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Australia’s Best Guides – Stuart Dobson – Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s most spectacular coastal journeys and a mecca for Melbourne locals on the weekends and summer holidays. There is a lot more to it than just the usual tourist sites and Stuart Dobson is one of the best guides in Australia to reveal its secrets.

Please explain a little bit about who you are and what you do.
I am the co-founder and lead guide for Acacia Luxury Private Tours. We deliver luxury bespoke tours in Melbourne and the wonderfully diverse regions surrounding the city. My personal specialty is escorting visitors on one of the world’s most spectacular coastal journeys – Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.

I was born and raised on a dairy farm a veritable stone’s throw from the majestic limestone stacks that make up the Twelve Apostles, the scenic highlight of the Great Ocean Road and perhaps Australia’s most recognisable coastal landscape. Having this coast as my playground afforded me knowledge of secluded vantage points, the best wildlife spotting, and even locations for after-dark glow worm viewing. This local knowledge has proven to be indispensable as I strive to ensure visitors have a more intimate and connected experience with the ever-popular Great Ocean Road.

What got you started with guiding and what do you find most interesting about it?
My professional background is far removed from the tourism industry. Prior to launching Acacia Luxury Private Tours I enjoyed a career spanning two decades as a medical scientist and executive with an American medical devices company. While I enjoyed great fulfilment in the role, I had a yearning to escape the rat race and to become the steward of my own destiny. A midlife crisis perhaps? Probably not but there was certainly a sense of relief escaping the quarterly corporate business cycle.

Becoming a guide seemed like the perfect fit. My love of my Melbourne and Victoria is undisputed and I have always maintained a finger on the pulse by regularly dining, attending cultural events, and exploring the regions. I had become that person who visitors would reach out to for the latest advice when in town.

I relish the meaningful connections you form with guests and the privilege it is to play a role in their life celebrations and formation of lifelong memories. I also enjoy the relationships that we forge with various suppliers from restauranteurs and winemakers to local farmers and producers. As a small business owner you gain great visibility of the tangible economic benefits that tourism can brings to small towns and communities.

How do you bring the Great Ocean Road to life on your tours?
While the Great Ocean Road is renowned for rugged coastal scenery, perhaps it is less well understood that it offers the most extraordinary nature and wildlife experiences which is a focus of my tours. On our day trip we routinely encounter wild kangaroos, wallabies and koalas. A deeper exploration of the region offers the opportunity to see the elusive platypus in its natural habitat. The area is also a birdwatching paradise with reliable spotting of emus, parrots and water birds.

My tours also focus on the stories behind the region, from the tales of tragedy and heroism affiliated with the coast’s shipwreck history, to my own personal experiences growing up on a dairy farm.

Why do you think it’s important that people learn about the Great Ocean Road?
For many the Great Ocean Road is just the perfect location for a selfie and they overlook the region’s rich history.

Pivotal to the history of the settlement of Australia are the stories of tribulation faced by early free settlers who arrived by clippers sailing the treacherous Southern Ocean. The section of the coast from Cape Otway to Port Fairy is known as the Shipwreck Coast for good reason with an estimate of over 700 known wrecks, most of which remain undiscovered.

There is also the remarkable story of the construction of the road in perilous conditions by returned servicemen of World War One in honour of their fallen mates. Indeed, the 243-kilometre Great Ocean Road is designated a permanent war memorial, the largest in the world.

If people wanted to find out more about the Great Ocean Road are there any particular books, documentaries or websites you would recommend?
For a geological account of the Great Ocean Road I highly recommend “Written in Stone: Reading the Rocks of the Great Ocean Road” by Philomena Manifold. Her work combines research, writing, sketches and photographs to tell the 135 million-year story of the rocks of the Great Ocean Road.

For visitors to the Great Ocean Road I also recommend stopping by the newly constructed Great Ocean Road Heritage Centre in Lorne to explore the permanent exhibition “The Great Ocean Road Story: Building Australia’s Most Famous Road”.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that hasn’t been covered by the questions already posed?
Wherever possible we recommend spending two days to explore the Great Ocean Road with an overnight stay in the charming coastal hamlet of Port Campbell. I encourage my guests to rise early for a sunrise viewing of the Twelve Apostles and surrounding national park. At this time of day you often have these popular locations to yourself which completely transforms the experience. It feels almost spiritual.

What’s your favourite Australian animal and why?
The Little Penguin. We are blessed to have a 32,000 strong colony of Little Penguins on Phillip Island just 90 minutes south-east of Melbourne. Each evening at dusk visitors can witness their antics as hundreds or even thousands cross the beach and head to their nests. I never fail to succumb to their charm.

What place is Australia’s best-kept secret?
Wilsons Promontory is a coastal reserve located south-east of Melbourne at the southernmost tip of the Australian mainland. Think pristine white sand beaches decorated with rounded granite boulders, abundant wildlife, and a labyrinth of spectacular walking trails without the crowds all just three hours from Melbourne.

What haven’t you seen / done in Australia that you’d like to and why?
I am drawn to the rugged wilderness of the Kimberley Coast in the remote northwest of Australia. I can’t imagine a more beautiful landscape in which to appreciate the absolute vastness of this continent.

Finally, how can people follow you on social media?
You can follow us at @acaciatoursau on Facebook and Instagram.

Australia’s Best Guides – Grace Mitchelson – Bullo River Station

If you head up to Bullo River Station in the remote Top End, there’s a fair chance that Grace Mitchelson will be your guide. This 500,000 acre working cattle station provides guests with a unique tourism experience, combining authentic outback adventures with life on the farm. Grace is one of those beautiful women that is both down to earth and supremely capable and when she effortlessly showcased Bullo River Station to us we were all in awe. We asked her to tell us a little bit about herself.

Please explain a little bit about who you are and what you do at Bullo River Station.
I’m a guide at Bullo River Station, which means showing guests what it is like to live on a working cattle station, and what remote outback life is like.  This involves showing the cattle activities but also activities like fishing and horse riding, things the team love doing on their days off, as well as just exploring this amazing property.

I was born on a farm in Tasmania, where my parents still are, so I have known farming all my life.  I left Tassie in 2012 for my first job as a jillaroo in Queensland, and then I was able to transfer within the company to two other stations, one in the NT and another on the NT/WA border.  After several seasons, I wanted to get into tourism so I got a job at Horizontal Falls for 2 years, and then working on the Great Escape expedition vessel, based out of Broome.  So I had a lot of varied experience when I started working at Bullo for the 2018 season.

What got you started with remote outback guiding and what do you find most interesting about it?
I have a love of the land which got me started here.  The country is continuously changing, from red rocks, blue skies, green bush after the wet, billabongs, it’s all so picturesque.  This country is why I do what I do and I love sharing it with people.  I’m also learning every day from the guests who visit.  A recent guest had such a great knowledge of native plants that he encouraged me to start collecting and pressing plants, to start a visual diary. I would never have thought of that but it’s something I now do and it’s helping me learn more about the bush here.

How do you bring Bullo River Station to life on your tours?
I get people involved by them participating, not just observing.  It is so exciting to see people participate in a new experience, to see their excitement and enjoyment.

Why do you think it’s important that people learn about  life on an outback cattle station?
Live cattle export has had some bad press so it’s important to show people how we manage our cattle, and the care and passion we have for healthy animals that are treated humanely.  Guests can visit our yards and paddocks, there’s nothing hidden.  It’s important that guests understand how cattle stations operate and see where their food comes from – in our instance, beef, fish and even bush tucker, plants that can allow people to live off the land.

If people wanted to find out more about life on Bullo River Station or the Top End are there any particular books, documentaries or websites you would recommend?
As the original owner, Sara Henderson’s biographies give a good history of Bullo River Station and her experiences in establishing the Station and Homestead.

I love wildlife books, and plant books, particularly that cover the Top End. Many have been to me recommended by guests – I find two really useful; Native Plants of Northern Australia by John Brock and A Guide to Wildlife and Protected Areas of the Top End by Linley McKay.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that hasn’t been covered by the questions already posed?
I guess just the multi-faceted aspect of my job.  Every day is varied – I could be down at the cattle yards in the morning and on a boat on the Bullo River in the afternoon and finish the day on a rock ledge overlooking the Victoria River at sunset.  I’m also continuously learning, especially now that Bullo has a partnership with Australian Wildlife Conservancy, which is running several conservation and science projects on the property.

What’s your favourite Australian animal and why? 
I have too many. Maybe Brolgas because I love how they dance, and they are so pretty when they fly.

What place is Australia’s best-kept secret?
Tasmania – home is where the heart is and the Tasman Peninsula in the south of Tasmania is just stunning scenery, with the rugged terrain and cliffs.

What haven’t you seen / done in Australia that you’d like to and why?
Diving at Lizard Island

Finally, how can people follow you on social media?

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Australia’s Best Guides – Simon Burley – South Australian Coast and Wine Experiences

Simon Burley is one of our favourite South Australian guides who loves to take people behind the scenes to meet the makers by their craft. We spoke to him to find out what makes an experience with him so special.

Please explain a little bit about who you are and what you do.
I’m a South Australian local who has a long career working in gin, whisky, wine and tourism. It’s taken me from London to Inverness to Sydney and now back to my beloved state, a journey which has inspired a love of landscapes, nature and of course the tipples that go with each place I’ve worked.

My speciality is taking people truly behind the scenes to meet the company I keep, which are the characters of the wine & tourism industry across South Australia. It’s a diverse mix of people who are truly artisans of their craft – winemakers, grape growers, foodies, chefs, publicans, baristas, farmers and a whole lot more.

My experiences are for those who want to get off the tourist trail and meet the company we keep. It’s about moving away from the well-worn and heading off into the uncharted and not being frightened to mix it up with 4WD, E-Bike, helicopter or your own two feet!

What got you started in guiding and what do you find most interesting about it?
My interest in developing truly authentic,  behind the scenes experiences was piqued when I started hosting guests into the Jacob’s Creek wineries and Chivas Brother’s whisky distilleries. We always strove to show our guests the personalities that would make each place tick. I loved meeting these people as well, and found there was so much to learn from great winemakers, long-standing distillers, coopers, grape growers and the like who understand their craft so well and often have decades of experience. This is when I started to realise the power of meeting the company I keep and getting them to impart their stories.

The other thing that has driven me on, is that it’s easy to claim behind the scenes but often hard to really deliver it. So I’m really focussed on delivering sublime experiences that are totally unexpected, like breaking open a glass of the finest Adelaide Hills sparkling at the lookout of a 600 million year old gorge to celebrate the occasion, or taking guests into the secret cellar at the Victory Hotel behind an old bookshelf, or walking in 100 year old grenache vines and then tasting the very wine that comes from that vineyard, or visiting an indigenous art gallery to paint with a renowned Kolkata artist.

How do you bring South Australia to life on your tours?

My clients are used to good accommodation, business class flights and conventional luxury etc etc so that’s not really a point of difference. But they don’t always get to meet authentic local characters and get unique, insightful experiences. So I just try and surprise them as much as possible. It’s not always easy as most of my clients are well travelled and have seen a lot. So you have to push the boundaries and think of places that stand out – like the 150 year old grandfather vines at Henschke – or people that are truly unique – like Toby & Emanuelle Bekkers who make wines out of both Australia and France!

Why do you think it’s important that people learn about South Australia’s quality produce?
It’s important for so many reasons. At a very simple level introducing people to the company I keep creates happiness and surprise – two very important things when you’re on holiday! It also shows people the effort that goes into making great food and wine, and the lengths that these artisans go to in order to deliver the highest quality produce. Finally it helps drive word of mouth and interest in the regions I visit, which in turn drives the tourism economy and make these producers profitable and sustainable.

If people wanted to find out more about South Australia are there any particular books, documentaries or websites you would recommend? is a great website and terrific source of information. Otherwise the best way is to come out on tour and experience the best of coast, wine, food and nature for yourself!

One final thing…  We are leading the revolution in electric bike wine touring. On our 250 watt high spec e-bikes you’ll cruise the Mclaren Vale wine region in style, travelling up to 25kmh and getting up close and personal to some of the best vineyards in the region. Some great examples of what you can expect along the famous McLaren Vale Shiraz Trail are a working winery tour at one of the venues, not normally available to the general public, but we have got it opened up by the owner and winemaker, who is also a friend. This lets e-bike guests learn about small batch winemaking. In another e-bike venue you’ll see historic ironstone cellars and taste the region’s most famous varietals. At one of the lunch venues on the Shiraz Trail guests get a lunch of local produce plus a tour of an indigenous art gallery.  In another venue on the Shiraz Trail guests get their eyes, ears, fingers, nose and taste buds into top gear when a dedicated staff member takes them on a sensory journey of their wines.  In another venue guests meet the Grilli family and their cellar door team to discover the Italian heritage of the region and try Mediterranean inspired wines. We are at the forefront of this technology and e-bike touring on the Shiraz Trail is one of the most affordable and easy ways to go behind the scenes of one of the most famous wine regions in Australia.


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Australia’s Best Guides – John Dyer – Remote Air Safaris

Please explain a little bit about who you are and what you do.
I’m the Managing Director of Air Adventure. We operate high-end, outback air safaris on board our deluxe private aircraft. We are on a mission to enrich people’s lives by transforming the way they experience remote Australia. We enable people to defy distance by comfortably flying them on authentic, inspiring and seamlessly curated adventures in a genuinely small group of just 8 guests; leaving them with a meaningful connection to this country.
What got you started with remote air safaris and what do you find most interesting about it?
I grew up in the Western District of Victoria, near the Grampians. My father was a pilot and grazier (he started Air Adventure Australia), so I spent a lot of my youth travelling across our vast continent where I developed a love for travel and aviation. We loved discovering new places. The seasons, the weather patterns and the people we met, ensured that no two trips were ever the same. Before taking over the company in 2006 I was a tour leader on our air safaris, it really gives me a kick seeing people broadening their own horizons and immersing themselves in magic of outback Australia.
How do you bring remote Australia to life on your tours?
I love remote Australia and having our own aircraft basically means that nowhere is out of reach, the whole nation is at our fingertips. It is this unique capability that we offer our guests, coupled with our intimate knowledge and vast array of contacts across the outback – we can take people places that few have seen, in total comfort.
Why do you think it’s important that people learn about remote Australia?
Given our vast distances and minimal commercial regional flights, a private air safari is something that is almost endemic to Australia. We are never the cheapest way to travel however we are the best (a better way hasn’t been invented yet). I also firmly believe that Australia has some of the most fascinating and ancient history on the planet. We have paintings on cave walls that have been dated at over 20,000 years old – this makes the Pyramids look pretty young. There is so much diversity here from iconic landscapes, aboriginal art & culture, stock & station, remote outer islands plus this can be incorporated with gourmet food, wine and luxury accommodation.
If people wanted to find out more about remote Australia are there any particular books, documentaries or websites you would recommend?
As we are a national operator, anything that sparks an interest in any of the many fascinating regions or aspects of our country. Here’s a few of my favourite books:
The Dig Tree – Sarah Murgatroyd
An amazing recount of the ill-fated Burke & Wills Expedition in the 1800s
Lake Eyre – A Journey to the Heart of the Continent – Paul Lockyer
A thorough explanation of the wonders of the Lake Eyre Basin – one of the largest inland drainage systems in the world.
Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari
A fascinating overview of how humans made their way from the middle of the food chain to the top. Indigenous Australians feature heavily.
What’s your favourite Australian animal and why?
It would have to be the yellow-tailed black cockatoo. I love the way they fly, they always seem to follow our family around and bring us good luck.
What place is Australia’s best-kept secret?
King Island, Tasmania. A remote speck in Bass Strait, it is a wild island with amazing beaches, fresh produce, friendly locals (everyone waves and nothing gets locked) and now some truly world class activities, golf being just one of them. At just 35mins flight from Melbourne, it is easily reachable.
What haven’t you seen / done in Australia that you’d like to and why?
I am yet to go along to the Grand Final on the Tiwi Islands, NT. Football is a form of religion to the local people and they have produced some of the all time greatest players in the AFL. I’ve been to the Tiwi Islands many times but never to watch an Aussie Rules match. While I am up there, I would definitely get in a boat and do some fishing – barramundi, giant trevally, Spanish mackerel, mud crabs and more are in abundance.
Finally, how can people follow you on social media?
@airadventure and @airadventuregolftours

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Australia’s Best Guides – Bart Pigrim – Aboriginal Culture in Broome

Please explain a little bit about who you are and what you do as an Aboriginal cultural guide in Broome.
I am a Yawuru man of the Broome region in the Kimberley of Western Australia and I offer a variety of experiences that blends the beauty of the region with its unique and fascinating history and culture of the Aboriginal people!

What got you started as an Aboriginal cultural guide and what do you find most interesting about it?
I was one of two Emerging Curators in my previous employment and was involved in several curatorial projects that stimulated my curiosities and so I developed a passion for history and the survival of my Aboriginal culture and language. This led me to start my tourism operations. The most interesting part of it is that I actually have a direct link to our amazing history in Broome and that my culture is embedded within the landscape of Broome so I truly have a deeper connection with all my experiences that I offer.

How do you bring Aboriginal culture to life on your tours?
I think of myself as a ‘curator out on country’ and that the natural and built environment is my museum. By using historical documents and Aboriginal story telling / oral history I am able to give my guests a true understanding of who and what we are as a people and when and where certain historical events took place.

Why do you think it’s important that people learn about Aboriginal culture?
I think Domestic and International visitors in Australia are becoming more and more curious about our ancient Aboriginal culture and I believe it is our responsibility as Aboriginal people to provide opportunities for these visitors to learn about us! I always say that this is ‘reconciliation’ in practice!

If people wanted to find out more about Aboriginal Culture are there any particular books, documentaries or websites you would recommend?
Broome has been well documented over the past 140 years but there are some stand out books about our Aboriginal people and story including – Lustre- Pearling and Australia
Reading the Country
Once in Broome
This is My Word
Yawuru Cultural Management Plan
Re-imagining Australia

What’s your favourite Australian animal and why?
The Black Kite because there are many in Broome and they have an affinity with fire like myself.

What place is Australia’s best-kept secret?
The Dinosaur Coast of the West Kimberley region!

What haven’t you seen / done in Australia that you’d like to and why?
I would like to see more of the east coast of Australia because I haven’t spent much time exploring there and understanding the Aboriginal cultures for that coastline!

Finally, how can people follow you on social media?

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Matt Wright Outback Wrangler – Australia’s Best Guides

Private Outback Wrangler Top End Adventure

Matt Wright is one of Australia’s fastest growing icons and the star of National Geographic’s hit TV Show Outback Wrangler. He’s an authentic Aussie character who loves to show off the hidden magic in the landscapes and wildlife of his back yard – the Top End of Australia.

He spends most of his time on cattle stations where he musters cattle, flies his helicopters, rounds up brumbies and catches and relocates some of the biggest saltwater crocodiles in the world. He has a passion for adventure and loves fishing for barramundi and exploring the floodplains of the Northern Territory on his airboats.

Guests of Alquemie are invited on a private Outback Wrangler Top End Adventure, tailored to include any or all of the following:

  • Helifishing
  • Deep Sea Fishing
  • Crocodile Encounters
  • Barramundi and Sail Fishing
  • Airboating
  • Helicopter Adventures
  • Waterfalls and Swimming Holes
  • Jet skiing
  • Crabbing
  • Bird Watching
  • Sunset River Cruises

Trips can incorporate a range of these thrilling modes of transport: Robinson R44 Helicopters • Robinson R66 Helicopters • AS350 Luxury Helicopters • High Speed Catamaran Boat • Small and Large Airboats • Large River Cruise Boat • Jet skis • Off Road Buggies

Salt water crocodile


An example of a day with Matt might include:

  • Relaxing river cruise along the pristine rainforest waters teaming with aqua life, water birds including the majestic Muk Muk (white bellied sea eagle) and of course the local crocs and Matt’s favourite croc, Bone Cruncher.
  • Monsoonal rainforest tour onboard custom built airboats where your guests will weave their way through the wetlands and tall timbered swamps, encountering more of the NT’s most unique wildlife; including some of biggest crocs and the smallest of the kingfisher (Little Kingfisher) – only a keen eye will be able to spot this one!
  • Helicopter scenic flights above the Finniss River floodplains to witness the true beauty of the surrounding landscape.
  • Fresh BBQ Barramundi or local steak lunch enjoyed on floating pontoons
  • Live feed show of Matt’s pet croc, a 17ft prehistoric beast named ‘Tripod.’

Or a day’s helifishing…

  •  Fly out of Darwin and down to the floodplains of the Finniss River system where you will land for your first crack at landing a barramundi.
  • Stop off at up to four locations in this region and fish the remote waterways that are only accessible by helicopter.
  • Beachside lunch at the open-air deck of Crab Claw Island Resort. Choose from the selection of delicious meals on their menu or bring your catch from the morning and the talented Chef will cook it to your liking.
  • It’s back in the helicopters and back to the beautiful floodplains where you will have the opportunity to board custom built airboats and explore the monsoonal rainforests which are teaming with wildlife.
  • Visit to ‘Tripod’, Matt’s 17ft pet saltwater crocodile, for an up close encounter with this prehistoric animal. Back in the choppers and its another quick stop for a fish and a hit out of crabbing before heading home.

For an insight into Matt, watch this 60 minutes video.

Talk to your Alquemie Advisor about tailoring a Top End adventure with Matt Wright, the Outback Wrangler.

Australia’s Best Guides – Richard Graham | Bespoke Sydney

Richard Graham has travelled to some of the most exotic destinations in the world and he has many amazing photos and stories to keep you entertained for hours – but no matter where he travels, he still calls Sydney home.

His new and exciting concept in tourism has come from a rich family travel history spanning three generations. Richard started travelling at the age of 5 and has travelled to a different country every year since then.

What got you started with showing people around Sydney and what do you find most interesting about it?

For young Australians, going on a solo trip overseas has long been a rite-of-passage. When I was a young man of 24 I went on a 14-month trip to South America where I tracked 16 countries along the Andes. While I referred to my Lonely Planet Guide, I wasn’t interested in following the “gringo” trail. Instead, I would befriend locals and wander back streets until I felt I had uncovered the town or city in all of its gritty glory. On returning, I wasted no time by setting up with little more than myself and a vintage 1964 EH Holden. I’d always had a real passion for the city of Sydney, storytelling, and the unbeaten track, so sharing that with visitors came naturally to me.

How do you bring Sydney to life on your tours?

My point of difference is to bring an element of creativity and surprise into everything I do. My wife always jokes that “no” doesn’t exist in my vocabulary. Because of that, I’ll come up with pretty out-there ideas, like having a barbeque on top of the Harbour Bridge or an open air movie night in the Botanic Gardens. The difference is that my team and I will always find a way to connect our guests to Sydney by giving context to their experience with us.

Why do you think it’s important that people learn about Sydney?

I try to steer clear of the expected, tired, and overdone. I always go beyond by adding an extra layer of knowledge and perspective. I also have a real passion for our country’s Indigenous culture and history, and I work with local elders and communities to incorporate that into what we do.

If people wanted to find out more about Sydney are there any particular books, documentaries or websites you would recommend?

Crocodile Dundee: I know it’s a cliché, but it really is an essential guide to understanding our dry and colourful sense of humour.

Ten Canoes: This is one of my favourite films. I would go as far as to say a masterpiece. A raw and eye-opening glimpse into Aboriginal life before British settlement, Ten Canoes is a great way to get familiarised with the culture and history of the world’s most ancient civilisation.

What’s your favourite Australian animal and why?

Kookaburra as it has the responsibility for singing out to the sun to rise every morning.

What place is Australia’s best-kept secret?

Shark Island in Sydney Harbour.

What haven’t you seen / done in Australia that you’d like to and why?

Follow the songline of the Echidna from Yengoin NSW (a sacred site for Aboriginal people) to Uluru in the Northern Territory. This ancient route was walked along by hundreds of thousands of Aboriginal people and to experience it today with an Aboriginal Elder would be a once in a lifetime experience.

Finally, how can people follow you on social media?

Instagram: @mydetour_australia


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Australia’s Best Guides – Jenny Garber | Contemporary art

Jenny Garber specialises in bespoke contemporary art tours. With a passion for art and through her extensive art networks, developed over many years of personal interest and professional pursuits, Jenny offers clients private introductions to the leading galleries, exhibitions, gallery directors, artists and curators who define Sydney’s vibrant arts scene.

Please explain a little bit about who you are and what you do?

My company, inART, specialises in private and unique art experiences in Australia and Internationally. With an extensive personal and professional network of global art world contacts, I’m able to provide private introductions and personal access to leading galleries, gallery directors, artists, curators, public and private collections as well as VIP guest status at art fairs.

I have conducted tours to Art Basel Hong Kong; MONA in Hobart, Tasmania; Sydney Contemporary, Canberra and Melbourne as well as hosting many international visitors on contemporary art tours in Sydney. Next year I’m including the opening of the Venice Biennale and a trip to Rome.

What got you started with your passion and what do you find most interesting about it?

I have had a lifelong interest in art and would always visit the public art institutions and museums and commercial galleries whenever and wherever I was travelling. I wanted to have a more formal basis to my interest in art, so attended the University of Sydney as a mature age student and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Art History & Theory and Literature.

Initially I started doing local contemporary art tours in Sydney and that expanded into the international tours as well. The art world is a fascinating world in which to work, not only do I have the pleasure of constantly viewing wonderful collections and exhibitions but also meet the most fascinating and interesting people. Dream job!

How do you bring contemporary art to life on your tours?

In the run-up to a local or international tour, I spend a lot of time researching the exhibitions, and artists, at the galleries I will be visiting so I can provide background information. Also, having the gallery director, or the artist, talk about their work provides a level of depth and expertise that is always insightful and knowledgeable. Contemporary art can sometimes be difficult to understand and its important that people feel relaxed in being able to express their opinion – I don’t want them to be intimidated, I ensure they are relaxed, engaged and interested.

Why do you think it’s important that people learn about contemporary art?

Many visitors to Australia are not aware of the rich cultural life we have here and it is a privilege for me to be able to take them on an art tour to show them the diversity of our visual artists, from traditional and contemporary Indigenous art to our contemporary Australian artists. When I am on an International art tour, it’s very exciting to be able to provide access to some of the world’s greatest galleries and art museums that teaches us so much, not only about history but also our contemporary view of the world.

If people wanted to find out more about contemporary art are there any particular books, documentaries or websites you would recommend?

That is a book in itself! There is a lot available online about Australian and Indigenous art. Also, the institutions such as The National Gallery of Australia, The National Gallery of Victoria, The Art Gallery of New South Wales all have excellent websites.

What’s your favourite Australian animal and why?

The Tasmanian Tiger – which is supposedly extinct. I grew up in Tasmania and there was often passionate debate about whether it was actually extinct or could still be living. If it is still in existence, then it’s certainly a wily little creature that has managed to elude all those who have been tracking it for many years.

What place is Australia’s best-kept secret?

The west coast of Tasmania

What haven’t you seen / done in Australia that you’d like to and why?

Ayres Rock – it’s a sacred and symbolic place and everyone I know who has been there has been moved by the experience.

Finally, how can people follow you on social media?

Facebook –
Twitter – @inartsydney
Instagram – @inarttours


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Australia’s Best Guides – Juan Walker | Aboriginal Culture

Juan Walker (Aboriginal name Karanba), is a Kuku Yalanji man from the Mossman/Daintree area and has been working as a tour guide in this region for fifteen years.

Juan regularly spends time with elders of the Kuku Yalanji people, hearing stories of the history, traditions, and culture, stories and information he holds dear to him, for his family and also shares as part of his tours, as he believes it is through the learning and sharing of his culture to all people, that an understanding and respect for Aboriginal beliefs is created, and this aids in the reconciliation process.

Please explain a little bit about who you are and what you do?

I am the owner/operator of Walkabout Cultural Adventures, a tour business operating in Tropical North Queensland, that offers unique tours focusing on Aboriginal culture, significant sites, environmental information and local tourist attractions. I have been guiding in the region for 15 years, having lived in this region my entire life. Walkabout Cultural Adventures offer interpersonal Aboriginal cultural based tours with small numbers on a half or full day basis.

What got you started with your passion and what do you find most interesting about it?

Previously I was employed at Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa as the Aboriginal Activities Co-ordinator, and it was there I learnt the many facets of the tourism and hospitality industry. I saw that there was no Aboriginal cultural experiences that offered half and full day tours around the region, so I decided to start my own business. I have always enjoyed spending time with elders of my people, the Kuku Yalanji people, and it is from hearing their stories of the history, traditions, and culture, that form the basis of my tours. I enjoy learning and sharing my culture with all interested people.

How do you bring Aboriginal culture to life on your tours?

Given that the information I tell on tour is relevant to actual places we visit, and my own family history, it brings itself to life.

Why do you think it’s important that people learn about Aboriginal culture?

Aboriginal culture is significant to Australia’s history. I like to think that through the learning and sharing of my culture and history, that an understanding and respect for Aboriginal beliefs is created, and this aids in the reconciliation process.

What’s your favourite Australian animal and why?

Crocodile, we call it Bilngkumu in our language. It is our totem.

What place is Australia’s best-kept secret?

The Daintree rainforest.

What haven’t you seen / done in Australia that you’d like to and why?

Sections of the Western Australian coast, I’d love to see the desert meet the ocean, and the different wildlife.

Finally, how can people follow you on social media?

Facebook –
Twitter –


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Australia’s Best Guides – Sean Blocksidge | Margaret River wine & nature

Sean Blocksidge is the owner/operator of the Margaret River Discovery Co..  In 2010 he won Western Australian Guide of the Year and his tours have been consistently rated the #1 Margaret River tour experience on Tripadvisor. Find out more about him.

Please explain a little bit about who you are and what you do?

I grew up in a semi-rural area called Wanneroo. Yes, wanna roo? It was here I learned the art of adventure ….. or more accurately misadventure.  I developed an affinity with the Australian bush and learned about the environment that surrounded our property.  Later I headed back into the lil big smoke, Perth, to study and develop a career in the tourism industry. I specialised in business and wine appreciation. I spent several years indoctrinated in Hyatt Hotel customer service, “yes maamm”. And went on to manage a big hotel and a small winery. Along the way I travelled a lot, three times round the world.

What I really missed though was being out in the bush. And I’d also come to realise that most visitors to the Margaret River region were missing the best stuff. How can you visit the area and miss out on experiencing the actual Margaret River of Cape to Cape Track?  So having made lots of money for other people, and finally released from the corporate hamster wheel, I decided to take my biggest risk so far and open my own business; at the end of the tourist season and the start of a financial crisis in 2008. The calculated risk was how could I go wrong in Margaret River, a paradise on earth.

And here I am, all grown up, living like a kid again as I share my love of the natural world and showcasing some of Western Australias best food and wine experiences. I feel incredibly privileged to share such a special place.”

What got you started with doing wine and nature tours and what do you find most interesting about it?

I worked in the wine industry previously and had the great pleasure of tasting wine from all around the world. I quickly came to realise the Margaret River wine region is regarded as the most consistent wine producing region in Australia.  That’s a remarkable achievement and something most wine drinkers don’t realise. So I wanted to help express that message, but do it in a fun and interesting way.

A lot of people think a wine tour experience is a big bus visiting as many wineries as possible.  I couldn’t think of a worse  way of spending a day. I prefer to do a few things and do them well, to genuinely connect with the experience.

I want people to really understand what makes the Margaret River wine region so special. Even if you are not that into wine it is still fascinating to discover how the ecology, geology and climate influence the lives and livelihoods of the people from our region.

How do you bring wine to life on your tours?

The whole day is about the French wine concept of ‘terroir’. It’s kind of hard to explain in English but essentially if refers to the geology, climate and ecology of the area in which grapes are grown. We discover why the Margaret River wine region is considered a winemakers paradise and how those conditions have created the most consistent wine producing in Australia.

It’s not a boring school lesson. It’s the opposite. It’s an exciting day showcasing the very best experiences and very best wine in the region. You’ll start the day with a leisurely canoe down the Margaret River. For many people they just stopped reading just then. They read the words ‘canoeing’ and went nahhhhhh not me.

Ok let me say if you are one of those people, open your mind to a new experience. I promise you wont get dirty; you wont get wet and you definitely wont fall in. I’ve been doing this for 8 years and NO ONE has ever got wet or dirty or fallen in.
I had Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear on tour one day and he described it as “Luxury Canoeing”. Invariably the people who didn’t want to go canoeing are the ones who love it the most. They didn’t realise they would be floating down a mirror flat section of the Margaret River, watching wildlife and surrounded by towering trees. It’s usually one of the highlights of the day. And if you really really really don’t want to do it then you can just opt out of that experience and take a short walk along the river.

Yep there will be wine. Plenty of it and premium stuff. We’ll visit one winery and do it well. Ridiculously well. And that’s the big difference in how we operate. We do a few things and do them well instead of rushing through the day. Our Discovery Tour lunch will include a behind the scenes experience at emerging superstar winery – Fraser Gallop Estate. This is the hottest winery down here at the moment. Winning a mind boggling number of awards and accolades in recent years and arguably the best value winery in the region. Their Cabernet Sauvignon has previously won best Cabernet in the world and the current release just scored a massive 97-points from Australian wine guru James Halliday.

Earlier in the day we’ll also pick up a bit on the Aboriginal and European history of the region with a visit to waterhole/waterfall and have a local honey tasting. It’s a great opportunity to connect with the outdoors and get a few special pictures for the camera.

It’s a day filled with highlights and we like to finish on a super high highlight with a 4WD adventure to link up with the most spectacular section of the legendary Cape to Cape walking trail. I’ll get you onto my favourite part and go for a short walk along the coast to discover the remote Wilyabrup Cliffs. This is an awesome opportunity to spot whales and wildflowers (seasonal) and access a location you couldn’t easily find by yourself.

Why do you think it’s important that people learn about wine and nature?

When I visit a region I want to connect with that place. I want to understand the environment and the people and the economy of the region and what makes it so special.  Yes you could very easily just come to Margaret River and self drive or read a book or enjoy long lazy wine lunches but to really connect you need to understand the place.   There is a fabulous passage in esteemed Australian Author Tim Winton’s new book, Island Home, that really describes what we do – ‘Seeing the country by car, you may think you’re in the landscape but really you’re in geographical limbo. Enclosed in your steel cocoon you experience the car first, the place you’re in comes a distant second.’

My philosophy is to  get out of the car and meet the people, connect with the environment and have genuine local experiences.

If people wanted to find out more about wine and nature are there any particular books, documentaries or websites you would recommend?

The Margaret River region is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Thousands of different plant and animal species.  There are lots of great botanical books but I would recommend local guide books by Jane Scott and Patricia Negus.

One of my all time favourite books to really understand the Australian landscape and the historical human context is the Future Easters by Tim Flannery.  It’s relevant to all parts of Australia.

What’s your favourite Australian animal and why?

Sooo many favourites.  I never get bored of Kangaroos. We have a mob in our front garden and I love watching their daily antics. Quokkas are awesome too, a Quokka selfie on Rottnest Island is a must do!  My all time favourite bird is the Baudins Black Cockatoo. A magnificent bird that creates a spectacle in the sky as they flock. Unfortunately they are rarer than polar bears these days  and in population free-fall decline. Many of the local birds are older than most Margaret River residents and would have seen every year of remarkable growth of the Margaret River wine industry 50 years ago.

What place is Australia’s best-kept secret?

Karijini National Park in the Pilbara region of WA. Arguably one of Australias most spectacular national parks and also our most under-visited.  The Kimberley region of WA would be a close second.  And in my top three best kept secrets would be the Ningaloo Marine Park, where you can dive with Whale Sharks and most recently they have opened it up to diving with Humpback Whales!

What haven’t you seen / done in Australia that you’d like to and why?

I am VERY embarrassed to say I still haven’t visited Tasmania. I know know what an idiot.  Everyone keeps telling me how amazing it is. I plan to take the mountain bike and camping gear for an adventure in the net two years.

Finally, how can people follow you on social media?

Facebook –

Instagram – I like to post a photo everyday to showcase the diversity of the Margaret River region. Feel free to follow and get a sense of the area before your holiday.


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