Hey Chris, Tell us about Journey Beyond?

Journey Beyond are one of Australia’s most revered experiential tourism companies offering a range of experiences across the country including iconic Australian rail journeys The Ghan and Indian Pacific. They are also responsible for recently launching Australia’s newest and most innovative destination experience on the Whitsundays where you can book a hotel room on the Great Barrier Reef – beneath the water! Journey Beyond basically look to cultivate unique experiences in amazing locations right across Australia. The Journey Beyond Group businesses include Cruise Whitsundays, Rottness Express, Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef, Darwin Harbour Cruises, Eureka 89 and Eureka Skydeck, Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures and Outback Spirit, as well as Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions.

How did yourself and your team at Pacific Bay Resort get involved with Journey Beyond?

We have been working with the team from Journey Beyond since mid-2018 when they first began scouting for locations around The Coffs Coast. Their guest experience and experience development team have been a joy to work with since the very beginning. It’s been really encouraging to work with a team of people who are keen to push the boundaries around what’s possible here on The Coffs Coast. We spent multiple weekends introducing them to our properties and showing them around our region so that we could ensure they had everything they needed to build a great itinerary for their guests.

Out of the 200 guests travelling with Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions, where have the majority come from?

Guests arriving in Coffs Harbour each week come from far and wide really. Many guests have already experienced other iconic rail journeys, many are international guests and others are experiencing their first ever rail journey. Guests choose to travel from Brisbane to Adelaide or Adelaide to Brisbane with different stops in each direction. For the Brisbane to Adelaide trip, the route takes in many of NSW’s best locations including The Coffs Coast, a stop in day trips to either the Hunter Valley, Port Stephens or Newcastle, and the choice of Melbourne, Geelong or the Great Ocean Road before arriving into Adelaide.

What kind of experiences are guests offered on their stop here on the Coffs Coast?

Guests travelling on the Brisbane to Adelaide leg arrive at Coffs Harbour each Monday evening and are treated to a gala dinner set beachside at Charlesworth Bay Beach. Guests travelling on the Adelaide to Brisbane leg arrive in Coffs Harbour each Sunday where they are given the opportunity to wander along the foreshores and take in the Harbourside Markets or take a swim. They can also choose from tours to Sealy lookout or to the Urunga boardwalk where they are treated to a guided walk with Uncle Mark Flanders. Guests can even choose to play a nine-hole round at Bonville Golf Resort.

Why do you think the Coffs Coast is the perfect location for such an experiential travel experience?

Coffs Harbour has always been a fantastic location for travellers. A major trend toward nature based tourism plays perfectly into the hands of our regions assets. The proximity to world class rainforest and hinterland areas combined with our magnificent coastline makes it an easy choice for Journey Beyond. It’s important to recognise that in this space, guests are looking for more than just the location. They are actually looking to make a personal connection with the people and that’s what can set Coffs Harbour apart as a destination. The people of Coffs Harbour have a great sense of place and a sense of self. Our personable and approachable team of staff together with the relaxed vibe of our locals is assuring that our guest experience stands out from other destinations.

One of the main highlights of the trip is the gala dinner here in Coffs. This is not your average event. Please tell us about the event and how it came about?

Pacific Bay Resort is welcoming around 200 guests travelling South to Adelaide each Monday evening, to a luxury beachside dining event held on the shores of Charlesworth Bay Beach. We’ve created an evening that has a remarkably high end and personal feel. Our menus feature an abundance of local seafood, beef and wines. Right down to desserts featuring fresh local bananas and local blueberries, the entire experience is a showcase of our exciting region. Guests are treated to canapés and beverages on the sand with live entertainment from the Sunset Trio, before a sit down dinner, styled with white notes, neutral tones and raw texture holding true to the oceanic surrounds. It’s a really special and decadent experience.

Who are some of the local business you chose to supply the gala dinner and why was it so important for you to choose local produce?

We engaged The Romance, Heidi helped design and style the event with select pieces from Rosie Pose Event Hire and Special Occasions Wedding & Events.

We have sourced the freshest of local produce including Nambucca Oysters, Coffs Coast prawns, Snapper caught off Woolgoolga, local Cheeses, local Black Angus, Dorrigo potatoes, local blueberries, bananas and even figs from Sapphire beach.

The experience is all about connecting with the location. A lot of that comes down to discovering the tastes of our region. We’re very lucky to have such an abundance of award winning seafood and beautifully farmed local produce to draw from and share with our guests. It’s been a very important aspect of the event.

What have been some of the responses from people who have experienced their stop here on the Coffs Coast?

The response we’ve had from guests has been great. They have been particularly commenting on the beauty of the coastline and the quality of the food, especially the fresh seafood. Many of our guests have remarked at how they had never been to the Coffs Coast before and of their intentions to return in the future. We’re blessed to be able to showcase our region to so many new visitors – the train departs the station each week with carriages full of smiling faces!

This is the maiden journey for the Great Southern but the hope is that it will continue into the future.

I believe that Journey Beyond intend on making the Great Southern one of their flagship rail journeys and pre-sales for 2020 / 21 journeys have already begun. As for this season, the sentiment toward the experience has been nothing but positive. I can say that it’s great to work with a company who is so innovative and open to new possibilities so the experiences and events we plan for future journeys may be completely different. As a region that considers tourism a major part of its commerce, this is an incredible boost to the local visitor economy and we’ve been supported every step of the way by Councils Major Events and Destination team. Their incredible foresight is quickly gaining Coffs Harbour a reputation as a ‘can do’ city. The exposure for Coffs Harbour is significant. The journey has already been featured on the Today Show, Studio Ten, Traveller Magazine, Travel Weekly and imagery is set to reach the highly lucrative International Marketplace through Tourism Australia.