For a bespoke experiential Australian holiday call +61 2 9571 6677


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.


Click here to find out more about Australian travel with Alquemie

Luxury Australian Itinerary – A culinary experience for stylish foodies

A culinary experience for stylish foodies

6-9 nights (plus suggested add-on and extra nights en route if desired).

The enjoyment of food and wine is integral to the experience offered by every luxury lodge of Australia and the culinary standard at all properties is outstanding. However, the food & wine experience offered by some properties is truly the lodge’s reason for being, and for visitors for whom food and wine is a primary reason to travel, these properties will have a compelling attraction.

Appellation at The Louise, Cape Lodge and Lake House are outstanding examples of destination restaurants, with luxury accommodation co-located. These culinary destinations, or ‘restaurants with rooms’, have international and national recognitions at the highest level. The below itinerary is should appear on any food and wine lover’s bucket list.

This itinerary is just an indicator of what’s on offer in Australia. At Alquemie we tailor make every vacation based on the whims of our guests. Please contact us to find out about the magical holiday we could craft for you.

Cape Lodge is Margaret River's finest dining experience
Cape Lodge is Margaret River’s finest dining experience


Described as one of Australia’s finest gourmet establishments, Cape Lodge private estate and boutique hotel sits within 40 acres on its own vineyard in the heart of the Margaret River wine region.

A selection of must do’s

  • Best of the Best Wine Tour – A sophisticated behind the scenes wine tour often referred to as “The wine tour for people who don’t do tours”. No minivans, no crowds; the Best of the Best Wine Tour represents personalised touring at its best.
  • Sunset Kangaroo Safari – Have your camera ready as you get up close and personal to the Western Grey Kangaroo’s in their natural surroundings. Savour delicious home baked orange cake with a steaming cup of Billy tea or coffee.
  • The Cape Lodge Gourmet Retreat and Cooking Classes are ideal for lovers of great food and wine experiences.
Discover perfectly paired wine and food at Appellation restaurant at The Louise
Discover perfectly paired wine and food at Appellation restaurant at The Louise


The Louise, an idyllic luxury vineyard retreat, encompassing acclaimed restaurant Appellation, is situated on a gentle hill surrounded by hundreds of acres of vines, with breathtaking vistas across the world renowned Barossa Valley.

A selection of must do’s

  • The Most Brilliant Blend with Appellation restaurant and Penfolds – Don a labcoat and enjoy the challenge of being a winemaker for a day in the Penfolds laboratory where many of the iconic Penfold’s wine blends originate. Bring your blended wine back to Appellation where the award winning culinary team will create a special course custom paired to your wine that will form part of your dining experience at Appellation that evening.
  • On a Saturday morning join one of Appellation’s chefs at the Barossa Farmer’s Market, as they shop for dinner provisions and share in their delight for the food of the region.
  • Exclusive private tour of Seppeltsfield – A National treasure and living museum of Australian wine history.
  • A day touring a selection of (over 100) wineries that have made the Barossa Australia’s most famous and revered wine region.
Discover dining delight at Daylesford's LakeHouse
Discover dining delight at Daylesford’s Lake House


An icon in regional dining, Lake House in Daylesford has long been considered to be one of Australia’s best restaurants, championing local seasonal cuisine long before it became a mantra for many. The hotel and all manner of indulgent facilities that have grown around the restaurant over the past three decades continue to delight visitors from near and far. Indeed executive chef and co-proprietor Alla Wolf Tasker has enough national and international awards to fill virtually every wall of her fabled house on the lake.

A selection of must do’s

  • Dine at the multi-award winning Lake House Restaurant.
  • Farm Gate & Winery Tour – Head out for the day with a local guide and meet the farmers, producers and winemakers who passionately connect the ‘paddock to plate’. There’s organic and biodynamic producers, rare breed farmers, producers of goat and sheep’s milk cheese, cider, beer & winemakers, bakers and more. You’ll taste along the way and there’s plenty of opportunity to fill your bags if your luggage allowance can cope!
  • Meander through the property grounds and explore the Kitchen Garden planted out with herbs and edible flowers. Orchard areas include olives, crabapple, stone fruits, apple, quince and medlar.
Enjoy a sunset and al fresco dining at Spicers Peak Lodge
Enjoy a sunset and al fresco dining at Spicers Peak Lodge


The eponymous Spicers Peak Lodge Restaurant, is a highly respected and awarded restaurant, offering cooking schools and specialist cooking retreats.

Click here to begin your tailor-made journey to Australia

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.


Click here to find out more about Australian travel with Alquemie