Mount Kosciuszko is not only extremely difficult to spell, it’s also Australia’a highest mountain at a pathetic 2,228m elevation. It’s true, as a mountain it is not intimidating nor overly impressive. But wait. Before you turn your campervan around, read on…
What Kosciuszko lacks in actual height (compared to say, Mount Everest 8,848m!), it makes up for in ethereal beauty. In summer, the mountain ranges are barren, dry and extend for as far as the eye can see. They appear lifeless – even apocalyptic. The hike from Charlottes Pass to the summit is 18kms return, with very little incline sections, taking around 6-7 Hours.
We started our trip in Sydney, where we hired a campervan from Rouge Rentals. The team at Rouge were very friendly and once we handed over our moneys, they handed over the keys…we were on our way! First stop on our journey was Goulburn – pretty much famous for fuck-all except a giant sheep at the petrol station (that’s not entirely true, it’s also apparently Australia’s first inland city). After topping up the tank, we pointed that campervan south-west to Australia’s national capital – Canberra.
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This region is littered with kangaroo corpses. Be careful and try to avoid driving after sunset or before sunrise.
Canberra is really boring
All roads are sealed, no need for a 4WD Vehicle. There’s plenty of fuel stops along the way.
Mount Kosciuszko is Australia’s tallest mountain and apparently listed as one of the worlds ‘7 Summits of 7 contintents’. Although it’s a little dodgy to compare this glorified hill to the likes of the next highest mountain on the list, which is at least 2 times taller.
Canberra…the fart of the nation…
Canberra is the 8th most populous city in Australia. It is possibly the most boring city in Australia as well. You’ll be bewildered by not only the sheer blandness of the city, but also the incredible amount of roadkill that line the streets of its surrounding suburbs. It would appear as though Canberra’s kangaroo population have made some kind of ‘Jonestown- style’ suicide pact, launching themselves at windscreens in staggering numbers.
Canberra is home to Australia’s federal parliament, so there is a higher concentration of dickheads here than anywhere else in the country. The city’s ‘coolest area’, Braddon has very little to offer. Indeed, Braddon looks a bit like a rich dad in a business suit wearing a colourful tie, just to ‘shake shit up a little’ and show you that he can still be crazy…
Leaving Canberra (and yes, you will want to), the drive south starts to get interesting. We jump on the B23 towards Cooma, our next stop on this little campervan getaway.
Interesting Fact: Canberra is Australia’s most boring capital city – with less fun things to do than anywhere else in the country!
Where to Stay: There’s plenty of caravan parks around Canberra and quite a few free camp spots just out of town. There’s a lot of wide-open space either side of Canberra, you shouldn’t have any problem finding a patch of grass to park your campervan for a night.
Cooma…Surprisingly not too shit…
Cooma is actually quite cute – with a real country charm and an alpine feel. The landscape has changed too. Random boulders lie scattered across wide open fields. The gum trees are all dead, (which, the internet tells me, is the result of a weavel infestation?!) and, yet again the roadkill piles up on the roadside. This is not a highway, it is an abbatoir and it would seem a good idea to not drive after sunset.
Very Pretty Jindabyne…
The next stop on this roadtrip of dead things is Berridale, a small country town with a pub, a bakery, a petrol station and a few small motels. There’s not really a lot going on around here in Summer, but in Winter, Berridale is a popular place to stay for skiers and snowboarders. It’s still around 50kms from the ski fields, but it is considerably cheaper to stay here than in nearby Jindabyne. If you’re in a campervan (and you should be!), there are plenty of free camp sites in this region.
Jindabyne is a very pretty little town, at the foot of Kosciuszko National Park. Centred around the aptly named ‘Lake Jindabyne’, this is a great place to grab last minute supplies before heading into the national park. There’s also a pretty kickass pub up on the hill overlooking the lake – Lake Jindabyne Hotel Motel. As far as shitty country pubs go, this one is pretty damn good – there’s ping pong, pool tables, a drinking verandah and cheap-ish beers on tap.
Before heading into Kosciuszko National Park, you’ll want to buy a permit. A one day pass will set you back around $17 per vehicle, which you can buy at the entrance gate or in Jindabyne at the Visitors Centre. It’s not a bad idea to stop in at the Visitors Centre as they’ll have free maps and advice on conditions on the mountain (it can get very cold and VERY windy up there!).
Kosciuszko National Park
From Jindabyne to Charlotte’s Pass (the start of the hike), there’s about 30kms of bending, winding road. You’ll pass the ski fields (Smiggins, Perisher) and in all likelihood see a few ‘flatbats’ – dead wombats. It’s a very sad sight indeed as these fat little blobs of mammal are so damn cute. We did this trip over the Easter long weekend, a great time to see this region as it’s not too cold – and not too hot. There’s no snow and although the winds at the summit are chilly, they aren’t unbearable.
You’ll need to park the campervan at Charlottes Pass before choosing your hike. We chose the most popular route, the Summit Hike to the top of Australia, Mount Kosciuszko. At 9kms to the peak and 9kms back, we thought it to be achievable. The sun was out, the sky cloudless and it was quite pleasant. It’s not a difficult hike by any means, as we discovered it’s quite a popular trail for families with small kids.
Interesting Fact: Polish explorer Count Pawel Edmund Strzelecki was the first western devil to climb the mountain in 1840, so he named it after Polish hero General Tadeusz Kosciuszko, an important figure in the American revolution. Apparently Count Strzelecki had a huge boner for this guy.
Where to Stay: If you’re really into hiking and have a huge hard-on for nature, you can camp in the park. Otherwise there’s plenty of spots to free-camp around Jindabyne and a pretty good little campervan-friendly tourist park at Kosciuszko Tourist Park (1400 Kosciuszko Road, Jindabyne).
Kangaroo Valley & Bendeela Camping Area
This was an awesome little stopover on the way home to Sydney. About 160kms south of Sydney in the Shoalhaven region of NSW, Kangaroo Valley is an incredibly beautiful region that only locals seem to know about. You’ll give your campervan a true workout as you twist and wind down a mountainous road, deep into the valley – which is so lush and green, it’s almost psychedelic!
In town, there’s a few shops and a petrol station and also a caravan park. But about 5kms just outside of town is Bendeela Camping and Picnic Area – an amazing little spot where the camping is free (and it’s campervan-friendly!). This is home to dozens of wombats, and their burrows are scattered throughout the camping area. At night they wander around, giving us an awesome encounter with these fat little hair sausages. The park is right on the banks of the Kangaroo River, which is a great spot for fishing, kayaking and a swim. Be careful of wildlife at night, kangaroos are everywhere, as are snakes, wombats, lizards and koalas – and they all want to commit suicide on the windscreen of your campervan.
Interesting Fact: There are fucking wombats EVERYWHERE! If that doesn’t make you come here then I can sell it anymore.
Where to Stay: Bendeela Camping Area is open 24hrs a day and is totally free! You can’t reserve a space, it’s first in, first served. But outside of public holidays/long weekends you should have no worries finding a patch of grass for your campervan. Just note: There is a toilet, but no shower and phone reception is very limited.
Hire a Campervan and explore The NSW Southern Tablelands region!
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