You’ve read about in the newspapers and heard it on the news: Tourism Australia is calling for Aussies to #HolidayHereThisYear.
It’s your call to arms to swap a long-haul flight for shorter fly and drive holidays to visit the regions and towns that were hardest hit by the double whammy of natural disasters (fire, flood and drought) followed by COVID-19.
If you’re making holiday plans, make sure you put these six towns on your to-travel list.
1. Kangaroo Island, SA
Looking for an island break? Head to the third largest one in Australia, Kangaroo Island.
Touchdown on Kangaroo Island with QantasLink or book a fly, drive and ferry combo from Adelaide. Board the 45-minute SeaLink ferry at Cape Jervis (100 kilometres south of Adelaide, via wine country) and arrive in Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island’s east coast.
While the west side of the island was largely affected by the bushfires (in 2020, historic bushfires sent millions of acres of Australian bushland up in flames, including almost half of this island), Kangaroo Island is today a story of regeneration.
For visitors, there’s plenty to experience and explore on the east coast of the island, from Penneshaw to Cygnet River, following the Cygnet River Artisan Trail.
Don’t depart without having a close encounter with the island’s local inhabitants – kangaroos, koalas, emus and sea lions at the aptly named Seal Bay.
2. Blue Mountains, NSW
Grab your hiking boots, tie up your laces and set your GPS 60 kilometres west of Sydney to the Blue Mountains.
While a large portion (80 percent) of the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains was affected by the bushfires, many sections of the Blue Mountains National Park including lookouts, picnic areas and the walking tracks between Katoomba and Wentworth Falls are open to visitors and share a positive story of life after the devastating bushfires.
To explore this rugged mountain region west of Sydney, you'll want to stay the night. For accommodation served with a slice of history, book to stay at the heritage-listed Carrington Hotel. Sit by the log fire and marvel and soak up the old-world charm of the building.
Wrap up a day on the trails with a meal at a local café or bistro – with the paddock-to-plate ethos running through the veins of local establishments since the early 1900s.
You might be out of the big smoke, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy barista made coffees or hatted restaurant menus.
3. Stanthorpe, QLD
Supporting local communities affected by fire and drought by tasting wine and craft beers, where do you sign up?
Download your favourite Spotify playlist and head 230 kilometres south-west from Brisbane Airport to Stanthorpe in Queensland's south-east corner.
To swill and swirl with a difference, take the Strange Bird Wine Trail to sample local Viognier, Mourvèdre and Tempranillos or hopps on over to the microbreweries to taste locally brewed kolsch, pilsner, and a selection of pales, ales and porters.
Don’t forget Stanthorpe is Queensland’s very own fruit bowl, so fill your basket and boot with apples, pears, persimmons and figs.
Looking for an itinerary? Here’s one coming right up!
4. Sapphire Coast, NSW
Enjoy ocean breezes and feeling the sand between your toes? Think Sapphire Coast.
This dazzling stretch of coastline is in the far south of NSW and home to the award-winning Sydney Rock Oyster. Follow the 129-kilometre Oyster Trail to sample these salty morsels straight from the farm.
While there’s six local oyster farms to visit along the way, no two farms are alike. Experience the difference between organic farming techniques and oysters farmed on lakes that were created during the last ice age.
Aside from oysters, fresh produce reigns supreme along this coastline – so time your visit for a weekend farmers market and stop by the local breweries and distilleries.
Don’t forget to pack your walking shoes – surrounded by National Parks and lagoons, there’s no shortage of green space to head out for a bush walk to work up an appetite.
5. East Gippsland, VIC
Explore lakes, mountains or countryside with a visit to East Gippsland.
With three regions – Gippsland Lakes, Alpine High Country and Snowy River Country – East Gippsland is as diverse as it comes.
Hire a boat to explore Australia’s largest inland waterway or lace up your hiking boots and set off along the Australian Alps walking track – with all-year-round access to Australia’s highest sealed road, the Great Alpine Road.
If caves and labyrinths are more your style, the Snowy River Country region dishes underground adventure up in spades. Follow the 286-kilometre Snowy River Country Trail to explore the Buchan Caves Reserve, Little River Gorge and Snowy River National Park.
Don’t forget to make the most of the country hospitality and stop in for a pub lunch and coldie along the way.
6. Tamborine Mountain, QLD
Explore the green behind the gold with a visit to Tamborine Mountain.
While the Gold Coast draws crowds for its promise of sunshine and golden beaches, visitors to Tamborine Mountain, a short 40-kilometre drive from Surfers Paradise, are welcomed with canopies of trees making up the World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest.
Travel the winding road to the Tamborine Mountain Gallery Walk and stroll through the 70 specialty shops – from art galleries, cellar doors, distilleries and the famous fudge shop.
For more road trips like this, point your bonnet over to this "Best Scenic Drives' post.
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