January has been tough for residents and tourism operators in those parts of Australia that have been in the path of summer bushfires.
Tourism will play an important role in recovery for places in bushfire-affected areas, but it’s also important to know that Australia still offers many places that have not been touched by fire and are safe to visit. Let this be the year that you explore places that you might never have gone otherwise.
One of those regions that is declaring itself ready and open for business is East Gippsland in Victoria, a place of lakes and natural beauty. It has koalas too! It’s a region I’ve visited several times, particularly while living in Melbourne, and it’s a destination well worth heading to.
While many homes, forests, wildlife and livestock in the north and far east of Gippsland have been lost in the terrible bushfires of the past few weeks, much of Gippsland has been spared and has the welcome mat out for visitors.
Most natural attractions in East and Central Gippsland are unaffected by the fires and is experiencing great summer beach weather. The Gippsland Lakes, Australia’s largest inland waterway, are stunning.
Have a meal or a drink on the deck at the Metung Hotel, a lovely old pub which has stood on the shores of Bancroft Bay in the heart of the lakes (in one form or other) for more than 100 years, and watch the pelicans being fed every day at midday.
There are many other attractions, all safe to visit. Take the free ferry from Paynesville to tiny Raymond Island, home to Victoria’s largest koala population where you are almost guaranteed to spot these furry marsupials. We took bikes along the island’s Koala Trail, an easy flat ride.
Peel off your shoes and socks and sink your toes into the sands of one of the world’s longest beaches, Ninety Mile Beach, which lies on the edge of a slender dune separating the Gippsland Lakes from Bass Strait. Then there’s the pretty country town of Bairnsdale, and the popular towns of Lakes Entrance and Loch Sport; these places, along with Paynesville and Metung, have plenty of accommodation availability now and in weeks and months to come and your tourist dollars will go a long way to helping the local economy.
“East and Central Gippsland tourism businesses have been hit hard by the effects of the bushfires,” says Destination Gippsland CEO, Terry Robinson.
“We would like to put Gippsland, particularly East Gippsland at the top of minds for travellers looking for a holiday for the remainder of summer and into autumn and winter,” Mr Robinson said.
He said many tourism businesses in East and Central Gippsland rely heavily on visitation during the summer months to carry their business over the quieter winter months, and urged visitors – especially Australians – to visit.
“It is so important, now more than ever, that people commit to businesses, towns and villages that they know, love and trust and book now for future weekends away and holidays in 2020,” he said.
East Gippsland has much to offer, whether you’re a family, group of friends or couple, looking for a short break or a longer stay. Check out the Visit Gippsland website for some inspiration and, as the new slogan says, ‘Show your Love for East Gippsland’.
A Glass Half Full most recently visited East Gippsland a few years ago, as a guest of Tourism Australia. Expect to see more on this blog during 2020 about where you can visit to help Australia’s tourism industry and regional economies recover after the bushfires and the drought that have ravaged parts of the country.