As I sat on a ski lift and gently climbed 1937 metres to Eagles Nest, the highest restaurant in Australia, the silent beauty of the glistening snow struck me dumb.
The deafening silence of the mountains felt spiritual. It felt as if the mountains were calling to me.
I was in Thredbo in NSW’s high alpine country, where more than 700,000 visitors will usually spend the winter months from June to September skiing the pristine slopes.
But today, despite a chilly six degrees, we are here to be told the Snowies are an all-year holiday destination.
There is mountain biking in November, mountain hiking in summer and year-round yoga/wellness retreats. You can greet the sunrise above the mountains with a yoga pose on the slopes in the highest yoga class in Australia.
There are a lot of “highs” around here. Australia’s most scenic hiking trail around the iconic Mount Kosciuszko, where visitors of all ages and abilities can climb to the country’s highest peak. How about a full-moon hike starting in the middle of the night?
Our journey kicked off with an early morning, one-hour flight from Sydney to Canberra where we were met by Leanne Harrison of Snow Connect.
As we drove about two-and-a-half hours to Jindabyne we stopped for lunch at Wildbrumby Distillery. With access to pristine alpine water, organically grown fruit and native mountain botanicals, founder Brad Spalding, a former ski instructor, turned his skills to making schnapps, gin and vodka.
What better way to start lunch than to savour the Sour Cherry Schnapps made with locally grown morello cherries? The veal schnitzel was a big hit; the smoked trout salad with dill and lemon dressing was also a winner. And the Austrian apple strudel and Schnappygato made with espresso, ice cream and butterscotch schnapps were amazingly good.
We checked into Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa, the 60 hectares oasis of bushland nestled on the border of Kosciuszko National Park.
The two-bedroom, self-contained chalets are a new addition with many overlooking the lake. Equipped with a kitchen, fireplace, balcony and a separate laundry room, they are very comfortable, warm and perfect for families.
Dinner was at T-Bar Restaurant, a popular eatery in Thredbo village which has been operating since 1980 and is a favourite haunt of skiers and families on holiday. No prizes for guessing it serves chargrilled steaks and gourmet wood-fired pizzas.
The next morning, because it had been raining and snowing in Thredbo, our yoga lesson on the mountain slope with Jane Corben of Jindabyne Yoga Shala had to revert to an indoor room facing the mountain.
It was bitterly cold even with long johns, tights and several layers of clothing, but Ms Corben got down to the finer points of yoga for beginners pretty quickly.
After the one-hour session, we headed straight for Thredbo’s Cascades restaurant then, after a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages, we tackled the alpine hikes. We met Alex, our informative guide who took great pride in telling us about Kosciuszko’s yellow and violet-coloured wildflowers, and the wildlife and fauna of NSW’s alpine country. Our scenic hike led us around Thredbo’s golf course with delightful views of the icy-cold river and snow-covered tracks. And with the sun shining, you can’t help but feel re-energised when the crisp air brushes against your face.
The highlight of our alpine hike was the ride on the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift to the top of Thredbo and Eagles Nest. The views are incredible – perfect for another round of schnapps and coffee.
The next day, we left the mountains and headed for the Sapphire Coast, a world away. Husband-and-wife team Greg Carton and Sue McIntyre told us their story – they have been farming Sydney rock oysters in the waters of Lake Pambula for 24 years.
After a tough two years, Ms McIntyre is confident things are looking up now that state borders are re-opening and Broadwater Oysters can once again play host to hundreds of visitors keen to taste the fat, deliciously salty and creamy molluscs.
Ms McIntyre taught us all how to shuck oysters and flip them over to display a plump sand-coloured face.
Her best tip for storing unshucked oysters at home?
“Leave them in the laundry sink – not in the fridge, because the cold air in the fridge will kill them off quickly,” she said.
Unshucked oysters should be covered with a damp tea towel and can be safely stored in the laundry sink for seven to 10 days, while shucked oysters should be eaten within 24 hours. You heard it from the expert!
We then checked into Hillcrest Merimbula, a 1970s motel which has been recently renovated by owner-operator Caspar Tresidder from Sydney. Spread over two hectares of greenery, the rooms overlook the pool, tennis court and the seaside town’s sparkling coastline.
On our last day, we headed to Mitchies Jetty for our stand-up paddleboarding experience with Scott Deveril. He took over from his father, Bill, who started fishing charters at the jetty 43 years ago.
Today’s equivalent are kayaks and SUP (stand-up paddleboards) and Mr Deveril has added a little coffee bar next to the jetty.
“I started off working for my father and eventually took the business over about 10 years ago,” said Mr Deveril.
Although Bill has been retired for some time, he still visits Mitchies Jetty to keep an eye on things.
Our journey was one of highs and lows, from some of Australia’s highest peaks to the sea. It’s a journey that will keep many generations of Australians happily holidaying at home.
Take me there
Fly: There are daily flights from Sydney to Canberra starting from $290 one way with QantasLink.
Drive: From Canberra Airport to Snowy Mountains is 2.5 hours with Snow Connect.
Stay: Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa and Hillcrest Merimbula.
Visit: thredbo.com.au; broadwateroysters.com.au; mitchiesjetty.com.