Although Australia is generally known for its beaches and the rugged Outback, there are a surprising number of beautiful mountains in New South Wales and Canberra that seem closer to Shenandoah than Sydney. I wish I had more time in this region because it had a totally different feel than the other places I visited in Australia.
Mount Kosciuszko is located in the Snowy Mountain sub-section of the Australian Alps, and at 2,228 m (7,310 ft), it is the tallest mountain in Australia. You can take a chairlift most of the way up the mountain, but it is another two-hour walk to the peak. The walk provides some great views, and the stony fields and groups of crows make you feel like you are in Westeros (this is a reference to A Game of Thrones for the less nerdy among us). Reaching the peak doesn’t give quite the same sense of accomplishment as conquering the highest peak in other places (see Mt. Everest), but it is still cool to reach the top of any continent. There is also a really nice bathroom close to the top, which I probably spent more time admiring than I should have.
Canberra, much like Washington, D.C., is a capital city that is located in a territory that operates separately from the other states in the country. Canberra was chosen as the site for the capital territory in 1908, and its inland location was chosen as a compromise halfway between Melbourne and Sydney. Many travelers are critical of Canberra, saying that there isn’t much to do in the city, and they are mostly correct. The city does not have the same culture, art or food scene that the other Australian cities have, but there are some interesting national museums, and its setting among the Australian Alps is truly beautiful. Canberra is also a great jumping off point to reach some of the hikes and parks in the nearby area. I was very surprised at the accessibility of the Parliament House. There is free parking and free admission to the building, and you can walk right into the Senate or House of Representatives chambers, even while they are in session (tickets required in some cases). When you are finished inside the building, the rooftop has the best views of the surrounding city and mountains.
Namadgi National Park
Namadgi National Park is located just south of Canberra, and it is one of the many great mountainous areas that make this part of Australia so interesting. There are many hikes within the park that take you to lookouts and waterfalls, but I was short on time and was only able to complete the Booroomba Rocks Hike. The views from the top were incredible and gave a view of Canberra in the valley below.