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12 Aussie Vacays That Provide Holiday Vibes And Help Bushfire-Affected Communities

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After the shit show that was 2020, the one silver lining to come out of it was travellers begin to realise they can have amazing holidays, right here in Australia, that also support local communities — there’s nothing better than when everybody wins.

Our world was turned upside down with Covid, so much so that I seem to have amnesia for anything that happened before — but then I remember the 2019/2020 bushfires. In short, they were truly horrific.

Since then, though, regeneration has begun, some truly amazing initiatives have been set up to help the wildlife and communities of affected areas (we even got recognised by Lonely Planet for them), and there are so many amazing getaways you can have now that will continue to help these areas get back on their feet.

Here are 12 amazing holidays you can have, that also give back.

South Australia

#1 Kangaroo Island


A trip to the beautiful Kangaroo Island is a good idea for many reasons. Despite 46 percent of the island being burned in the 2019/20 fires, it’s still one of the most beautiful places in Australia. Just visiting is enough to start pumping money back into the area, but there are a few really cool things you should do while you’re there.

As a haven for native wildlife, there are many ways to get up close and personal with some adorbs little fluffballs. For starters, there’s Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park. It was thankfully missed by the fires, and in fact became a refuge for over 600 injured animals.

There’s also KI Marine Adventures, who will take you on a four-hour trip to soak in the underwater and on land beauty of South Australia, including swimming with dolphins.

If you prefer to explore on your own, you should definitely follow the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail for epic landscapes, experiencing the beauty of regeneration first-hand, spotting wildlife and all new vistas since the fires. Right now you can follow the trail with a licensed guide.

You can get the adrenaline pumping with a sandboard, toboggan or bike on the Little Sahara natural inland sand dunes. Or have an unparalleled secret dining experience under a 120-year-old fig tree with Gastronomo at the Enchanted Fig Tree.

#2 Adelaide Hills

Nothing like indulging your palette while also supporting local communities, am I right? Adelaide Hills seriously delivers on foodie delights.

There’s Lot.100, home to a collective of craft, sustainability and local produce set on a former cattle pasture. Here you’ll find small batch wineries, distilleries, breweries and dining options. If that’s not enough local booze, check out Golding Wines high in the hills. Their vineyards were significantly damaged during the fires, but they’re regenerating and making amazing wine again.

Let out your inner farmer by picking your own strawberries at Beerenberg Farm, or join a Jurlique Farm Tour to discover what goes into those amazing skin care products.

If you’d prefer to just enjoy the natural beauty, take a trip to Mount Lofty Botanic Garden overlooking the picturesque Piccadilly Valley.

New South Wales

#3 The Blue Mountains

If you live in Sydney, chances are high you already know the Blue Mountains make for a perfect day trip. Well, they need you to visit more than ever, after 80 percent of the area was burned in the fires.

There’s literally endless options for a perfect day trip in the area — from a Japanese Onsen, star gazing, dinosaurs at Scenic World, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, amazing hikes and so much more. You get it, just go already, it’s a damn dream.

#4 Sapphire Coast

About six hours from Sydney, you’ll hit the picturesque Sapphire Coast. Also heavily affected by the fires, local businesses and communities are ready to welcome back visitors. Honestly, it’s amazing it’s not a bigger deal.

Adventurous travellers will find hiking, kayaking, canoeing, biking, surfing, diving and forest drives. You’ll find whales (at the right time of year, obviously) around Eden and Bega really delivers on the bird watching.

Foodies can follow the famous Oyster Trail for farm fresh oysters (you can even shuck some yourself).

Take in some epic scenery and culture at Bermagui, where many Indigenous artefacts have been found at the beautiful Wallaga Lake.

#5 Guula Ngurra National Park

 

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Never heard of it before? That’s because it’s a brand new national park in the Southern Highlands that was launched to help protect koalas. In fact,’Guula Ngurra’ means ‘Koala Country’ in the local Indigenous Gundungurra Aboriginal People, and this land is very significant to their people.

Guula Ngurra National Park is about 25 kilometres northwest from Bowral, and is still having a few building works and campground facilities going on, so keep an eye for an on the parks website for an official open date to the public a little later this year.

#6 Port Stephens

Besides the epic sand dune quad biking experience to be had here, not-for-profit organisation Port Stephens Koalas and Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary partnered up to create a unique way to see koalas in their own habitat.

The sanctuary provides the world’s best practice standards of care to sick, injured and orphaned koalas in an effort to get them back to full helth and returned to the wild. As a visitor, you can see the care and rehab facilities at work, and you can even sleep over right next door to these little fluffballs.

#7 Port Macquarie

Speaking of koalas, Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is one of the many official rehabilitation centres for wildlife affected by the bushfires. Get the guided tour and check out the koalas progress. Or, really give back by joining in the hospital’s tree-planting scheme or actually adopting a koala so the centre can get the vital funds it needs to continue its work.

#8 Shoalhaven

 

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Wild Food Adventures has a very special tour for you to join — Travel with Purpose. The fire affected land around Shoalhaven’s Morton National Park is coming back to life, so this new tour “is about taking people into the fire zone and talking about all the impacts, whether it be on human existence or on wildlife. Gum trees don’t germinate without it. The whole ecosystem is designed around fire to bring life,” explainedAmanda Fry from Wild Food Adventures.

These immersive workshops in the fire zone will explore the role of fire in Australian ecology, as well as the challanges and triumphs the wildlife experiences because of it.

Australian Capital Territory

#9 The Snowy Mountains

There’s no need to wait for winter and a heap of snow to enjoy the Snowy Mountain paradise, although that’s good too. An easy two-ish hour road trip from Canberra will get you to the area.

Tumut is a super popular mountain escape, even in summer. While you’re there, check out Tumut River Brewing Co (because breweries are the best, duh). Or bike, hike, fish and golf the mountainous terrain at Thredbo Ski Resort, popping into the nearby Wildbrumby Distillery for a free tasting tour of their award-winning spirits while you’re there.

#10 Southern Highlands

Between Canberra and Sydney is a whole are of beauty, good food and big things. Antique shoppers should check out the Southern Highlands villages of Moss Vale, Mittagong, Bowral and Berrima — particularly Mittagong Antiques CentreDirty Jane’s or Lydie du Bray Antiques.

2021 is a good year for ticking off an Australia ‘big things’ on your bucket list, like the famous Big Merino in Goulburn.

Victoria

#11 Melbourne

Make your next trip to Melbourne count by taking a day trip around the You Yangs and Brisbane Ranges (about oe and a half hours from the city) with Australian Wildlife Journeys. Their Behind The Scenes tour lets you take an active role in Koala conservation and research. During July and August you’ll help researchers plant trees for koala habitats.

#12 Gippsland Lakes

Drive along Victoria’s other beautiful road — Great Alpine Way — to take in the beauty of Gippsland Lakes. Start at Wangarrata and finish in Metung.

Along the way you’ll find stunning mountain ranges, plunging valleys, lush forests and coastal waterways. Hell, you’ll even come across a few vineyard with award-winning cool climate wines. If you’re more in the mood for some small town charm, try road tripping the Kosciuszko Alpine Way.

While you’re in the area, join Echidna Walkabout’s Koala Recovery Experience Tour and help rebuild the bushfire-affected habitats with tree planting and further recovery-assisting activities. You can join from one to four days, and 50 percent of all profits go towards their wildlife conservation efforts.

(Lead Image: Provided / South Australia Tourism)