By Raquel Mustillo
GEOTOURISM has become the domestic travel smash hit of the holiday season with record numbers of visitors descending on two of the Limestone Coast’s most spectacular natural sites.
The Tantanoola and Naracoorte Caves are becoming fan favourites of intra and interstate tourists to the region, with tours quickly reaching capacity each day.
National Parks and Wildlife Limestone Coast manager Nick McIntyre said preliminary figures indicated visitation was up 25pc at both sites compared to January 2019.
Mr McIntryre said while the true figures would be confirmed at the end of the month, initial reports suggested a significant increase from last year, which he described as “a very, very good year”.
“At this point in time, staff reports at our commercial sites indicate we are looking at an increase of at least 25pc in visitation numbers from 2019, which was an incredibly good year,” he said.
“So we are well up on what we were already well up on.
“It is indicative the place is booming at the moment as far as tourism goes and a very good result.
“We think it would be a record for our peak season during January, but that will be confirmed at the end of January.
“It will also be good to see where some of those demographics have come from and whether is it South Australia, Victoria or other states.”
Former Allendale resident Diane Gibson, son Adam and grandchildren Slater and Ryder were among hundreds who visited the Tantanoola site this week.
Mr Gibson, who travelled from Ballina, New South Wales with his sons to visit family, said the group had visited a number of geological sites across the region.
“I have been to the Tantanoola Caves when I was young and I thought it good to visit with the boys,” he said. “We have visited the Engelbrecht and Umpherston Caves, gone to Carpenter Rocks and spent time at the Valley Lakes.”
Son Slater rated visiting the Blue Lake as one of his favourite activities, followed by an ice cream from Badenochs Deli and pastry from the OK Pie Shop.
“The lake was bigger and bluer than I thought it was going to be,” he said.
Mr McIntyre said National Parks were also experiencing high demand, with camp sites along the coastal areas filled with holiday makers.
He said a majority of visitors were courteous campers and respected the sites and other visitors.
“Camp sites have been booked out and there are a lot of people in parks, which is a good thing to see,” he said.
“We have had our rangers out there to make sure people have an enjoyable time, as well as a safe time within the boundaries of what we want people to do in national parks.
“It is disappointing when you see people doing the wrong thing and from time to time, it does happen.”
The regions’ inland route has also recorded increased tourism numbers, with reports of individuals staying in Padthaway due to no vacancy in Naracoorte.
Limestone Coast Local Government Association chair and Naracoorte Lucindale mayor Erika Vickery welcomed the influx of visitors and said domestic tourism was key to helping businesses affected by COVID-19 recover.
“I think it is so good for our regional areas that people are visiting and it is such a boost for our economy to have those numbers coming through and looking at our natural wonders,” she said.
“We are very grateful people are visiting us because we have been working very hard to increase our visitor numbers and overnight stays.”