‘The sky is the limit’: Orara Valley ready to shine
AN INNOVATIVE idea to get people out and about in the Orara Valley has gone down a treat and judging by the energy in the community, it won't stop there.
'Shop the Orara Valley' saw hundreds of people pick up vouchers and head out along the Orara Way, using them at any number of the Coffs Coast hinterland's cafes, art galleries and markets.
The promotion offered visitors bags of goodies and $50 in vouchers, proving so popular registrations had to be closed in the lead up.
It was designed to bring a positive economic boost to a region which bore the brunt of bushfires, flood and now coronavirus.
The shopping weekend was organised by Coffs Harbour City Council's Industry and Destination Development Section, capitalising on NSW Government Bushfire Community Recovery and Resilience Fund.
While nobody can doubt the drive through the region's mountains, paddocks and bushland is stunning, there has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes to tempt visitors and locals away from the coast and into the Valley.
A town on the edge
As publican for The Golden Dog in Glenreagh, a village straddling the Coffs Harbour and Clarence Valley LGAs, Steph Luck has been part Orara Valley Progress Association for a decade.
Recognising no one business could afford the type of advertising needed to lure people west on its own, Ms Luck has been on a mission to have people pool their resources.
Already Ms Luck along with the owners of All About Me BnB and the Idle in Cafe in Nana Glen have put together a short advertisement.
"Once the fires hit I thought 'we have got to do something and we need to do it now'," Ms Luck said.
"We need people to come out and support the whole Valley not just single businesses.
"There is so much to offer and people just don't see it - they don't realise you could spend a whole weekend out here."
Then, in collaboration with Coffs Harbour City Council, the Orara Valley Tourist Trail was launched, encouraging people to take a drive "and explore the hidden Gems of the Orara Valley".
This will be built on with the development of a map and signage over the next 6 months, to capitalise on the wide variety of activities on offer, as well as highlighting a drive along the Orara Way as the perfect day trip from Coffs Harbour.
"At the end of the day the Orara Valley is one community and we want everyone to see what it has to offer," Ms Luck said.
Eating in Crowe country
Despite being well known for its Hollywood-star resident, Nana Glen is still another hidden gem on the Orara Way.
Alison Johnson is one of the key players boosting the Valley's visibility and runs the Idle In Cafe - a popular haunt for weekend motorcycle riders.
Ms Johnson was recently presented with a Community Service Award from the Premier in recognition of their remarkable efforts during the bushfires.
Sitting in the Cafe with her two children Jackson and Nganggulaawan, Coffs Coast resident Chelsea Wright said that despite living in the region for several years they had not ventured to areas like Nana Glen and Glenreagh very often.
"The vouchers have been great."
"We always think it would be nice to get out and see the Valley but seem to find something else to do other than exploring your own backyard."
Getting over Red Hill
The idea that people in Coffs Harbour don't know what's over Red Hill might seem preposterous to those living in the Valley, but it is nevertheless a reality.
Attracting people over the mountain and into the hinterland has been something Michelle King and Leeharne Hawley are passionate about.
As part of The Coramba Collective, the pair had street stalls side-by-side over the weekend, selling produce, relishes and up-cycled wine bottle glasses over the weekend.
And working with Artspace on 45, they have been instrumental in growing the Coramba Monthly Markets.
Ms King said the Shop the Orara Valley initiative had been received really well, with visitors from all over the Coffs Coast excited to support local businesses.
While commending the effort on Council's part, Ms King emphasised how important the work of locals had been in pushing initiatives - like the Coramba Markets - forward.
"There has been a good foundation of community members who have been working on this for a while," she said.
"The sky is the limit and it always has been for us. We have heaps of ideas for this lovely place - we are in love with our area.
"There is a great opportunity for eco-tourism here and the Great Koala National Park could be here. It is a great opportunity for this area."