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. There have been some really great falls in Stanthorpe at times, although it’s not too reliable or frequent. 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 we like to focus on a spot with a higher likelihood of seeing the white stuff – the Northern Tablelands area of NSW, centred around the small city of Armidale.
One town in particular is Guyra. 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 so when there's a possibility of snow around, being high up good thing. Guyra is about five and a half hour's drive south of Brisbane, which even with little kids is do able, but we’ve also driven a little bit further to the south to the town of Walcha (pronounced ‘walka’), which also has a pretty reliable record of snow.
Our first snow chasing was in June 2016, All the stars seemed to align for us before we headed off on our snow chasing trip. We had been keeping a 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. 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 which was perfect for first-time snow chasers!
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 a good reason to get into Guyra before too much snow and to either stay in Guyra or south in Armidale.
Our second snow chasing attempt in August 2019 was also quite successful – snow forecast on Saturday afternoon in the New England region was just too tempting. Again, we set off on reasonable short notice and quite early in the morning to get into the region as early as possible. This time we went a little further south to the town of Walcha, another town with a reputation for good (for the region) snow falls, but with an 8-hour drive, it was probably pushing the limits for a weekend getaway.
As we arrived we were greeted with some small showers of sleet which was good enough for the kids – for them it was as good as snow! It wasn’t until nightfall that we saw real snow floating down and it was fantastic! Snowballs were quickly packed together and snowball fights broke out immediately! We all had heaps of fun but after an early start and a long drive we were quite happy to get back into the warmth of our accommodation.
Light snow continued to fall through the night and the next day we awoke to beautiful scenes as there was a light cover of snow over everything, plus a real festive atmosphere as heaps of families came out to make the most of this infrequent experience! We were so glad that we made the choice to drive down to Walcha, it’s a lovely and friendly little town and hopefully we can spend a little more time here on our next visit!
Even with a relatively tough drive (on the kids), these trips have been some of our most memorable little outings - the kids had a fantastic time and! 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 small rural towns and the locals are more than helpful! 👍👍👍 Cost: Free to visit and enjoy the snow, travel and 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: This is a lovely part of the world, nice and quiet little towns in a beautiful setting and really friendly residents! We’ve had get luck chasing snow so far and it’s definitely a worthwhile outing, but even if we didn’t see the snow I think that we would have loved visiting this region A really good option for Queenslanders trying to catch some snow! 👍👍👍👍
Walcha, August 2019
Guyra, June 2016
Where is it: Stanthorpe, Southern Downs Region
What's it all about: A celebration of winter in Queensland’s coldest town!
Tell me more: Stanthorpe is well known in Queensland for its cold weather, so why not celebrate it! This very new 3 day festival has been ‘warmly’ received by both locals and tourists alike with plenty of entertainment over festival including live music, roaming entertainers, games, rides and movies! There’s also markets and fireworks! But main attraction for the festival has to be at the ‘Snowgrounds’ - two snow fields for snowman building and snowball fights, an ice skating rink and giant snow globes! So much fun!
Brisbane Family Explorers