salsa, pickled onion, radish, pomegranate and peanut dukkah, dippy eggs with fried zucchini soldiers and a vegan brekkie wrap of pulled marinated jackfruit, tofu scramble, pickled zucchini, spinach, vegan mayo and mustard.
Stroll around Lake Jindabyne on two wheels.
Then hire a bike from Sacred Ride and cycle scenic local trails or spend the morning climbing and abseiling the ‘Jindy’ Rock at Lake Jindabyne with boutique adventure-tour company K7 Adventures before settling in for a well-earned drink and a classic pub meal overlooking the lake at the Banjo Paterson Inn. And don’t forget to stop in at Wildbrumby Schnapps’ Distillery & Cafe to sample their quality takes on the sweet stuff.
Make a pitstop at Wildbrumby Schnapps’ Distillery & Cafe.
Jindabyne to Thredbo in Kosciuszko National Park
Distance: 21 kilometres
Travel time: 20 minutes
Before hitting the Alpine Way proper, enjoy a quintessential Jindabyne experience with a stay at one of its superlative accommodation offerings such as Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa, west of town in the Thredbo Valley.
Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa is perched on the lake.
It boasts two excellent onsite eateries, Cuisine Restaurant & Bar and Alpine Larder, as well as a day spa and all manner of outdoor activities including mountain bike and walking trails, Segway tours and guided fly-fishing tours. The 60-hectare alpine oasis is peppered with lake views and mountain chalets and makes for the ultimate retreat for a night or two.
Check into a charming rustic hut at Tinkersfield.
Alternatively, check into nearby Tinkersfield, a more intimate affair secluded in the Crackenback Valley with a curated choice of rustic-chic, high-country hideaways – think antique timber, clawfoot bathtubs and open fireplaces – including the one-bedroom Field Huts and two-bedroom Barnhouse and Post Office.
Walk along massive rocks at Ram Ranges Head in Kosciuszko National Park. (Image: Don Fuchs; Destination NSW)
Back on the road and you’re on the Alpine Way, cruising into Kosciuszko National Park with its pine-clad ridges as immortalised in Banjo Paterson’s iconic poem The Man from Snowy River.
Find frost-covered vegetation along the Mount Kosciuszko Summit walk. (Image: Destination NSW)
Keep a look out for a diverse range of farm animals and wildlife along both sides of the road. Upon our last visit, we spotted emus, cows, alpacas, horses, kangaroos, wombats and deer on the one single drive. Incredible.
Journey through the Snowy Mountains. (Image: Alexandra Adoncello; Destination NSW)
A classic winter destination that’s home to the ski fields of Thredbo, Perisher and Charlotte’s Pass, as well as Australia’s highest mountain, Kosciuszko reveals a whole different side in the warmer months.
Lift off from the snowy grounds at Charlotte Pass Ski Resort. (Image: Destination NSW)
And the ultimate way to experience it is via the Kosciuszko Chairlift. Lifting off from Thredbo Valley Terminal, this thrilling joyride sweeps up the mountain for 560 vertical metres, offering breathtaking views of the national park and a gateway to Thredbo’s alpine hiking trails. But before you get exploring, hop off and treat yourself to lunch with a view at Eagles Nest, Australia’s highest restaurant. The menu is always evolving but its pizzas remain consistently delicious.
Enjoy lunch with a view at Eagles Nest.
Day walks include a trail to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko, the highest peak in the country. Breathing fresh alpine air, you’ll pass granite outcrops and alpine meadows coloured with wildflowers come summer, until you’re 2228 metres above sea level with 360-degree views of the Snowy Mountains – and a true sense of wonder at being at the top of Australia.
Bask in the cold mountain air at Kosciuszko National Park. (Image: Destination NSW)
Thredbo to Khancoban
Distance: 77 kilometres
Travel time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
The most stunning stretch of the Alpine Way twists and turns soon after you leave Thredbo. Roll down the window to let in the unique scent of the Aussie Alps – pine trees mingled with eucalypts – as you descend the hairpin mountain road that looks, on a map, like it’s been drawn by a polygraph.
Pull up your caravan at Tom Groggin campground. (Image: Murray Vanderveer/DPE)
You’ll practically kiss the Victorian border at Tom Groggin campground before taking a sharp turn north towards Khancoban and the end of the Alpine Way. Make it last by including a few scenic pit stops and bushwalks along the way.
Halfway along this stretch you’ll find Geehi Flats, a secluded picnic and camping spot located on the sparkling Swampy Plains River.
Fly fishing is common along the Swampy Plains River. (Image: Don Fuchs; Destination NSW)
Simply stretch your legs and take a peek at the first of three historic alpine huts in the area, or head off on the six-kilometre Geehi huts walking track, which takes in two more plus river crossings and more magnificent Snowy Mountains views.
Camp on Geehi Flats for a secluded spot alongside the river. (Image: Murray Vanderveer/DPE)
You can also opt to pitch a tent for the night on the river’s grassy banks for maximum tranquillity (bookings essential via the NPWS website).
Go biking around the scenic landscape at Geehi Flats. (Image: Murray Vanderveer/DPE)
Fifteen minutes further up the road you’ll find Scammell’s lookout, 1000 metres above sea level and offering spectacular views back the way you’ve come from. From here you can trace the contours of the rugged western fall of the Snowy Mountains’ Main Range.
Perisher has good skiable areas like Thredbo. (Image: Destination NSW)
Enjoy the diversity and rugged beauty that Kosciuszko has to offer near Thredbo and Perisher along the Illawong walk, Pallaibo walking track and Waterfall walking track, which are great for nature-spotting sessions.
Take the mountain bike route to Thredbo Valley Track. (Image: Lucy Morrell/DPE)
One of the best ways to have an adventure in the Snowies is to hire a mountain bike or e-bike (or take your own) and hit the Thredbo Valley Track. It’s a 35-kilometre trail back to Jindabyne which winds through stunning alpine terrain with scenic suspension bridges and spectacular sections running alongside the Snowy River. The track offers world-class mountain biking for all abilities, from easy beginner rides to a challenging full-day ride and is typically open from November to May, depending on the weather. Another alternative is hitting the trails at Thredbo Mountain Bike Park, to experience scenic cross-country trails and Australia’s only lift-accessible terrain.
Traverse through stunning alpine terrain with scenic suspension bridges. (Image: Elinor Sheargold/DPE)
Further along the Alpine Way however, you’ll arrive in Khancoban. Originally built to house workers on the Snowy Mountains Scheme, Khancoban sits on the western edge of Kosciuszko in the foothills of the mountains.
Khancoban Dam has a controlled spillway that flows across the Swampy Plain River. (Image: Don Fuchs; Destination NSW)
Today the small town’s scenic pondage, which forms part of the scheme, is used recreationally for fishing, kayaking and water sports. And, part of the idyllic Snowy Valleys region, it marks the end – or perhaps just the beginning – of the legendary Alpine Way.
The town of Khancoban is nestled in the idyllic Snowy Valleys region. (Image: Snowy Valleys Council; Matt Beaver)
Park the car and go off-piste
Three multi-day adventures to have in the Snowy Mountains:
1. Make like The Man from Snowy River and immerse yourself in the Kosciuszko wilderness on a three-to-five-day horse-riding trek with Reynella Rides. Departing from Adaminaby, about 50 kilometres from Cooma, from November through to the end of April, there’s surely no better way to travel through the Snowy Mountains and its landscape of wildflower carpets, alpine streams and open plains. The team make things easy by arranging pick-up and drop-off transfers from Cooma, too.
2. Spend five or six days paddling the Snowy River through the ancient landscape of the Byadbo Wilderness in the remote southern reaches of Kosciuszko with Alpine River Adventures. Led by an Aboriginal guide for interpretation of Country and Indigenous perspectives, the unique journeys depart from Numeralla near Cooma and take in beach camping, river gorges and chances to spot quoll, platypuses, kangaroos, emus and sea eagles in the wild. Trips run year-round, with guaranteed water levels from August to November.
Go paddling on the Snowy River with Alpine River Adventures. (Image: Destination NSW)
3. Take on Australia’s 10 highest peaks with boutique tour operator K7 Adventures. Join a hiking tour through the high country from November to May with guide and landscape photographer Mike Edmondson. It’s an unforgettable opportunity for experienced walkers with good fitness levels and offers 360-degree views of some of the most extraordinary sights in the country.
Take in remarkable sights on top of the Snowy Mountains. (Image: Destination NSW)
Written by Imogen Eveson and updated by Kristie Lau-Adams.