Trail Tourism – Discover your ‘Hidden Gems’

By Belinda 11/10/2019

Australia is known for its unique experiences, jaw dropping landscapes, dynamic events, tasty fresh food and rich cultural history some found well off the beaten track.

Tourism Australia’s latest campaign UnDiscover Australia seeks to draw attention and increase visitation to some of our country’s less obvious but equally intriguing visitor attractions; a celebration of our ‘Hidden Gems’ and the development of high-quality trail experiences are a key component of this.

Trails provide an ideal opportunity to explore these destinations and attractions in your own way, whether this be quietly meandering around a country town immersing yourself in unique history, jogging through an abundance of natural wonders, riding with your friends and family through spectacular landscapes or paddling along a mighty river.

Through high quality trail provision the increase in tourism visitations for a region can be substantial, and showcasing these unique experiences to the wider world can bring to a community immeasurable pride and measurable economic benefits, such as local business growth, new start-ups and job creation. Through the provision of interesting and challenging trail networks there is the potential to attract new visitor markets, generating the associated benefits of tourism for local communities.

“Tourism is now playing a bigger and more significant part in trails development, as visitors – both international and domestic – look for interesting, challenging and unique experiences as part of their holidays and travels” (source WA Trail Blueprint).”

The identification, planning and development of high quality trail networks that showcase the hidden gems in your local community can greatly assist in growing the local visitor economy and benefit local businesses including cafes, shops, tour operators and accommodation providers. Through our trail planning work across Australia over the past 15 years we have had the opportunity to capture some of these hidden gems and integrate them with associated high-quality trail experiences.

There are many hidden gems, natural and built, cultural and infamous that make up Australia’s history, that are found and connected with regional Australia. These are ideal opportunities to integrate a well-planned and designed trail network and experience to showcase these attractions and encourage people from intrastate, interstate and overseas to come and visit and experience your local communities small and large.

We have seen firsthand how this can play out when we recently worked with the West Wimmera Shire Council in Western Victoria on the creation of their Recreational Trails Strategy. While auditing the trails in the area we were amazed to discover that the local town of Harrow is home to the Johnny Mullagh Interpretive Centre which tells the story of the Australian Aboriginal cricket team that toured England in 1868 (Australia’s first international cricket team). The members of this team originated from the Wotjobaluk country in the West Wimmera region of Victoria.

The locals and devoted cricket fans may have known about this hidden sporting gem, but it is likely many people didn’t. This soon changed when earlier this year Cricket Australia commemorated the 150-year anniversary of the team becoming the nation’s first sporting team to tour internationally and the first Australian cricket team to tour England. This included a local celebration and Cricket Australia sending male and female Aboriginal XI squads to England to play a series of matches against County teams at some of the grounds that hosted the original team 150 years ago.

When Cricket Australia posted a video online in May this year about the members of the 2018 Aboriginal XI squads travelling to England to celebrate this important milestone it had nearly 10,000 views and over 100 shares. Cricket Australia has around 800,000 people liking their Facebook site which is no small fan base! This presents an enormous potential visitor market who have an interest in cricket and could potentially travel to Harrow and the West Wimmera region to traverse the cricket trail and visit the discovery centre to learn more about this story.

The West Wimmera Trails Strategy identifies the further enhancement of the West Wimmera Cricket Trail as a priority project through linking with distinctive trail experiences and other recreational activities at key sites in the region and widely promoting the trail and the unique historical connection via printed brochures/maps, online content and on-ground signage.

Another good example of communities in which we have created world-class trail experiences based on hidden gems include the Blue Mountains in which we developed an initial feasibility assessment and trail development plan in collaboration with the local Council and community for the creation of the Great Blue Mountains Trail.  The Blue Mountains is one of the most visited regions in Australia, but most visitors spend only one or two days there and visit the key attractions such as the Three Sisters and Scenic World. The aim of the project was to develop a multi-use trail that connects Leura, Katoomba, Blackheath and Mount York and passes not only through the iconic attractions but also links the unique townships of the area and introduces the visitor (and local for that matter) to a range of hidden gems not featuring on most people’s itineraries.

East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory in which we first developed an overall recreation and open space plan for the Nhulunbuy Township, which resulted in the Nhulunbuy Walk Trail Network being identified as a priority project by the community. The town had heavily relied on the local mining industry for its economic prosperity, however with the curtailment of the mine several years ago and the increasing popularity of the town as an off the beaten track tourism experience, there was an identified need to improve the visitor experiences. A Trail Development Plan was developed which incorporated five themed loop trails which captured the iconic attractions throughout the town. This included the Roy Marika Lookout at the top of Nhulun (Mount Saunders), a Yolnu sacred site with uninterrupted panoramic views. Roy Marika, who the lookout was named after was instrumental in the establishment of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act in the Northern Territory, Australia’s first land rights legislation. The trail network construction is due to be completed by the end of 2018 and will provide a selection of high quality unique trail experiences for all levels and abilities.

There are a number of important components to planning and designing these trails including collaborating with local communities through trail user groups, tourism organisations, local businesses, land owners and managers, local Councils and relevant state agencies, to identify a community’s hidden gem/s.  These could be untapped natural wonders, amazing views, beautiful landscapes, inspiring locals and interesting built facilities.

There is also a need to clearly determine the trail purpose, alignment and design and create trails that are interesting, fun to use, offer challenges for all abilities, link local attractions and visitor services (accommodation, food/beverage and transport providers) and are ultimately attractive to visitors.

Key take home points

  • Every community has its own unique story to tell, identify your hidden gems
  • Trails are a great way of discovering hidden gems and connecting with well-known attractions and visitor services
  • There is a need for collaborative planning to ensure the trail delivers the expected benefits and provides a high-quality experience
  • A high-quality trail network will add value to local communities and contribute to local economic development
  • Trails offer the opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in your community

Please contact us to assist you discover your “hidden gems” and boost your community.

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