The Snowy Mountains for non-skiers

You can delight in the magic of the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales, 450km south of Sydney, even if you don’t ski or snowboard. From thermal soaks that will soothe you to wining and dining that will linger in your memory long after your journey, you’ll find plenty to do across the region.

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Seek out your favourite alternative winter activity

Slow down and savour the wintery landscapes of Thredbo ski resort on a snow-shoe tour with K7 Adventures, which offers a number of different routes. You can also have fun mastering this alpine pastime in Perisher Valley, home to the Perisher ski resort, where Wilderness Sports conducts snow-shoe tours leading you across snowy landscapes from one hour to a full day.

Gaze up in wonder at limestone stalactites and stalagmites that are thousands of years old on a guided tour of the Yarrangobilly Caves, a two-hour drive from Jindabyne. Close to the caves is a natural thermal pool that’s 27°C year round – prepare to be utterly enchanted as steam rises from the warm water while you float around in the outdoor oasis, surrounded by snow.

Tap into your sense of adventure with a winter camping trip in the Lower Snowy River area, or step outside your comfort zone by signing up for a mountaineering course, including exhilarating ice-climbing sessions.

Chairlifts aren’t just for skiing – soak up the superb mountain views on a ride high up into the alpine on Merritts Gondola. At the top you’ll find Merritts Mountain House, a European-style dining and entertainment venue where you can relax with a steaming mug of hot chocolate or join the party at its weekend afternoon après sessions.

Embrace the thrill of tobogganing and snow tubing on the designated slope beside Perisher Valley Car Park on Pipers Ridge. Here, Tube Town has specially groomed lanes for you to tackle on an adrenalin-pumping high-speed ride, plus a lift back to the top.

Or take a deep breath and relax with a session at Jindabyne Yoga Shala, which offers classes in vinyasa, yin and hatha yoga in Jindabyne, the nearest major town to the ski resorts.

Read: Winter well in Tasmania’s Off Season

Marvel at the wintertime scenery on a mountain drive

Fall under the soothing spell of the mountains when they’re draped in snow on the 180km Kosciuszko Alpine Way, which traverses the Monaro Plain from Cooma, through Jindabyne and past Thredbo, then down a steep and winding section to pretty Khancoban.

Over 300km, the Snowy Valleys Way will inspire as you cruise through the beautiful valleys and plains that birthed some of Australia’s most iconic legends. Starting in Gundagai, it winds south through Tumut and the apple town of Batlow, and on to Tumbarumba.

Be intrigued and challenged by the artworks of the new Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail, which features more than 20 sculptures by Australian and international artists, in and around the towns of Adelong, Batlow, Tumbarumba and Tooma. Then admire the changes in the landscape as the Snowy Valleys Way drive unfolds towards the Murray River.

Even the main highways will take your breath away in the Snowy Mountains. The 129km Snowy Mountains Highway takes you from Tumut along high country valleys and peaks, past the Yarrangobilly Caves and Selwyn Snowfields, and on to Adaminaby, known for its trout fishing. Take in the splendour of Australia’s high country from the comfort of your car, with a number of lookout points along the way offering memorable views.

Indulge in mountain cuisine

Warm your bones by the fire in winter as you tuck into a flavourful dish at The Lott in Cooma, a cosy café housed in a century-old wool store. Grab a coffee here, too, or head to Kettle and Seed, also in Cooma. Kettle and Seed uses beans roasted by local Snowy Mountains Coffee; you’ll get the most of its quality brews by pairing them with daily baked cakes, quiche and bulging sandwiches.

Read: Ski Australia and New Zealand on a budget

If you’re planning to self-cater, your taste buds will thank you for stocking up on organic fruit and vegetables (some from the owners’ garden), eggs and freshly baked sourdough at Moontree Health Foods in Cooma.

The mountain hub of Jindabyne has plenty of dining options to whet your appetite. Part café, part grocer, The Market serves wholesome dishes and great coffee for a welcome pick-me-up. Then pick up organic fruit and veggies and specialty grocery items to take away.

Further afield, Crackenback Farm, just 15 minutes from Thredbo, transports you to the European Alps with its French farmhouse-style meals served in a country setting. It’s also a guesthouse with six stylish rooms. Settle in by the huge stone fireplace at Alpine Larder at Lake Crackenback Resort and Spa and graze on pizza, burgers and salads made using local produce.

You can also pair fine food with premium accommodation at Nimbo Fork Lodge, near Tumut. Taste the region on a plate at its Three Blue Ducks restaurant before nodding off in an elegantly styled cottage or lodge suite so comfortable you won’t want to check out.

Read: Six energising New South Wales destinations

Treat yourself to cool-climate tipples

Get a feel for the region’s craft brewing scene at independent operator Jindabyne Brewing, which pours a tasty range of beers, including a pilsner and wheat beer, paired with a seasonal menu of snacks and meals. Or taste the freshness at Kosciuszko Brewery, located on-site at Jindabyne’s Banjo Patterson Inn, where the beers make a seamless transition from vat to tap. Savour the pleasant maltiness of the pale ale, which has a refreshing fruity hop finish.

At Shut the Gate, a 25-minute drive from Jindabyne, you’ll appreciate the friendly service just as much as the boutique wines you sample, from chardonnay to shiraz. And when you can’t choose between beer and wine, combine both at Snowy Vineyard and Microbrewery, a regional pioneer in brewing and bottling located 40-minutes from Jindabyne. Families, including your dog, are welcome at the cellar door, with light meals also available.

Or linger over gin, vodka or schnapps made from locally sourced fruit at Thredbo’s Wildbrumby, which has a distillery door, organic raspberry farm and a restaurant overlooking a sculpture garden designed to engage you more deeply with the ruggedly beautiful landscape.

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Written by Destination NSW

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