Lonely Planet Experiences, a partnership with Intrepid Travel

Finally! The trusted Lonely Planet is making travel a little bit easier by creating 300 day tours and multi-day tours across the globe that bring the guidebooks to life thanks to a partnership with Intrepid Travel. What I love about this partnership is that it makes sense. Lonely Planet Experiences is the logical next step for the brand and is great for the time-poor traveller, solo travellers or those unsure about booking random Airbnb experiences. Lonely Planet and Intrepid are brands you can trust.

I left Australia for my first overseas trip in 1996 with nothing but a backpack and a Lonely Planet Guide. Travel has changed a lot since then, indeed, it’s changed a lot in the past ten years (check out my friend’s podcast here – The Thoughtful Travel Podcast about this very subject).

During my first 15 years of travel, I relied heavily on the Lonely Planet guides for places to stay, places to visit, experiences not to miss out on and places to eat. Very rarely did Lonely Planet ever get it wrong. One of my friends in Perth is a Lonely Planet writer and I’ve since discovered all the hours she puts in researching her recommendations for them.

The new Lonely Planet Experiences will offer 200 day-tours (operated by Intrepid Travel’s day-tour company, Urban Adventures) and over 130 multi-day trips including walking, cycling, food, festivals, family and marine adventures.

Now, while I’m not a big fan of tours (the big coach ones filled with Ma and Pa Kettle from red neck town), I can appreciate the value they can add to a trip. With an experienced guide, you can get so much more from a destination than if you did it on your own. I find it far more interesting to listen to a guide than have my head buried in a guide book or worse still, walk about with headphones on listening to a pre-recorded tour. So for places where I’m short on time, can’t be bothered researching, or in a place of historical significance like the Pompeii, Vatican or Egypt, I’ve found tours to be insightful.

Colosseum in Rome

Walking tour of Rome. Photo: Intrepid Travel

It’s heartening to know that Lonely Planet Experiences have been designed with a low environmental footprint while ensuring a positive impact on local communities.

True to Intrepid Travel’s style, all tour groups will be small, with a maximum of 16 travellers, and led by a local leader. The tours will use local transportation, support locally owned businesses and like all Intrepid Travel trips since 2010, be 100% carbon-neutral – also reflective of Lonely Planet’s commitment to responsible travel as part of this partnership.

All tours will include discounts on Lonely Planet’s guidebooks and free access to Lonely Planet’s flagship Guides app.

Pyramids of Giza, Cairo. Photo: Intrepid Travel

The tours will run in 6 continents, across 65 countries, and range in duration from 2 hours to 22 days.

Feature tours include:

Day tours

Lonely Planet Experiences – Powered by Urban Adventures

– A Tour Through Tokyo’s Kitchen (incl. Tsukiji Fish Market), 2.5 hours, starting at $109 AUD

  • Vintage Las Vegas Arts Tour, 2 hours, starting at $65 AUD


Multi-day tours

Lonely Planet Experiences – Powered by Intrepid Travel

  • Galapagos Experience (7 days), starting at $1320 AUD
  • Explore Egypt (15 days), starting at $1645 AUD

I say well done on a good partnership Lonely Planet and Intrepid Travel. Booking a Lonely Planet Experience is way more attractive to me than an Airbnb experience where those offering the tour are unlikely to be accredited or regulated.

What next? IMHO…

In my humble opinion, what I’d love to see is Lonely Planet and Intrepid Travel, two companies that originated in Australia, start promoting travel to the fire-ravaged areas of Australia that are now safe and open for business. The best way we can help the regions and towns affected by bushfires is to visit them and spend money in local businesses.

Most of Australia is safe to travel to including all capital cities – visit www.australia.com for more.

Coffee and Papaya – a match made in heaven

At the 2019 Australian Travel Writers Conference that was held in Cairns at the deluxe Riley Crystalbrook Hotel (such a beautiful and comfortable hotel), I went on a famil and learned that coffee and papaya are a match made in heaven. Sounds a bit odd, but at ground level, it works and for all the right reasons.

We visited Skybury Coffee, funnily enough, Australia’s biggest producer of red papaya harvesting 220,000kg of fruit per week on their 400-acre farm. PER WEEK!

chopped papaya

So what makes papaya the perfect match to coffee? It’s the shade it offers the coffee tree. It was by accident that Skybury Coffee discovered that the coffee trees grew faster and yielded more fruit when planted next to a papaya tree. Also, papaya and coffee are a heavenly match for double cropping because they have similar nutrient requirements and the shade also offers great natural weed and insect control.

Double cropping and the production of virgin shade-grown coffee is an Australian first and just one element of Skybury’s motto to farm smarter, not bigger.

As business development manager Paul Fagg explained, using double cropping was the trifecta for Skybury – water efficiency, land efficiency and environmental advances, but double cropping doesn’t mean double growing costs, the increase overall was only about 25 per cent.

The shade does change the taste profile of the coffee – it’s more complex with a touch more acidity and lingering chocolate notes. The coffee is all 100 per cent Arabica and my long black was really good, so I ordered an espresso – to me, the true test of good coffee, and it passed with flying colours.

coffee and papaya

The papaya was also delicious, silky smooth, beautifully delicate in flavour and not overpowering, more a gentle tropical flavour. The deep orange colour presents beautifully on the plate too.

In Western Australia where I live, we can’t get Skybury papaya due to import laws, so I’ll have to cherish the memory. For readers in the Eastern States, keep your eye out for Skybury papayas in the shops.

It was interesting to listen to Skybury business development manager Paul Fagg and learn about their sustainable farming practices and the robust research and development Skybury has undertaken. It’s definitely a place worth visiting in the Atherton Tablelands in Tropical North Queensland.


Skybury Coffee
136 Ivicevic Road, Paddy’s Green, Mareeba, Queensland


Getting around

A great way to get a taste of the Atherton Tablelands is on a tour with Outback Tasting Adventures, small personalised tours. Every place we visited ticked the boxes for sustainability, passion and excellent produce.



Riley Crystalbrook Hotel
131-141 Esplanade, Cairns, Queensland

The Riley gets a 10 out of 10 from me. The five-star hotel has friendly laid back service but every comfort and convenience. My favourite, one switch next to the bed that turns off every light in your room – oh and the gorgeous robes, and the Nespresso machine, no more waiting for that first morning coffee.


Australian Society of Travel Writers

Budding or seasoned Australian travel writers reading this, if you’re not a member of ASTW already, I encourage you to sign up – click here for more about the benefits of membershipASTW logo

Western Australia Gourmet Escape Margaret River

The long-standing and spiritual home of the Gourmet Escape is Margaret River, and the best event experience is at the Gourmet Village at Leeuwin Estate on Saturday 16 & Sunday 17 November. I love this event and I’ve been to each one since it began in 2012. It is a mega huge event with a jam-packed program, so take my tips on how to best enjoy it in a previous post here.

If you a chef-fan, this is unmissable, if you love talking to passionate food producers, they are all here in one place and if you love eating and drinking lots of different and interesting local food, wine, beers and spirits, then the Gourmet Village is your one shop stop.

Held in the beautiful grounds of Leeuwin Estate Winery, the weekend-long celebration brings together world-class chefs (including Colin Fassnidge, Jock Zonfrillo, Danny Bowien, Amanda Cohen and more), exclusive pop-up bars and restaurants, and more than 150 local producers and wineries for an unmissable celebration of food, wine and friends.

And Marco White just announced he’s coming down to Margs on Saturday for a book signing at the Gourmet Village, an appearance at the Singapore Airlines Escape Garden and he’ll be on stage with Pierre Koffmann.

Special Features this year:

Chef’s Amphitheatre: It’s the Gourmet Village’s action-packed main stage, hosted by Matt Okine. See all the stars in action – including Colin Fassnidge, Pierre Koffmann with Marco Pierre White, Danny Bowien, Ivan Brehm and Amanda Cohen – with cooking demonstrations, thought-provoking talks, and live music throughout the day. Entry is included in your Gourmet Village ticket.

Consuming Conversations: A discussion of all things culinary with the hottest chefs in town. Unscripted, honest and free to attend, this year’s Consuming Conversations sessions will give you the chance to get up close and personal with some of the most influential food people on the planet. Entry is included in your Gourmet Village ticket.

Wine & Swine with Colin Fassnidge: Wine and a swine with your favourite judge from My Kitchen Rules. On Sunday 17 November, a select few will have the chance to chat with Colin during a short Q&A, sip on a glass of Margaret River wine and taste an exclusive porchetta dish inspired by Colin himself. I’ve seen Colin carve a suckling pig and I’ve tried his porchetta – this is one event that’s exciting and accessible. Tickets need to be purchased in advance for $55 (Gourmet Village entry not included).

Colin Fassnige

Colin Fassnige at Ord Valley Muster. Photo: Landi Bradshaw

Let’s Get Fizzical: A fun and fizzy pop-up bar, celebrating all things ‘sparkling’ – from wine to artisan beers, cider, pet nats, kombucha and even sparkling coffee. All can be paired with shucked-to-order oysters. Entry is included in your Gourmet Village ticket.

Battle of the Breweries presented by Besk: It’s all about beer at Battle of the Breweries presented by Besk, where local breweries will go head-to-head in 30-minute sessions throughout the day. After a guided tasting hosted by Elliot Moore from Besk, the audience will decide who comes out victorious. Tickets are $12 on the day.

Village Workshops presented by Salt & Company: A series of hands-on workshops to hone those kitchen skills. Choose from ‘Kombucha Pickled Seasonal Veg’, ‘Fresh Ricotta Curds, Vino Cotto Pickled Fig’ or ‘Handmade Gnocchi’ and enjoy a special ‘take home’ from every workshop (e.g. a jar of pasta sauce with your handmade gnocchi). Tickets need to be purchased in advance for $35, with Gourmet Village entry not included.

The Butcher’s Block presented by Australian Good Meat: Visit the Butcher’s Block for a series of daily sessions celebrating local beer and lamb. You’ll learn more about the fine art of butchery and innovative cooking methods while enjoying meaty canapés and a glass of wine to match. Entry is included in your Gourmet Village ticket.

Theatre of Drinks: A series of 30-minute interactive sessions that explore the ‘wide world of drinks’, with tastings to match. Hosted by Mike Bennie, topics include everything from ‘Pet Nat Party – Naturally sparkling wines 101’ to ‘Fancy wines for the Cellar – A chat/tasting about fancy reds’ and ‘Wild Beers – the new wave of experimental brewing’. Tickets are $15 on the day.

Grand Marquee Wine Tastings: A brand new attraction at this year’s Gourmet Village, specially designed for wine connoisseurs. Over a two-hour session (including 45-minutes of tutored tastings on Margaret River Cabernets and Chardonnays), guests will have the chance to trial top-end wines from some of WA’s best wineries, plus meet the winemakers themselves. These prestige drops will not be available anywhere else in the village. Tickets need to be purchased in advance for $40, with Gourmet Village entry not included.

Wine gourmet village

Photo: Elements Margaret River

The Lilydale Gourmet Fried Chicken Bar: Good things come to those who wait. And we know you’ve been waiting 365 days for this one. The Lilydale Gourmet Fried Chicken Bar is back at the Gourmet Village, putting a twist on an old classic… fried chicken. You’re invited to taste one of three gourmet buckets topped with local WA ingredients, all handpicked exclusively for Gourmet Escape. Unsure of what to order? Luckily, Lilydale’s expert chefs will be on hand to guide hungry Village-goers through their all-important bucket and flavour choice selection.

The VIP Experience: Experience the Gourmet Village like a VIP, with exclusive access to the Singapore Airlines Escape Garden or the Westpac Leeuwin Estate Platinum Lounge. VIP passes include fast-track entry, complimentary food and beverages, private amenities and exclusive access to VIP reserve areas. We’ve been into the VIP area and I can tell you, it’s AMAZING. There’s the Escape Garden at $140 and Platinum Lounge at $250 – the most amazing Gourmet Escape experience you’ll have.

Oysters Photo Elements Margaret River

Photo Elements Margaret River

And for the kids…

The Little Kitchen presented by Rapids Landing Primary School: Who says the Gourmet Village is just for grown-ups? Over a series of 45-minute sessions, youngsters will get the chance to plant their own basil plant or hand-build some delicious and nutritious rice paper rolls. Tickets are $10 on the day.

For more visit www.gourmetescape.com.au

Photo By: Russell Ord Photography

For all the info and the full program, visit gourmetescape.com.au 

Serious foodie event – World Gourmet Symposium

One of the most exciting editions to the expanded program of this year’s Gourmet Escape, one of the world’s most impressive food festivals, is the introduction of a serious side with the World Gourmet Symposium. The Symposium will host some most exciting chefs, creatives, sommeliers, food activists and business leaders on Thursday 14 November who will dive deep into topics affecting the industry.

If you consider yourself a foodie, if you write about food, photograph food, work in hospitality or just have a keen interest in what our food future could look like, then this is the event for you.

Taking place Swan Valley’s Mandoon Estate, The World Gourmet Symposium will be an intimate industry event exploring the creativity, daring, challenges and successes of some of the biggest names in hospitality via a series of thought-provoking talks, panel discussions and networking opportunities.

Potato farmer

Hannah Pike, Head of culinary events (APAC) for IMG, organizer of The World Gourmet Symposium and Western Australia Gourmet Escape, said: “The ever-increasing global challenges facing the food and beverage industries impact us across sourcing and sustainability, agriculture, customer experience, technology and the bottom line. The World Gourmet Symposium aims to bring together some of the most creative and innovative minds from across the industry to explore and challenge these topics together.”

The sessions I’m most excited about:

  • The Origins of Australian Cuisine with Jock Zonfrillo & Bruno Dann: The chef behind Adelaide’s award-winning restaurant, Orana, on Australia’s rich indigenous food culture.
  • Clean Eating: a 2030 Vision – panel featuring Rob Laing from Farm.One: Take a peek into the future with a panel discussion joined by global innovators reimagining the future of dining.
  • How sustainability and mission-driven models can also make for successful business with Palisa Anderson, Josh Niland & Ivan Brehm: Focusing on sustainability, eliminating food waste and getting the whole family involved can sound like a recipe for business disaster. Or is it the way of the future?
  • What we can learn from Nomadic Feasting with UN Humanitarian Selassie Atadika from Midunu. This talk will explore what it will take to ensure that we can eat, and eat well, into the future. After a decade of working with the UN in global crises and food insecurity, Selassie returned to Ghana to start Midunu, a nomadic restaurant championing New African Cuisine.

Other highlights:

  • In conversation with David Chang: Multi-award-winning chef and founder of Momofuku, David Chang was recognized by Esquire as one of ‘the most influential people of the 21st century.’ With restaurants in the United States, Canada and Australia, a bestselling cookbook and two Netflix series under his belt, David Chang will talk about the highs and lows of his incredible career.
  • Passion, growth & profit: how to survive the boom & stay true to yourself: From the Black Sheep Restaurant Group, Syed Asim Hussain shares how he manages to maintain the culture, quality and intimacy of his early restaurants, now that his business has grown to over 1,000 staff at more than 20 locations.
  • Late nights, hard work, hot kitchens & stress; can we do everything? with global special forces trainer Mike Weeks: Late nights, hard work, hot kitchens & stress; can we do everything? In an ever more turbulent, high-pressure world, personal and organisational resilience are critical factors for success in business and education. Learning how to be resilient isn’t just a benefit for the demands of work, it is an essential step towards regaining wellbeing and performing throughout life.


Symposium Day Pass – $390 includes lunch at Mandoon Estate

VIP Package – $750  which includes networking meet and greet, Symposium pass, VIP seating and VIP lunch at Wild Swan with Kobus van der Merwe of Wolfgat, South Africa – Restaurant of the Year at The World Restaurant Awards 2019).


South West on a plate: a typical Margaret River dish

One of the joys of travelling is experiencing a destination through its food so I decided to write about one of my favourite pockets on the planet, Margaret River. What is a typical dish in the south west of Western Australia?

The Margaret River region is blessed with some of the cleanest oceans, pristine pastures and some of the least-polluted air on the planet. After all, there’s not much between here and Antarctica. It’s because of the clean environment and Mediterranean-like climate, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables grow well in the region and farmers raise healthy livestock for pork, beef, lamb, venison and more, plus there’s access to an abundance of seafood.

Of the region’s best chefs that I chatted with, they all agree that if they had to choose just one quintessential ingredient that best showcases Western Australia’s South West, it would be marron. The small freshwater crayfish is endemic and indigenous to the region and revered by diners and chefs the world over.

marron with truffle

Marron with truffle by Fervor

Busselton local and chef Paul Iskov from pop-up restaurant Fervor, says that marron has featured on his menu since day one, six and a half years ago.

“A marron dish that we do, which would be one of our signature dishes, has just three elements on the plate, a lemon myrtle emulsion, ocean salt that we make ourselves and marron that we cook in paperbark so it’s steamed, then we torch it to give it a smokey flavour. It’s designed to be eaten with your hands – you open up the paperbark, sprinkle salt and drag the marron through emulsion. The dish is there to just highlight the marron, we keep it as simple as possible,” Paul says.

Having eaten Paul’s marron on more than one occasion, I can agree with Marco Pierre White who said it was the best marron he’d ever eaten when he was in Albany for Taste Great Southern a couple of years ago.

“When I was doing my apprenticeship at the local wineries here, they all had marron on the menu. It works just as well as at a casual café style eatery as it does at a high end winery restaurant,” Paul says.

Cape Lodge consultant executive chef Tony Howell agrees with marron and says that it’s a great example of a Margaret River showcase dish.

“Butter poached marron topped with freshly shaved truffle during truffle season, you can’t beat it,” Tony says.

Tony Howell holding truffle

Chef Tony Howell holding truffle. Photo: Jessica Wyld

“But it’s impossible to choose just one dish or one ingredient that showcases the south west – in spring it’s Torbay asparagus which is just sensational, winter you’re talking Manjimup truffles and then there’s venison, pastured eggs, local honey, great dairy, fresh crayfish, Rottnest scallops when you can get them, blue swimmer crabs, octopus, and I love blue scampi caviar, one of my favourites, it’s expensive but worth it. We’re so lucky that we have so much on offer here.

“What’s even better though, is that the majority of the restaurants in the region use local produce that’s in season, which is great.”

Yarri partner and executive chef Aaron Carr shares Tony’s sentiments.

“What’s a south west dish? Everything on the Yarri menu!” Aaron quips.

“Marron is probably the most famous, but also lamb, pork, beef, black truffles, seafood – it’s all produced in the region and the quality is first class. Then there’s all the line caught seafood like bar cod, blue eyed trevalla and hapuku which is a beautiful deep-water fish from Windy Harbour. It’s impossible to define the south west in one dish or choose just one ingredient.”


Dishes at Yarri. Photo: Jessica Wyld

The chefs are right, it’s hard to define the south west in one dish or with one ingredient.

The best place to start to get a culinary understanding of the region is the Margaret River Farmers’ Markets held every Saturday morning at the Education Campus. Winner of Australia’s Best Farmers’ Market in last year’s delicious. Magazine Awards, there are stringent guidelines for stall holders: they must make or grow the produce themselves, no second hand goods and no on-selling. The farmers who grow the produce are there so you can talk to them directly, ask questions and gain a better insight into the fresh produce before you.

After you try marron (best in summer when in season), my recommendation is to ask staff whereever you may be what’s in season and what’s local. Whether you self-cater or go out for a pub meal, a lingering lunch or a degustation dinner, by eating local produce that’s in season, it’s hard to go wrong.

Add this to calendar: the Margaret River Gourmet Escape is a celebration of all things Margaret River with lots of tastings of food and wine available at the Gourmet Village at Leeuwin Estate and plenty of fancy pants dinners with super star chefs making the most of the stunning local produce. It’s held 15-17 November 2019 – for more visit www.gourmetescape.com.au 


*A version of this story was submitted to Your Margaret River Region Magazine for publication