Victoria, Australia — Large tracts of fire-scorched forests in Victoria’s north-east alpine and Gippsland areas are being reopened in time for an influx of Easter holidaymakers.
The reopening of many camping areas, four-wheel-drive-accessible roads and horse-riding tracks in the regions comes as Victorians begin their exodus to popular destinations such as the Great Ocean Road and Phillip Island.
Thousands are also expected to flock to a number of music festivals and sporting competitions being held across the state.
Parks Victoria will extend access to alpine areas it first opened on the Labour Day long weekend in March and has offered free entry to Mount Buffalo national park.
While tourist operators said they were relieved many major areas had reopened to the public, a number said they would continue to suffer financially. High Country Scenic Tours operator John Findlay said his four-wheel-drive tours had not operated for close to three months as he depended on some of the still unopened minor tracks.
Gippsland-based fishing tour operator Rod Barford said his business, Flytrek Australia, refunded $9000 worth of cancelled bookings after the bushfires, and he had no bookings over the long weekend.
But Michael Watson’s horse-riding business, Watson’s Mountain Country Trail Ride, which offers short tours in less remote areas, has fared better.
“Bookings are good, hopefully we are bracing ourselves for a bumper weekend,” he said.
The Rip Curl Pro Surfing Championships event at Bells Beach is expected to attract up to 30,000 spectators over four days, as fans flock to watch stars such as Layne Beachley and Kelly Slater.
Organisers of the inaugural Point Nepean Festival, with acts including Missy Higgins, Ben Harper and Taj Mahal, expect to pull crowds of 7500 tomorrow and Sunday.
Flight Centre spokesman Robert Crack said bookings for interstate destinations such as Sydney, Port Douglas and the Gold Coast had been popular over the long weekend.