Cooma is a town on the way to the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales. It has all the services you expect and need, but it is also a regional centre, and has a fair share of attractions of interest to a visitor passing through, or staying for a while.
Cooma is well known as one of the coldest towns in Australia in winter: between June and August temperatures at night are typically below freezing, occasionally falling as low as -10°C. Don't expect to see much snow, though, since it's also quite dry and daytime temps usually go above 10°C even in midwinter.
- Cooma–Snowy Mountains Airport (OOM IATA) (just south of town). Cooma has a nice sealed airstrip and terminal. While it used to have scheduled services from Brisbane and Sydney, as of 2023 it has only charter flights.
The closest airport with regular service is at Canberra, which is just over an hour's drive. You can fly there from most Australian capitals. There are also bus connections to Cooma.
There are direct bus services to Canberra and Bairnsdale stopping at all the towns along the Monaro, including Bombala. There are connections to Sydney and Melbourne at either end. These services are run by the NSW Trainlink and the Victorian Vline The services south run three times a week, and the services north run daily.
During the snow season (June to October inclusive), several bus companies travel between Canberra and Jindabyne passing through Cooma, sometimes up to 5 times daily.
Timetables and fares can be found on each bus companies' website, but are only listed within the snow months.
Most people drive to Cooma along the Monaro Highway. It's just under five hours drive from Sydney, and just over a one-hour drive from Canberra. The Monaro highway is a two lane road for most of its length, in good condition. If you are coming from Sydney you don't need to go through Canberra, but you can skirt around it by following the signs to Cooma is signposted off the Federal Highway, however, Canberra does make a good stopover on the way to the Alpine areas.
Taxis are available on the national number: 131 008.
Cooma Coaches operates a town bus service, which runs a loop around Cooma three times daily. Once around 9AM, again around lunchtime, and again in the early afternoon.
- 1 Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre, 1 Monaro Highway (2 km north of Cooma). M-F 8AM-4:30PM, Sa Su holidays 9AM-2PM. Free museum documenting the rather epic engineering that went and continues to go into the Snowy Hydro electric scheme. Interactive, family-friendly exhibits that most adults will find a bit dry unless you're into heavy engineering, but the video shown every 30 minutes in the theatre is worth a watch. Free.
- 2 New South Wales Corrective Services Museum, 1 Vagg St, ☏ . Daily 8:30AM-3:30PM. Documents the history of prisons in NSW since the founding of the colony in 1788. Tours are led by minimum-security prisoners from Cooma Correctional Centre, located right next door. free, donations welcome.
- Art Gallery on Lambie Street.
- Aviation Pioneers Memorial - a strikingly-designed geometrical monument, containing artifacts recovered from the Avro 618 Ten aircraft "Southern Cloud" that crashed on 21 March 1931 in the Australian Alps' Toolong Mountains. The wreck was found on 26 October 1958.
Most visitors here are on their way to the ski resorts and hiking trails of the Snowy Mountains, but there are a few things to do around town.
- 1 Cooma-Monaro Railway, Short St, ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-4PM. The Cooma-Monaro railway used to run an historical tourist train from Cooma station, running along the railway line north for around 20 km. Services were suspended in 2014 due to safety concerns, but there's active work on rehabilitating the line and the society purchased a new steam loco in 2023. For now, you can still check out the society's museum.
- Gliding, Banyan Field. Experience gliding with the Canberra Gliding Club most weekends (weather permitting).
There are large Coles and Woolworths supermarkets, and if you are heading south, Cooma is a great place to get supplies. There is also a choice of 24-hour service stations.
Renting equipment in Cooma is cheaper than at the snow, and it can be of better quality. It is also a cheaper place to rent snow chains if you are going into the national park during winter. There is also a full range of ski equipment and clothing for sale from multiple shops. Some are open 24-hours during winter.
- Rhythm Snow Sports.
There are a few cafes and places in town that cater to traffic to and from the snow. McDonalds features prominently in town, as does KFC and a few pizza places. Cooma is really the last serious place to eat on the road from the Snowy Mountains heading north until you get to the outskirts of Canberra. If you are heading towards the snow, expect to pay much more and wait much longer for your pizza in Jindabyne than you would here.
During the warmer months, there is a large park and picnic tables in the centre of town, with a playground and a few bakeries to get take-away food.
- The Food Factory next to the visitor information centre situated next to the large park in the middle of town, is a cafe that makes huge and tasty burgers with 20 to 30 different varieties, and around $10, served quickly to cater to their market. Blackboards all over the restaurant with the menu. Pizzas too.
- East End Cafe. Bright orange, next to the second hand bookshop.
- 1 Kuma Pies and Pastries, 178 Sharp St. M-Sa 8AM-4:30PM. The pick of the litter of Cooma's many bakeries, Kuma has great traditional Aussie pies in various flavors (around $8) and a line of surprisingly tasty French-style pastries.
- Snowstop. It has a KFC and a Subway.
Pubs line the main street.
- 1 Alpine Hotel, 170 Sharp St. This stately Art Deco brick pile on Cooma's main drag is Cooma's most atmospheric pub and typically packed even on weekdays. Nice outdoor space too.
- 2 Cooma Hotel, 79 Massie St, ☏ , email@example.com. Probably the most upmarket drinking hole in Cooma, with a popular bar and a less popular bistro serving mediocre pub grub. Also has one single 6-person family room.
- 1 iMotel AU, 10 Bombala St (a short distance from town on the Canberra road). Cheap and cheerful motel accommodation in an old Chinese restaurant, complete with temple gate. Color scheme and decor will not win any interior design awards, but rooms are clean, functional and last renovated around 2022.
- Snow Season Motor Inn (a short distance from town on the Canberra road). High-end, motel-style accommodation.
- Sovereign Inn, 35 Sharp Street.
If you're not skiing, you can explore the mountains, or the Snowy Mountains Scheme lakes and tunnels.
|Routes through Cooma|
|Canberra ← Bredbo ←||N S||→ Bombala → Cann River|
|Tumut ← Adaminaby ←||W E||→ Bemboka → Bega|