When we embarked on our ‘Road Trip for Good‘ at the beginning of March, the purpose was to visit bushfire affected parts of the country, and do our bit to support struggling local economies.
The start of 2020 saw unprecedented bushfires rip through Australia; millions of people were affected, but the devastation wasn’t just limited to property, wildlife, and land. It also decimated local economies across the country, as travelers cancelled their plans.
Summer is peak season for tourism in Australia, and many small businesses rely on the visitor economy. Even if the fire didn’t reach their doors, the sudden drought of tourism was a heart aching pill to swallow.
Our gratitude can’t be expressed deeply enough for the outpouring of love, donations, and support which flooded in from around the world, and from around the country. But the bushfire recovery is far from over, especially for those who have lost their income.
By mid March a pandemic swept in, and we were forced to rush home. But as Australia went into lockdown and we cut our trip short, the residents of bushfire affected Australia had a clear message:
‘Please don’t forget about us’.
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How to Visit and Support Bushfire Affected Regions of Australia
Don’t Forget About Them
Vivonne Bay – Kangaroo Island
The thing about a bushfire is that it’s not a quick thing to recover from. Many months on, the news of the bushfires has died down, and the physical flames have gone out, but the affected regions are still desperately in need of support.
Sadly, tourism doesn’t return quite as quickly as natural regrowth.
One of the best ways you can continue to support bushfire affected Australia at this point is to visit, and that’s what we wanted to promote; we wanted to show how quickly regeneration is happening, and that each region is still open for business, still with incredible things to offer.
We ventured north of Melbourne where Lavender was in bloom on an 1850’s Swiss Italian Farm. We cut across to the Adelaide Hills, where fiery autumn colors burst through regrowth. We discovered that only half of Kangaroo Island was hit by fire, while on the other half, the wildlife, landscapes, and beaches were still as beautiful as in the postcards.
But towards the end of our trip, in mid March, the whole world was rocked.
It’s tough to remember bushfire ravaged Australia when the whole travel industry has had to fold. And it’s totally understandable to only have enough capacity to tackle our own individual struggles.
When we emerge from lockdown, every destination, economy, and industry is going to desperately need our support. Though with everyone now suffering, I sincerely hope the bushfire affected regions don’t go forgotten.
Because their homes, industries, and livelihoods were ripped from them three months before. And just as tourism started returning to the regions, to offer a glimmer of hope, that hope was ripped away once more.
So as you’re planning your future travels while in lock down, and dreaming about where you’ll go, start dreaming about a trip through regional Australia; these are vast and beautiful regions where your tourism dollars can be used for incredible good.
How to Plan a Bushfire Recovery Trip
Flinders Chase National Park – Kangaroo Island
It’s actually very easy to plan a bushfire recovery trip, and companies like Spirit of Tasmania are doing their part to make sure we don’t forget about the affected communities.
The Australian States which were badly affected by the fires are NSW, Victoria, and South Australia. We planned our itinerary off an interactive map called ‘Road Trip for Good’, which was created by Spirit of Tasmania to support tourism to each region.
The map (click here) is a road trip planner which marks out exactly which regions were affected, and lets you click into each region to see what kind of things there are to do. You can either create your own itinerary, as we did, or there are free itineraries already there for you.
Companies have the ability to add their business to the map, and share information about how the bushfires affected them. The regions featured are the NSW North Coast, NSW South Coast, High Country Victoria, Gippsland, Adelaide Hills, and Kangaroo Island.
If you’re driving to or from the Spirit of Tasmania Melbourne ferry terminal from other States, this is also a great way to plan out some time to visit affected areas along the way.
Why Travel is The Best Form of Support
The Haus Restaurant – Adelaide Hills
I get this question a lot – why is travel the best way to help communities rebuild and recover as quickly as possible? Why not donations?
When you travel, and pay for accommodation, food, and local tours, you know that 100% of your money goes directly into the hands of local families and their businesses, and this directly keeps them afloat. It allows them to put food on their table, and keep the electricity on.
There’s no question about what percentage of the money you’ve spent goes to the local business – you’ve cut out the middle man, and the local gets it all. You have control over exactly where your money goes, and what it’s used for, and there’s no delay in it entering the economy.
These are many issues we often see with the administrative requirements of processing donations through a charity or third party organization / fund.
If you were following our Roadtrip For Good on social media, and want to plan out a similar itinerary, the route we took made for an incredible trip.
We drove onto Spirit of Tasmania, and over three weeks, road-tripped through rural and regional Victoria, over into the Adelaide Hills, and then drove onto the SeaLink Kangaroo Island ferry for a week on Kangaroo Island.
It’s important to note that most of Australia is temporarily closed due to the pandemic, and while we are encouraging people to stay at home until the danger has passed, we share this itinerary so you can travel as soon as it is safe to do so.
3 Week Day Self Drive Itinerary
➤ Day 1: Arrive Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm
➤ Day 2: Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm
➤ Day 3: Melbourne via Macedon Ranges
➤ Days 4 – 5: Outer suburbs of Melbourne
➤ Day 6: Portland, Victoria
➤ Day 7: Portland – Adelaide Hills
➤ Day 8 – 9: Adelaide Hills (Hahndorf)
➤ Day 10 – 17: Kangaroo Island
➤ Day 18: Adelaide Hills
➤ Day 19 – 21: Grampians, Victoria
➤ Day 22: Return home
Day 1 – 2: Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm
On an overnight sailing to the mainland from Tasmania, we arrived in Vic and immediately drove north, to Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm, where we booked two nights in their adjacent country house.
One of Victoria’s most important rural properties, Lavandula is an 1850’s heritage farm, which, while still a working farm (they grow lavender, olives and grapes), welcomes visitors, and allows you to wander freely around their grounds.
They have incredible gardens, lavender fields, olive groves, and animals to meet, and have kept the heritage of the 1850’s stone buildings totally intact around the property. There is a wonderful cafe on site, and a shop which sells their produce.
While this is an easy day trip from Melbourne (an hour and a half away), we chose to stay for two nights at the stunningly modern country house; a self contained, three bedroom house with a killer view of the countryside, and a spa (full review to come).
What better way to start your trip than by supporting regional Victorian farms. Our Instagram story from two days at Lavandula is within the highlight called ‘#Roadtripforgood’.
Day 3 – 5: Melbourne via Macedon Ranges
We circled back around to Melbourne after Lavandula, via the Macedon Ranges where we stopped to climb the infamous Hanging Rock; a sacred place for local indigenous people and backdrop to Joan Lindsay’s book Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Hanging Rock is 50 minutes from Lavandula, and it’s then an hour drive back into Melbourne, where you can base yourself for urban exploration should you wish.
We stayed at Element Melbourne Richmond which put us on the outskirts of the city, making it easy to reach the Dandeon Ranges (a set of low mountain ranges an hour east of Melbourne) for hiking amid the National Parks and State Forests, searching for the wildlife within.
Day 6: Portland
Before reaching the bushfire affected Adelaide Hills, which is an 8 hour drive from Melbourne, we added in an overnight stop in Portland, which is a 4 hour drive, and the perfect halfway point.
A coastal gem on the far south-west coast of Victoria, midway between Port Fairy, and the border with South Australia, Portland offers fantastic beaches, wildlife, and aboriginal history, though without the overwhelming tourism of the Great Ocean Road.
The Great Ocean Road is right next door, though word of Portland’s existence doesn’t seem to be common knowledge. With expansive beaches, historic lighthouses, and walks through petrified limestone forests, and coastal tracks to Australia’s largest seal colony, our only regret was that we passed Portland off as a quick stopover. It’s much more.
Days 8 – 9: Adelaide Hills
By mid March, Autumn had arrived in the Adelaide Hills, and the whole region was a blaze of stunning fall foliage. We based ourselves in the pretty German heritage town of Hahndorf for discovering the region, and booked in for two nights at the fully self contained Studios by Haus.
Tourism to the Adelaide Hills has been greatly affected by the December Cudlee Creek fire, and there’s been a significant reduction in visitors. But fortunately, most of the region was physically untouched, and remained outside the fire zone.
And, only 20 minutes from Adelaide, this region is absolutely stunning.
Once we got there we found that roads were open, the power was on, the wine was chilled, and the charming main streets were very much unscathed – there are still so many of the beautiful lush green views the region is famous for.
The Adelaide Hills are known for stunning scenery, wildlife, and for its delicious local produce. This is a region where you can visit vineyards, pick fruit directly from the farm, and hike through nature preserves to see wild koalas (click here for more things to do).
The directly impacted areas, including Lobethal, Woodside, Lenswood, Charleston, Cudlee Creek, Gumeracha, Harrogate, Kenton Valley and Mount Torrens, are totally safe for visitors.
But even businesses outside of the fire zone will appreciate your support, as they all play a part in stock and trade, employing locals and purchasing produce and goods throughout the whole region.
Days 10 – 17: Kangaroo Island
From Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills, it’s an hour and a half to drive to Cape Jervis, where you’ll catch the Sealink Kangaroo Island Ferry. Book to drive your car onboard for a week exploring this incredible island (45 minute ferry).
Kangaroo Island received a lot of national and international coverage as the January 3 bushfires ravaged the western end of the island. And indeed, the fires were absolutely devastating for everything that fell within the fire zone.
However from a tourism standpoint, the fires only affected the western end of the island, and much of the beaches, wildlife, and natural attractions that KI is so famous for remain completely untouched.
Kangaroo Island might look on a map as a small chunk of land off the coast of South Australia, but it’s actually 6 times the size of Singapore. This is a massive island, and despite bushfires on its western end, is still every bit as open and accessible as it always has been.
There are still a TON of incredible things to do across the East side of the island, though in choosing to take a drive west to actually see the bushfire damage for ourselves, it was truly a spectacle to see the vibrancy of color already rising from the ash.
We stayed at Island Dream Escape, which is a 2 bedroom house, located in Vivonne Bay. When you book through Airbnb, you get the entire home. We highly recommend your own vehicle for KI to explore at our pace.
Day 18: Adelaide Hills
The Grampians is our next stop, though the drive from Cape Jervis (where the SeaLink Ferry drops you off) is 8 hours, and we don’t like to drive more than 4. As such, stay overnight in the Adelaide Hills to break up the journey.
The Haus Group has three different properties to choose from on main street in Hahndorf, so you can choose what type of acommodation you want, from the Manna, the Studios, or the Lodge.
Day 19 – 21: The Grampians
It’s a 5 hour drive from Hanhdorf to the Grampians (3 hours from Melbourne), and this is a stunning National Park; a majestic mountain range full of hiking, spectacular lookouts, rugged cliffs, wildlife, and cascading waterfalls.
There are hikes here for every ability, from short 5 minute walks up to Boroka Lookout, to full day treks that will see you scale dramatic rock formations, and come across native animals like koalas, kangaroos, emus and wedge-tailed eagles.
Glamping in the Grampians is the ultimate way to enjoy the outdoors in luxury and comfort, and Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park have luxury safari tents overlooking the valley which makes home to hundreds of kangaroos.
The same owners run the nearby Grampians Getaway, which is where we personally stayed; unique three bedroom homes designed in the shape of a pyramid, which are secluded, and fully blend into the stunning mountain ranges.
Day 22: Return Home via Spirit of Tasmania
For Tasmanian residents like us, it’s time to drive aboard Spirit of Tasmania for the return journey home. Or, for international or interstate travelers, extend your trip with a quick jump over to Tassie!
The journey aboard Spirit of Tasmania allows you to drive your own vehicle onto the ship, and opting for a night sailing, we booked a private cabin with ensuite which offers a comfortable and private night’s sleep.
There are cabins to suit families and deluxe cabins for those wanting the ultimate in luxury travel. Those not opting for a cabin can instead relax in the comfort of a recliner seat in a private lounge with floor to ceiling windows.
The ship has plenty to keep you entertained, with cinemas that play latest releases, kids play rooms for both toddlers and teens, a reading room, numerous dining options, a well stocked bar, and beautiful sea views whichever way you look.
As dinner rolled around we took advantage of the Tasmania Market Kitchen (TMK) to sample some Tasmanian inspired flavors such as fresh oysters, smoked salmon, and roasted leg of lamb.
Jump to spiritoftasmania.com.au for sailing times and costs, as well as inspiration on planning a trip through Tasmania, Victoria, or, in this case, Australia’s bushfire affected regions on their Road Trip for Good tool.
Australia is a beautiful country, so if you’d love to support our struggling local economies, please, holiday here this year. Stay at home until the current pandemic is over, but once it’s safe to travel, holiday here.
If you’re Australian, there’s never been a better time to plan a domestic holiday. Especially with the plunging Australian dollar.
If you’re from overseas, there’s never been a better time to holiday here. Especially with the plunging Australian dollar!! (If you are from overseas, this is the website for Aus Home Affairs with up to date information on the border during the outbreak).
Bushfire affected Australia was already struggling, and only just starting to rebuild and recover when the pandemic hit, and wiped out our whole national visitor economy. So please, once travel restrictions are lifted:
Don’t forget about the communities impacted by bushfire.