National Landscapes and National Heritage

Heritage and tourism hand in hand

In 2008 the Alps were declared as an iconic conservation and tourism destination, as a National Landscape, and given a National Heritage Listing. As a National Landscape the Alps join other well known landscapes such as Kakadu and Australia’s Red Centre as a destination to appeal to international experience seekers. Then came the National Heritage Listing. The Listing gives the Alps national significance and – backed by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 – it ensures those special values which have been noted in the Listing will also be protected at a Federal level.

The National Landscapes Initiative and the National Heritage Listing are quite separate, but they share a recognition of the value of this mountain landscape. One’s strength is as a strategic and rather organic marketing initiative based on strong community partnerships, the other is a statutory device to specifically recognise the national significance and to support the ongoing management of the national parks within this greater Alps region. While they are obviously quite distinct, there is also a great synergy between the two – they fit hand in hand. Working alongside one another, they are proving to be a formidable duo.

News | Australian Alps National Landscape Tourism Strategy

This Tourism Strategy is a high-level strategic document aimed at identifying tourism opportunities and potential for the international Experience Seeker market and therefore does not aim to address all tourism or recreation opportunities. However it acknowledges that if the Australian Alps gets it right for the discerning Experience Seeker target market, it will also have greater appeal to the domestic market.

A National Landscape

The Australian Alps is a landscape which inspires and challenges the visitor – whether on foot, horse, bike, ski or in a car through a network and variety of journeys, destinations and sustainable visitor facilities. Being part of the National Landscapes Initiative confirms the Alps as a magnificent destination for many reasons…

An enduring culture

Aboriginal people have lived in this mountain environment for thousands of years – there’s evidence as far back as the last ice age, 21,000 years ago. Their bonds to the country remain strong and they know its flora, fauna, geography and seasonal changes intimately, and to this day, the mountains are the basis of the complex network of ceremonial song lines that run across the country. For visitors, there are opportunities to experience this unique culture.

The high country

This is Man from Snowy River country, a place fixed in the national consciousness by poet Banjo Paterson, who wrote about the area’s wild bush horses and those who gave them chase. The legacy of these early pastoralists and gold prospectors remains in the form of historic huts, built as shelters for stockmen and now visited by four wheel drivers, trail riders, bushwalkers and skiers.

True wilderness

The mountain landscape is filled with over a thousand native plant species which produce stunning wildflower displays. These clothe undulating plateaux and deep gorges where ancient glaciers have left their mark on the alpine rocks, all underpinned by marine sediments deposited millions of years ago when the sea covered south-east Australia. Many of these wilderness areas retain their primeval character, among them the Bimberi Wilderness that links the Namadgi and Kosciuszko national parks.

Running water and snow

Rivers carve their way through this mountain country, ultimately supplying the needs of the cities, and it was this same mountain rainfall which led last century to the development of hydroelectric power through projects such as the Snowy Mountains Scheme. Tunnels, power stations and settlements are a fascinating testament to both engineering and immigration. And then in winter there is snow and all the recreational opportunities both active and passive that it brings.

The walking track

And then there is the Australian Alps Walking Track which winds its way for 650 kilometres, through peppermint forests, tall stands of alpine ash and snow gum woodlands; past virtually everything that the Alps have to offer, from the most remote wilderness to rich cultural experiences; literally the entire Alps from Walhalla in Victoria to Tharwa in the ACT.

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Heritage listed

The National Heritage Listing recognises many natural, Indigenous and historic values, such as…

The lie of the land

Today, snow and ice coverage is limited to the highest peaks and altitudes, but in the past continental Australia and its southern territorial islands experienced periods of glaciation. The result is a collection of deposits and features sitting within the Australian Alps – alpine lakes, cirques and associated moraines, ice-grooved and polished pavements, erratic boulders and block streams. Together these features are evidence of the cold-climate, high-altitude history of the Alps, something which is unique to the mostly flat, dry and hot Australian continent.

The Alps also contain a karst landscape, shaped by weathering. Gorges, arches, blind valleys, springs and pinnacle fields sit on the surface while hundreds of caves, some open to the public, sit beneath.

Flora and fauna, then and now

Strange as it may seem, the Alps hold remarkable fish fossils across a wide range of life stages from larvae to mature fish and over tens of millions of years. These fossils tell an important story about the evolution of fish – the development of features that enabled vertebrates to leave the water to exploit terrestrial environments for the first time. The present-day Alps support a rich and unique collection of cold climate specialist species that have evolved to survive in an environment subject to climate extremes: daisies (Asteraceae), willow-herbs (Onagraceae), starworts and cushion-plants (Caryophyllaceae), southern heaths (Epacris), bottlebrushes (Callistemon), orchids (Pterostylis, Prasophyllum and Dipodium) and pimeleas (Thymaelaeaceae); fauna, including the mountain pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus), the alpine she-oak skink (Cyclodomorphus praealtus), Snowy Mountains rock skink (Egernia guthega), Baw Baw frog (Philoria frosti), southern corroboree frog (Pseudophryne corroboree), and the northern corroboree frog (P. pengilleyi); and insects such as stoneflies, caddisflies, mayflies and grasshoppers. Indigenous links with country Each year, the Bogong moth (Agrotis infusa) makes its migration into the highlands to escape the harsh summer climate of the lowlands. High in fat, these insects helped sustain largescale annual Indigenous gatherings in past times. Evidence exists throughout the alpine region – artefacts, paintings, cave occupation – of this annual movement and the culturally significant meeting of distinct Aboriginal groups. Aboriginal people continue to meet in the mountains, maintaining strong links. More recent links with the high country

From the 1830s, the alpine high plains were used by settlers to graze stock during the summer months, a practice which was significant and continuously practised for a period of over 150 years. This type of grazing created and sustained a distinctive way of life – filled with huts, stock yards and stock routes. Grazing is no longer permitted due to its impact on this sensitive environment. Nevertheless its contribution to the early pastoral industry of south-east Australia and to Australia’s pioneering history and culture, is recognised and celebrated.

Science in the Alps

Scientific research, which began at around the same time as grazing, continues, generating a massive body of information across a range of disciplines. In 1969, the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station in the ACT played a significant role in the Apollo 11 moon landing mission, and to this day, numerous research sites exist within the Alps: focussed on flora and fauna, soil conservation, karsts, meteorology, fire ecology, grazing and glacial research. Water harvesting

Harvesting the water of the mountains has always played a vital role in the social and economic development of Australia. Not only does water from headwaters in the Alps contribute to the water needs of Canberra and Melbourne, but both the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric and the Kiewa Valley Hydroelectric schemes contribute to the electricity needs of south-eastern Australia.

Culturally, their contribution has been through their roles as major post-war reconstruction projects, encouraging migration to Australia and employing over 60,000 displaced persons from post war Europe, evidence of which can be seen in the numerous tunnels, aqueducts, power stations, huts, roads and former settlements, town and work camp sites.


Perhaps most appreciated are the many ways in which the Alps have offered opportunities for recreation, year round. Australian snow sports began in 1861 – the Kiandra Snowshoe Club expanding from an ad hoc activity by enthusiasts to a multi-million dollar snow sport and tourism industry characterised by the groomed ski slopes, ski lift infrastructure and substantial village resorts.

Government supported chalets, set in scenic locations in the early twentieth century, became focal points at a time when mountain retreats were highly regarded for good health – the Mount Buffalo Chalet, the Yarrangobilly Caves House Precinct, the Chalet at Charlottes Pass, and the former Hotel Kosciuszko and Mount Franklin Chalets.

For more information about the National Heritage Listing visit: