OUR TRAVELS ~ ROADTRIP TO THE NSW SNOWY MOUNTAINS
Earlier this year, we decided to take a mid-year holiday and have a change of scenery, trading the iconic beaches in our hometown of Queensland’s Gold Coast for the snow. My husband Rick and the girls had never seen snow, and I hadn’t been for around 20 years, so needless to say, we were excited.
Originally, we were going to head to New Zealand to experience the beauty of Queenstown in winter for ourselves because, well, it looks breathtaking and I felt like we were the only people to have not seen it! However, the more we thought about it, the more we realised that since we love nothing more than a family road trip, why not explore our own beautiful country and soak in some scenery of a different kind? Just quietly, I also loved the idea of not having to cart the kids [and a mountain of luggage because, Hello! Ski gear) around airports and just throw everything into the back of our car. The grandparents (my parents) even wanted in!
We planned a two-week round-trip from our home on the Gold Coast down to Perisher Smiggins in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains. We would spend five nights staying on the snow and the rest of the time would be spent stopping off at iconic landmarks and not-so-well-known small towns. The trip was nothing flashy - just simple, quality family time and two weeks to make our way back. We would take the coast road down and head inland through the country on the way back.
Prior to our trip the only accommodation we had booked was five nights at the snow and one night at Taronga Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo. The rest, we just winged as we went.
Here’s a rundown of our trip:
One night in Port Macquarie, one night in Bowral, one night in Canberra, five nights in the snow at Perisher Smiggins, one night in Yass, one night in Bathurst [my husband’s choice], one night in Dubbo, one night in Tamworth and one night in Bellingen.
We mostly stayed in motels during our road trip, it was cheap[ish], easy and there were plenty of availabilities given we booked our holiday outside of school holidays. Most were very basic and nothing to write home about, but they did the trick and we were happy.
Smiggins Hotel _ Chalet Apartments
At the snow, we splurged and opted to stay right on the snow at Smiggins Hotel and Chalet Apartments. We wanted a ski school, a warm fireplace, wine [a must, right?] and to be close to the slopes so Smiggins Hotel was perfect. You can virtually wake up, see the snow out your window, devour the breakfast buffet and then roll out the door onto the snow. When you are done with skiing, tobogganing and making snowmen, just stroll on in, take a hot shower and head to the fireplace. Did I mention wine?
Dinnertime at Smiggins was a surprising highlight. Our package included buffet breakfast and a three-course dinner every night and every meal was delicious. The staff were lovely, too. There was a kids club every night from 5:30pm, so you have the option for your little people to eat with the other kids [there are plenty] and then hang out doing arts and crafts and watching movies until you are finished your dinner. They also had a magician for all of the guests [adults, too], fireworks, night skiing and karaoke during our stay. If you’re looking for a family-focussed ski holiday with good food and limited stress, easy slopes or close proximity to other ski fields, I would definitely recommend staying at Smiggins Hotel.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo
I had visited the Taronga Western Plains Zoo [formerly Dubbo Zoo] with my family as a 10- year old and still have fond memories of the trip, so I was keen to visit with my own family. When I heard they now had the option to stay on-site at the zoo, I had to book it in so we pre-booked a night in their luxe Zoofari Lodge. This was such a fun experience and a real treat for us all.
We started our visit with a day at the zoo and the lovely folk their looked after us by including an awesome zoo cart for us, which meant we could cruise around at our leisure taking in this incredible open plains zoo which spans 6km. In the afternoon, we checked into our amazing safari tent accommodation which was more like a luxe hotel room with a giant tub, a mini bar, soft fluffy beds and views of giraffes, zebras and other animals you would expect in the African Savannah, just a few metres from our doorstep. We boarded a safari bus for a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo. Following this, we dined on an African-inspired feast alongside the other hotel guests before sleeping like babies.
The next morning, we ditched our morning behind-the-scenes tour for a delicious sleep-in with the sound of much-needed rain [there is a drought in NSW] on our roof. After a buffet breakfast, we were lucky enough to have been offered a spot for the new Prowl the Pridelands tour, where we went (in a lion-proof bus) inside the lions' den to watch them being released into their compound for the day in search for their breakfast. This was a great addition to our visit!
Other trip highlights
As well as the snow and the zoo, another highlight for us on this trip was the beauty of the Snowy Mountains Highway. The road from Jindabyne to Tumut was just breathtaking and images we took just don’t do it justice. We would love to go back and revisit this drive.
Prior to our trip, I had bought my seven year-old a book titled The Little Book of Australia’s Big Things. She thoroughly enjoyed looking out for the ‘big things’ landmarks and we came across a few on our trip such as The Big Banana [Coffs Harbour], The Big Merino [Goulburn], the Big Trout [Adaminaby] and the big Golden Guitar [Tamworth]. The book was a constant companion and we had to make sure we got a cheesy photo in front of each one. It was also fun to pick up a tiny key-ring for the girls travel collection at every stop. We are now busy creating mini paper big things thanks to the arts and craft pages of the book!
The girls also loved Ricardo’s Strawberries and Tomatoes, just outside of Port Macquarie. They were able to wander the isles of spray-free strawberries and fill up their buckets to take home. They got excited and that was our roadtrip snacks sorted for the next couple of days.
Bowral was such a picturesque town and we would have loved a couple of extra days to explore it further. The girls loved the playground right beside the cricket museum and were excited to find a statue of Mary Poppins – she was born in Bowral, who knew!?
The War Memorial was a really worthwhile visit and important for the girls to see during our trip to Canberra. We were there late in the afternoon which meant we were able to experience their daily 5pm service. Even though we were only there for one night, we did happen to come across a really great restaurant while visiting Canberra called Lazy Su. If you like Asian food, then you must go! We had intended to visit the amazing-looking pod playground at the Arboretum on our last day prior to leaving for the snow [thanks to a recommendation], however it was raining, so we decided to give it a miss.
Bellingen was definitely one of our favourite towns. The weather was warm and perfect, the landscape was picturesque and despite the small size of the town, there were plenty of great looking eateries to try. We only stayed one night but will most definitely be back. We stayed at Bellingen Valley Lodge, which was run by a lovely family who let the girls feed their alpacas [they also have a popular restaurant open from Wednesday to Sunday). We also made sure we stopped by Qudo for some incredible Japanese food (sister restaurant to our fave, Doma in Federal). We got coffee from Hyde in town and enjoyed browsing their boutique too.
Australia truly is the most beautiful country and if you have the opportunity to do this road trip with your family, I would definitely recommend it. The landscape was so completely different for us beach-going Gold Coasters and we loved experiencing this together.
It was an eye opener to witness the effects of the devastating drought on these country towns and their residents. Our thoughts are with these people and if you would like to show them some support, you can visit Drought Angels, here.