International recognition of Tasmania’s remote and pristine Bay of Fires as the world’s “hottest” destination could prove the greatest threat to its future survival, the area’s local mayor is warning.
“We don’t want a Surfers Paradise here,” Break O’Day Mayor Robert Legge said yesterday. “We have to be very, very careful that we don’t exploit it and ruin it. People come to see it as it is today. They don’t want to see it cluttered up with buildings and concrete block toilets and small eating places to cater for tourists.”
Bay of Fires, near the old whaling town of St Helens on Tasmania’s northeast coast, has come top of publisher Lonely Planet’s annual list of the world’s best emerging tourist destinations for 2009.
Surrounded by national park, Bay of Fires has only one building, a 10-room eco-lodge that can accommodate a maximum of just 20 guests at a time. Visitors have to walk for two days along the bay’s pristine beaches to get to the lodge, which is open just six months of the year.
Described by Lonely Planet as a “castaway bay” with 29km of beaches of white, hourglass fine sand and sapphire blue seas, Bay of Fires beat Spain’s Basque country, Chile, Thailand, the south of France, Laos, Hawaii, Colombia, Norway and China for top spot.
Lonely Planet urges people to visit the bay quickly, because “the crowds are bound to flock”.
Mr Legge said the council would have to consider carefully how to handle any influx of visitors.
“We don’t want the hordes in there trampling it to death,” he said.
“I’m absolutely delighted it has been recognised throughout the world, but we relish it with caution.”
Sally Cope, the marketing manager for the Bay of Fires lodge, said the bay’s uniqueness was already attracting visitors from Europe, Britain and the US. Guests have to carry in their belongings in backpacks, but once at the lodge are able to enjoy three-course meals and Tasmanian wines. Prices for four-day packages, including two nights at the lodge and one night camping in tents, start at $1900.
Ms Cope said the lodge was normally open between October and May, but next year would offer special winter packages to corporate and other groups.
Tasmanian Tourism Minister Michelle O’Byrne said the Bay of Fires offered visitors “the best wilderness in the world”.