Gather your friends, pack the car with an #emptyesky and discover the delights of regional Australia – here’s how to give back to our bushfire affected communities
With the recent bushfires devastating many parts of regional Australia, we’ve seen an outpouring of donations. Although helpful, the survival of these towns depends on what happens in the weeks and months to come, in the wake of rebuilding homes, businesses and communities.
Now that towns are starting to re-open and welcome visitors, it’s our turn to do our bit by spending some tourism dollars at home. There’s no better time to gather your friends and pack the car for a weekend escape that gives back. To help you plan your #emptyesky pilgrimage, we’ve rounded up a handful of rural towns that could do with your support. These rustic weekend getaways are so worth splurging on.
Top: Three Sisters, Left: Leura Garage, Right: Invisible House
Blue Mountains, NSW
Why visit? For a mountain escape, this iconic locale provides the goods. From shopping and fine dining, to hiking amongst nature, there is plenty to see, do and experience in the stunning Blue Mountains.
Eat: Leura Garage
Drink: Champagne Charlies
Play: Lilianfels Resort & Spa
Stay: Invisible House
Shop: Leura Mall
Nearby Towns: Leura, Wentworth Falls, Blackheath, Bilpin, Lithgow, Wolgan Valley
Top: Hyams Beach, Left: Hyams Beach Café & Store, Right: Paperbark Camp
Jervis Bay, NSW
Why visit?Just 2.5-hours south of Sydney, Jervis Bay is a unique landscape bordered by beautiful coast and bushland. The renowned white sand beaches provide the perfect backdrop for a summer getaway.
Drink: The Quarters
Play: Booderee National Park
Stay: Paperbark Camp
Shop: Indigo Love
Nearby Towns: Callala Bay, Hyams Beach, Vincentia, Huskisson
Why visit? Unassuming yet alluring, Mollymook, on NSW’s south coast is wonderful all year-round. With Ulladulla and historic Milton close at hand, the thriving community is bonded by a strong surf culture and the forested mountains. A sleepy village where you’ll be forced to slow down. So sit back, relax and take in all that this coastal town and its surrounds has to offer.
Stay: Bannisters by the Sea
Nearby Towns: Milton, Ulladulla, Kings Point, Burrill Lake
Top: Seven Mile Beach, Left: The Famous Berry Donut Van, Right: Two Figs Winery
Why visit? Where countryside meets rugged coastline, Berry is an alluring village with plenty of rustic charm. Heritage buildings, foodie hangouts and boutique shopping are just some of its drawcards.
Drink: Two Figs Winery
Play: Seven Mile Beach
Stay: Circa 1890
Shop: Few and Far
Nearby Towns: Bellawongarah, Gerroa, Gerringong, Nowra, Kiama, Broughton Vale
Top: Hampden Bridge, Left: The Friendly Inn Hotel, Right: THE COTTAGE, Kangaroo Valley
Kangaroo Valley, NSW
Why visit? The kind of place where shop owners know you by name, Kangaroo Valley is as friendly and homely as they come. The jaw-dropping views and rugged bushland are just some of the perks of this quaint rural gem.
Drink:The Friendly Inn Hotel
Play: Kangaroo River
Shop: Quirky Bird
Nearby Towns: Burrawang, Kangaloon
Top: Port Macquarie (Photo credit- Destination NSW), Left: Bills Fishhouse & Bar, Right: Sails Port Macquarie
Port Macquarie, NSW
Why visit? With white sand beaches, picturesque surrounds and a laid-back, sleepy vibe, Port Macquarie is the epitome of coastal living. From beach hopping and water sports to getting amongst nature, there’s no better place to spend a weekend away during summer.
Drink: Black Duck Brewery
Stay: Sails Port Macquarie
Shop: The Foreshore Markets
Nearby Towns: Thrumster, Fernbank Creek, Lake Cathie, Lake Innes, Sancrox
Top: Jindabyne, Left: Wildbrumby Distillery, Right: The Eastern Thredbo Village
Snowy Mountains, NSW
Why visit? In all its natural beauty, the Snowy Mountains and its breathtaking surrounds, is an adventure-seekers paradise. Attracting hikers, rock climbers and cross-country cyclists year-round, and snow bunnies and après-ski lovers come the winter, its rugged charm and warm hospitality make it the perfect weekend escape.
Eat: Alpine Larder
Drink: Wildbrumby Distillery Door
Play: Horseriding Adventures
Nearby Towns: Cooma, Crackenback, Thredbo, Perisher, Jindabyne, Tumut
Top: Bird in Hand Winery, Left: Hardy's Verandah Restaurant, Right: Mount Lofty
Adelaide Hills, SA
Why visit? Known for its magnetic charm and idyllic landscapes, the picturesque and tranquil region of Adelaide Hills is guaranteed to surprise and delight. Home to award-winning wineries, rugged bushland and stellar local produce, the Adelaide Hills is a rich and vibrant playground for tourists and locals alike.
Drink: Bird in Hand
Stay: Simon Tolley Lodge
Shop: That Pony Shop
Nearby Towns: Aldgate, Crafers, Prospect Hill, Stirling
Top: Coastline, Left: Sunset Food and Wine, Right: One Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island, SA
Why visit? Just a ferry ride from Adelaide, Kangaroo Island is famous for its wildlife, landscapes and buzzing foodie scene – the the golden trifactor for any great Australian escape.
Eat: Sunset Food and Wine
Drink: Dudley Wines
Stay: One Kangaroo Island
Top: Tangalooma, Left: Cape Morton Lighthouse (Photo credit- @wonderdrifter_mm), Right: Tangalooma Island Resort (Photo credit- @hannahhoughton)
Moreton Island, QLD
Why visit? A quintessential Queensland town that’s also home to the much-loved, eponymous rum and ginger beer brand, Bundaberg is where the country meets the city. Bordered by a river, expect the warm hospitality of rural Australia combined with the vibrancy of a buzzy town centre.
Eat:Water St Kitchen
Drink:Bundaberg Rum Distillery
Stay: C Bargara Resort
Shop: Artisans 4670
Nearby Towns: Bargara, Woodgate Beach
Top: Wandiligong (Photo credit: Bright Mystic Valley), Left: Tomahawks, Right: Canyon Trail (Photo credit- @photojennic)
Why visit?A summer playground for thrill-seekers, Bright is all about the great outdoors. From horse riding, paragliding and rock climbing, to hiking, kayaking and caving, a weekend in Bright is sure to spark your sense of adventure.
Drink:Reed & Co Distillery
Play: Canyon Trail
Shop: Red Ramia Trading
Nearby Towns:Myrtleford, Mount Beauty, Harrietville, Dinner Plain, Porepunkah, Wandiligong
Top: Eldorado Dredge, Left: Dal Zotto, Right: Mt Bellevue
Why visit? Nature meets history in rustic Wangaratta. Spend the day sipping on award-winning drops or hike your way through the surrounding villages where you’ll get to wander amongst wildlife and nature.
Drink:Dal Zotto Wines
Stay: Mt Bellevue
Nearby Towns:Oxley, Milawa, Glenrowan, King Valley, Eldorado