How can you help the bushfire affected towns? By visiting them, of course!
Although it may have been a tad excessive but very much needed, the torrential rains have finally extinguished a majority of the bushfires ravaging southern and eastern Australia. As the smoke withers away, we must not forget the struggling towns yearning for a boost to their economy. And the most effective way to help out is with a road trip through some of the worst hit areas.
Each road trip comes with a Google Maps itinerary, along with our own Weekender guides and articles linked throughout each section.
A comprehensive list of affected areas in each state has also been linked at the end of the article.
Far North Coast – The Road Trip
Hunter Valley | Taree | Port Macquarie | Coffs Harbour | Byron Bay
Wine and dine your way along the north coast this autumn, hitting popular spots that cater to local produce. We recommend a whole weekend trip for this.
Start your day in the heart of the Hunter Valley, north of the Wollemi National Park bushfire. The surrounding area was not hit by bushfires, but it has been affected by them.
Follow along to Taree, which features a variety of cafes, restaurants and shops to perk your interests. It also houses a quirky oyster-shaped building and plenty of scenic treks.
If you’re looking for a good night’s rest, then Port Macquarie is your haven. It features plenty of bushwalks, beaches and tourist attractions to keep you active. Plus, nearby is the famed Koala Hospital, which could do with a donation or two.
Follow on to Coffs Harbour for a perfect day of scenic expeditions and local eats, before ending your holiday at Byron Bay. Here you can snorkel along Julian Rocks and climb the locally renowned Cape Byron lighthouse.
The Long Way Around to Newcastle – The Road Trip
Windsor | Bilpin | Lithgow | Rylstone | Mudgee | Pokolbin | Newcastle
Take a winding trip around the major Wollemi National Park and do good giving back to a devastated community.
Windsor is your first destination, hosting a vibrant local community along the Hawkesbury River. Hop on the Hawkesbury Paddlewheeler, which operates on select days of the week for breakfast, lunch or tea, and then enjoy the local historic buildings as you dine and shop.
Cruise along to Bilpin, the next destination, which sits inside the fire-affected area. If you fancy a sip, there are two local cider companies seeking some tourism, Hillbilly Cider and Bilpin Cider Co. The area is also home to Wildwood Garden, which is set to reopen on Friday 20 March this year.
Then, of course, there’s the historic township of Lithgow. If you’re looking for somewhere to work on your camera skills, Lithgow has it all; from delipidated buildings to picturesque scenery. Try out the local business district for some hearty food and wonderful shopping.
Continue north to the quaint country town of Rylstone, where you can stop in at Naked Lady Wines, before cruising north to Mudgee. We recommend making this the overnight pit stop, where you can wine and dine at the local wineries, and even stay at one overnight.
The next day, drive three hours west to find Pokolbin, home to a few yummy secrets from chocolate to mouthwatering burgers. Of course, there’s no shortage of nice towns along this drive to recharge.
Then end up in Newcastle, the vibrant harbour city. Enjoy the local cafes, eateries and watering holes with the chilled locals.
Way Out West – The Road Trip
Glenbrook | Katoomba | Blackheath | Lithgow | Bathurst
Take the scenic trip from Sydney to Orange, weaving through the Blue Mountains that stood tall when the world around it burned.
First stop is Glenbrook, which boasts a range of bushwalking opportunities and historic tours. There’s also the famed local cinema, Glenbrook Cinema, which boasts big scenes with a small-town vibe. We also recommend a walk down on the Jellybean Track!
And then, of course, there’s no missing Katoomba. The famous pit stop between Sydney and the great countryside beyond. Katoomba had a close call during the bushfire season, with fires coming from the north and south. Give these guys some love by shopping in their CBD and perhaps enjoying an overnight stay. While you’re here, take a visit to the world-renowned Scenic World for dazzling views of the reviving valley.
Booklovers must not pass up a visit to Blackheath, featuring a wonderful independent bookshop called Gleebooks. Enjoy some local eats (perhaps breakfast if you decide to stay overnight at Katoomba) and the local history. They even host paragliding in the area.
Next is Lithgow, which we’ve spoken about in the previous road trip. It’s too good to pass up another mention.
Many wine lovers might be surprised to hear that Bathurst is a growing wine region. Bathurst is the hub for much of the surrounding towns and villages, where tourism has been affected by the bushfire threat that blocked off access to Sydney. We highly recommend finding a cosy lodge or cabin to rest for the night.
Canberra and the Snowy Mountains – The Road Trip
Picton | Bowral | Moss Vale | Collector | Canberra | Cooma | Jindabyne
You might want to wait until mid-June for this trip, where you can truly enjoy a wispy white winter.
Begin your journey in Picton, the big-hearted town that opened its doors to neighbouring towns and villages during the bushfire season. It is the perfect town to escape the hustle and bustle of Sydney, providing plenty of eats, treats and activities.
As you head to Bowral, consider a little detour to Balmoral, which was hit hard by the bushfires. The locals there could do with some help. Bowral, however, managed to escape from the flames. But the smoke and the road closures have affected the area. Be sure to try out the local eats and drinks, while giving the community some love.
Then do a short drive to Moss Vale, with many local businesses tied to the surrounding region. Buy some wine, enjoy some early morning breakfast and soak up the scenery.
Before you reach Canberra, there is one stop all coffee lovers must make. In the small village of Collector is a cafe tucked away from the main highway. It’s called Some Cafe, which is perfect when you think about it.
Canberra may be home to federal politicians, but it boasts much more than this. From wacky science museums to eccentric laws. Did you know you can legally use cannabis in the area? It may be a small city, but it is truly big at heart!
Get back on the road again and you’ll finally come across Cooma. Most revellers don’t think of stopping here, but if you want to hire out snow gear for reasonable fees, you might want to consider it. This town was surrounded by bushfires, which devastated the local economy. Be sure to get something to eat and drink before heading on the road again.
Finally you’ll reach Jindabyne, which lies on the outskirts of the Snowy Mountains. While Jindabyne wasn’t hit by fire, the Snowy Mountains were, and they are the sole reason for travellers to visit this lakeside town. The town is perfect for families to stay in, and features a few local shops and eateries.
Finding Eden in the Far South – The Road Trip
Jervis Bay | Ulladulla | Batemans Bay | Moruya | Narooma | Eden
The south coast of New South Wales was at the centre of the bushfire epidemic, forcing some coastal towns to evacuate via the sea. But the fires are out and it’s time to bring back some joy to these communities.
Jervis Bay is the first stop on our journey, which was nearly swamped by the fires at Morton National Park. There is, of course, the beaches to swim in, most notably Hyams Beach which still shines bright. We also consider Jervis Bay a perfect solo holiday destination, offering plenty of delicacies to match any taste buds.
Continue on and you’ll soon find yourself in Ulladulla, which at one point was surrounded by fire. Be sure to sample the cafes of the area, and perhaps even a boozy overnight stay at the Mollymook Rooftop Pavilion. You may also want to sample the wines at the nearby Cupitt’s Winery.
Next is Batemans Bay, and this seaside town was partially impacted by the bushfires. Thankfully, they are open for business and need some loving. There’s plenty of hotels to rest in, including nearby towns of Nelligen and Durras. It’s also important to note that Batemans Bay is most famous for their oysters. Bon Appétit!
The land between Ulladulla and Moruya was scorched by bushfires, with some exception to Batemans Bay. Moruya was safe, thankfully, though the bushfires have affected their tourist count – just like all the places in this article. While food and drink are key to every good break, we highly recommend a skydive with Skydive Oz.
Narooma is a gorgeous town hugged by the Wagonga Inlet. Here you can enjoy some wonderful aquatic activities, including snorkelling around Barunguba Island, several kilometres off the coast. And then there is the bushwalking around the area, with top spot going to the Box Cutting Rainforest Walk.
You’re coming to the final destination of Eden, a bayside town with eight beaches within their cove. It really is a paradise, as the name suggests, evoking stunning scenery and some wonderful nature escapes. We recommend going kayaking with Kiah Wilderness Tours along the Towamba River. They even have a bed and breakfast nearby for you to stay in before the journey home.
For a comprehensive list of places and to research bespoke road trips to suit your needs, visit Roadtrip For Good.
Looking for other ways to donate? Here are two other ways you can help firefighters and bushfire victims.