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Family holiday ideas to support bushfire impacted communities

Australia is no stranger to bushfires but this summer they’ve been catastrophic. The fires have made international headlines for their ferocity and scale. Support for the firefighters, emergency services, impacted communities and animal welfare groups has poured in from at home and abroad. There are so many stories of courage and resilience from those in impacted areas. And the creativity of initiatives to support community regeneration is impressive. Now the crisis has eased, it’s time to think about how we can support local communities rebuild.

Last weekend I spent a day being a tourist in my home city of Sydney. My husband, daughter and I caught the ferry into the city. We walked around Circular Quay watching the street performers, explored The Rocks Markets and discovered a new café then we took our first ride on the Sydney Metro down George Street. The smoke haze created a slightly eerie look in some of our photos, but that was the extent of the impact on our fun day out.

Man and baby in a pram at Circular Quay Sydney with smoke haze
Evie doing her best ‘stop taking photos and keep me moving’ face as we touristed in Sydney. Credit: Janeece Keller

Visiting some of the major tourist spots in Sydney brought home to me how important tourism and day-tripper dollars are for the sustainable redevelopment of fire impacted areas. Each little bit contributes to helping the broader Australian tourism industry, which has taken a significant hit during its peak season.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been following some of the grass roots campaigns to support local communities rebuild. In particular I love Tegan Weber’s social media callout to “Go With Empty Eskys”, urging people to plan a road trip to towns affected by the bushfire crisis once they are declared safe.

screen shot of the website

With the new school year almost here, many families aren’t thinking about travelling now.  The Empty Esky message is a great one to consider for the school holidays throughout 2020. 

Family holiday suggestions to fill the empty eskys

We wrote the ‘Where to go each school holidays in Australia‘ list thinking it was a good idea for any year. However in 2020, Australian families choosing to holidaying at home becomes more than just a good idea, it becomes a good idea in support of a great cause.

Another list to help you plan a local trip is this list of 17 Aussie road trips, from beginner to hard core. In it, we’ve given some of Australia’s best road trip routes a rough rating – Beginner, Intermediate or Hardcore. But it all depends on your family, how you like to travel, and how much experience you have had.

Today the Caravan Industry Association of Australia launched the Keep on Camping website, designed to help those considering a caravanning or camping make informed decisions. “Once the affected areas re-open, the need for tourist visitation will be vital to assisting these communities and businesses to start the long process of getting back on their feet,” said Caravan Industry Association of Australia CEO Stuart Lamont.

Through travelling to regional destinations, caravanners and campers are supporting communities, spending their money and helping those towns who need it most.

Apolo motorhome on a deserted road in Tasmania
Caravan, motorhome or tent. There are so many fun camping options. Credit: Adam Cox

For families looking to travel now, there are many popular, family-friendly destinations open for business as usual. If you’re looking for a coastal break, why not consider the NSW North Coast, the Gold Coast, the Great Ocean Road or Western Australia’s South West (including Margaret River). Or, if you’re after animal encounters why not think about the Sunshine Coast, Darwin, Tasmania or Phillip Island. Alternatively if want a city break, all the capital cities are bustling with summer activities and are great choice for families.

Family camping
Camping trips are an Aussie family holiday tradition. Picture: Shutterstock

Where to look for safety information now and in the future

Two lessons we learned this bushfire season are:
– that it’s important to know where to get reliable information to make sensible, and safe, decisions about travel plans, and
– if it isn’t safe to travel to your planned destination, that trying to reschedule (rather than cancel) is a more considerate option for the impacted community.

In the last week, Tourism Australia released a map that shows major tourism regions around Australia, and an indication of if it’s safe to travel. They will maintain the information so it’s a useful site to bookmark and to check when planning your next trip.

Toursim Australia's interactive bushfire map
Tourism Australia’s interactive bushfire map

For more localised information, here are links to the bushfire information from different states and territories

New South Wales or check the Fires Near Me website and app



Australian Capital Territory

Northern Territory


South Australia

Western Australia, or

Other reliable resources are, the Bureau of Meteorology (aka the bom), which provides weather updates for all parts of Australia, including the latest fire warnings. If you’re planning to visit a national park, check the relevant national parks websites to make sure it’s safe and that the park is open. And for detailed, local knowledge we suggest you speak with local tourism operators or staff at local Visitor Information Centres. They’re on the ground in the community and will be able to give you up-to-date local advice and information.


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