The New South Wales high country is home to the continent's highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko, and some of the state's more magical landscapes - from alpine plains dotted with woolly merino sheep to pine forests and fairytale lakes. Its unique environment and ecology are internationally acclaimed; in 1997 Kosciuszko National Park was listed as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Whatever the season, the great outdoors are the big drawcard here, with hiking, biking, boating, fishing, riding and camping luring nature lovers from home and abroad.
COOMA Follow the Kosciuszko Alpine Way from Canberra and you'll find Cooma, a pretty gold-rush town set in the Monaro plains. The heart of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, today Cooma is better known as a pit stop en route to the ski fields. You'll find good brews and brunches at The Lott, and prize-winning, locally-roasted coffee at Kettle and Seed.
JINDABYNE Just 60km down the highway lies Jindabyne, gateway to the Thredbo and Perisher ski resorts (rent your snow gear here) and site of the Snowy Region Visitor Centre. Lake Jindabyne is also a haven for fishing and water sports in the warmer months. Settle into Man from Snowy River-style lodgings at Moonbah Hut, a stone and slab hut with toasty fireplace, rocking chairs on the verandah and plenty of trout waiting in the waters of its private lake.
Stock up on freshly baked biscuits at Snowy Mountains Cookies, where former ski pro Nolen Oayda and partner Daisy cook up gingerbread men, Anzacs and couverture chocolate biscuits daily. In the heart of Jindabyne, the tapas, wine and live music is a hit at Journey Food & Wine Bar, and Austrian traditions and Australian inspiration combine on the Alpine Way at the Wildbrumby Schnapps Distillery to produce heartwarming eau de vie in flavours from pink lady apple to pear and butterscotch. The Wildbrumby crew dish up hearty European mountain food at the distillery and at their Thredbo Knickerbocker restaurant.
THREDBO With Australia's longest ski runs and highest golf course, the European-style alpine village of Thredbo is a year-round adventure-sports destination. The resort offers everything from indoor rockclimbing and bobsledding to fly fishing and laps at the Leisure Centre's heated 50-metre pool. For those keen to conquer our tallest peak, an all-seasons chairlift deposits budding mountaineers near the Rams Head Range for the 14.3km hike to the Kosciuszko summit.
Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa, some 15 minutes from the town centre on the edge of the national park, combines four-star accommodation with refined dining and striking architecture at its signature Cuisine restaurant. Whether it's a ceviche of Jervis Bay king prawn or a Tumut rainbow trout, regional produce is the focus. Hiking trails can be tackled on foot or by guided Segway tour.
Go eco at Alpine Habitats, a cluster of 18 low-impact lodgings among the snow gums of Crackenback valley, handy to both Jindabyne and Thredbo. For something even more boutique, the Pender Lea Post Office is a converted high-country cottage and barn that's big on ambience and cosy comforts, much like the region itself.
This article was published on the Gourmet Traveller website in October 2012.