Roads ahead

The plea­sures of a gen­tle driv­ing hol­i­day from Syd­ney to Lake Crack­en­back

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence -

VEN­TURE into the alpine foothills of NSW at any time and you’ll find his­tory, good food and stun­ning land­scapes. But sum­mer of­fers vis­i­tors par­tic­u­lar de­lights.

I am driv­ing with a friend south from Syd­ney, through the south­ern high­lands, Goul­burn and Can­berra, on to Cooma and then Jind­abyne, on the east­ern edge of Kosciuszko Na­tional Park. Weare plan­ning to spend a cou­ple of days in com­fort at Lake Crack­en­back Re­sort & Spa, framed by bush and moun­tain peaks.

We have cho­sen Mur­rum­bat­e­man for an overnight stay at Coun­try Guest­house Schonegg, op­er­ated with won­der­fully Swiss at­ten­tion to de­tail by Eve­lyn and Richard Ever­son (their gourmet plat­ters in­clude the re­sults of Eve­lyn’s im­pres­sive bak­ing). It’s 30km from Can­berra, which is buzzing with cen­te­nary events this year.

Af­ter a deep sleep and ex­cel­lent break­fast, it’s an easy drive to Cooma, the his­tor­i­cal hub for the Snowy Moun­tains Hy­dro-Elec­tric Scheme, on which con­struc­tion started in 1949. Min­utes from town on the Monaro High­way, the Snowy Hy­dro Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre features in­ter­ac­tive ex­hibits, the­atre screen­ings, vin­tage pho­to­graphs, models and live cov­er­age of the op­er­a­tions of this 5000sq kminte­grated sys­tem. In­cor­po­rat­ing 16 dams and seven power sta­tions, the scheme is widely con­sid­ered the coun­try’s great­est en­gi­neer­ing project and an im­por­tant mile­stone in our im­mi­gra­tion his­tory.

Our next pit stop is The Lott Food Store on Cooma’s main street, a hum­ming cafe and kitchen sup­plies shop in a cen­tury-old wool store. The build­ing’s his­tor­i­cal bones re­main, es­pe­cially the beau­ti­ful tim­ber floors, but blond wood now lines the walls and gleam­ing stain­less-steel colan­ders trans­formed into light shades dan­gle above re­fec­tory ta­bles.

Lott Group di­rec­tor Matt Dowd­ney has seen Cooma

JOHN FOTIADIS evolve from its 50-year re­liance on Snowy Moun­tains his­tory into a des­ti­na­tion in its own right. Fish­ers, hik­ers, walk­ers and cy­clists come in droves.

The Lott is the re­gion’s largest em­ployer of ap­pren­tices, Dowd­ney says, which ‘‘keeps the boys in town’’, sup­ports the lo­cal TAFEand stim­u­lates ap­pre­ci­a­tion for lo­cal pro­duce, such as or­ganic lamb and pork, moun­tain trout (smoked in Cooma or Tu­mut) and goat’s cheese. The Lott has a kitchen garden which the ap­pren­tices use when mak­ing the cafe’s stocks, sauces, jams and pre­serves.

On Cooma’s orig­i­nal main street, the 158-year-old Lord Raglan Inn (9 Lam­bie St), later the town’s first bank, houses a charm­ing not-for-profit gallery de­voted to Snowy Moun­tains and Monaro artists. The full-width front ve­randa over­looks a her­itage garden with 100-yearold bay and Ir­ish straw­berry trees, as well as her­itage plants from the 1930s and 40s, wis­te­ria, Per­sian li­lac, hedges of laven­der and Scotch rose, and a Span­ish ch­est­nut with big round green pods.

An hour’s drive from Cooma, j ust min­utes past Jind­abyne in the Thredbo Val­ley, the chalets and apart­ments of Lake Crack­en­back Re­sort & Spa form a loose vil­lage around the lake and Lit­tle Thredbo River. Bush-clad slopes and moun­tain peaks range around the hori­zon and there is the tran­quil, high-coun­try feel of grey-green bush, alpine rock, re­flec­tive water and pris­tine air. Creations from Jind­abyne’s Lake Light Sculp­ture fes­ti­val, held each Easter (un­til to­mor­row), punc­tu­ate a trail around the lake. A low, grey stone viaduct spans one reach of the water. Speck­led and downy-grey ducks for­age in the grass. For the past six years, Crack­en­back has been fos­ter­ing a year-round ac­tiv­i­ties pro­gram. Gen­eral man­ager Scott O’Neile and sales man­ager Jane O’Neile are on a mis­sion to make sum­mer as al­lur­ing as the snow sea­son.

The re­sort has a heated in­door pool and fit­ness cen­tre, as well as sauna, ten­nis, bad­minton and vol­ley­ball courts. Out­doors, there’s golf ( on the nine- hole, par- three course), a new moun­tain bike park (no charge for re­sort guests; in­cludes skills-prac­tice trails with ramps, bridges and see­saws, and a down­hill flow track) and archery. The lo­cal wa­ter­ways of­fer trout fish­ing (rod and fly; lessons avail­able and rods for hire) and, in sum­mer, ca­noe­ing, kayak­ing and river sled­ding.

Just walking in this lovely part of the world could fill my stay; 14km of sign­posted tracks are laid around the re­sort. An ex­ten­sive pro­gram, op­er­ated from Novem­ber to April, in­cludes a hike to ‘‘the top of Aus­tralia’’ and night walks, as well as guided and self-guided strolls with maps, notes and equip­ment.

My hands-down favourite ac­tiv­ity is the eco tour on all-ter­rain Segways. We stand to at­ten­tion and trun­dle around bush tracks and over creek cross­ings, spot­ting flow­ers and wildlife. The fauna is prob­a­bly what kids love the most — wom­bats, big grey kan­ga­roos, emus and, up in the moun­tains, deer.

With all this ac­tiv­ity, good food is vi­tal. Ex­ec­u­tive chef Greg Pieper devel­oped his pas­sion for pro­duce while work­ing un­der Ralph Pot­ter (for­merly at Pe­grum’s and Dar­ley’s). Pieper says more peo­ple in­ter­ested in qual­ity food are mov­ing into the re­gion, in­clud­ing op­er­a­tors of goat dairies, a Bredbo api­arist and truf­fle grow­ers.

There is rain­bow trout from Tu­mut and, in sum­mer, cher­ries, pears, peaches and sum­mer veg­eta­bles. Pieper main­tains a sum­mer kitchen garden, sup­ply­ing rocket, spinach and herbs for the re­sort’s cafe-style Alpine Larder’s sal­ads, lunches and pizza sauces.

The Larder is a sunny, glass-framed, eu­ca­lypt-wrapped space with an open kitchen and wood-fired pizza oven, great for break­fasts, lunches and easy din­ners.

At the more for­mal Cui­sine on Lake Crack­en­back, a very so­phis­ti­cated din­ner fo­cuses on ex­quis­ite lo­cal pro­duce and Tum­barumba (Snowy Moun­tains) wines. Ju­dith Elen was a guest of Lake Crack­en­back Re­sort & Spa.

top Lake Crack­en­back Re­sort & Spa sits amid nat­u­ral splen­dour above Alpine hikes are a favourite sum­mer ac­tiv­ity be­low A pick­ing plate from The Lott Food Store in Cooma

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