Guests who like driving to Falls Creek in winter like the convenience of coming and going when they want and need to but when asked what I would do, I would prefer to take the coach.
There are a number of things to consider if you are driving here:
- Snow. It is the reason why you are coming, so you should expect it to be on the road driving to Falls Creek. Snow can fall as low as 1000 metres which means you can be driving on snow for about 10 km. Snow conditions can vary, but it can clog the tyre treads or the surface of the road can freeze giving you minimal traction, and even with 4WD vehicles you can still slide. On a winding mountain road that is less than ideal. While there are people who are very well experienced in handling such conditions, many of us are not. Hence you need to have snow chains.
- Snow chains. Literally chains that in various configurations are secured around the tyres. These can be hired from the sub-alpine towns like Mt Beauty and Tawonga South at the service stations or snowsports hire. Would be a good idea to check in advance that they have ones to fit your tyres and that you can actually fit it to your car. The wheel arch is so narrow on some cars that you cannot fit them without great difficulty or at all. You only need a pair, but it depends on whether your vehicle is front or rear-wheel drive will determine which tyres they are fitted to. They need to be fitted once you reach the snowline. During peak periods there will be attendants who will be directing when people should fit the chains. This will literally be just to the side of the road, and sometimes not, pulling completely off the road might put you into a snowdrift and you could get stuck there. Once parked you have to be able to lower the chains over the wheel, reach around the back of the tyre to grab the parts that fasten on the front of the wheel (make sure you know how to fit the chains before you leave the rental shop – ask them to show you how!). This can be awkward, cold, wet and dirty so bring something to lay on and a pair of gloves that aren’t too thick so you can adjust the chains. Now imagine doing this in the dark. Bring a torch.
- Time. It is 31 km between Mt Beauty – the last town you pass through before driving though – and Falls Creek. Being a winding road, travel speed averages between 45 – 65 kmph. Or slower. Once there is traffic, snow, snow chain fitting requirements, parking shuttles, trees or even other vehicles blocking the road, it can take much longer than you could anticipate. Allow extra time, be patient and drive according to the conditions.
- Resort Entry. This fee is specific to each of the Victorian Snow Resorts. It is recommended that you purchase this in advance, which can save you time and money. Otherwise you can purchase one at the ticket office located at Howman’s Gap, 5 km before you reach the village is open during normal business hours most of the week. Don’t worry if you miss that, you can purchase one in the resort and you will be given plenty of time to do so, this option just relieves the congestion when you enter the village during peak times.
- Arrival. Well done. You made it. The first thing you will see is flag posts on the left and Alpine Pepper Cafe on the right. Continue past this about 300 metres until you see attendants in the middle of the road to give you direction or signage if you arrive in the evening.
- Unloading and parking. You can unload in front of the Accommodation Transfer Terminal (read this for more information we have written about the Accommodation Transfer Service). The driver then moves the car opposite the terminal (in front of the sign saying Wait here for Parking) where they will be met and shown where to park the car by parking attendants who will then return them to the Terminal. This service is included in the entry fee. While every effort is made to park cars as close as possible, and usually in the Lower Slalom Carpark, cars can actually end up further away, even as far as Howman’s Gap during peak times. Make sure you know which car park and bay the car is parked. You will need to advise the parking attendants where you are parked when you return to the car. Some guests put their chains on the parked car so that if it snows during their stay, at least it is easier when there is no snow on or around the car.
- Getting the car. When you are heading home, you reverse this process. There is a sign at the Terminal that tells drivers where to stand and wait for the shuttle that will drive you to the car. You may need to clear the car of snow, so make sure you have a shovel and snow scraper with you if has been snowing during your stay (we have some you can borrow). Allow anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to do this. Often it is a good idea to do this the night before, even if it snows again overnight it will save some time the next day. If you haven’t fitted the chains already, the digging may take even longer. Be aware that you may be parked on the side of the road, so you have to allow for traffic to pass you as well. If there is no snow, what a bonus!
- Loading. Return to the Terminal. Load up the car.
- Driving. Carefully drive back down the mountain, particularly if there is still snow on the road. It might be a test of patience if there are slower vehicles, snow-clearing or if there is something blocking the road. While you might already be aware of how your passengers are affected by motion sickness, it is often worse on the way down a winding road.
Taking the coach:
- Purchase tickets in advance. Always best to secure your tickets so you know the coach will be expecting you. There are few options from Melbourne (Southern Cross Train Station and Airport), Albury (Airport and Train Station), and Mt Beauty/ Tawonga South. Falls Creek Coach Service operates from Tawonga South and has secure parking and undercover parking so you can use their Park and Ride service. Falls Bus in addition to services for Melbourne and Albury also operates a limited service from Adelaide.
- Get on the coach. Relax. Let someone else do the driving to Falls Creek and you don’t have to worry about parking, snow chains, digging snow off the car, getting cold and wet, and potentially risky experience. Your holiday starts now.