Though the worst of this year’s devastating bushfire season is behind us, recovery efforts are only just getting started.
As some of the worst hit areas begin to rebuild, they desperately need your help. If you’re looking for ways to support them, consider planning a weekend getaway to one of these of bushfire-affected towns that rely on tourism to survive.
The Blue Mountains
Decimated by three long-burning fires—The Gross Valley fire, Ruined Castle and Erskine Creek—it’s been estimated that up to 80% of The Blue Mountains’ World Heritage areas have been lost. A weekend getaway favourite for its walking trails and epic lookout points, the rugged region west of Sydney saw a drastic drop in visitors this summer as the fire approached. Now, it’s back in business, and it’s the perfect destination for a rustic and relaxing escape from the city. For places to stay, check out Cloud 9 Katoomba, a luxury country home perched on the Katoomba Escarpment, or Fairmont Resort & Spa Blue Mountains, offering views of the Jamison Valley. Further west, in Blackheath, the tranquil Federation Gardens & Possums Hideaway offers romantic couple’s cabins or self-contained lodges for the whole family. While you’re in Blackheath, be sure to grab lunch at gourmet café This Little Piggy, and if you’re looking for a place to down a drink or two, both Bilpin Cider Co and Hillbilly Cider on Bells Line of Rd are great spots to spend some spare change.
Clocking in at about an hour and 30-minutes’ drive from the Sydney CBD, the Southern Highlands is brimming with country charm. Most of the area—including the idyllic small town of Bowral—was badly hit by The Green Wattle Creek and Morton fire, and the summer rush that many small businesses rely on never came. So, here’s where you come in. First (and most important) things first—the Southern Highlands is home to one of the only single malt whisky distilleries in the world who grow their own barley onsite, Joadja Distillery. Once you’ve had your fill of whisky and gin, head to Tractorless Vineyard to indulge in some biodynamic bounty, then make your way (in a taxi, obviously) to Bowral’s main strip, Bong Bong St. Here, you’ll find endless food options to appease the munchies, with highlights including Gumnut Patisserie, Bendooley Estate Larder, and Cheese etc. To stay, go all out on some luxury country living at Milton Park Country House Hotel & Spa or an upscale cottage at Bendooley Estate. If self-contained, boutique accommodation in the heart of town is more your speed, check out The Hidden Door Bowral.
Three hours south of Sydney, Ulladulla is a favourite holiday destination for many families over the school holiday break. This year, threatened by the monster Currowan fire, the usually bustling township became a ghost town this tourist season. Whilst the drive down south is less scenic than usual, the coastline is still as beautiful as ever. If you’re making the trip from Sydney, we’d suggest making a few pitstops along the way, starting with a feed at Seasalt café in Culburra. Then, make your way to Jervis Bay Brewing Co for some coastal craft beer before cooling off at the iconic Hyams Beach. If hunger hits again, The Quarters Huskisson offers awesome food and coffee housed inside a hundred-year-old cottage. If you’re looking for affordable, family-friendly accommodation, consider Holiday Haven in Lake Conjola, a holiday park that was severely affected by road closures in the area. Further still, about ten minutes before you reach your intended destination of Ulladulla, be sure to visit the Milton Hotel, who offered amazing support to firefighters and evacuees affected by fires in the area.
If you’ve got the kids in tow upon arrival into Ulladulla, check out Funland, an arcade that has current games for the young ones and retro machines for the oldies. Though you might want to hit up Native Café first for a caffeine booster brewed with Will&Co beans. If you can’t get enough of the south coast and want to keep the dream alive, head further south to Bateman’s Bay, whose many residents had to flee to the beach for safety when the fire approached over New Year’s Eve. There, local business owners will welcome you with open arms—and plenty of reasons to stay.