Wondering what to do this weekend? Why not take advantage of Australia’s spectacular winter landscapes – from the comfort of your heated car – on an alpine road trip. With the cooler weather upon us, head for Australia’s high country on road trips that are as invigorating as they are scenic. Be sure to take a jacket so you can get out and admire the view.
Jacob’s Ladder, Tasmania
This zigzag road in Tasmania’s Ben Lomond Ranges may be steep and narrow, but it’s also incredibly beautiful, taking you to a 1,500-metre peak overlooking some of the state’s most bucolic countryside. Around 50 kilometres southeast of Launceston, the road is unsealed and, from June to September, prone to ice and snow, so it should be driven with care. Highlights include a pretty alpine village, reliably good skiing and dramatic vistas over the national park.
Great Alpine Road, Victoria
From Wangaratta in the north to Bairnsdale in the southeast, the Great Alpine Road traverses a spectacular section of the Victorian Alps. Australia’s highest bitumen road stretches 300 kilometres through historic villages, skirting wine regions such as the King Valley, but also offering opportunities for hiking and skiing in Mount Buffalo National Park, Mount Hotham and Dinner Plain. The route ends in Bairnsdale, gateway to the Gippsland Lakes, with ocean beaches and national parks all around.
Alpine Way, NSW
Seemingly endless mountain views, a rich Aboriginal history and stellar hiking trails are just some of the reasons to explore the Alpine Way, a 120-kilometre stretch of road through the Snowy Mountains from Jindabyne to the Murray River on the NSW-Victoria border. This part of Kosciuszko National Park is known for its tall mountain forests, backdropped by snow-capped peaks that endure from winter through spring. Overnight in Thredbo Alpine Village, or try riverside camping in Tom Groggin or Geehi Flats campgrounds.
Wellington Park, Tasmania
There are few places in Australia where you can leave a major city behind and, 20 minutes later, be surrounded by 18,000 hectares of sub-alpine forest in a protected reserve. Departing Hobart, the 21-kilometre drive to Wellington Park offers just this, taking you to the summit of majestic kunanyi/Mount Wellington where vistas extend over the Tasmanian capital to Bruny Island, the D’Entrecasteux Channel and into the South West Wilderness. Snow-laced hiking trails range from easy strolls to tough climbs through cool forests and past springs, waterfalls and the soaring dolerite columns of the Organ Pipes.
Mount Buffalo National Park, Victoria
The road to the top of Mount Buffalo, 350 kilometres northeast of Melbourne, offers an unrivalled perspective of this National Heritage-listed landscape. With more than 90 kilometres of walking trails and 14 kilometres of marked ski trails, the area is ideal for hiking, rock climbing and cross-country skiing through a diverse landscape of sheer cliffs, majestic granite tors, snow gums, waterfalls and wildflowers. For the best views, drive to Bents Lookout, The Horn or Mount Buffalo Chalet, built in 1910 above a 1,400-metre cliff.
West Coast Wilderness Way, Tasmania
The Apple Isle has its fair share of incredible road trips, but it’s hard to beat the knockout views on this scenic route, linking three World Heritage areas around Cradle Mountain. From Lake St Clair in the centre of the island, it’s a 130-kilometre drive to the coast, crossing the wild Franklin and Gordon rivers amid impossibly beautiful alpine wilderness. Tackle hairpin hill turns around Queenstown before cruising into Strahan, which straddles Macquarie Harbour – the second-biggest natural harbour in Australia – and the ocean.
Lake Mountain, Victoria
Regarded as one of Australia’s best driving roads, Lake Mountain is blanketed with wildflowers in spring and summer. It’s equally attractive in the cooler months, when snowy slopes are transformed into the country’s top cross-country ski resort. Driving 120 kilometres northeast of Melbourne, the last section of the route, from Marysville, marks a 22-kilometre climb, ascending through the snowgum woodlands that characterise the Yarra Ranges National Park. There are plenty of lookouts around the plateau, from where you can gaze over the Victorian Alps, across to Melbourne and the foothills of the Great Dividing Range.