Forestours were launched by the Forests Commission Victoria (FCV) at Lakes Entrance in January 1977.
A brainwave of Bairnsdale forester David Buntine, Forestours got their inspiration from the NSW Forestry Commission on the south coast which offered free self-drive, or tag-along tours on mostly gravel roads in State forest under the guidance of local forestry staff.
The first tours began on Wednesday 12 January 1977 when 49 cars with 172 people booked into one of the four tours available on the day.
In an era before mobile phones, the internet and social media, Forestours were promoted by the local newspaper, flyers in motels, the tourist bureau and word of mouth.
Tours were held again over the next four weeks for a total of about 850 visitors.
The tours visited the nearby Colquhoun State forest and included sleeper cutting with swing saws and broad axes. They also inspected logging coupes and Jack Ramsdell’s sawmill at Nowa Nowa, as well as the nearby FCV fire tower.
The tours concluded at the Mississippi Creek picnic ground where people often lingered and chatted with staff. The kids loved being fitted with a hard hat, and many of the adults too for that matter, while the Forest Environment and Recreation (FEAR) Branch provided special “We’ve been on a Forestour” stickers to put on the cars.
There were additional guided bushwalks with forester and naturalist Peter Fagg near Lake Tyers.
Forestours were judged a success and spread from Lakes Entrance to Marlo in January 1978, and then to other centres across the State including Toolangi, Upper Yarra, Healesville, Tallangatta, Corryong, Bright, Heywood and the Otways.
Forestours were generally offered at summer holiday locations where visitors were often looking for alternative things to do, particularly if they were free, short duration, family friendly and involved something new or interesting.
Many local FCV staff were willingly recruited as guides and found the experiences to be friendly, rewarding and worthwhile.
The FCV annual report of 1983-84 noted a total of 50 Forestours, 70 spotlight walks of the forest by night, and forest excursions for 500 schools and 100 other groups.
But sadly, Forestours fizzled out in the mid-1980s with the new Department of Conservation Forest and Lands.