Set in the pretty New South Wales countryside, Tumbarumba is a tiny town that boasts spectacular scenic roads whether you choose to visit it via Sydney or Melbourne. This is the ideal place to explore some of the prettiest countryside in Australia with kids, venture into the famed Snowy Mountains, view some native wildlife, swim in the Murray River in the summer and ski or snowboard with kids in the winter.
If you enjoy a road trip family vacation, a weekend in the area around Tumbarumba offers some easy and but fun outdoor activities for kids. While the town itself is tiny, it is conveniently based at the bottom of the Kosciuszko National Park (giving access to the Selwyn snow fields), is a short drive from the Bago State Forrest and the Murray River and makes for an interesting base to do a short day or two detour if you are driving from Melbourne to Sydney with kids (or vica versa).
[For more travel tips on the drive between Sydney and Melbourne with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
The Snowy Mountains holds a special place in Australian legend and bush folklore. A drive through the “Snowys” quickly makes it clear why. Along the roadside you will see an unusual volume of wildlife you won’t experience in most other parts of Australia – kangaroos, wallabies and wombats constantly move in and out of the bush going about their business. The famous Snowy Mountains wild brumbys can also be seen here too as well as a huge array of native birdlife. In fact the wildlife is so abundant you must take care when driving along the roads at dawn and dusk as animals frequently bound on to the road and could unexpectedly land in front of your car.
About 45 minutes drive from Tumbarumba are the Selwyn Snowfields, one of the best kept local secrets for those who want to ski with kids. If you are introducing your kids to snow for the first time – or you’ve never experienced it yourself – this is a fantastic option. The resort is much smaller and therefore more accessible that the other bigger mountains in Australia. For instance, the closest ski or snowboarding run and the tobogganing trail are a straightforward flat walk to the carpark. Even at the extreme ends of the season where there isn’t a lot of snow, the resort is well designed so that families can still enjoy some snow play even if the more active sports aren’t available. [For more travel tips on skiing with pre-schoolers, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
While there are a range of gradients of ski slope on Selwyn (including cross country and three black runs), if you are an experienced skier or snowboarder the resort could feel a little small. However for beginners or teaching small kids to ski, this is ideal. [For more travel tips on skiing with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
There is no accommodation on Selwyn so you will have to drive up and down the mountain daily.
At the town of Laurel Hill on the Tumbaruma Road is the gorgeous Sugar Pine Walk in the Bago State Forest. The walk is short (500 metres) so easily manageable with small kids and a robust stroller but despite it’s short length, the sheer scale of the trees makes it quite spectacular.
Laurel Hill is also home to the Laurel Hill Blueberry Farm (Tumbarumba Rd., Laurel Hill, New South Wales, Australia) which is open for picnics on Sundays (10am to 4pm). Here they serve homemade pancakes and it’s a pleasant place to stop and take in the fresh air.
If you are using Tumbarumba as a detour on a drive from Melbourne to Sydney or vica versa, make sure to take the River Road or Murray River Road along the stunning Lake Hume. The roads are usually quite quiet and wind along a pretty drive making for some good scenic photography. Locals like to fish, swim and boat here in the summertime or, if you bring your own sandwiches or snacks, it can make for a nice stop to soak in the scenery.
[For more travel tips on things do do around the Murray River and Lake Hume, see the suitcases&strollers story Albury & Wodonga.]
Or if you prefer to hike with kids and see the wildlife that way, there are plenty of marked walks around the area. A particularly memorable one for serious walkers is to the top of Buddong Falls and the surrounding trails. You will need a 4 wheel drive vehicle to get to the Buddong Falls trail and there are 17 camp sites that are spaced about a day’s walk apart.
To show the kids a behind-the-scenes view of Aussie farm life in the Snowy Mountains, book seats at the Boggy Creek Show, a two hour performance of mustering, animal herding and cattlemen skills by the residents and animals of a real, working farm. Free billy tea is also included in the ticket price. The shows do not run between June and July.
To take home a unique piece of country life, call and make an appointment to see Jim Wright (+61 2 6948 3203; +61 407 101 398) who hand crafts stunning wooden toy trucks. His beautiful semi trailers and dump trucks are highly evocative of the area and he can create vehicles to order.
For some indoor entertainment café Nest has a cute little cinema where they screen movies through the day and evenings. During the local school holidays there are usually whimsical animations on offer such as the French film Ernest & Celestine.
4 Bears Café is a café with far more than just four furry friends to hang out and have a meal. There are bears everywhere in this cute little cuisine stop. If you really like it, they also offer 6 cabin rooms with ensuites so you can stay the night. Note they do not accept credit cards so you will need to pay with cash.
Nest, the café with a cinema, also serves delicious cakes and café meals (their pavlova – a local favourite – is spectacular) in a cosy, casual environment with a wood fire, even at breakfast time.
There is a range of accommodation in Tumbarumba from budget camping through to bed and breakfasts.
The Tumbarumba Motel has large adjoining rooms with wifi at very reasonable prices. For something a little more restaurant-like (versus café) but still unpretentious enough to be comfortable for kids, their Elms Restaurant also has a wood fire and is more than happy to welcome little ones. For adults they also offer local apple ciders and wines.
In the neighbouring town of Khancoban, still within the Tumbarumba shire, is the bed and breakfast Queen’s Cottage. There are actually two cabins, seven apartments and two houses here with stunning views overlooking the lake and Snowy Mountains.
If you prefer to take advantage of the beautiful natural surrounds of Tumbarumba and camp with kids, there are several free camping sites to pitch a tent. You can find them listed on the official tourism website.
If you’re looking for a cheap place to do your laundry and surf the Internet, there is a laundromat with Internet facilities in The Parade (the main street of Tumbarumba).
Images: suitcases&strollers, Jeffrey Drewitz, Sally Mayman, Destination NSW