Like all Australians and the wider world, we’ve watched on feeling rather helpless as catastrophic fires have burned their way across the country—particularly New South Wales and Victoria.
Along with homes, businesses and possessions, lives have been lost—both human and animal—and families and communities left devastated. Throughout all the tragedy, however, Australians and people across the world have come together in a truly incredible show of support.
Millions of dollars have been raised for various charities, volunteer services, and for those who have lost everything to this natural disaster, and tonnes of food and goods have been donated. Whether big or small, all the donations and fundraisers have no doubt had had a huge impact on the towns, people, and animals impacted.
However, after the immediate threat is extinguished and the hype dies down, whole communities need to rebuild and recover, physically, emotionally and economically, and this is when they will need the most support.
Unfortunately, the tourism many smaller towns rely upon has dried up in the wake of the fires, so Australians are being encouraged to take trips and holidays to these local destinations and bring much-needed revenue back to communities impacted both directly and indirectly by bushfires.
Tourism Australia has launched a $20 million government-funded campaign, Holiday Here This Year, asking Aussies to start planning domestic travel and returning to bushfire-affected towns once it’s safe to do so.
Following are a few towns (and their local bakeries!) you might be able to help in this way.
Where to eat: The Mallacoota Bakery
On New Year’s Eve, the tiny coastal town of Mallacoota in Victoria was quickly and dramatically engulfed by fire, leaving the main road in and out blocked off. Trapped residents and tourists were rescued by sea and air.
During the blaze, the skies turned orange and on the second day, pitch black mid afternoon, as though it was night. Once a tranquil holiday haven, Mallacoota is now a blackened coastline and a town of flattened homes and national parks.
Although business has been slow since the fires for the Mallacoota Bakery, with no power for over a week, owners Erin, Sheron, and Dean Shaw are confident it will pick up again. Despite the setbacks, they were able to supply over 4000 lunch packs to CFA and other emergency services.
What to do: Mallacoota’s remoteness makes it popular among those looking for a quiet getaway. Enjoy the secluded beaches and pristine waterways.
Where to eat: Batehaven Bakehouse
Batemans Bay, NSW
Bateman’s Bay is a town on the south coast of New South Wales and a popular holiday destination, being the closest seaside town to Canberra.
These past holidays were different however, as the town was cut off by out-of-control bushfires before Christmas. Peter and Frances Kelly own Batehaven Bakehouse, and were left unable to supply their other bakery in Mollymook, the Ulladulla Bakery Cafe, when the Princes and Kings Highways were closed, resulting in the bakery having to close.
Due to having no power, the Kellys were also forced to close Batehaven, leaving staff out of work, but were happy to be able to supply the RFS with lunch packs.
What to do: Enjoy beautiful beaches, fresh seafood and water sports in this vibrant town, learn the history of the area at the Heritage Museum, and grab a coffee and delicious pie or cake from Peter and Frances!
Where to eat: Nimmitabel Bakery
The tiny highway town of Nimmitabel in the Monaro region of southeast New South Wales saw a convoy of thousands of fire evacuees passing through from nearby fires on New Year’s Day.
The next day, the Nimmitabel Bakery, owned by Will and Caroline Jardine, had made extra of all of their products to feed the hoards on their way through from the south coast. Although business was quiet throughout January, Caroline and Will count themselves as lucky, and feel deeply for the businesses that have lost a whole season’s revenue.
What to do: Take the Heritage Walk from the guide available at the Visitor Information Centre, which will show you some of the places of interest in town, and enjoy the warm country kitchen vibes of the Nimmitabel Bakery.
Where to eat: Adaminaby Bakery and Bakehouse
Adaminaby is a trout fishing centre and popular ski destination being one of the highest towns in Australia, with frequent and heavy snow falls in winter a stark contrast to the smoke and flames it saw at the beginning of this year.
With an economy built on tourism and agriculture, getting visitors back as soon as possible will be the key to Adaminaby getting back on its feet.
What to do: Take your rod and tackle and catch some trout, or explore the high country on horseback. If you’re near the ‘Big Trout’, stop in for a drink and hot lunch at the Bakehouse!
Where to eat: Cobargo Bakehouse and The Working Dog Bakery and Café
The Bega Valley town on Cobargo was left devastated by an out of control fire which tore through the town, including the main street, in December, leaving a father and son trying to defend their property dead.
Owners of The Working Dog Bakery and Cafe Paul Lehmann and Sandy Dmytryk sadly lost three friends in the devastation, but stayed to defend their business and home on site, and used a generator to supply coffee to exhausted emergency service workers and volunteers.
What to do: There’s a great town walk to learn about the history and heritage of Cobargo, then grab a sausage roll and hot coffee from the Bakehouse or Working Dog on the banks of the Narira River and take in the view of the town and surrounds.
Where to eat: Bemboka Pie Shop
On December 30, residents of dairying town Bemboka were forced to endure a terrifying night when fast-moving fires surrounded the town, making evacuation too dangerous.
The small village is situated 36km west of Bega at the base of Brown Mountain, and was originally established to serve the needs of the local farmers and travellers climbing or descending from the Monaro plains to the coast.
Today, Bemboka has retained most of its heritage timber buildings, including the original Bemboka Pie Shop. Built in 1930, the Bemboka Pie Shop still operates as a bakery and is of course famous for its gourmet pies, with a long history of providing refreshment to motorists coming down to the coast.
What to do: Grab a hot steak pie and learn about the people who made Bemboka the town it is today with the Bemboka Pioneers Walk in Bemboka Park, or take the River Reserve Walk.
Where to eat: Pie in the Sky Bakery and Born and Bread Bakery
Situated on the banks of the Tumut River in the Riviera Region, Tumut was not directly affected by the fires, but many residents left town on high alert. Pie in the Sky Bakery owners, sisters Jane Dean and Maureen Cook worked around the clock to provide thousand of meal packs to emergency services, and said it was a “privilege” to do so.
What to do: As well as excellent fishing, nature walks and the Festival of the Falling Leaf in autumn.
Where to eat: Sundance Bakehouse and Sugar Patisserie & Bakery
The Snowy Mountains region is not one many people would associate with fire, but the south-east New South Wales town of Jindabyne, alongside Perisher and Thredbo ended up surrounded by fire during this disastrous time, with many residents evacuated and authorities concerned for Kosciuszko National Park.
What to do: With a spectacular mountain backdrop and the pristine waterways of Lake Jindabyne, and giant granite boulders dotting the Monaro Plains, the region is a picture postcard escape at any time of the year and an excellent destination for those looking for outdoor adventures with skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking aplenty.