Melbourne is not a winter sports destination. Usually, if you want a ski resort you need to make the three or more hour trip to the likes of Mounts Buller, Hotham or Baw Baw. However there are two options for snow seekers two hours or less drive from Melbourne: Mount Donna Buang (which we have also visited) and Lake Mountain.
Lake Mountain doesn’t have ski runs but does have cross country skiiing and snowboarding and also has two toboggan runs. Lake Mountain is slightly further away at 2 hours rather than 90 minutes for Donna Buang. It also costs money to enter (entry is by the vehicle).
However Lake Mountain has two things going for it: snow makers and a one stop equipment rental shop.
The snow makes are used to top up natural snow on the sled/toboggan runs. During the winter months you’re guaranteed there to be something to slide on.
One of our rented toboggans. Okay, so they are more for kids…
The rental shop is also handy. You can rent literally any equipment you might need – from jackets, pants, snow boots and gloves to skis, stocks and toboggans. We rented three toboggans to use at a cost of $13.50 for the day each. That adds up but it is super convenient. You can decide to go at the spur of the moment and up with nothing and rent all your gear.
Lake Mountain can get busy. We when on a Saturday arrived at approximately 10am and had to wait 20 minutes to drive up to the ticket booth. The rental show also had a queue. udging by the traffic it gets pretty busy between 10am and noon but when we left at 1pm there wasn’t anyone waiting to get in. So arrive early or wait till later when people start to leave.
The smaller of the two toboggan runs with the escalator for lazy people next to it.
The two toboggan runs were also pretty crowded. The first, next to the rental shop, is smaller and more gentle but has a handy escalator for those who don’t want to have to walk back to the top. You have to pay for a pass, though. This run is good for littler kids who need a gentler pace.
The second run is a five minute walk away from the main area. It is bigger and faster and slightly less crowded. There’s no escalator and getting back to the top can be tiring but for our kids (and me) it was far more fun.
The second toboggan run was more fun but at times there was a bit of a queue at the top.
While our toddler got tired of being cold pretty quickly our older kids had a ton of fun – especially on the bigger sled run. The crowds were a bit of a drag, though. While we never had to wait long we sometimes had to wait for our turn to slide down and people had a habit of ruining my good runs by losing steering, stopping suddenly half way down or getting in the way somehow. While it wouldn’t stop us going again if we could we’d go on a weekday.
Overall Lake Mountain was a great option for a slice of snow and with all the facilities (like the rental shop) it was easy and the only hassles were queues.
Will I need snow chains?
No, but they might help.
The resort has its own road grader that’ll get rid of snow and ice if it becomes an issue. That said, you can be stuck waiting (maybe for hours) for the road to clear if it does become iced up or is getting cleared. If the road is icy but not being graded then traffic might be restricted to only 4WDs and vehicles with chains but our research showed that it doesn’t happen very often.
In general, Lake Mountain Road itself was well maintained and paved but windy. In cold conditions ice on the road is always possible and chains will help. Otherwise cautious driving and taking it slow on turns should get you through fine.
Chains are available to rent from a couple of shops in Marysville if you feel they’re needed.
Eating up there
The resort has two eating options – a basic restaurant and a smaller cafe although the cafe was closed when we visited.
The restaurant had a reasonable range of options, some healthy, most not so much. There were sandwiches, risotto, soups, an attempt at souvlakis, hamburgers, pizzas and a whole bunch of friend stuff plus drinks and a few dessert options. The food was not great but good enough and surprisingly – given you are literally on the top of a mountain with just one option – the prices were reasonable. We assembled a few different things – plus a lot of chips – and drinks for the five of us for about $50.
Not a great photo but it shows what it was like in the lunch time rush. Hard to get a table.
There is plenty of seating but it still got crowded come lunch time. The line to get food was long, too. Took over 20 minutes to order but the food was ready there and then.
You could bring your own food inside, too. If you’re super keen there were a few seating options outside and even a BBQ.
If you want to see snow as part of a day trip from Melbourne then Lake Mountain gets our recommendation over Mount Donna Buang. Despite being a slightly further drive the fact that you’ll definitely get some snow – real or artificial – plus the fact you an just turn up and rent anything you might need equipment wise – makes it a safer bet. Things get a bit more serious and busy compared to the laid back Donna Buang but you don’t run the risk of driving for nothing.
As for the snow itself we had a good time. The sled runs were lots of fun even if they were busy.
Lake Mountain Alpine Resort is located on Lake Mountain Road just outside of Marysville. At the time of writing a pass for a car was $56. See https://www.lakemountainresort.com.au for more details.
Kid friendly: Yes, as much as any ski resort/snow field is.
Pram/stroller friendly: Ahh, no. The snow and mud and hilliness make it very unfriendly for prams. Maybe yes if you pram is on skis or caterpillar tracks.
Change tables: Yes. The public toilets in the restaurant building had those wall-mounted fold-down tables.
Getting to Lake Mountain Alpine Resort
Lake Mountain is about 2 hours drive from the centre of Melbourne. To get there take the Eastern Freeway (and a bit of Eastlink) to get to the Maroondah Highway. You can bypass Eastlink if you get off the Eastern Freeway at Springvale road and head south to get to the Maroondah instead. Once on the Maroondah Highway go through Lilydale and keep going until the the turn off for Marysville just before Narbathong. Take this turnoff and Marysville Road (B512) through Marysville itself and then for another 15 or 20 minutes until the Lake Mountain Road turnoff on your left. It’s well signed.
There is a public transport option to Lake Mountain. Private bus company McKenzie’s run a daily service from the bus terminal of Southern Cross Station (on the City Loop) that goes to Marysville. It takes 90 minutes and you can see the timetable here. An earlier service runs from Lilydale station (take any Lilydale line service all the way to the end to get there) each day and takes 30 minutes to Marysville. From Marysville there is a shuttle bus service up to Lake Mountain – see lakemountainsnowbus.com for more details.
Going by public transport will likely need you to stay in Marysville for at least two nights to get any time at Lake Mountain, though. The outgoing buses get you there late afternoon or evening and the return buses go in the morning – except on Sunday.