By Andrea Beattie
Queensland is breathtaking and beautiful, but also wild and untamed. Like so much of the country, the Sunshine State was impacted by the summer bushfires.
But nothing can keep Queensland’s resilient spirit down.
Just as the vegetation regenerates, businesses are springing back to life and welcoming visitors with open arms.
BINNA BURRA LODGE
Since 1933, the jewel of the Gold Coast hinterland — Binna Burra Lodge — has offered the perfect base to explore the surrounding picturesque Lamington National Park.
Founded by conservationists Arthur Groom and Romeo Lahey, the lodge is heritage listed and was the first Australian property to attain Green Globe Certification for its outstanding environmental performance.
In September, one year after fires razed the lodge, dining room, 43 heritage cabins, gardens and roads, Binna Burra Lodge reopened its Sky Lodges and campsites.
The Binna Burra Kitchen and Teahouse is expected to reopen soon.
Chief executive officer Jonathan Fisher said while it was a tough process to rebuild, their recovery was never in doubt.
“Quite simply, we have no intention of abandoning our post, keeping the park open to the public for generations to come.”
Binna Burra sits at 800 metres above sea level amid an idyllic pocket of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, World Heritage-listed for its beauty, biodiversity and ancient plant and animal lineages.
A new road is boosting tourist numbers and bringing economic relief across the district. But Fisher says it’s not just the local community who will benefit from a visit.
“Taking time to go for a hike in Lamington National Park is unmissable,” he says.
“Whether it’s a short 30-minute stroll around the Rainforest Circuit or a half day down to Coomera Falls, the experience of being immersed in the primordial jungle is a true wonder.”
MOUNT BARNEY LODGE
Mount Barney Lodge owner Innes Larkin has conquered many mountains — including Everest — but he and his wife Tracey’s battle to save their business from the impact of the fires has been their biggest challenge.
While the lodge, at the base of a striking peak on the Scenic Rim, was spared, 90 per cent of summer bookings were lost.
To rebound, the Larkins have implemented three new ideas – Barney Bonds, where customers
paid upfront for a visit at a later date; a Summer Silhouette Sculptures (SSS) event in January and a Refresh Replant Renew voluntourism project.
“SSS made use of our key drawcard – the mountain – and (we) placed sculptures in locations on the property that could be photographed against the mountain skyline,” Tracey says.
Mount Barney is also part of the Gondwana Rainforests, and its walking tracks provide challenging hikes and mountain climbs.
“As the park is mostly wilderness, there are many undiscovered spots if you have navigation training,” Tracey says.
The lodge will also work with other local businesses impacted by the fires to host an adventure festival to launch the 2021 hiking season.
“Expect guest speakers, a program of hiking expeditions, a film festival, and a ticketed weekend event with food and entertainment,” Tracey says.
While fire devastated some parts of the Lockyer Valley, the drought is a bigger concern for Awassi Queensland, an artisan sheep cheesery in Grantham.
Owner Di Piggott says that like many farmers, she’s had to think outside the square to entice visitors back. “On our whiteboard in the dairy, we’ve written in big letters ‘improvise, adapt, overcome – or wing it!’”
The business sits in the Helidon Hills, surrounded by avocado groves, and offers visitors the chance to interact with gentle Awassi sheep and learn to make cheese.
The farm’s unique location also gave rise to a business idea, and the tranquil areas within the avocado groves are now being used to create the Grove Glamping experience.
“We’ve only just set up our amazing glamping tents. They’re a way to spend some down time on the farm – unplugged,” Piggot says.
“The opportunity is for our guests to visit the farm as a getaway that may have been (planned for) overseas, pre-COVID,” Piggot says.
“We love sharing our farm, and Grove Glamping is another way for our guests to relax and not worry where to stay in the Valley.”
Piggot says Queenslanders can help support the Valley’s recovery simply by visiting.
“Turn off the television, leave your devices at home, jump in the car and drive to a new experience,” she says. “Buy local and really get to know your farmer, or at the very least, where your food comes from.”