Visit Regional Australia | Bushfire Affected Communities
This recent summer’s bushfires have had a devastating impact on our regional communities.
Alongside organisations like Road Trip For Good and the #emptyeskies movement, we’re urging Aussies and international travellers to head on out to these bushfire affected communities and say G’day! Most affected towns are back in business and welcoming visitors in time for the Easter holidays. In fact, you’ll never feel more welcome than right now! Insurance can only help so much, your business is the best way to help people get their lives back to normal.
With that in mind, we’ve made a list of the regions that, while being affected by the fires to a greater or lesser extent, are now ready to host your next day trip, weekend retreat, or week-long getaway.
The Blue Mountains – NSW
The Blue Mountains have always been an amazing spot for Sydney-siders to visit, being so close to the city. However, the area was heavily hit during the summer fires, with around 80% of the world heritage area being affected in some way.
The good news is towns across the mountains are back in action. Some national parks are still closed, so check online before you head out. As of writing, the train service in the area is also spotty. Catch the replacement buses or book a GoGet to get there instead.
Autumn is the perfect time to visit the mountains, now that the summer heat has lost its edge. It’s always worth visiting Katoomba, but here are some other ideas:
- Blackheath: Amazing for antique shopping and a great weekend lunch spot. Want to get active? Don’t miss the Grand Canyon walking track.
- Medlow Bath: If you haven’t visited the Hydro Majestic, do yourself a favour and drop in. The views and gardens make for great photos.
If you’re keen to camp, read our article on camping in the Blue Mountains.
The Central Coast and Hunter Valley – NSW
The Central Coast hinterland and Lower Hunter were especially impacted by the fires, with the Gospers Mountain mega-fire raging for weeks across the region. Luckily, all bushfire affect communities are now welcoming visitors again, though some national parks remain closed.
The best way to enjoy the Central Coast and its hinterland is by car, so book a GoGet for the day. For the Hunter Valley, a train to Newcastle will connect you with GoGets or several private shuttles. Here are some things to do when you’re up there:
- Wisemans Ferry to Wollembi: The roads that wind through the Central Coast hinterland are catnip to motorcyclists for good reason. They’re fantastic to drive with some incredible sights, even after the fire. We’d recommend stopping in at the historic St Albans for lunch, and the Wollembi markets if you visit on a public holiday Monday.
- Cellar Doors in the Hunter: While the Hunter Valley wine region wasn’t heavily impacted by the fires themselves, smoke taint may see millions of dollars worth of grapes spoiled. There’s never been a more beneficial time to go tasting.
The Shoalhaven – NSW
The Shoalhaven stretches from Kangaroo Valley down to Pebbly Beach, with around 50 towns across the 100km stretch. While these towns were all heavily affected by the fires, they’re all essentially open for business.
Business has been slow to pick up though. For opportunistic types, it’s a great time to find a B&B, hotel, or getaway that’s normally booked solid. If you’re a cheese, beer, and wine fan, the Shoalhaven is one of Australia’s richest regions. Here are a few places to check out:
- Berry: One of the gems of the NSW South Coast, Belly’s charm has not been lost. Between the beach and the largely still operating dairy country to the west, it’s a great time to get down to Berry on the train.
- Jervis Bay: Things are mostly back to normal in the nation’s capital beach resort town, despite the lack of tourists. Drive down to enjoy an uncrowded beach (be sure to stop in at Jervis Bay Brewing Company).
Snowy Mountains – Victoria/NSW
The Kosciuszko National Park took a big hit this summer, and it could take hundreds of years for the region to fully recover. Despite that, it’s still a truly wonderous part of the world and a reminder of the power of nature.
If you’ve only visited the Snowies in winter, you’re missing out on the best it has to offer. The region comes alive in the Spring and Autumn, so an early-year visit is well worth the effort. Here are just a couple of recommendations:
- Jindabyne: More than just a sleepy snow town, Jindy is busy year-round, with hikers, kayakers, and sightseers basing themselves there during the warmer months. Head to Thredbo during the day for some incredible views of Australia’s highest region.
- Kosciuszko National Park: Autumn is the best time of year to camp in Kosciuszko, but check the NSW national parks website before you go – the park is reopening in stages over the start of 2020.
The Grampians – Victoria
The Grampian Ranges were largely unaffected by the fires themselves, but tourism has been heavily impacted by the scale of the disastrous summer. Smoke from fires in the Adelaide Hills affected many of the normally exceptional views, while many overseas and domestic visitors simply decided not to travel during the summer.
Luckily, everything is now open, with every town and national park welcoming visitors. Here are just a few of the sights we would recommend you check out:
- MacKenzie Falls: These falls are iconic and truly spectacular, and a must-do for anyone visiting Grampians National Park (which everyone should!). If you drive to the Falls via Halls Gap, be sure to stop in at the Pinnacle and Brokoa lookouts.
- Grampians wineries: Some of Victoria’s best wine can be found in the Grampians, with a view to match! Pomonal Estate, Seppelt, or Grampians Estate are all worth a visit for lunch or a tasting – just don’t drink and drive!
East Gippsland – Victoria
The East Gippsland region was heavily hit by the fires, with homes lost in towns including Mallacoota, Buchan, and Sarsfield. While road closures have made the recovery effort tough, access by car is now fully restored to the entire region.
Even areas ravaged by fire are still beautiful to visit, though in a slightly different way than normal. Here are a few places worth checking out:
- Buchan Caves: At over 300 million years old, Buchan Caves look good for their age. There’s accommodation at the caves themselves, with camping or cabin options. You’ll be there among local wildlife, including kangaroos and lyrebirds!
- Alpine National Park: There’s nothing like exploring a mountain range, and the Alpine National Park is one of Australia’s best, stretching most of the way to the NSW border. Whether you love to hike, camp, or just enjoy a Sunday drive, this is the place to relax.
Kangaroo Island – South Australia
This summer’s fires affected every family on Kangaroo Island in one way or another. Despite large sections of the island being burnt out, more than half of the island that’s still open to tourists.
While Flinders Chase National Park will likely be closed for the rest of the year, now is an amazing time to visit KI – the ferry fares are heavily discounted and you’ll find accommodation without even looking. Here are just a couple of activities that are still operating:
- Seal Bay: The iconic Seal Bay suffered no fire damage. Despite that, visitors are down 70% from last year. That means now is a great time to get face to face with some incredible wildlife.
- Kingscote: The bustling heart of Kangaroo Island wasn’t physically by the fires, and remains open to visitors. The beaches here are some of the most pristine in Australia, and it’s a great place to de-stress, after an altogether too eventful summer.
Adelaide Hills – South Australia
The Adelaide Hills were hit harder by this year’s fires than any other wine region in Australia, with many grower’s entire crops destroyed. The impact of the fires will be felt for years to come, but that doesn’t stop the Hills being one of Adelaide’s best getaways.
Most businesses are now open again, with wine and cheese still flowing! Along with the wineries and breweries in the region, here are our favourite spots in the Adelaide Hills:
- Hahndorf: It might be old news to most Adelaidians, but if you haven’t been to Australia’s most lovable historic German town, you’re missing out. Even if you haven’t been in a while, there’ll be new things to discover.
- Beerenberg: Fancy something sweet? Strawberry picking at the Beerenberg farm happens from October to April each year and hasn’t stopped due to the fires. Grab some of Australia’s best jam while you’re there! Check with the farm to be sure the field is open when you visit.
Get out and explore
A well-timed road trip is great for your own wellbeing, but getting to one of the affected regions right now will be a big help to more than just you. We’ve only scratched the surface on what’s on offer – check the map on Road Trip for Good for more ideas.
If you’re a GoGet member, then there’s nothing standing in your way! Book a car today and do some good while you do some driving.