Wartook's Happy Wanderer re-opens after Grampians bushfire

HAPPY AGAIN: Janet and Garry McLachlan with dog George at Happy Wanderer Holiday Resort, which has re-opened after the Grampians bushfire in January. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

HAPPY AGAIN: Janet and Garry McLachlan with dog George at Happy Wanderer Holiday Resort, which has re-opened after the Grampians bushfire in January. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

WARTOOK’S Happy Wanderer Holiday Resort has re-opened, seven months after being burnt in the Grampians bushfire.

Janet and Garry McLachlan returned to their business about a fortnight ago.

“We’ve been through floods, locust plagues and now fires,” Mrs McLachlan said.

They had been living in emergency housing in Horsham, commuting to the resort to clear the fire damage.

“The travelling from town out to try to do work, and back, just wasn’t working,” Mrs McLachlan said.

So they moved into one of their standard cabins two weeks ago.

Mrs McLachlan said the first guests to return to the Happy Wanderer were like them: Wartook people whose homes had been reduced to ashes.

“Since the park was not what it was, we only allowed a couple of people who were here to clear up their properties to stay,” she said.

“Now we can take guests, but I still feel the need to tell people who haven’t been here before that we’ve been through a bushfire.

"The pool is not yet ready to go and our general store is now just a little kiosk.

“But the ones who have been here before, they’ll understand.”

The Happy Wanderer’s cabins sustained smoke damage, but were otherwise unscathed by the fire.

It was afterwards, as animals sought shelter, that they started to get messy.

Now, the cabins are ready for visitors. 

The McLachlans’ house, an office attached to the house and a general store were destroyed.

Mrs McLachlan said bookings were starting to roll in.

“We’ve had a few phone calls from regulars asking how we’ve been and did we get George, our dog. We did,” she said.

Mr McLachlan said some of the Happy Wanderer’s customers had been loyal to the business for 20 years.

People who had holidayed there with their families when they were young have continued the tradition with their children. 

Some extended families split between Adelaide and Melbourne came to Wartook for family reunions.

The couple will celebrate their fourth year of business at the Happy Wanderer in October. They were formerly of Melbourne.

They plan to re-build their Wartook home, this time with an adjoining office.

“When we came, what was here was what we had to work with,” Mr McLachlan said.

“Now, we can purpose-build it to our needs.”

Plans to re-build two sheds are also progressing.

A petrol station, also on the 40 acre property, is back in business.

“If you want to find the positives, they’re there,” Mrs McLachlan said.

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