The town of Cooma, in southern New South Wales, is situated between Canberra and the alpine resort towns of Jindabyne and Thredbo. It’s the perfect place to base yourself when exploring the Snowy Mountains region and there’s plenty to see in and around the town.
Cooma is a small country town, with a resident population of just over 6000. Every year, 240 000 tourists swell the population of the town and they are well catered for, with a bustling main street shopping area. Here you’ll meet The Man from Snowy River, immortalised in the poem by Banjo Patterson in 1890.
“He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko’s side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where a horse’s hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride,
The man that holds his own is good enough.”
Since 1974 the waters of the Snowy River have been harnessed to provide hydro-electricity for thousands of households across southern Australia. The Snowy Mountains hydro- electricity scheme is the largest engineering project in Australia and the story of its construction is told at the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre.
There is a large collection of archival photos and films portraying the lives of over 100 000 workers who came in the 1950s, from more than 30 countries. Test your legs by generating energy on a bicycle or watch a lighted display of the network of dams and tunnels that make up the scheme. Outside, you’ll be amazed by the enormity of the old turbines no longer in use.
Another remarkable piece of Cooma’s history can be experienced at the Cooma Railway Station. The railway line from Sydney to Cooma opened in 1889 and brought passengers up to the mountains for almost 100 years. The Railway Station, which has been preserved in its original condition, is now the home of the Cooma Monaro Railway.
Take a ride on a 1924 rail motor, in First Class no less, on the track between Cooma and Chakola and you’ll travel through beautiful countryside while travelling back in time.
After seeing the country views from the train, drive to the lookout at Mt Gladstone, just outside Cooma, for an elevated view of the town, the vast plains of the Monaro and the blue-tinted ranges of the Snowy Mountains. You’ve seen Cooma. Now the Snowy Mountains beckon.
The Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre is open Monday to Friday, 9.00 – 17.00, Saturday and Sunday 9.00 – 14.00.
The Cooma Monaro Railway train runs every weekend, from the railway station.