The thought of catching some snowflakes is really intriguing as a Queenslander, and here in Brisbane there is the temptation of having the possibility of seeing some snow only a few hour's drive away in Stanthorpe. Last year, there were some really great falls in Stanthorpe. We know, because we saw it on the news and much to our disappointment we weren’t there in amongst it. There's so much temptation to jump in the car and drive those few hours to see some of the magical snow. But there's also the thought of dread in the back of your mind that after 3 hour's drive at short notice with 3 little kids in the car, that upon arrival you will be greeted by a lovely sunny but cold day in Stanthorpe. And 3 cranky kids demanding to know where the snow is. So this year, we thought that we might put a little preparation in and try to find a spot with a higher likelihood of seeing the white stuff. We decided on the spot, Guyra, in the Northern Tablelands area of NSW.
Why did we decide on Guyra? Well, it has a consistent record of receiving a few decent snowfalls every year. It's at a reasonably high altitude (by Australian standards) being around 1300 metres above sea level, which, when there's a possibility of snow around, is a good thing. You will often hear the forecasts of "snow down to 1000m" or something, so being above that is good for your snow chances. Guyra is about five and a half hour's drive south of Brisbane, which even with little kids is do-able, although we've never had the kids in the car for longer than about 3 hours so we would be sailing in unchartered territory by driving to Guyra! And finally, we figured that the further south we go, the better our chances. But the main reason was that the falls that they receive there are generally always heavier and more reliable than in Stanthorpe.
All the stars seemed to align for us before we headed off on our snow chasing trip. We had been keeping an keen eye out on the forecasts - pretty much any snow in Australia outside of the Snowy Mountains region is news-worthy. There was the possibility of some cold weather hitting us just at the start of the school holidays, so we pencilled in some leave from work. Even if we didn't get to the snow, we could explore somewhere as a family and not feel guilty about dad sitting at work and our oldest sitting in school and missing out on the action. We kept a close eye on the Bureau of Meteorology's 'MetEye' map which had some snow showing around Guyra intermittently over a period of a few days. One day in particular showed snow forecast from 1:00pm in the afternoon! Could this be our chance?
The thought of catching some snowfall through the daylight hours was too good to pass up, so on the morning of the predicted snowfall we packed the car up and headed off! The drive to Guyra was surprisingly easy. We're not sure if this was because of the anticipation of seeing our first snowfall, or perhaps the fact that we hadn't really planned this out too much - we just threw everything in the car and off we went! A bit of cloudy weather helped the kids sleep a lot of the way, which made a huge difference to our drive! We kept an eye on what was going on in our destination and saw that there were some brief snow flurries in the morning which got us even more excited, however the afternoon forecast was changing a bit which made us a little nervous! "As we had set off with no real planning, we had no accommodation booked which is something we have never done with kids! As Guyra sits half-way between Glen Innes and Armidale (both larger centres), we figured that if there were no options in Guyra we could stop at either of these towns (both of which had some chance of snow forecast as well). There are only a few accommodation options in Guyra (2 x motels, 2 x pubs and a caravan park) and we called them all before luckily finding somewhere! As it turned out, this was a real bonus for us on this trip as we were very close to staying in Glen Innes (we will explain later why this is not the best idea!).
We were about 5 kms out of Guyra driving through drizzling rain when we noticed some strange behaviour from the rain drops - could it be? Snow?! Yes! Right on cue, just as we were entering into Guyra, we witnessed our first snowflakes! We pulled over on the highway and got out to feel it! Our first time experiencing snow falling was really great, but we needed more." The snow was falling lightly as we checked in at our accommodation but there was not enough to settle. It was a bit stop start so we thought that we would go for a drive around and explore the area. The locals had told us that Ben Lomond (a little village about 10 minutes’ drive from Guyra) would be a promising spot so that’s where we went, and we can tell you, the locals were not wrong! It was freezing cold but we had to get out in the snow! Beautiful, rolling rural hills covered in a light dusting - we were so excited! We stayed for maybe half an hour before the cold got to us and the light started to fade, we wanted more, but regardless, we had seen plenty of snow falling and so we had satisfied our original goal! "After settling into our accommodation, we were delighted to see more snow falls early in the evening! By about 8:00pm, there was perhaps about 2cm of snow settled on the ground and still falling! We all went outside for a little play and snow fight - it was freezing cold, but we couldn't resist! We were really happy with our decision to chase the snow when we decided to settle in for the night even though it was hard to leave the still-falling snow.
The snow continued to fall through the night, and people continued to arrive into town to experience it - we could hear people arriving and snow fighting through the night- it was a real festive atmosphere! The next morning we awoke to see a real winter wonderland! The little village of Guyra was blanketed by about 5cm of soft and fluffy snow - as soon as we could get our warm clothes on we were back in amongst it, making snowmen, rolling up giant snow-balls and lots of snowball fights! I think we were having as much fun as the kids! The sun was out and it was a really beautiful day, although we were a little sad as we knew the snow wouldn't last much longer and we had to head back home to Brissy in any case. Reluctantly we snapped a few last shots of the snow and hit the highway, but we didn’t get too far – the highway was cut just north of Guyra because of snow and ice on the road! This is the reason to get into Guyra before too much snow and to either stay in Guyra or south in Armidale. We were very close to stopping in Glen Innes (a beautiful little town in its own right), however I think we would have missed the best of the snow if we had done so. The road closure was only expected for a few hours, so it gave us a little more time to play in the snow, which we absolutely loved!
Even with a relatively tough drive (on the kids), this was one of our most fun little outings. The kids still talk about it now and hopefully they remember it for years to come! We will 100% be keeping an eye out for more snow forecasts and will definitely be out snow chasing again!
Amenities: Good level of amenities. Typical of a small rural town! 👍👍👍
Cost: Free to visit, accommodation costs of course! 👍👍👍👍
Parking: Plenty of space to park! All free too! 👍👍👍👍
Access: Easy to get to and get around! Be aware the highway just north of Guyra is subject to closure in bad weather! 👍👍👍
Entertainment: A little quiet on the entertainment front, however if there's snow around there's heaps of fun to be had! 👍👍👍
Best for: First time snow chasers! 👍👍👍👍
Wildlife: A few kangaroos on the drive! 👍👍
Summary: Guyra is a nice quiet little town in a beautiful setting and really friendly residents! We would not have stayed here if not for the snow, but there's no doubt that we will be back again! A really good option for Queenslanders trying to catch some snow! 👍👍👍👍
Hints: Really worthwhile staying in Guyra if possible!
Brisbane Family Explorers