Chinese tourists helping keep tiny town alive

Updated: 2016-03-28 08:02


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A growing number of Chinese tourists are helping to save a dying Australian town, after a little-known tourist attraction was featured on a number of Chinese travel blogs.

The residents of Sea Lake, a town of just 600 people in the Australian state of Victoria, barely sees travelers stop at their gas station while driving by, but a sudden influx of Chinese tourists is helping keep the town's economy alive.

The tourists come to see Lake Tyrrell-a shallow, salt crusted and often dry lake just out of town, as it provides a stunning backdrop for photographers looking to shoot the Milky Way.

Local teacher Rachel Pearce says the stunning nightscape-combined with the eerie appearance of stars reflected on the salt lake-gives the impression you are walking among the stars.

"The night skies here are reputably some of the best in the southern hemisphere, anywhere in the world really," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

The town is so isolated that no light pollution ruins the spectacular views, and as it is situated in a barren, dry part of the country, there are rarely any clouds to spoil the night sky.

The attraction's growing cult status has resulted in the town's motel rooms being full almost every night, and while local farmers are suffering in a two-year drought, tourism is keeping the town's ailing agricultural-based economy afloat.

Tourist Joseph Lee, along with 10 other stargazers, made the trip from Sydney, as he wanted to see a different side of Australia.

"I wanted to go to some of the places without too many tourists," Lee told the ABC.

"We'll go to the not-so-popular places to give my friends some new idea of what Australia looks like."

Alice Lee, from Hong Kong, says it was hard to find scenery like that in Sea Lake anywhere else in the world.

"I see the beauty of the scenes and the different changes in the skies, the clouds and over the sun," Lee says.

"That's why we want to go."

Despite the popularity of the town and its attraction, locals are still confused as to why their little town deserves so much attention. Sea Lake's population has fallen from around 1,200 a decade ago to 600 today.

"We're still unsure why Lake Tyrrell is such a big, big tourist attraction," one local says.

"It's quite a shock."