It’s only June and we can already say 2020 has been a big year. With the drought from 2019 leading into the summer’s disastrous bushfires and the travel restrictions imposed due to COVID-19, our regional communities have been dealt a huge blow. 

Now that these restrictions have started ease, however, and regional travel is now back on the cards, alongside organisations like Road Trip For Good and the #emptyeskies movement, we’re urging Aussies to head on out to these affected communities and say G’day!

With that in mind, we’ve made a list of the regions now ready to host your next day trip, weekend retreat, or week-long getaway. 

Note: Please ensure you’re following the latest Government advice, download the COVID-Safe app, practice good hygiene and do not travel to these areas if you feel unwell at any point. 

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.

Depending on what you’re after, the perfect camping weather or snow, autumn and winter is the perfect time to visit the mountains. 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 and COVID’s travel restrictions limiting tourists to the area during their peak season. 

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. Only a few hours drive from Sydney, you can make it a day trip or weekend away.

As business has been slow to pick up, for the opportunistic type, it’s a great time to find an inexpensive 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: Only a couple hours drive from Sydney, head down to the wonders of Jervis Bay and explore the area. There are plenty of secluded beaches and picnic spots to enjoy – be sure to stop in at Jervis Bay Brewing Company while you’re there.

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.

 Here are just a couple of our recommendations:

  • Jindabyne: More than just a sleepy snow town, Jindy is busy year-round, from hikers, kayakers, and sightseers basing themselves there in the summer to all the skiers and snowboarders in winter. Head to Thredbo during the day for some incredible views of Australia’s highest region. Just check that it’s open first.
  • Kosciuszko National Park: Autumn is the best time of year to camp in Kosciuszko, but check the NSW national parks website before you go.

NOTE: Kosciuszko National Park is currently closed for the June long weekend 2020 with Thredbo and Perisher also closed to support NSW Ski Resorts in preparations for the opening ski season June 22nd 2020.

The Grampians – Victoria

Tourism has been heavily impacted in The Grampian Ranges this year. Smoke from fires in the Adelaide Hills affected many of the normally exceptional views, while many overseas and domestic visitors have not been allowed to travel.

Luckily, with restrictions easing everything is now starting to reopen. For current information, be sure to check out Parks Victoria before you leave. 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 or Grampians Estate are both worth a visit for lunch or a tasting – just don’t drink and drive and make sure you check what is open before you go.

East Gippsland – Victoria

The East Gippsland region was heavily hit by the fires, with homes lost in towns including Mallacoota, Buchan, and Sarsfield. The a

 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. Plan ahead and check out their COVID-19 updates before leaving. 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 (practising safe social distancing) 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.

 

Image credits:

The Grampians

Adelaide Hills

Snowy Mountains

Jervis Bay

Blue Mountains