Towns and regions impacted by the summer bushfires have plenty to entice families, writes ANGELA SAURINE
Each summer, Aussie families flock to the coast – and increasingly the mountains – to bask in the sunshine and spend quality time together as they enjoy a vast range of leisure activities during their annual break. But this year was different, with many trips interrupted and plans thwarted by unprecedented bushfires that ravaged some of our favourite holiday playgrounds. A few months on, these destinations are continuing to recover, with bushland regenerating and wildlife returning.
While much of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area was burnt in the bushfires, most of the tourist areas look as fantastic as ever, including the famous Three Sisters rock formation at Katoomba. The Bells Line of Road side of the Blue Mountains, between Lithgow and Kurrajong, was damaged in the fires, with several homes and tourism structures lost, but the populated strip along the Great Western Highway side was undamaged.
Hop on the double-decker Blue Mountains Explorer Busto explore at your own pace. It covers 29 stops, from major attractions to hidden gems the day tours miss. The family-owned and operated Megalong Creek Estatevineyard and cellar door in the Megalong Valley is popular with families because of its open spaces for children to run around. The owners’ kids are usually there too and enjoy the company of other youngsters. Experience the thrill of the world’s steepest railway at Scenic World, where you will be suspended 270m above the valley looking through partially-glassed floor in the Scenic Skyway; wander the 2.4km easy grade Scenic Walkway through pristine rainforest; and glide between the cliff top and the forest floor in the Scenic Cableway. Sweet tooths will love Gingerbread House Katoomba, which is housed in a restored 100-year-old church and sells house-baked gingerbread, cakes and drinks based on the Hansel and Gretel fairytale; and indulge in gelato, waffles and handmade chocolates at Blue Mountains Chocolate Company, just a minute’s walk from Echo Point and the Three Sisters.
When it comes to accommodation, Blue Mountains Hygge Staysespecially welcomes families to their two self-contained holiday lettings in the upper Blue Mountains – Hyggested in Leura and Hyggebo in Katoomba. Both are inspired by hygge, a Danish word meaning ‘to create a warm atmosphere and enjoy the good things in life with good people’, and the owners’ travels with their two sons. As well as a toasty fireplace, each has a cot and highchair and lots of games, toys and outdoor activities.