The Snowies in Summer
A family hike to the highest point in Australia is within everyone's reach, discovers David Thorndike
When most people think Thredbo, they think snow – and well they should as the town is synonymous with some of the best skiing in Australia. When you live in a country where regular snowfalls are rare except for a small section of the Great Dividing Range, it’s hard to be known for much else.
So it was a pleasant surprise to discover the beauty of the Snowy Mountains in summer, to be able to visit the natural wonders of the area without the minus-10 degree temperatures and six feet of snow covering, and to explore the village of Thredbo without the huge crowds and packed parking lots.
The best thing about Thredbo in summer though is that it is a haven for active families – so if your brood loves hiking, exploring, mountain climbing, tobogganing, tennis, swimming, and especially downhill mountain biking, then this is the summer escape for you.
There are plenty of places to stay in Thredbo and you can choose from a range of hotel rooms, apartments and lodges. We booked at Thredbo Alpine Apartments and enjoyed a comfortable two-bedroom, two-storey, self-caterer situated between the river and the shops, and no more than 30 seconds’ walk to each. A further 30 seconds’ walk had us in front of the pub and restaurants which meant we only used the kitchen in the apartment for breakfast, choosing to enjoy lunch in the great outdoors and dinner sampling a different restaurant each night.
Chairlift, hike and mountain bike
The chairlift at Thredbo operates all through summer and is a great way to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the township, as well as skip the most vertical part of the climb up to the top of Mt Kosciuszko. The walk itself is roughly 8km return and will take the best part of half a day – allow longer if you have younger kids. The track is well formed with plenty of signage, but be prepared for sudden changes in the weather and a drop in temperature. We experienced bright blue skies and a cool breeze in town turn into dark clouds, rain and a strong wind within 20 minutes of starting the hike. As well as plenty of water, lunch and snacks, make sure you also pack jumpers and waterproof jackets and hats - there is a good chance they will come in handy.
Well used to seeing skiers on the chairlift during winter, it was at first strange to find ourselves sharing the chairlift line with people wheeling their mountain bikes along beside them. Stranger still was the sight of people nursing their bikes on their laps or next to them as they rode the chairlift 10 metres off the ground to the top of the mountain.
There is no denying, though, that they were enjoying their ride back down the mountain. Thredbo has done a lot of work to create some challenging downhill mountain bike tracks and it has paid dividends with literally hundreds of riders taking the challenge over the three days we visited.
If mountain biking isn’t up our alley, then give the downhill toboggan slide a go. Children under eight will need to ride down with mum or dad, but this just makes the experience even better as you can share the exhilaration as you thunder down the curved aluminium track holding on for dear life.
For those looking for a slower pastime, you can visit the indoor leisure centre complete with lap pool, water slide and heated spa, enjoy a spot of tennis or just sit back and watch the kids enjoy themselves on the swings and play equipment in the playground.
There is also a nine-hole golf course and plenty of short walks along the river to enjoy, just watch out for the fly-fishing lessons held on the narrow strip of parkland opposite the information centre and right next to the Thredbo river – they tend to get a bit over exuberant with their casting techniques.
The long way home
While we came in the quickest way from Sydney via Jindabyne, for the return journey we decided to explore the western side of Kosciuszko and travelled from Thredbo through to Khancoban, and on through the pretty country towns of Tumbarumba, Batlow, and Cooma, before rejoining the highway at Gundagai. There is so much to explore on this side including lookouts, historic huts and beautiful camping areas with mobs of kangaroos, that we agreed to start planning another trip down here very soon. We reckon there’s still a lot more to explore in the Snowies in the summertime.
Thredbo is approximately 500km (or six hours’ drive) from Sydney and nearly 600km (or seven hours’ drive) from Melbourne
Where to Stay:
Thredbo Alpine Apartments
Toboggan rides and the chairlift
Most Memorable Moment:
Saying that your family has stood at the highest point in Australia
Bring your mountain bikes, helmets and protective padding as the downhill here is something the kids will brag about to their mates – and dads will do the same.