SNOWY MOUNTAINS & MONARO HIGHWAYS – NSW – 350KM

This touring route follows the original trail across the NSW Alps from the pioneering towns to the goldfields & beyond – Links to towns along this route are at the bottom of this page

The Snowy Mountains and Monaro Highways are sealed roads, open year-round, traversing stunning alpine landscapes, passing through historic towns and undulating, scenic farming land, often with magnificent deciduous trees being a highlight of Autumn touring. The higher altitude sections of this ‘must see’ touring route are cleared of snow as required. Although vehicle snow chains are not required to be carried by law on this particular route in Winter, it is highly recommended and can be hired at towns at either end of the alpine sections. A National Parks vehicle pass is also not required to be purchased for travelling on this route unless taking side trips to Thredbo or Perisher Alpine Resorts, year round, or Link Rd to Selwyn Alpine Resort during the snow season.

We’ll be describing this touring route from north to south. The northern end starts where the Hume Highway meets the Snowy Mountains Highway around 25kms south-west of Gundagai, NSW and 25kms north-west of Adelong. Only around 8kms from the start of the Snowy Mountains Highway, on the left side of the road is a stunning stand of poplars that show off in gold during Autumn. This is just a taste of things to come along this journey as there’s still a gold rush in the High Country every Autumn, as visitors travel from afar in search of a different sort of gold to that of the pioneers. Ribbons of gold snake their way across the High Country as trees prepare for Winter along streams, across landscapes and avenues through our towns.

Adelong is known for its gold history as gold seekers arrived from afar in 1852 to try their luck along Adelong Creek and throughout the nearby creeks and hills. The township is in a picturesque valley with historic buildings having been preserved and can be enjoyed today on an informative, self-guided heritage town walk. The Adelong Falls Gold Mill Ruins dates back to 1872 and is a ‘must see’ historic site only 1.5kms north of the main street. Entry is free and here you’ll find a viewing platform that overlooks the gorge and ruins below, interpretive signage and a walkway down to the preserved relics providing a fascinating insight into the workings of a gold processing mill. There’s a picnic area, toilets, disabled access and ample parking.

Continuing east towards Tumut, along the Snowy Mountains Highway just over a kilometre out of Adelong, is a delightful old stone cottage that is well worth stopping by the roadside to view. It’s on private property but can be enjoyed from the roadside. According to the owner of the land, it was built by a Mr Richard Rodda in 1874 of a pink granite only found locally. Mr Rodda was born in Cornwall, England in 1824 and lived there with his wife, Margaret and 3 children. He had success in gold mining and the head of the Stringybark Gully Mine was named after him, being called ‘Rodda’s Tunnel’. The cottage originally had a stringybark shingle roof and having not been lived in since the 1970’s, is gradually being restored and preserved.

Tumut lies only a 15 minute drive from the northern end of the Kosciuszko National Park and was established on the banks of the Tumut River around 1850. It’s a large town sitting in a beautiful valley location with spectacular Autumn colour and many historic buildings. Popular for its outdoor activities like fishing, golf, mountain biking, riverside bike and walking tracks, including the Tumut Wetlands and lovely parks.

Heading up into the mountains the next major landmark is Blowering Dam, on the Tumut River, under a half hour drive from Tumut offering fishing, camping and boating. The drive up into Kosciuszko National Park is a real highlight of this touring route with stunning scenery unfolding every kilometre as you ascend into the alps. Emus, echidnas, kangaroos, wombats and many other native animals abound, so take care and enjoy the journey.

Further south the Snowy Mountains Highway takes you to Talbingo where ‘Tumut 3’, the largest of the 9 Snowy Scheme power stations is. The Snowy Scheme Visitor Display Centre, located in the small shopping village, is open 8am – 4pm, 7 days and entry is free. The display centre features large models and informative displays. Continuing along the main road through Talbingo for a further 5kms takes you to the power station where the scene is quite spectacular as enormous pipelines feed into the station and water exits the system, right in front of you. An adjacent park has picnic/BBQ facilities and detailed signage. Talbingo is a small town, offering accommodation, supermarket, fuel, pub and a café.

Driving further up into the mountains from Talbingo, the Snowy Mountains Highway ascends towards the alpine area of this part of the High Country past Black Perry Lookout, 10kms south of Talbingo. Here, visitors will find another example of how the NSW Parks & Wildlife Service have created a place to experience the majestic Kosciuszko National Park with detailed signage and a view over the wilderness from a wheelchair accessible viewing platform.

45kms south of Talbingo are the Yarrangobilly Caves, featuring magnificent caves that can be entered via various walking tracks, with guided tours available, a thermal pool and accommodation. Detailed information can be found here and a National Parks vehicle entry fee of $4 per day is required, year-round.

Continuing on is the ‘must see’ ghost town of Kiandra, high up on the open plains at around 1400 metres altitude. This section of the road across the alpine landscape all the way through to Adaminaby, near Lake Eucumbene and on to Cooma, is unforgettable, with brumbies often seen and preserved mountain huts, open for day visitors to experience. If you’re not continuing through to Cooma and beyond, Kiandra and this alpine landscape can easily be experienced within a 1.5 hour drive from Tumut.

The ghost town of Kiandra, 55kms south of Talbingo and 36kms north of Adaminaby, is said to be where the world’s first ski club was formed. As many as 10,000 gold seekers flocked to Kiandra in 1860 and by 1861, wooden skis (known as snowshoes back then) were being made and used on the snow covered landscape around the town. The Kiandra Pioneer Ski Club was based at Kiandra for around 100 years, until they moved to Perisher Valley in 1966. Kiandra is the perfect place to stop and learn the history of the area, taking a 30-45 minute walk along the Kiandra Heritage Track, through, what was, the old town. This informative, self-guided walk is one of the most fascinating experiences in all of the Australian High Country and you’ll often have the whole landscape to yourself. More information on the Kiandra Heritage Precinct & Walking Track can be found here.

The highest point on the Snowy Mountains Highway is just south of Kiandra at just over 1485 metres altitude and in this area, the Eucumbene River gradually descends to Lake Eucumbene. Here you’ll find the small lakeside villages of Providence Portal and Anglers Reach consisting of accommodation properties and holiday parks in a pretty bush setting, within 15 minutes of the highway.

Beautiful scenery, roadside mountain huts and superb fishing areas are all within a short drive of these towns and nearby Adaminaby. Lake Eucumbene is open all year for fishing and the rivers and streams of this part of the High Country of NSW generally close from the end of the June Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend until NSW Labour Day Weekend at the end of Sept/start of October.

There are 2 restored, historic, mountain huts that are open for day visitors to experience around 10km north of Providence Portal on the Snowy Mountains Highway. Delany’s Hut and Sawyers Hill Rest House are only a few kilometres apart and are well worth a stop to read the interesting history detailed inside. Both huts were a welcome sight enroute to and from the goldfields of Kiandra, and at over 1350 metres altitude, were often surrounded by snow.

Adaminaby, with a population of around 300, has a shopping village, country pub and fuel. Known for its ‘Big Trout’, a statue of a Rainbow Trout, representing the fact this is an iconic trout fishing region. Adaminaby offers accommodation options, nearby campgrounds and a 9 hole, sand green, golf course, set high up on open plains at 1025 metres altitude.

A few kilometres west of Providence Portal is the Denison Campground, close to the Eucumbene River, which is a large, free, and picturesque campground with toilets, fireplaces and picnic areas. There’s acres of open grassy areas suitable for car based camping in this delightful High Country setting.

Heading south from Adaminaby the road enters the breathtaking Monaro Plains (pronounced “Monairo”), mostly treeless plains at over 1000 metres altitude and stretching over 100kms to the south. These plains are a haven of High Country history and a photographer’s dream with old houses, rustic shearing sheds and relics of the High Country pioneers. When touring these undulating high plains, each time you reach the end of the stretch of the road you’re on, the landscape invites you to keep exploring what’s over the next hill or round the next bend. The first and last rays of sun across this region, transform ancient trees and granite boulders into stunning scenes.

Around 45kms south of Adaminaby the Snowy Mountains Highway joins the Kosciuszko Rd. For this journey we turn left and head towards the major regional centre of Cooma only 5kms away, but turning right takes you to the towns of Berridale, Jindabyne and the alpine resorts of Thredbo and Perisher.  Just over 2kms towards Cooma from this turnoff, on the right is Mt Gladstone Rd which takes you 1.5kms up the road to a spectacular lookout across the whole district. Cooma is where the Monaro Highway (from Canberra) meets the Snowy Mountains Highway and they head south, as one, to the historic gems of Bombala, Delegate and Nimmitabel on the southern half of the Monaro Plains. From Cooma to about 10kms south of Nimmitabel this route is known by both names of these highways until the Monaro Highway heads further south to Bombala and the Snowy Mountains Highway heads east to the coast.

Cooma is at around 800 metres altitude, has a population of over 6500 and has a streetscape featuring superb historic buildings. In the centre of Cooma at Centennial Park is the Avenue of Flags representing the countries where workers for the Snowy Hydro Scheme originated. Cooma is home to the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre, on the northern end of the town. This is well worth a visit to discover the huge amount of displays, interactive activities, large models, live screens displaying information from the different power stations, historic photos and 2 theatres. There’s a café, retail outlet, disabled access and entry is free!

This touring route gradually climbs back up to over 1000 metres altitude south of Cooma, across open plains, with spectacular stands of poplars and takes you to Nimmitabel, about 35kms away. Nimmitabel is one of the highest towns in Australia, at 1070 metres and is surrounded by beautiful rolling plains and distant views to the Snowy Mountains. In Winter, snowfalls can occur and the mostly treeless landscape of the Monaro Plains transforms into a Winter wonderland where you might think you were high up in the alps. Nimmitabel was established in the 1830’s and is also one of the oldest towns in the High Country and became a busy stopover en route to the Kiandra goldfields, north of Adaminaby.

Although a small town, there’s a lot to discover, with many historic buildings preserved from the town’s early days. The Nimmitabel Heritage Trail is another example of a High Country town that is passionate about sharing its history, where informative signage provides detailed history on each landmark. A walking map can be picked up at most businesses in the town. The original railway line that passed through the district can still be seen throughout this landscape, along with the old Nimmitabel Railway Station and trestle bridges providing unique photo opportunities. Continuing south for about 10kms the Monaro Highway turns off to the right (south-west) and heads for Bombala about 40kms away, while the Snowy Mountains Highway continues on to the coast.

Bombala, with a population of around 1300, was established in the 1840’s and has a magnificent streetscape. One of the grandest buildings in all of the High Country is the 1871 built, Commercial Banking Company of Sydney building. On the north side of the Bombala River, near the Visitor Information Centre is the Bombala Historic Railway Precinct. Take a stroll back to 1921 on the self-guided walk to various locations of interest like the original weighbridge, turntable, platform and gantry crane. Interpretive signage provides historic information and images. There’s a superb view over the town, Monaro Plains and the Snowy Mountains beyond, from a lookout found via the eastern end of Caveat St, (turn right and follow the gravel road to the top).

This district is known as Platypus Country for its large population of platypus and the Bombala Platypus Reserve with a viewing platform and informative signage is well worth visiting. It’s located around 1km down Racecourse Road (gravel), which is about 4kms from the CBD, along the road to Delegate and is a beautiful, peaceful spot along the Bombala River. The best times to view platypus are early morning and late afternoon and a V shape cruising along just under the surface of the water is what to look out for.

To finish this touring route head south from Bombala, leaving the Monaro Highway within a couple of kilometres and turning right (west) at Delegate Rd and after about 30kms you’ll find Delegate. It’s a small town only 13kms from the border of Victoria and NSW and features a small number of stores including fuel, general store, cafe and a country pub.

One of the most fascinating buildings in all of the High Country, is found about 1km south-west of Delegate, on Delegate Rd and is said to be the first building constructed on the Monaro Plains. The first European settler to the area was Robert Campbell, who took up around 35,000 acres of land in 1827, that he named ‘Delegate Station’. This building was apparently on the station and has been restored for visitors to enjoy. Today we can enter this superb example of an early pioneer’s home (free entry) and view many artefacts on display and read detailed signage, along with an interesting letter written in 1894 from Delegate Station.

Although the road continues south into Victoria, this is where our description of this memorable touring route comes to an end, 350kms from the start. It’s a journey that needs to be experienced and offers so much, especially in mid-late Autumn when the deciduous trees put on a show.