Open gardens and open hearts bring tourists back to Marysville

In February 2009, the iconic and picturesque town of Marysville, in the mountains to the east of Melbourne, was largely destroyed by fire. The town and its 220 people relied on the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains to bring in tourists, which was the main industry.

But the tourists have stayed away, despite Marysville being back up and running and once again looking beautiful.

So, Mystic Mountains Tourism Inc knew they needed to try a different approach to reach visitors and attract people back to the lush, green and beautiful place.

Small Grant helps rejuvenate tourism industry


They decided to stage an Open Gardens weekend, believing that if they could get people to come for an economical day trip (just $3 per garden), they might just entice people to stay the night or come back for a longer visit next time.

With a $3,000 grant via the Small Grants for Rural Communities program, thanks to funding from The R. E. Ross Trust, the group was able to promote the event far and wide.

And they were successful, with more than 1,400 people coming to see the eight private gardens that opened their doors to the public for the first time since 2009.

It wasn’t just beautiful plants that visitors saw; each garden offered activities including live music, plant sales, botanical art, an exhibition showcasing the effects of the fires, garden sculptures and demonstrations on gardening techniques.

Marysville local Jacqui Pearson said the whole village benefited from the event. “Emotionally, to open your garden that was devastated by fire only six years ago, gave all the garden owners a tremendous boost. The volunteers too were very proud to be talking to visitors about the gardens’ recovery. The retail and a café owners also reported increased turnover for the weekend, and the village had a real buzz about it,” she said.

In terms of meeting its overall objective, the event brought in many visitors that would normally not have come. Plans are already well underway for the 2015 event.

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