As the restrictions around international travel grow amidst the coronavirus pandemic, people are seeking alternative ways to spend their holidays.
With so much to explore here in Australia, and the devastating impact this bushfire season has had on many communities, here are five road trips you can take to show your support to those affected and still make the most of a long weekend getaway.
As part of the ‘Empty Esky’ campaign, taking a pledge to travel to a bushfire affected town can help stimulate economies and support businesses doing it tough.
So, grab your #emptyesky and hit the road!
Melbourne to Mallacoota via Gippsland
Stretching over 500km, the road trip between Melbourne to Mallacoota will take you approximately six hours non-stop. Traverse the state of Victoria, with plenty of quaint, historical towns where you can stop and take in the beautiful surroundings of the Gippsland region. Along the way you’ll see rolling hills and glistening lakes
Things to do in Mallacoota
Visit Croajingolong National Park, an area pivotal to the Indigenous cultural landscape. Encompassed by ancient forests, giant sand dunes, and stunning wildlife, there are a plethora of outdoor activities to choose from.
With so many natural attractions to explore, you’ll work up an appetite fast. Take a pit stop at the Mallacoota Hotel Motel, conveniently situated in Mallacoota’s main street. Indulge in a delicious meal made from fresh, local ingredients and sit back to enjoy a quiet, seaside town experience.
If you get the chance, venture out to Gabo Island Lighthouse Reserve, a remote island rich in cultural history, and home to a 47-metre lighthouse.
Best spot to stop
Bairnsdale: As the largest city in the East Gippsland region, Bairnsdale sits on the Mitchell River that flows into Lake King. Surrounded by beautiful greenery and home to historical architecture, the town boasts the perfect mix of natural and man-made sites.
Sydney to Batemans Bay – via Blue Mountains (Katoomba)
Taking on the Great Western Highway, head inland from Sydney to get to your first pitstop – the Blue Mountains! The journey will take you approximately 1.5 hours, stretching over 100km. Once you arrive in Katoomba, you’ll be surrounded by heritage-listed buildings and the charm of a small, regional town.
Heading on, the second leg of your road trip to Batemans Bay will take you approximately four to five hours, depending on what route you take. We suggest going via the Princes Highway for a more coastal experience, passing through Kiama and Mollymook on your way through.
Things to do in the Blue Mountains and Batemans Bay
Standing 3000m above sea level, the Three Sisters are renowned as Katoomba’s most spectacular landmark and symbolic of an Aboriginal dream-time legend. Throughout the day, you can watch as the sun brings out their unique colours and shape.
Surround yourself with nature, through a hands-on experience at Birdland Animal Park, Batemans Bay. Get up close and personal with native Australian animals, birds, and reptiles. A family pass will cost you $72, with a single adult ticket costing $26 and a child (2–5 years) costing $14.
Feeling peckish? Sitting directly on the Clyde River, Batemans Bay, is the Starfish Bistro, boasting an eclectic menu of fresh seafood and lunch/dinner favourites.
Best spot to stop
Kangaroo Valley: Step into a historic village known for quaint dining experiences, heritage-listed pubs, and freshly made pies! A winner to break up your journey.
Brisbane to Stanthorpe – via Southern Downs
Escape from the bustle of Brisbane by taking an #emptyesky to Stanthorpe. The total time of your road trip will be two hours and 40 minutes, stretching over 200km inland. Soak up the rural beauty of the Southern Downs region, home to green, open spaces and stunning scenery.
Things to do in the Southern Downs region
A short distance from the town’s centre is the Mount Marlay lookout and summit walk. Pack a picnic, grab a few drinks, and head up to get a panoramic view of Stanthorpe.
Winery tours: Stanthorpe is home to a plethora of beautiful wineries, indulge in a variety of unique food and drink while taking in the natural surroundings. Select which one suits your tastes.
Want to know more about Stanthorpe’s impressive history? Check out the Stanthorpe Museum and discover an array of eclectic artefacts and stories.
Best spot to stop
Maryvale: Take a pitstop at Maryvale’s historic pub, constructed in 1912. Enjoy a brew and treat yourself to a little country relaxation.
Canberra to Eden
Experience two different states as you head south from Canberra, ACT, and cross over into Eden, NSW. On your journey, you’ll cover 260km, with three-and-a-half hours’ driving non-stop. It’s a scenic route, and you’ll get a taste of both the country and coast, while taking in Australia’s unique flora and fauna.
Main attractions in Eden
Boyds Tower to Saltwater Creek Walking Track: Dust off your joggers and embark on Eden’s enticing light-to-light walk. Breathe in the ocean air while experiencing coastal landscapes, sandy beaches, and red rocks along the 30km walking track. *There are many sections of the track to choose from! Don’t worry about going the whole distance, unless you’re up for the challenge.
Visit the multi-award-winning Eden Smokehouse, renowned for gourmet foods. From salmon to mussels, get a taste of quality seafood, sourced locally.
Best known for its spring whale watching season, Eden has strong links with sea life. Learn the story of the orca ‘Old Tom’ at Eden’s Killer Whale Museum and get up close and personal with his full skeleton!
Best spot to stop
Cooma: Break up your road trip with a pit stop in Cooma, rest and recover in the heritage-listed Royal Hotel pub, grab a drink or bite to eat!
Adelaide to Kangaroo Island
The Adelaide to Kangaroo Island road trip via the B23 highway will take you approximately three hours and 45 minutes non-stop, stretching over 210km. Your journey requires both land and sea! Take the Cape Jervis – Penneshaw ferry for an hour to get to Kangaroo Island.
Along the way, you’ll experience a beautiful regional landscape with the immaculate contrast of green hills and blue skies.
*TIP – It’s important to pre-book your ferry tickets, they sell out fast during peak holiday times.
Things to do on Kangaroo Island
Iconic for its diverse wildlife, Kangaroo Island is a hot spot for animal lovers. Take a guided tour of Seal Bay, where you’ll get up close to the heart of a colony and learn about the Australian seal lion. Additional long weekend and school holiday tour times (spring and autumn only): 10am, 10.45am, 11.30am, 1.30pm, 2.15pm, 3pm.
Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park: Want to cuddle a koala? Or hand feed a wallaby? Now’s your chance! With more than 150 species of native Australian wildlife, get lost in the wonder nature has to offer.
Visit the epicentre of Kangaroo Island, Kingscote, situated on the peaceful harbour of the island’s northeast coast. Overflowing with restaurants, cafes, galleries, and shops, it’s the perfect place to sit down and grab some lunch after venturing on a tour!
Best spot to stop
Normanville: Stop at the Normanville Kiosk and Café to get a glimpse of South Australia’s breathtaking coastal views.
Make sure you’re covered if the unexpected happens on your road trip, with Budget Direct Roadside Assistance. Whether you break down or need a tyre changed, have peace of mind knowing you won’t be left stranded.
If you’re curious about other places you could take a trip and explore, see how you can travel the world without leaving Australia.
Can you recommend a road trip to a bushfire affected area?
This article originally published as 5 road trips to bushfire affected communities and republished with permission.
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