Bushfire-impacted areas that need your tourism dollars
Support locals by booking a winter break to regional Australia's most impacted spots.
With many of Australia's regional centres in a state of emergency, tourism has taken a massive tumble.
As travellers cancel or cut their holidays short, areas that thrive over summer are now ghost towns. For businesses that are still up-and-running, this seriously impacts their livelihood and ability to remain open throughout the year.
So what can you do?
While many areas are still at risk and should be avoided, when they recover they'll need a healthy injection of tourism to get back on their feet.
If you haven't booked your winter travels yet, we've rounded a few destinations that you can throw your support behind by paying a visit.
Places to visit in the near future
- Adelaide Hills, SA. As at 9 January, outside of businesses that were directly impacted by the December bushfires, the Adelaide Hills region has reopened. If you're keen on a last-minute summer break its wineries can offer you the right tipple to serve your tastes. Otherwise, if you'd prefer to wait, April-May is when wineries host their end of harvest celebrations.
- Wisemans Ferry, NSW. Just under an hour's drive from Sydney, the picturesque Wisemans Ferry suffered a huge setback in tourism as fires engulfed the Hawkesbury River. Roads and national parks are closed, but when it's given the all-clear Wisemans Ferry is a great option for a weekend away. You can keep up to date with details here.
- Blue Mountains, NSW. Another short and sweet trip from Sydney, the Blue Mountains is ideal for a day or a weekend trip. In it, you can hike the trails, see the famous Three Sisters and stay in hotels famed for their mountain views. The park is closed due to current alerts but you can keep an eye on its status here.
- Mogo Zoo, NSW. Mogo Zoo's staff evacuated small animals and stayed to protect those who couldn't be moved during this year's fires. Miraculously, not a single animal was lost. The zoo is closed for clean-up but intends to reopen in the near future. Keep up to date with details via its Facebook page.
- Batemans Bay, NSW. The south coast became the victim of bushfire in the new year. Though evacuations were made, the township didn't suffer major damage and facilities such as the swimming pool and hotels such as Bay Breeze Motel are open. Pop by for those sleepy coastal-town feels and reef snorkelling. Keep up to date with details here.
- Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour, NSW. During November bushfire ash brought Port Macquarie's air quality index up to 1,739. Since then the area between Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour has since begun to recover. However, small but controlled bushfires still remain. Updates can be found here.
- Jervis Bay, NSW. Similar to Batemans Bay, this south coast destination has been in the line of fire this season and visitors were encouraged to steer clear. National parks are closed until 16 January at which point the situation may ease enough to return to its beaches. Keep up to date with details here.
Main Street of Huskisson on what is usually one of the busiest days of the year. And to all the tourists and visitors who did the right thing and left #JervisBay when asked, thank you. Hopefully you can come back soon. #nswfires #shoalhaven pic.twitter.com/a64oQiBBZt
— Kell Woods (@kellinthewoods) January 4, 2020
Places to keep on your radar
The following destinations were more heavily hit than others. As such, it's too early to tell how soon they'll re-open. When they do though, they'll very much appreciate your support. So keep them in mind when planning future trips.
In New South Wales
- Kosciuszko National Park. Kosciuszko National Park has seen little tourism this summer with the area under high alert and the park closed until the fires cease. If you're seeking a powdery break, keep its Perisher and Thredbo resorts on your list as during winter it transforms into a snowsports heaven.
- Eden. Eden was one of the worst hit by the bushfires, so its recovery may take some time. In the meantime, you may like to consider saving Airbnb options in anticipation of supporting the locals when the area re-opens.
- Shoalhaven (Milton, Mollymook, Ulladulla, Manyana, Nowra and Lake Conjola). These serene south coast towns in the Shoalhaven region have been hit pretty badly. Tourists and locals have been forced to evacuate and strong winds are expected to impact the region further into summer. It may be a while until they reopen but you can keep on top of updates here.
- Narooma. This south coast town is under threat from uncontrollable fires to its west in Countegany and in its north at Clyde Mountain. Warnings have been issued and some locals have been evacuated. While the city itself is safe the threat is keeping people away.
- Penrith. In Western New South Wales, Penrith has been getting a lot of attention for its searing hot days and destructive bushfires. When alerts have been removed, the city offers a wide variety of adventure activities for thrill-seekers. This includes wake-boarding, go-kart racing, axe throwing and jetpack or flyboarding.
- Bega. Famous for the cheese that is named after it, Bega's dairy farms lost 800,000 litres of milk as a result of the fires. Its Victorian and New South Wales cheese plants are back in production so even if you don't pay the town a visit, you can support it by purchasing its produce.
In South Australia
- Kangaroo Island. No stranger to tourism, the picturesque Kangaroo Island welcomes 100,000+ annually. During the fires it lost land, wildlife and its luxury retreat. On the positive, it has an action plan to rebuild and is currently calling for donations. In the meantime, Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action, Little Sahara and Raptor Domain - Kangaroo Island Birds of Prey have all reopened. Kingscote and Penneshaw are also open for business. To encourage tourism, the island is offering return ferry fares at 50% off ($25) between 25 January and 30 June 2020.
- East Gippsland, including Lakes Entrance. This alpine region on the east coast of Victoria lost hundreds of homes to the bushfires. Tourism dropped dramatically and if the area is safe by winter, snow bunnies can make the most of it by hitting the powder on Mount Baw Baw.
- Mallacoota. Fires ravaged this Victorian coastal delight, killing wildlife and forcing locals to evacuate, so it may be a while until the area is declared safe to visit. In the meantime, you can donate to the Mallacoota Fires Support Fund and keep up to date with the bushfire situation here.
- Fingal Valley. 8,000 hectares of Tasmania's Fingal Valley were scorched in the January bushfires putting the area on high alert. When it's recovered, pay it a visit to walk amongst its historic buildings, white gum forest and cascading waterfalls.
How you can support areas that aren't ready for tourism
Heavily impacted areas will take longer to rebuild. However, this doesn't mean you have to hoard your dollars until they reopen to keep their businesses alive.
A great starting point is by checking out this Spend With Them Instagram account. It promotes local business and how you can boost their sales during these trying times. This could be by purchasing items from their online shop or buying vouchers to forward on to local families in need.
View this post on Instagram
When it comes to local bars and restaurants, we faced a little conundrum. See, we want to support these local businesses but given we can't encourage visitation to fire-affected towns, we weren't sure how to do that. But we've found a solution! You can buy a voucher at the places we'll start to feature and they'll pass it on to a local family in need. It's completely win-win :) On that note, let us introduce @the_ruse_ - a bar and casual dining venue in Ulladulla. You can #spendwiththem by purchasing a gift voucher at theruse.com.au/shop. If you'd like to gift this voucher to someone in need or an RFS volunteer, email the voucher to email@example.com and they'll sort it. Simple!
Other ways to support tourism online:
- Buy a Bushfire Support box: Wine club Good Pair Days has purchased wines from bushfire affected vineyards in South Australia and bundled them into a Bushfire Support Box and is donating all profits to the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal. It's a complete win-win. Limestone Coast based winery Patrick of Coonawarra is also donating 50% of its total online sales throughout January to the SA Country Fire Service.
- Donate to specific causes: Numerous tourist attractions that have been impacted by the fire are calling for donations. These include Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Kangaroo Bay Wildlife Park, Mogo Zoo Fire Recovery and Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.
- Visit Perth Zoo: The zoo has pledged all proceeds from encounters and photo opportunities to be donated to the bushfire relief fund.
- Book a Battlefield Tour. In support of the bushfires, $100 for every passenger who books a Battlefield tour will be donated to the NSW Rural Fire Service.
These are a mere snapshot of the destinations and attractions that have been affected by the Australian bushfires. If you know others that need support, let us know below.
- How major retailers are helping bushfire-affected Australians
- Australian bushfire donation scams: What you need to know before donating
- The Australian restaurants, cafes and bars donating profits to bushfires
- Australian bushfires: How domestic travel insurance can help
- How paying with Zip Pay can help those affected by the bushfires