There's been a great deal of distance, social and otherwise, between the time when the citizens of Australia's two most populous states were able to travel free of the devastating effects of fire, drought and pandemic and now.
But, after six months or so of mayhem and disruption, intrastate tourism in NSW and Victoria will officially resume on Monday in what will represent a dramatic boost to the damaged tourism and hospitality industries.
Unsurprisingly, indications are that we can't wait to take off. The Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) commissioned consumer research recently that found that nearly two thirds of Australians are planning a trip within their own state in the next six months with travel bans gradually being relaxed.
"This is great news for regional tourism which has been massively impacted by the double whammy of the summer bushfires in both NSW and Victoria and COVID 19," says Margy Osmond, chief executive of TTF.
"Of course it will take some time for real recovery but it does mark a significant milestone in the reopening of our industry."
Visit Victoria CEO Brendan McClements said the easing of restrictions come June 1 and the ability for people to make holiday travel plans was "a positive step forward" for the state's tourism industry.
"Many Victorian businesses will be pleased to welcome visitors again and those with a desire for travel will be able to rekindle that passion …" Mr McClements said.
"Travellers are reminded to follow Victorian Government advice on how to keep themselves and communities safe."
To mark the resumption of travel following the pandemic shutdown, even as other state and territory borders remain controversially closed, a panel of seven experienced tourism and travel identities was formed asked to name their seven most inspiring wonders of tourism in Victoria
Respondents, ranging from tourism industry leaders and executives to a leading author and television personality with a love of travel favoured some rugged attractions in our diverse state backyard.
Among the choices of celebrated author and prodigious traveller Thomas Keneally was Port Campbell.
"Out beyond the Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell has fascinating geology which promises mayhem for shipping. Here, off the cliffs, the fascinating 1878 Loch Ard wreck occurred," Mr Keneally said.
A young woman and a cabin boy were the only survivors swept into a beach beset with cliffs and no way up them. It's one of the great Melbourne stories, because they both settled in the city, I believe, and lived on in a sort of haunted acknowledgement of each other.
"Perversely, I like this part of the Great Ocean Road the best. It lays down absolute terms."
Heather Ewart, host of the ABC's popular Back Roads documentary series, which celebrates Australia's regional communities, included Corryong in the high country, host to the annual Man from Snowy River festival.
" It's at its most spectacular in autumn when the town and surrounding hills are a sea of colour. But Corryong is beautiful in any season. It managed to survive the bushfires early this year and so deserves a visit," Ms Ewart said.
Although the relaxation of travel restrictions heralds a return to some semblance of normality, Ms Osmond said people should exercise caution when visiting regional centres for holidays or day trips as they may still be nervous about the coronavirus spread and an influx of tourists.
"We know from our research that 70 per cent of regional communities want the visitors back but it is important to be thoughtful about towns who are still in recovery from the fires," she said.
"My advice would be to be good visitors particularly in relation to being COVID-safe and ensuring you take all the necessary precautions health wise before you leave, while you are there and when you get back."
RACV general manager Craig Peachey said that while four of Victoria's golf courses were opened earlier this month, Resort and Club properties would not open to overnight guests before June 22.
"We will take time to ready our Resorts and Club in order to safely and effectively receive our Members and guests, which we are all greatly looking forward to," Mr Peachey said of its properties that operate in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania .
MARCIA LANGTON, Academic and author, Welcome to Country: A Travel Guide to Indigenous Australia
Brambuk, the National Park and Cultural Centre, Halls Gap. Photo: Parks Victoria
BUDJ BIM This cultural landscape in south-western Victoria is in the traditional country of the Gunditjmara people. It is a volcanic landscape that has been engineered by Gunditjmara people for at least 6500 years into the largest and oldest aquaculture system in the world. It has been listed by UNESCO on the World Heritage List. See budjbimtours.net
THE MCG This famous sporting arena is also a meeting place for the traditional owners, the Bunurrong people who annually with their Wurrundjeri neighbours welcome us AFL fans to the Dreamtime at the G game and the grand final. The greats of AFL such as Adam Goodes, Buddy Franklin, Michael Long and Nicky Winmar have thrilled and infuriated the fans here with their magic. Will we be there again this year? See mcg.org.au
BUNJILAKA AT THE MELBOURNE MUSEUM This Aboriginal-curated zone in the Melbourne Museum is the best place for rainy, cold afternoons. Bunjil, the possum skin cloak and the belongings of many generations are woven into a history of this part of the world that is fascinating and tragic at the same time. See museumsvictoria.com.au/bunjilaka
WURDI YOUANG UNESCO has recognised a remarkable Indigenous astronomical site, Wurdi Youang, near Little River in the country of the Wathaurong people. It is one of a number of stone arrangements of pre-settlement origin in Victoria, and the dates possible for its construction range between approximately 25,000BC and about 1835AD. The Wathaurong people occupied the area from about 25,000BC until their culture was destroyed in about 1835. Since then, the area has been farmed by European settlers, although the Wurdi Youang site has remained untouched. You may be lucky enough to get permission from the traditional owners to visit. See abc.net.au/news
GARIWERD In the country of the Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung peoples, Gariwerd (or the Grampians) National Park is one of the most diverse and ancient of Victorian landscapes. Make Brambuk, National Park & Cultural Centre at Halls Gap your base for coffee, cake and informative films and exhibitions about this extraordinary country before you go walking. See brambuk.com.au
THE NGV The National Gallery of Victoria Australian collection in Federation Square includes famous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art works. You will be able to visit after June 30 when the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions will be removed, and then go to the ground floor gallery. In the meantime, see some works online.See ngv.vic.gov.au
BATALUK CULTURAL TRAIL In the lands of the Gunai (kurnai) and Monaro peoples, this trail extends from Sale through Mitchell River National Park, Bairnsdale, and Orbost to Cape Conran. The traditional owners want you to enjoy their nature walks, guided tours, cultural talks and travelling exhibitions. Visit the Krowathunkooloong Keeping Place in Bairnsdale where the local people will show you the skilled craftsmanship in traditionally-made baskets, spears, shields and canoes. See batalukculturaltrail.com.au
GEOFF MANCHESTER, Intrepid Group co-founder and director
Autumn in Bright. Photo: Josie Withers/Visit Victoria
MALLACOOTA A great feeling of isolation, especially following the drive through the Gippsland forests. So many Victorians never venture out east; the Mallacoota Caravan Park is green, spacious and rarely busy and there's beaches, walking and fishing. See visiteastgippsland.com.au
TEN MINUTES BY TRACTOR RESTAURANT Set in the hills of the Mornington Peninsula near Red Hill this is an intimate space with creative food and an amazing selection of local wine. See tenminutesbytractor.com.au
WALHALLA An 1860's goldmining town that is now the proverbial ghost town. It feels like it is in the middle of an ancient forest, but the whole area was once denuded of timber, which was used for the gold mining. The cricket ground is spectacular, being the only flat area around. See visitwalhalla.com
MELBOURNE'S FARMERS MARKETS. With so many of us renewing our interest in cooking, sourcing food from individual grower at farmers' markets adds to the experience. Collingwood Children's Farm market is in a spectacular location, while the Alphington Market is a practical option held every Sunday. See mfm.com.au
BRIGHT While it is the place in Victoria for autumn colours, it is still a place to visit all year, with snow, on-road and off-road cycling, wineries, restaurants and the Ovens River to laze around in during summer. Great cider at the pub! See visitbright.com.au
GREAT WESTERN. May not sound like a town and there is not much to it, but it has two of Victoria's best and most historic wineries in Best's & Seppelt. Best's often have some very old wine for sale, while Seppelt has its famous drives, the underground cellars with millions of bottles stored. See visitvictoria.com
PENINSULA HOT SPRINGS. This is the type of sustainable tourism development we should replicate around the state. It has grown over the years, but maintains the feel of a small establishment and they have a great focus on the customer experience. See peninsulahotsprings.com
THOMAS KENEALLY, Author, most recently of The Dickens Boy
90 Mile Beach, Gippsland. Photo: Josie Withers/Visit Victoria
MOUTH OF THE SNOWY RIVER This is a near-secret joy for those who know about it. Australians are used to thinking of the Snowy as a neutered river, but here at Marlo where it enters the sea, it is an authoritative and marvellous sight, and there are grand walks to be had around the estuary. See visiteastgippsland.com.au
EAST GIPPSLAND From the Kosciusko Park southwards; some people say driving through here is boring, but if you want a sense of an Australia not fatally retouched by settler overreach, this has atmosphere. The county around Suggan Buggan and Buchan enchants me the way Ireland does, with their lost people, and anyone who is an "atmospherics" freak will love its wistfulness and grand forest-clad melancholy. See visiteastgippsland.com.au
NINETY MILE BEACH Gippsland again, sorry. Ours and another family walked it once, so it is part of the landscape of our dreams. We laid water cans at various stages before-hand. An illimitable beach – few have contemplated such a thing. No headlands, no entering streams, no telegraph holes, no promise of an ending. And then (it was winter) a driftwood camp fire in the dunes. See visitvictoria.com
THE MORNINGTON PENINSULA Another regional gong with which everyone agrees. To pick just one place, the Sorrento area's Back Beach walks have a wildness and sea-rawness to them that reminds one that Antarctica is the sister of continental Australia. Atmosphere again. I need treatment. See visitmorningtonpeninsula.org
CAPE OTWAY Not everyone on the Great Ocean Road visits it on their Great Ocean Road journey, but this was the great turning point for our ship-borne ancestors. The walks around the lighthouse are delightful with vast seas everywhere. Last time I was there I saw a demonstration of a house a la Dark Emu, the kind built pre-European history by the Gadubanud Indigenous people.See visitgreatoceanroad.org.au
FALLS CREEK This area, including the mountain reservoir and the ski-runs and the drovers huts beyond, is my vote for Heaven in Victoria. I am an elderly, sedate cross-country skier and the tracks hereabouts are properly groomed and run though delicious alpine country. But the summer walking must be great too. I once skied 28 kilometres in a day here, a lot for me, and just because the landscape draws you on. Don't forget that anyone can go to the snow, now they rent snowshoes, and so you don't need poncy lessons to learn how to traverse the country. See fallscreek.com.au
PORT CAMPBELL Out beyond the Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell has fascinating geology which promises mayhem for shipping. Here, off the cliffs, the fascinating 1878 Loch Ard wreck occurred. A young woman and a cabin boy were the only survivors swept into a beach beset with cliffs and no way up them. It's one of the great Melbourne stories, because they both settled in the city, I believe, and lived on in a sort of haunted acknowledgement of each other. Perversely, I like this part of the Great Ocean Road the best. It lays down absolute terms. See parks.vic.gov.au
JOHN O'SULLIVAN, Ex-Tourism Australia MD, now CEO of Experience Co
Di Stasio Citta on Spring St, Melbourne. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui
MELBOURNE RESTAURANTS The most diverse and best collection of restaurants and cafes in the country, whether it's Attica, Mamasita, Movida, Madame Sousou or Belle's Hot Chicken you just can't beat the culinary offering in our most cosmopolitan city. See goodfood.com.au
MELBOURNE EVENTS This is without question one of the best events calendars anywhere: The Australian Open, AFL Grand Final, spring racing carnival, and theatre like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child the list goes on. The one thing Victorians know how to do is events and once restrictions ease, the calendar will quickly refill. See whatson.melbourne.vic.gov.au
MORNINGTON PENINSULA The wineries are superb, as are the golf courses - the National is a personal favourite, even though it traumatised me the last time I played there. The Peninsula Hot Springs is simply serene. See visitmorningtonpeninsula.org
GREAT OCEAN ROAD One of Australia's, indeed one of the world's best drives. The best way to see it though is from our drop zone at Barwon Heads. See visitgreatoceanroad.org.au
THE NGV This is still my favourite gallery in Australia, run by Tony Ellwood (a great mate admittedly), I was there the day after the 2018 AFL Grand Final and remember seeing all those West Coast and Collingwood scarves - it appeals to everyone. See ngv.vic.gov.au
ST KILDA This has to be one of Australia's iconic beach suburbs. Take a quick skydive on to Elwood's Moran Reserve with us (seriously) and then head off to The Stokehouse for lunch. See experienceco.com
KELLY COUNTRY Follow the trail of Australia's own version of Robin Hood, Ned Kelly. This roadtrip from Melbourne to Beechworth, Beechworth to Mansfield and then Mansfield to Melbourne is one where you can retrace the steps of the legend and the man. See nedkellytouringroute.com.au
HEATHER EWART Journalist and presenter, ABC Back Roads*
Canola fields between Smeaton and Clunes. Photo: iStock
CORRYONG Host to the annual Man from Snowy River festival, Corryong is at its most spectacular in autumn when the town and surrounding hills are a sea of colour. That said, it's beautiful in any season. It managed to survive the bushfires early this year and deserves a visit. See bushfestival.com.au
WALKERVILLE SOUTH A superb beach at Wilson's Promontory with little caves to explore and a backdrop of rolling hills. No wonder it was the inspiration for the popular children's book Magic Beach by local author Allison Lester. See parks.vic.gov.au
HARROW This tiny western district town by the Glenelg River and not far from the South Australian border is so full of history, and a must see for cricket lovers because this area was home to the star indigenous cricket player Johnny Mullagh who led the unique Aboriginal cricket tour to England in 1868. The Discovery Centre in Harrow tells the story. See harrow.org.au
CLUNES This beautifully-preserved old gold mining town near Ballarat has a wide main street frozen in time. And the annual book festival is a delight that draws thousands of book lovers and writers. See clunesbooktown.com.au
KOROIT This town near Warrnambool in western Victoria is like a patch of Ireland in the heart of rolling green hills, and the many locals who claim Irish hereditary pride themselves on this. The annual two day Irish festival is a hoot. Nearby Tower Hill on the lip of an ancient volcano shouldn't be missed either. See koroitirishfestival.com.au
BARRY WAY, a hidden gem, best known to locals and skiers. It's a partly unsealed Alpine road, starting near Buchan in Victoria and ending up at the NSW resort town of Jindabyne. It follows the Snowy River and the views across the valleys are truly spectacular. Both states have a half share in the glory. See visiteastgippsland.com.au
GOULBURN VALLEY The wine growing region in the triangle between Avenel, Nagambie and Murchison is my home territory and where I grew up on a farm, so I can be indulgent here. It's hard to beat the wines, the meandering gum tree-lined Goulburn River and Nagambie Lake. And it was home to legendary racehorse Black Caviar so check out the much visited statue in the main street of Nagambie. See discovergoulburnvalley.com
* Series 6 of Back Roads starts on Monday, June 8 at 8pm on ABC and ABC iview.
SIMON MCGRATH, Chief operating officer, Accor Asia-Pacific
Koalas at Healesville Sanctuary.
LORNE This timeless coastal town has been a favourite for many years. The smell of the giant eucalyptus trees, eating fish and chips on the beach and exploring the rock pools – I can't wait to get back there. See visitvictoria.com
WILSON'S PROMONTORY On the southernmost tip of mainland Australia, this stunning remote coastal area has great hiking and pristine white sandy (and squeaky!) beaches. See parks.vic.gov.au
RED HILL Within a few hours' drive of Melbourne, the views, wineries and vineyards of Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula are delightful. Meandering around the treasures of Red Hill is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in the company of friends and family. See visitmorningtonpeninsula.org
ST KILDA I like to walk from Port Melbourne up to St Kilda along the bay. There are some spectacular restaurants in this area and my personal favourite is Cicciolina in St Kilda. Their blue swimmer crab and lemon soufflé is a true wonder of Victoria. See cicciolina.com.au
HEALESVILLE SANCTUARY Located north-east of Melbourne in the Yarra Ranges, this impressive sanctuary for native animals is set in natural bushland and has wallabies, kangaroos, wombats, platypus, dingoes and more. It is a great experience for grown up adults and children alike. See zoo.org.au/healesville
GREAT OTWAY NATIONAL PARK The magnificence of the Otways is a sight to behold no matter what the season, and the bewitching waterfalls are a true wonder of Victoria. See parks.vic.gov.au
YARRA VALLEY The quintessential wine region of Victoria, this is a must-visit for anyone exploring their own back yard. I have celebrated many memorable birthdays and occasions in the Yarra Valley. See wineyarravalley.com.au
MARGY OSMOND, Chief executive, Tourism & Transport Forum
The Shipwreck Coast near Port Campbell.
THE SHIPWRECK COAST This spectacular stretch ,from Cape Otway to Port Fairy, is at its best in winter when the rugged coastline can be very dramatic. The Great Otway National Park in all its parts, but especially near Apollo Bay, is a must-see if you're travelling down the Great Ocean Road. See visitvictoria.com
MT BULLER During winter for the snowfields, the mountain lodges and an open fire, just perfect for sipping a good bottle of red. The mountain is also open for skiing and snowboarding this season, starting June 22. See mtbuller.com.au
BEECHWORTH On the surface there's the gold rush-era history and the Ned Kelly folklore, but beyond that there's great food, be it fast or fine, a wonderful network of walking trails and off-road mountain biking or on-trail cycling along the Beechworth stretch of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail. See explorebeechworth.com.au
MORNINGTON PENINSULA For the mix of coast and country scenery, the wineries and the craft breweries and such an extraordinary selection of quality food. See visitmorningtonpeninsula.org
RYE The Bass Strait coastline is amazing and there's an incredible ocean walk - the Coastal Walk along the southern side of the Mornington Peninsula actually stretches 30-kilometres between Cape Schanck and the Point Nepean National Park, following rugged and rocky cliffs, dense coastal vegetation or the surf beaches through Rye and Sorrento.See parks.vic.gov.au
MELBOURNE There's so much on offer in the city but favourites are the National Gallery of Victoria, the theatre and of course Melbourne is the Australian home of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. See visitmelbourne.com