In February 2017, I had a work trip to Canberra. This was our first time to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), and we wanted to do a bit of exploring. There are no direct flights to Canberra from Alice Springs, so we had to fly via Sydney. The flight from Sydney is via a little turbo prop plane.
We landed in Canberra around 1730. The Canberra airport is pretty small. We checked our bags since the backpack was too large to carry on. Once we grabbed them from the carousel, we walked across the street to the car rentals. We’d rented a car from Budget. For a week, it was $197AUD. We selected the smallest car available – they gave us a Holden Spark (same as the Chevrolet Spark). We were on our way by about 7:15pm. We headed south towards Mount Kosciusko National Park, cautiously though, since we’d heard kangaroos are plentiful in this region (the NSW police officer made certain to repeat this again and again).
We drove for about an hour, as dusk settled in, we decided to start looking for a place to stay. Luck would have it that we were just passing through Bredbo at that time. There was a the Bredbo Inn Hotel (they had one room left, and it was $120 AUD, inclusive of breakfast, or camping out back, which was free) and a pizza place just a bit further down the road. We went and ate pizza, and then went back to the Inn to put up the tent. We even stopped in for a drink at their bar. It was a fun, eclectic little place.
By 8am the next morning, we were packing up and getting ready to head to Mount Kosciuszko. (But first a stop in Cooma for breakfast!) Cooma is about 30 minutes from Bredbo. Judging from the map, it looked like there were a number of good cafes. We decided to eat at 123 Coffee House. The town itself is pretty cute, although high season is clearly winter, as a lot of places were closed. The Tourist Information was open, and the woman inside was super friendly and informative, giving us great tips for Kosciuszko National Park! Random tip: the public toilets are very nice in town, and in the park there are free drinking water filling stations!
We arrived in Kosciuszko National Park around 12pm. The entry fee is $17AUD per a 24 hour period. The woman at the TI said they are calling for rain on Monday (the next day), so we were rethinking our idea to do the 22km Main Range Track Loop, camping midway. Apparently they had been calling for rain for days, but it had yet to materialize. Although rain wasn’t great for our hiking plans, it had been pretty dry all seasons, so the locals were indeed hoping for rain.
In the end, we decided to pay for two days, but to scrap the 22km hike since we were unable to purchase stove fuel in Cooma. We headed to Charlotte Pass to hike the Summit Walk, an 18km hike.
Parking for the Charlotte Pass is on the road. We saw the cars queued up, and dutifully parked behind them. There are toilets at the start of the walk – the next toilets aren’t until you’ve almost reached the summit, some 7km later (evidently these are the highest public toilets in Australia). The summit itself is 9km of hiking one way. We arrived at the summit about 2.5 hours later, enjoying the views of the valley carved by the Snowy River. The weather on the summit was super windy, and it even rained and hailed a little! All of that work to get to the top, and we stayed for less than 5 minutes! Kosciuszko is 2,228 meters high, The highest mountain in mainland Australia, only a few mountains in the Australian Antarctic territory are taller. Back down the trail..! We finished at 4:30pm.
After our hike, we were famished so we headed into Jindabyne for dinner. Sadly for us, most places were closed. Fortunately for us, there was at least a pizza place that was open. In the end, the pizza was pretty terrible, but as hungry as we were, we didn’t even leave behind crumbs. We learned from the petrol attendant that the bank of restaurants is known as the Old Town Centre. The original town lies somewhere beneath Jindabyne Lake, which was fully relocated in the 1960s as part of the Snowy hydro-electric scheme. There’s also a newer town centre, built about 15 years ago. We never saw it, since the attendant didn’t recommend any of the restaurants there.
We then went back into the park to camp – we decided to head to Island Bend campground. It’s about 20 minutes past the entrance, and with only two other campers in this area, it feels calm and secluded. We saw kangaroos, wallabies and beautiful rosellas.
As predicted, it did rain – poured in fact, and it was even still raining the next day when we woke up. When there was finally a break in the rain, we hurriedly packed up the tent and sleeping bags, and placed them in the car. Once we were ready to go, we backtracked out of the park, and went to Thredbo for breakfast. Thredbo appears to be primarily a ski town, but there are residents all year round. There were two places open for breakfast, a little bakery and a larger restaurant called Cascades that overlooked the ski lifts. We opted for the restaurant, and enjoyed a great little breakfast. We watched the rain come down on the mountain.
After breakfast, we decided to drive through Kosciuszko National Park, heading northwest through the park on the Alpine Way. The first town we came to, which was just west of the park, was Khancoban, where we stopped for petrol. Back on the Alpine Way, we drive along until we came to Scammell’s loookout. There we had gorgeous views of the mountain ranges. Then we headed back into the park, and kept going until we made it to Cabramurra.
That was our three days in and around Mount Kosciusko National Park! Next up – heading to Bega, and then out to the coast, up the South Pacific Ocean coast to Mimosa Rocks National Park, and then eventually heading west, back towards Canberra. More on that next!