With much fewer customers this year, retailers, restaurants, and accommodation have suffered as tourism slowed at first to a crawl, and then a mandatory halt. Regional tourism was impacted most severely as metropolitan Melburnians were stuck inside the ‘ring of steel’, preventing movement between metro and regional Victoria. That’s almost five million people, comprising nearly 80% of the state’s population – many of whom would have become customers of regional tourism businesses throughout the year, if it weren’t for the pandemic.
That’s why Tourism Australia has launched the Holiday Here This Year campaign, with the help of comedian Hamish Blake and his partner, Zoe Foster-Blake. While Australians don’t have much of a choice this summer, with international travel remaining restricted, the encouragement to go on holiday in our own backyard is incredibly important for businesses across the country, and especially in Victoria. To show you just what you’re missing if you decide to stay home this summer, we’ve decided to compile a list of our favourite holiday destinations across the state – so, read on for some holiday inspiration!
Road Trip for Good
Before we talk locations, though, we wanted to highlight Road Trip For Good, an initiative founded by Zoe Manderson that arose well before pandemic to encourage people to travel to support regional and bushfire-affected areas. The devastating bushfire season at the beginning of 2020 burned more than 46 million acres, destroying homes, businesses, and natural environments. But Manderson believes a simple road trip can improve the livelihoods of bushfire-affected towns because it relies on the ‘pit stop’ power of tourism.
We know that on a domestic road trip, people can stop at a café in a regional town for coffee and then visit a winery for lunch on the way to their final destination […] Stopping at multiple places along the way during your drive can help to spread the tourists even further along bushfire-affected regions.
This pit stop practice is immensely helpful for regional businesses as tourists zigzag across the state, sightseeing and spending money wherever they go. Road Trip For Good even recommends specific trips, like a three-day Gippsland Lakes route that takes you from Melbourne all the way to Lakes Entrance on the coast. The itinerary includes coffee and cake at local cafes en route, accommodation on the waterfront with private jetties, a ferry to Raymond Island, and camel-riding along the beaches, making three days of great food and stunning views.
Destination Highlight: Buchan, Victoria
Buchan is a gorgeous town north of Lakes Entrance in Gippsland known primarily for its limestone caves and rock formations. The town is one of the oldest European settlements in the country, and the Buchan Caves show evidence of occupation by Indigenous Australians from 18,000 years ago. The caves are one of the oldest Ice Age cave site in southeast Australia, giving the area an incredibly deep history, while the town also boasts access to the Snowy River National Park, a 600-metre-high waterfall, and the Little River Gorge – the deepest gorge in the state.
Hike & Seek: Guided Hikes in Scenic Victoria
Hike & Seek is a Melbourne-based hiking tour company run by James and Mette – ‘nature lovers, hikers, and seekers.’ They created Hike & Seek to help people discover the beauty of Melbourne’s surrounds, sharing their love of ‘nature, nutrition, travel, and good times’ with locals and tourists alike.
The company offers hiking tours of up to eight people, picking the group up from designated points in the CBD in their comfortable VW van and driving out to the beginning of the hike. All the hike options are daytrips, with hikers being dropped off back in the city come the end of the day – which makes the tours perfect for a day’s fill of nature.
Hike & Seek offers tours in some of Victoria’s most beautiful regions, from Wilson’s Promontory to the Otways. The latter takes you along the Great Ocean Road to see the 12 Apostles, moving from the boardwalk to Gibson Steps. Cliffside paths lead to lunch at a local café, followed by a 3km hike through the ancient forests of the Great Otway National Park – all the way to the beautiful Beauchamp Falls. The tour moves on along Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay, Kennett River (for some native animal sightseeing!), and finally Lorne, before everyone’s back on the bus to Melbourne.
Another notable tour is to Phillip Island, where the hike takes you from Cape Woolamai beach up through the rugged rock formations of the Pinnacles. Native wildlife is a highlight for this tour, with wallabies, echidnas, shearwater birds, and even whales making appearances (depending on the time of year). The Phillip Island Koala Reserve brings you into a forest of eucalyptus, featuring treetop boardwalks that allow visitors to see the koalas up close. A walk along The Nobbies is up next, with boardwalk strolls treating you to amazing coastline views, and finally the sight Phillip Island is famous for – the Penguin Parade!
Hike & Seek’s day tours are perfect for getting a snapshot of Victoria’s incredible ecosystems. Hikers can trade the city for gorgeous forests or cliffside treks and return to the CBD by 7:30 in the evening, with transport between the two fully taken care of by the company. It can even be a place to make friends, with tours bringing together like-minded people for a day of nature appreciation – so, if you have a day off and want to experience the beauty of the state, give Hike & Seek a chance.
Victorians have had a particularly rough year as compared to the rest of the country, with our strict double-lockdowns understandably making people restless. This summer is the perfect time to share the love across the entire state: Melburnians who were stuck inside the ‘ring of steel’ can now explore the wonders of regional Victoria, helping out regional businesses while they’re at it.
If you liked this article, check out our feature on the new cruising venture Virgin Voyages, and stay tuned for our upcoming feature on holidaying in regional New South Wales!
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