PANDEMIC TRAVEL I have waited to write this review to reflect on what this trip meant to us. There is no need to go over the trip in detail because the couple we traveled with did a superb job in David Macdonald’s review dated March 27, 2020. We arrived in Australia on February 21, 2020, for our second trip planned by Stuart Rigg and the first trip for David and Francine Macdonald. We arrived home on March 17 just as the COVID-19 pandemic was exploding across America. Until the day we left Australia, normal life had been in full force everywhere we went. The day we left Australia imposed a 14-day quarantine on all incoming visitors; it subsequently banned all visitors. Yet the day we left, my husband and I had had a wonderful time exploring the Museum of Sydney. The streets were crowded and restaurants were full. Decamped cruise ship passengers had just started to infiltrated Sydney. As far as we are concerned, our month in Australia is the last semblance of normality in our lives for the foreseeable future.
We are inveterate travelers. I’ve done it all–from post-college backpacking across Europe to demanding overseas work trips, carting our kids all over the place, and many, many trips planned by Wendy Perrin’s experts. I’m really good at trip planning. So why use one of Wendy Perrin’s experts? Because I can’t do what they can. I’m quite fond of Stuart Rigg as he is one of the very best. The itineraries for our two trips have been very complicated and filled with off-the-beaten-path destinations and adventures only a true expert can put together. Stuart really listens to what his clients are interested in and then designs trips that not only meet those expectations but exceed them. His advice is canny and spot on. His guides are superb; the accommodations he recommends are top notch. I do a great deal of back and forth during the planning process tweaking and refining itineraries. What I need – and highly value – is the advice I get. He really figures out not only what his clients say they want but what they are likely to need and not even know it. In David Macdonald’s review, he touts the wonderful experience we had at Arkaba Station in the South Australian outback. When I talked with Stuart and told him how much we had loved it, he told me he doesn’t send many people there—only the right kind of people—the ones like us he knows will love it. When we talked about the afternoon- long cruise we did on a private yacht around Sydney harbor, he apologized for the weather (driving rain the entire afternoon) but knew we’d love it because of the couple who run the trip. And we did. In the planning process, I’d suggested we go to the Whitsunday Islands; he nixed it as the wrong season and suggested Lord Howe Island instead, about which I knew nothing except that Capella Lodge was a member of Luxury Lodges of Australia. Our experience there was far beyond anything we’d expected. Listening to clients matters; intuiting what will most satisfy them is even better.
Many of Wendy’s trip specialists have assistants to coordinate logistics. Debbie Bollen who handled our first trip (now in the New Zealand office) and Jacki Lang who handled this one were both superb. As David mentioned in his review, we knew our trip was being closely followed (and it wasn’t just the Diet Coke and black licorice that routinely showed up). My husband and I loved Karen Dick of Inala Nature Tours, our fabulous birding guide on Bruny Island off Tasmania’s south coast. Karen asked us early that morning whether we wanted lunch at a winery or a picnic lunch where we could continue to bird. We opted for the picnic lunch and were glad we did. As Karen unpacked an amazing lunch (with champagne for me and two other wines for my husband), and tons of salads, cheeses, meats, pickles, desserts – and her own glass wine glasses—she mentioned that “you wouldn’t believe how much back and forth there was with Jacki over this lunch to make sure you’d like it.” The attention to detail was evident in every step of our trip. Places we especially loved: Saffire Freycinet in Tasmania, Lord Howe Island, Tasmania in general and Arkaba Station. David mentioned our favorite guides and our terrific driver Gail Lynch.
I cannot recommend Stuart Rigg highly enough. He is not a travel agent; he’s a trip expert. He knows personally about all the places, destinations, guides, accommodations and experiences he recommends. He coordinated two superb trips for us to Australia, the second of which will forever be linked in our memory as the last semblance of normality we’ll have for quite some time. Good on ya, Australia. And good on ya, Stuart and Jacki.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL As my skills at being a travel writer are limited, rather than attempting to create an elegant travelogue of our excellent visit to Australia, I thought it would be best to simply share my post-trip thoughts and reflections on what stood out to me, upon recalling our experiences, and reviewing my photos – to jog my memory of our many action-packed days of discovery.
• Stuart and his team put together an itinerary that filled each day with experiential discovery, in a manner that I, or any other amateur travel-planner, could not have assembled from afar. It is clear to me that no amount of website research, guide-reading or over-the-fence hearsay can match the knowledge and logistical know-how of a local expert.
• Was it expensive? Yup. Do I regret committing to that expense? Nope. Are we wealthy? Nope. Will I mind not eating for a few months, given the money spent? Nope – we could stand to lose a few pounds, post-trip.
• As far as those photos are concerned, I used two cameras on our trip – an iPhone X for the quick shots, and a Panasonic Lumix for better resolution and telephoto-lens shots. Transferring photo files from the latter was easy. Transferring photo files from an Apple product to a Windows 10 PC is a torment far more painful than not eating for the next few months. So that puts the trip expense into a more favorable light.
• I found it interesting that as the itinerary unfolded, and we sequentially described our visited/planned destinations to each new guide, or in chatting up a local resident, it was not unusual to hear the response “You’re seeing, and will get to truly know more places than most Australians do – good on ya!” That speaks to the richness of Stuart’s planning.
• Australians are justifiably very proud of their nation, delighted to share its wealth of fun and beauty, and so pleased when visitors come so far to discover that.
• Stuart Rigg and his colleague Jacki Lang made it all work — in both the obvious and behind-the-scenes ways. What do I mean by that? The planning process was easy and flowing. We were travelling with another couple and Jacki and Stuart grasped that we were friends but nonetheless had separate interests. Our travelling partners are avid bird-watching experts. To an unskilled observer like myself, it more or less all tastes like chicken, so to speak. Thus, our itineraries were largely joint, but also featured segments reflective of individual interests. Nice planning flexibility by Jacki and Stuart. In a less apparent manner, we could also sense that they were shadowing our progress through the itinerary. Our second, and every subsequent guide, came fully stocked with plentiful supplies of Diet Coke and black licorice – indulgences that were picked up by our initial guide, Paul Murray, in Melbourne. And as the COVID-19 threat mounted, Jacki checked in to inquire if we wanted to change our flights and head home early. We stayed with our plan, but it was thoughtful of her to measure our level of concern and offer assistance, unsolicited. Beginning-to-end travel planning.
• Without exception, the cadre of guides and hosts that Jacki and Stuart enlisted were no less than superb. Friendly, knowledgeable, anticipatory and never stale. I hesitate to name any individually, as all were beyond expectations. But that being said, we all agreed that at least two personalities really were much beyond exceptional. Our Arkaba Station host/guide Anna Teneggi has few equals when it comes to energy levels, graciousness, table manners, adjusting to the visitor’s level of sophistication, local knowledge, bird-spotting and identification, lust for the outdoors, attentiveness, rough-trail driving skills, giving a sense of genuine welcoming, and did I mention energy levels? She had us out and walking the trails on the evening of our 5 p.m. arrival. Well done, Anna…!!! Despite having been born in Italy, Anna is perhaps more Australian and proud of it than most, in her adopted country. Makes the experience even richer. And our driver in Sydney, Gail Lynch, was a hoot. Always on time, despite the vagaries of Sydney traffic, Gail was far more than just a driver. Despite having spent many hours on the road in Gail’s van, the time flew. Gail gave us the sense of true Australian hospitality, more as a caring and knowledge-sharing new friend, not just as a means from A to B. As with all the guides, they welcomed us with local pride, injected us with knowledge and warmth, and left me feeling in all cases as if I‘d like to independently be personal friends with that individual.
• It should not be overlooked that anomalies were solved flawlessly. Stuart’s team stepped in without solicitation by us, and secured alternate reservations immediately upon learning that bushfires had destroyed Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island, an originally-planned destination. I can only imagine that without such timely intervention, we would not have been able to fill in the gap as well as was arranged at Emirate’s One-And-Only Resort in the Wolgan Valley. Mid-trip, Jacki checked in with me and I described that I felt the Crown Towers had incorrectly charged me for a Boxed Breakfast on departure. She took ownership of the issue and a credit was issued same day. Again, the value of having a local expert with foresight was very evident and appreciated.
• Upon check-in in Melbourne and Sydney, I detected that that desk agent pulled up our reservations, saw the notes, and subsequently reacted as if we were more VIP than simply a bus-tour guest. Jacki and Stuart clearly know how to book a reservation.
• We loved Tasmania, Arkaba and Lord Howe Island. Sydney, Melbourne, the wine regions – not to be missed and each very much impressed us in their own, individual ways. But they are what an outsider might initially contemplate when thinking of Australia. Still, very much must-sees. But beyond them, the charm of Hobart’s coziness and superb gastronomy made us fans. The luxury, staff-attentiveness and tours at Saffire Resort were spoiling. Time spent at Arkaba Station in the Flinder’s Ranges served to educate us as to the diversity of Australia’s many geographies. And while we were the only 4 guests at this remote lodge, the level of Arkaba’s dining rivalled any menu elsewhere. Lord Howe Island is one of those places, similar to our South Georgia Island Antarctic experience in 2015 where you come away and think: “I was not familiar with that place, but I’d go back in a heartbeat, mostly because it’s largely undiscovered and thus a gem to savour for its empirical and unique beauty.” I know…… nobody talks like that but I was trying to paint a suitable picture….
• Stuart’s team wait-listed us and were successful in getting us a table at the highly-regarded Attica restaurant in Melbourne. A unique experience and thank you. But we were even more pleased with the tasting menu at Templo in Hobart. At one quarter the price. In Sydney, Mr. Wong’s served up an easy and delicious casual dinner, at a very reasonable cost.
• For those of us who prefer only carry-on rather than checked baggage, their pre-trip advisories as to laundry facilities in various destinations was critical and much appreciated.
• As a US resident, it was refreshing to visit a country where investment in infrastructure is not viewed merely as a tax-generating burden to be enthusiastically avoided. The quality of the airports and roads in Australia, even in smaller locales impressed. Perhaps a more telling observation – even in small one-intersection towns, just as in the larger cities, there are clean, free and plentiful public rest rooms for use by all, including those of us of a certain age This educational dividend of travelling to other countries provides a benefit that I wish was more enjoyed by some of our standout political leaders But I digress…
• All in all, a great trip. As I tried to provide balance in this feedback and mention an area of improvement, I find myself at a loss to come up with anything negative of substance. Nothing more than being caught in a shower while walking around Sydney. I can only blame myself for passing on the offered umbrella at the InterContinental. I should have the heeded the corollary of that old and oft-repeated Australian saw – “If you don’t like the weather here, just wait 10 minutes.”
Let me start by saying that, to me, excellent is an impossible standard for trips extending five weeks or more. There are always lowlights, but that’s part of travel and often leads to interesting stories. I would, however, highly recommend Stuart and his team to any traveler going to NZ or Australia. First, the initial arrangements were exactly to our specifications. Second, when adjustments needed to be made (and there were a few as we were traveling during a developing pandemic), the agents handled the details quickly, efficiently, and to our complete satisfaction. Finally, the guides, charters, room assignments, etc. were all very special and we could easily see the influence of our booking agents. This is something I could never do on my own! That alone would make me come back for more. So, if high end travel to NZ or AUS is on your agenda, don’t hesitate to use Stuart and his team. Period!
Our hotels were wonderful and selected by the agent.
Our Philips island experience with the penguins should be experienced by all. The bridge climb was great. The bike ride with E-bikes was fun. All the activities we wanted to do – the agent made possible.
My husband and I just returned from a trip to Australia, with assistance from Stuart Rigg and his very able associate Sophie Café. They were superb in every aspect of the trip planning and execution, including dinner reservations. When Mother Nature threw a curve ball, they handled it with ease.
Our trip began a couple of days before New Year’s Eve in Sydney. Sophie called us on NYE to assure that we knew exactly where we where to meet our transportation to our Sydney New Year’s Eve dinner cruise. Which was an amazing, spectacular once in a lifetime experience.
We originally had planned to drive from Sydney to Melbourne, but with the bush fires, that proved to be unfeasible. Sophie came through in less than 24 hours and rebooked us on flights to Melbourne, booked a rental car, and found an amazing hotel for us to stay at on the Mornington Peninsula, just south of Melbourne. The Jackalope Hotel was a jewel! We could not have chosen better. Far from ruining our vacation, this last minute foot work made the trip extra special!
Our last five days in Melbourne were a perfect finale to a great visit. Stuart and Sophie booked exactly the accommodations we requested, found the perfect activities and dining we asked for, They arranged all transportation to and from the airports so we had nothing to worry about. I could not have planned it better.
Our trip to Australia went far beyond our expectations. We planned a month in Australia, and wished to travel at exciting high end places. Without going into extreme detail, let’s just say we specifically explained to Stuart how we love to travel, and the type of things we wish to do.
Stu clearly listened, since the trip organized was to our tailored taste. I always think this is the most difficult issue in planning: the communication between agent and client. Stuart’s team was meticulous .
There were a few issues which needed to be resolved as we continued on our journey. None of them major. As an example, we didn’t like our initially assigned hotel room. However, this was resolved immediately and without stress. Stuart followed up on the situation , making sure all was stress free.
All the support staff was also professional, stress free, and always right on any situation which might need attention. At the same time, they were not intrusive or over bearing, as some other companies might be.
Overall: we travel quite a bit and would give the highest rating to Stu and his Group.
Thank you Stu.
Stuart Rigg and Sophie Cafe planned the perfect trip for our 30th wedding anniversary celebration- we spent 3 weeks, taking multiple in country flights and visiting 6 places: Melbourne, Tasmania, Kangaroo Island, Uluru, the Daintree Rainforest and Sydney- We wanted luxury hotels and unique experiences and our expectations were exceeded- each of the places we stayed were amazing- they also arranged transfers and guides where needed, and all were of excellent quality. Each provided something special and extra that was a surprise on that day- and all were amazing experiences. They must have told everyone that we were celebrating and anniversary- because at each location, and from each guide we received not only cards and good wishes, but sometimes small gifts, or cakes or champagne and chocolates! It was above and beyond any expectation-as was the whole trip- In Tasmania at Saffire Freceynet we did a tasted several of the excellent local gins one evening- and commented on how much we liked them-it occurred in a 15 minute conversation with one of the excellent staff there- at the end of our stay the staff remembered and offered to have us stop at the distillery on our way to the airport to pick some up, but we were traveling with carry-ons and didnt want to carry the bottles so we declined. We never mentioned this to Southern Crossings, but they were obviously checking up on us at each location- and Saffire must have told them how much we liked those gins-, as when we reached Sydney there was a gift of 3 gins and a lovely note from Stuart Rigg. This blew us away- not only did Southern Crossings hear we liked the gins, but they went out of their way to get us some and have it waiting in Sydney. This is one of the above and beyond gestures that took this trip from extraordinary to one of the best we have every had (and we are seasoned travelers, taking 1-2 trips a year). We had one issue with a cancelled flight where we reached out to their after hours staff, who was available and willing to help- but unfortunately they had no ability to arrange alternatives for that situation as none were available, but worth noting they were there and easily reached when help was needed- I would recommend them without reservation.
Stuart and his team gave my family an absolutely wonderful trip to Australia. Their hotel choices were excellent and suggested activities that were perfect for us. The guide they suggested in Sydney did a great job of tailoring our trip to my kids (age 10 and 13) and made sure they had plenty of time outside of the car to stretch their legs and activities to keep their interest. I had asked for a cultural experience in Queensland and Stuart’s team wanted to find something that was authentic. We met with a member of the local Kuku Yalanji tribe who had us hike for a few miles over the beach at low tide and my kids spear hunted for crab while they learned all about their culture. We caught 3 crabs and then ate them! It was a highlight of the trip and my kids will never forget that experience. We also stayed at luxurious resort in the Blue Mountains for our last few nights where everyone seemed to know us and definitely took care of us due to our connection with Stuart. In addition, we have a few dietary restrictions in our family and travel with medicines and every hotel we went to was fully prepared to accommodate us as Stuart’s team made prior arrangements. Even while we were on our trip I was in close communication with them about any minor changes I wanted to make (adjustments in car hire times, etc) and I always had prompt email responses or a call from them. I would absolutely use them again and would be happy to refer them to any of my friends. We are already trying to figure out our next trip to Australia.
We had a fantastic vacation in Australia! Stuart and Debbie made our trip a memorable experience. We were meeting my daughter in Queensland after she had been living and studying in the rainforest for 3 months. Stuart and Debbie were able to help us to plan a 2 week vacation traveling from Cairns to Port Douglas, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, Melbourne and ending in Sydney. The highlight of the trip was definitely our 3 day stay on Kangaroo Island; we stayed in a lovely house on the beach with chef prepared meals and had wonderful tour guides from Kangaroo Island Wilderness Tours that made sure we saw as much of the Australian wildlife possible as well as fabulous scenery. The tour guides out of Port Douglas and Melbourne were also fantastic. They took good care of us and also showed us a lot of wildlife and fabulous scenery. Stuart and Debbie gave us a list of restaurants that they recommended and then made reservations to the ones we requested. We were seated with the best views in those restaurants. We would highly recommend Stuart’s team to anyone planning a vacation to Australia, they helped to make it a lovely vacation with so many memories.
My husband and I cannot thank Stuart Rigg and Jacki Lang enough for planning our recent Australia trip. Everything they did was perfect and exceeded our expectations!
First, I must say that – unlike many travel agents I have worked with – Stuart actually honored our trip budget request. Amazingly, given what I believe was a “moderate” budget, he was able to book extraordinary top of line rooms in luxury hotels. And, they were hotels we NEVER would have found on our own.
Second, Stuart gave great advice as to the order and scope of our trip; and booked us in locations that were spot-on for each of our destinations — whether in cites or in the country.
Third, every one of the transfers he booked went off without a hitch. Each driver appeared on time and each was informative, kind, and professional.
Finally, and this must be said, Jacki Lang was wonderful to us. We changed one of our destinations at the last minute due to weather and she was able to find us a new hotel and destination within an hour. Further, when I was afraid we were going to miss one of our flights, she “talked me down from the edge” and was exactly right that we would, indeed, make the flight.
Stuart Rigg and his team in Australia and New Zealand made our honeymoon trip a dream come true. Six months prior to our trip we had a conference call with Stuart and Trevor on Sarah’s team, who asked detailed questions about our likes and dislikes. That was followed up with a written proposal for activities and excursions in both countries As we were traveling on a Seabourn cruise, they had to consider our cruise itinerary and ports of call to coordinate the days and times we would be in port. This was complicated and they handled it all for us. We did not want to book our excursions through Seabourn as we wanted a more personal approach, rather than be part of a larger group. Stuart and Trevor on Sarah’s team planned an amazing itinerary for us.
Highlights included a driver and guide, Adil, to Auckland’s spectacular West Coast Beaches where we saw many gannets in their natural environment. Another was a day on Waiheke Island. We had a very knowledgeable guide, Geoff, who has, as we do, a big interest in wines. He guided us to 3 vineyards, all different in style, including a wonderful lunch at one. At every stop on our cruise, we had other terrific guides who met us as we disembarked at the various ports and whisked us away on another adventure and delivered us back to the ship in time to move on to our next destination.
After the cruise ended, a driver was waiting for us and again, took us directly to our hotel. We had great tours of Sydney and Bondi Beach as well as a day hiking in the Blue Mountains with locals who have lived in these places their entire life. So much knowledge!
At the beginning of our trip after a long day of flying from Savannah to Auckland we were met by our driver and taken to our hotel. Stuart’s team booked excellent hotels in both Auckland and Sydney and everything was in place when we arrived. There were no gaps or misses.
This was our first time in both countries and we would not hesitate to call on Stuart the next time we go down under.
Thank-you to them and to Wendy Perrin for a gorgeous WOW Moment gift–we really appreciate it.
We had no idea what was happening until our driver delivered us to the Rose Bay Seaplane sight for our flight over Sydney and the surrounding beaches.
Tom and I both love flying so our introduction to Sydney in this way was so amazing. We were the only 2 passengers and Tom sat in the co-pilot seat enabling him to take fantastic photos of the beautiful city below us. The weather was perfect that day. It was over the top in every way!
You could not have planned a better surprise for us. We have been fans of your WOW list for many years, using your trusted advisors in Italy, Paris (twice), London, Africa (twice), and now NZ and Australia. Our next trip using one of your advisors will be to Argentina.
Wendy, you are providing a wonderful service to those of us who travel often and like to travel well.
Thanks also for the personal attention you gave us when we had a glitch with another advisor booking our cruise.
Sophie and Stuart put together a wonderful month long visit to Australia for my husband and me. We had a variety of activities: cities, national forests, sailing trip, self driving on the Great Ocean Road. I wanted lots of walking/hiking built into the trip. We had wonderful, knowledgeable guides for our hikes. We also had ample time to walk and hike on our own in the national parks and the cities. There was a great balance of programmed activity and free time. The biggest hurdle we had was that once the itinerary was set I had to postpone the trip by a few weeks. They didn’t skip a beat – all was done with no worries. I wholeheartedly recommend them. I also want to thank Wendy for our WOW Moment in Melbourne. The boat ride on the Yarra River gave us an amazing perspective of the city. It was a very enjoyable addition to our 53rd anniversary day. Thank you!
Stuart and his team helped plan our trip to Australia in February/March 2019. We worked primarily with Debbie Bollen. She was responsive throughout in terms of developing an itinerary to suit our interests and budget. We initially thought of starting our tour in Sydney. Debbie suggested that we go directly to a small hotel in the Blue Mts upon our arrival (rather than staying in Sydney) to recover for a few days after a very long series of flights from Chicago. That was a great idea. She also recommended a lovely resort on Hamilton Island as the first stop of our 6 days on the Great Barrier Reef. The Hamilton Beach Club had the glamour of a South Pacific movie set. Debbie was particularly helpful when our cross-continent trip on the Ghan train was cancelled 36 hours before our planned departure from Darwin. (A freight train had de-railed and closed the tracks.) She worked late evenings to develop a list of options and prices for us. Within 18 hours, she was able to replace the Ghan experience with a stay at Longitude 131 near Uluru/Ayers Rock — a place extremely difficult to book on short notice. We really appreciated her extra effort to keep our trip literally on track. We certainly recommend Debbie and Stuart to anyone interested in going to Australia.
Stuart arranged a 9 day trip for us in Australia, specifically in Sydney and on Lizard Island this January. We began planning in July. Stuart and his colleague Tanya were extraordinarily responsive, always responding to emails within 24 hours. They were very flexible and tried to accommodate everything on my wish list. When I was struggling to choose between various GBR options, Stuart and I spoke by phone for about 45 minutes until we got everything sorted. I agree very strongly, Wendy, with your admonition to SPEAK with the travel specialists in addition to email correspondence. I was able to transmit in that call the nuance that can sometimes evade the written word. Our time was flawlessly planned. Stuart’s VIP escort service met us at the airport and brought us to our lovely Sydney hotel, The Langham. We had two beautiful connecting rooms there. At every restaurant in which we dined Stuart had magically arranged for the best table with the best view. At dinner on our first night, we were presented with a bottle of sparkling wine, courtesy of Stuart and his team. Stuart also arranged for Opera tickets, the BridgeClimb, and a surfing lesson–all of which were huge hits. When we traveled to Lizard we were upgraded, courtesy of Stuart. Our adult son who accompanied us had to work while in Australia. He was concerned with the internet connection given the remoteness of the island. We shared these concerns with Stuart who contacted the Lizard Island GM, who, in turn, generously offered his own office and landline for our son to use for certain hours each day. These are the moments (and those when you can see the Sydney Opera House through your wine glass) when one feels so very grateful to be using one of your WOW specialists! Thank you!
Stuart Rigg and Debbie Bollen arranged a 14-day trip for 5 of us to Australia. We were 2 couples and a single unrelated adult friend. We did offer a bit of complexity to deal with in that we had somewhat differing (though largely overlapping) interests. We felt that Stuart/Debbie did a good job of listening and interpreting our wishes and adjusting the proposed itinerary accordingly.
The end result was a trip where we split into 2 groups for a few days in the middle of the trip, while spending the beginning and end together. That worked very well and everyone was happy with the trip. Stuart/Debbie clearly know their territory and are connected with a good set of local providers. Our guides were uniformly good – our wine guide in the Barossa, in particular, made our day with him really special. As first-timers Down Under, we were happy to merely scratch the surface with some of the must-sees. It would have been difficult to choose sights we wouldn’t have liked, but we still felt that the choices made on our behalf were excellent. The accommodations were well chosen to suit our mix of some travelers wanting 5-star luxury and some wanting more economical lodging. We did create some of our own tension by having some of the group who wanted to be very active and others who preferred a more leisurely pace. A note to fellow travelers who might be in the same position – be sure to discuss this in advance, as we found that some of our guides were unwilling (or unable for liability reasons) to allow the group to split during tours. We did have a couple of miscommunications with Debbie before the trip and a couple of airport transfers that had not been properly scheduled.
However, since Debbie did fully document what she had booked for us, we were able to correct everything before it became a problem. All in all, we were quite happy with the experience and will be happy to go back to Stuart and his team if we head that way again.
We travelled to Australia in January, 2019, using Stuart Rigg and Tanya Knobel as our planners. From the time Stuart first talked to us by telephone and throughout the planning stages, we knew we were in good hands. Their suggestions were helpful and they listened carefully to our likes and wishes. They always answered our email queries promptly and continued to be in touch during the trip. At each location we visited, they chose excellent tour companies and guides to show us what is special about the various locales. We had a great time and wonderful experiences. We would highly recommend them.
My wife Cathy and I had the great pleasure of travelling from our home in Toronto, Canada to Australia for a three week visit from December 27th through January 17th, 2019.
Knowing that the time would fly by it was extremely important for us to get professional help in putting together our itinerary. Enter Stuart Rigg and his team, most notably Debbie Bollen, In short, they were terrific, not only in terms of suggesting and ultimately securing the various arrangements such as accommodation and tours, but also in dealing with the “changing parts” that occurred as the days unfolded. Plans change, and Debbie was able to keep pace with our litany of requests and keep things in order.
We began by spending five days at the Adina Apartment Hotel in Bondi where we rendezvoused with our daughter Christie who had moved to Sydney this past July. The accommodation proved to be just right for that stage of our visit. Bondi has a vibe to it…lots of people, lots of things happening – by no means peaceful and relaxing – and that was a good thing at this early stage! A highlight was the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk, and another was a half day bicycle tour that proved to be an excellent way to get oriented to Sydney’s downtown and waterfront area.
From there the three of us traveled to Melbourne for a few days. We stayed at the Hotel Lindrum which was conveniently located and very well appointed. A highlight was definitely a foodie tour with the very knowledgeable and passionate guide, Cam Smith. We also traveled to the Mornington Peninsula to visit a sustainable farm and restaurant, Green Olives at Red Hill, which was well worth doing. The following day we went to the Yarra Valley for some wine tasting. Beautiful scenery along the way.
From there we traveled to Tasmania for six days, including a visit to Freycinet National Park where we stayed at Freycinet Lodge in a pavilion. These rooms are beautifully appointed – a lovely combination of rugged nature meshing with all the comforts of modern living that one could possibly imagine – although we did find the operation of the new-age light system to be a bit of a challenge at first! A highlight of this portion of our journey was watching a glorious sunset at Honeymoon Bay. A “low-light” was the park itself. It appeared to be lovely but it was very busy – so much so that we couldn’t fine a parking spot for our car which was a bit disappointing. Peak season was definitely in full bloom!
From there a three hour drive back to Hobart, the quaint capital city, where we stayed at MACq01, a beautiful, modern-style hotel perfectly located right in the heart of the CBU and waterfront area. We experienced the outdoor market scene – a must do if you’re there on a Saturday. Also, if ever you do find yourself in Hobart be sure to explore the north part to get a sense of the non-touristy area. It’s reachable within a 30 minute walk or a short drive. Of course if you’re a lover of art then the MONA is a must-do – it’s the Museum of Old & New Art, one of the world’s most unique and controversial museums which houses one of the largest private art collections on the globe.
We then returned to Sydney for our final four days, this time staying at Spicers in the eclectic neighborhood of Potts Point. This boutique hotel is a gem – in a great location, we had a spacious and very comfortable room with a lovely terrace that overlooked the bustling street below. They served delicious breakfasts, and the staff were courteous, friendly and very welcoming. Absolutely top-notch.
A final highlight was a day trip to the South Coast through the Royal National Park to the Grand Pacific Drive and over the incredibly scenic Sea Cliff Bridge. It was a long day of travel, but worth it.
All in all we enjoyed this trip immensely and certainly appreciate the positive impact that Stuart and his team brought to our experience. We’d most certainly recommend Stuart and Debbie to those seeking to optimize the value of their travel down unda!
Our family of five just returned from our first visit to Australia and simply cannot say enough good about the services Stuart and Tanya provided. From the bridge climb, private tour of the opera house, surf lessons on Bondi Beach, bike tour of Sydney, personal tour of the zoo, etc. we were thrilled with the level of service we received. The guides were prompt, knowledgeable and a total pleasure to spend time with. They tailored each activity to meet the needs of my husband and I as well as our three children even going so far as to make a stop at a local grocery store to share with us some authentic Australian candies, “biscuits” and drinks which was a highlight of the trip for our children. We wholeheartedly recommend Stuart’s team and hope to have the opportunity to travel with them again in the future.
Stuart Rigg and his colleague Tanya booked every aspect of our Australia trip, and we were pleased across the board. They were very patient working with us to pack in everything we wanted to do, from Sydney, to Uluru, to diving the Great Barrier Reef, and they clearly worked with top shelf properties and special individuals throughout.
The best parts of our time are the things we would not have thought of — the private sailing tour of Sydney harbour seeing the city and properties from the water side and hearing about the history, or an afternoon spent walking the tidal flats with a native descendant, discussing both ancient ways and modern challenges.
We knew we had a non-stop agenda to see as much as we wanted to, but Stuart and his crew managed to fit it all in while leaving us just enough leisure and spontaneity.
We worked with Stuart and Danielle for our trip to Australia in October, 2018. We were celebrating my birthday. Stuart and I had an initial conversation to understand our travel preferences, interests and priorities. After the initial consultation, we were sent an itinerary which reflected everything we discussed! Stuart was very thoughtful as to what would work best for us. The trip went flawlessly! Everything was so well organized and on time. All the vendors were fantastic and some went out of their way to accommodate us. And, many left me birthday wishes and champagne along the way.
Wow! What can I say? I don’t even know where to begin. This was an amazing trip for my family! My two daughters, husband, and I had an awesome time in Australia– many thanks to Stuart for such great planning, execution, and many memorable touches! First, we loved all the activities– from biking in Sydney, the Sydney Harbor Bridge twilight climb, to the magnificent Uluru and Field of Lights dinner/walk, to snorkeling with green turtles on the inspiring Lady Elliots Island! Each accommodation was fantastic– our favorite was the Ovolo Inchcolm in Brisbane! And the Lady Elliots Island eco-resort was magical and the perfect finishing touch to an already incredible and wonderful trip! My daughters loved the sunset over the Harbor Bridge and the chance to embrace a koala. We were celebrating my husbands 50th birthday and he could not have asked for a more memorable holiday. For him, stargazing in the clear night sky was an added delight! We truly recommend Stuart and thank him for the incredible trip! And bonus points for the fruit basket waiting for us on our last night.
New Zealand— the Land of the Long White Cloud— such a magical place! My family and I absolutely loved how beautiful and how eco-conscious this incredible place is! It was a wonderful way to begin our journey. Thanks to Stuart and Tom, we had plenty of time to wander and enjoy New Zealand at our own pace while still having pre-arrangements to hit all the highlights we wanted. Auckland was charming and a great start point. We really enjoyed the Waitomo Caves around Rotorua to Hobbiton in Matamata and the Weta Workshop in Wellington. And the drive along the green and lush hills were breathtaking. And of course, we were utterly taken by the breathtaking magnificence of Queenstown, the Remarkables, Milford Sound, and Skippers’ Canyon. We had the good fortune of comfortable dry and sunny weather throughout our time and we must give a shoutout for the beautiful Rees Hotel and the wonderful 2-bedroom suite with fireplace and private balcony overlooking the Lake Wakatipu. The people were so friendly and we were pleasantly surprised and very impressed that Maori is the 2nd official language in New Zealand. And while Queenstown and New Zealand are places of high adventure (don’t forget to do the Shotover Jetboat), we were particularly charmed by the Kiwi Wildlife Park where you learn about how New Zealand’s efforts around conservation are some of the most aggressive and yet sensible we had ever heard. Thank you to Stuart for arranging a most magical trip for us in the Land of Kiwis.
Thank you to Wendy Perrin for connecting us to Stuart and his team. We had a wonderful trip to Australia at the end of June/early July 2018. Thank you to Stuart and Pam for all of their planning. Everything was outstanding – the hotels, tour guides, drivers, experiences, and meals. Throughout the planning process, we especially appreciated their responsiveness and thoughtfulness to each question we raised. They also expertly addressed all of our concerns regarding our daughter’s food allergy. We could not be more pleased with their services and will recommend them to anyone we know considering a visit to Australia.
Stuart and his team did two things that are very important to me – they listened to what my travel partner and I wanted out of this trip, AND they were great at communicating expediently and thoroughly. We had less than two months to pull together a two-week trip Australia and New Zealand coming from the US. They asked our budget, we requested a luxury experience, and our expectations were surpassed. We had one lodging experience that was booked to our specifications, but upon arrival did not meet our expectations. It was late evening and Pam on Stuart’s team answered our call right away and arranged new lodging within minutes without questioning our reason for wanting to change lodging. If/when I return down under I will absolutely use Stuart and his team to create another amazing itinerary.
We were in Australia 10 years ago and were excited to return to Sidney & Kangaroo Island two of our favorites. In addition to exploring for the first time Tasmania, Great Ocean Road region and Adelaide. Stuart and his staff coordinated all of our requests perfectly with lovely properties.
One day we were scheduled for an expensive full day tour and had to cancel at the last minute because of illness. The tour was nonrefundable, but he negotiated a partial refund. All our tour guides were very knowledgeable and professional. Stuart and his staff were available 24/7 and checked in with us several times. It was a wonderful stress-free vacation thanks to him and his staff’s expertise.
New Years Eve in Sydney. A bucket list item! Despite us being late In being able to make arrangements Stuart and his colleague Jane helped guide us to the perfect choice -on the water, in the middle of the action. And we had the best table right at the bow of the boat.
What a night to remember. The fireworks were everything I hoped for and more. A huge tick on that bucket list!
Stuart Rigg and his colleague, Tanya Knobel, planned an absolutely perfect trip for me. I wanted something a little different from the typical “first time to Australia” trip, as I wanted to spend most of my time enjoying the natural beauty of Tasmania. Stuart and Tanya spent the time truly working to understand what I wanted and then delivered beautifully. I could not have planned it better myself – from the boutique hotels I love (and the complimentary upgrades I received!) to the local guides (all of whom were fantastic) to the help while on the trip to advise about a minor glitch (which was not their doing), these two are consummate professionals and the “real deal.” Thank you for the superb recommendation, Wendy!!
My husband and I spent 5 weeks in Australia in September-October 2017 on a spectacular trip planned and executed by Stuart and Debbie. We had long wanted to visit our seventh continent but quickly realized that even with 5 weeks we couldn’t see the entire country. My top priority was to see The Kimberley, a very remote area in northwestern Australia that even many Australians never get to. After phone conversations and emails, we ended up dividing our interests into two trips. For the first one, we chose to do what we called our Australia Bush Safari and we are intensely grateful we did so. Next time, we’ll do the southeast coast — what we call — “where the people live.” This trip, we went mostly to where few of the people live. If we’d done it the other (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, Tasmania) — I doubt we’d ever have gone back to do what we did this time.
There is no way we could have planned this trip ourselves. The trip encompassed 18 flights and 14 places to stay. The first week we drove ourselves south from Perth to Albany and then back to the Margaret River region. Then we flew north for stays at three different places in The Kimberley (Cable Beach Club in Broome, El Questro and Berkeley River Lodge.) Then across the top end to Darwin and a safari lodge on a cattle station (Bamurru Plains), then three places in Queensland (Cairns, Lizard Island and Silky Oats Lodge), finishing with a stay in Uluru (Longitude 131). The logistics were complicated, entailing many tiny charter planes, helicopters and lots of transfers. Once Stuart figured out what kind of trip we wanted and the kinds of places we were interested in staying in, he put together an itinerary and made all the arrangements for a trip that exceeded my expectations. All the places he chose for us were excellent. Many were among the country’s most unique and/or luxurious (Como The Treasury in Perth, El Questro’s The Homestead, Longitude 131 in Uluru); one was a B&Bs with an owner who made some of the best omelettes we’ve had and did laundry for free after I slipped off a log and got coated in mud (The Beach House at Bayside in Albany). Others while more rustic had their own charm — at Karri Valley Resort, Lincoln race Ringnecked Parrots hung over the roof edge of our lakeview terrace. The full-day birding guide Stuart arranged for us in the area of Daintree National Park — Del Richards of Fine Feathers Tours — was terrific. Even the place about which I had reservations after our arrival (Berkeley River Lodge, which has the most uncomfortable dining room chairs ever and outdoor toilets — albeit private — I could have done without) became a place I have fond memories of because of the excursions we took and the fellow guests we met. And our transfer to and from Cairns and Silky Oats Lodge was via a stretch white limo that was superbly comfortable for my extra tall husband (and had a great driver).
We could not have had a better trip. That it was topped by one of Wendy’s WOW moments (a not-to-be-missed helicopter ride over Uluru and Kata Tjuta) is just one more reason why Wendy Perrin’s trip experts are the best. The attention to detail Stuart and Debbie gave to our trip, the flawless execution of everything from hotels to lodges, private charters, drivers, airport transfers, private guides and reams of useful information ahead of time was something I was aware of before the trip — but could not fully appreciate until we were on it.
Wendy’s experts all share two essential traits — attention to detail in planning and careful execution of arrangements. I know I can trust that if I use one of her experts (and we’ve used a lot of them), their advice and planning will be excellent. But where they — and Stuart Rigg — are unmatched is in their ability to intuit what their clients want, need and most important, will delight in. Kudos.
My husband and I traveled throughout Australia for the first time, for one month in September – October 2017. We covered a great deal of distance, and although we are very experienced travelers, we felt we needed help planning this particular trip. Stuart Rigg and his staff, especially Jane Reynolds, were extremely helpful in advising us and planning a complicated itinerary, keeping in mind our very specific interests and wishes. We had one long four-way telephone call and many, many emails so that communication was easy, despite the difference in time zones. Stuart and Jane planned our air travel (a total of 10 flights within the country), our hotels, our drivers (we decided not to drive ourselves), individual guides who would be well versed in our particular interests, as well as some group tours, and some meals.
All the transfers went flawlessly, and what a difference that made in decreasing our travel fatigue! We were pleased with all of the choices that had been made for hotels. Even though we had said that we preferred to spend our money on experiences rather than on 5-star hotels, we were often given a complimentary upgrade to a better room and/or given special attention, which was clearly the result of the relationship with Stuart. We also received check-in calls from his team at the beginning, during, and at the end of our trip.
And the experiences we had requested in terms of places and guides were fantastic. For our trip to Pemberton and the visit to the areas south of Pemberton, Jane found a couple who have a small eco-tour company in Pemberton. They came and picked us up in Perth (3+ hours away without stops), drove us to a B&B in Pemberton, and then took us on an amazing group eco-tour the next day and a private tour the following day even further south to see the amazing karri, marri, and tingle eucalyptus trees, amongst other sights. They also drove us back to Perth. This couple had never before taken on such an intensive and unusual private tour, so we are very grateful to Jane and Stuart for coming up with a creative solution that allowed us to explore a part of southwest Australia without a car.
Were there any glitches? Yes, within the month, there were a few, but they were relatively minor. An example: one meal for an accompanying relative was supposed to be vegetarian, and the information had not been relayed in time. There was more than sufficient food, however, for it not to pose much of a problem.
Would we use Stuart again? Absolutely. And we are even considering a return trip to Australia, although it was supposed to be a once in a lifetime trip.
Places visited: Port Douglas – Ayres Rock – Kangaroo Island – Tasmania – Sydney – Perth – Pemberton
Queensland, Australia in October 2017.
When my wife and I decided to return to Australia after visiting Sydney and Melbourne on an earlier trip, we wanted to focus on Queensland, with a special emphasis on the Great Barrier Reef. Although we could have laid out an itinerary and made the arrangements ourselves, the logistics in this part of the country can be a bit complicated, so we decided to contact Stuart. We are very happy that we did.
After providing Stuart lengthy descriptions of our desires, likes, and dislikes, he developed a plan specifically tailored to our interests, which included snorkeling, exposure to wildlife, cultural pursuits, and Australian cooking, all fit into a 3 week package. Stuart decided on using Brisbane as our home base for several multi-day excursions, and that worked well. We enjoyed multi-day stays in each of Brisbane, the bush country, the rainforest, and of course the Great Barrier Reef.
We had two distinctly different experiences on the Great Barrier Reef. One was land-based, on Lady Elliot Island, which lies near the southern end of the GBR and can be reached only by air. The other was a 4 night live-aboard cruise that covered the north end of the GBR. If I had planned this on my own, I would not have thought of dividing our stay into two locations. Stuart’s approach gave us a superior experience.
Our itinerary provided three full days in Brisbane, two at the beginning of the trip and one at the end. I harbored an unvoiced concern that three days would be too much, but I was wrong. Brisbane is an underappreciated city with many ways to delight a visitor. Stuart understood this. He arranged a full day tour of Brisbane on our first day there, giving us an opportunity to visit some of the areas that are a little out of the way and allowing us to decide where to spend our time on the two days we had on our own. That worked very well. Later in the trip, we had a full day tour of the Daintree Rainforest/Cape Tribulation area. On both occasions, we had excellent guides that were willing to make last minute adjustments to their plans to accommodate our evolving interests.
Stuart was also careful to give us unplanned time at each location to explore whatever caught our interest upon arrival. Stuart provided a list of suggestions for each stop but left the decisions on what to do up to us. That suited us perfectly. For example, in Brisbane, we were able to spend all the time we wanted at the excellent Gallery of Modern Art and Brisbane City Hall. And up north we had the chance to spend the better part of a day getting acquainted with the colorful town of Port Douglas.
Stuart’s active involvement in making trip arrangements was evident throughout our trip. We found ourselves getting VIP treatment wherever we went. At Spicer’s Hidden Vale one of the top chefs gave us a personal tour of the Market Garden, the source of many of the ingredients for their superb cuisine. The general manager at Elliot Island greeted us immediately upon our arrival, checked in with us several times, and then gave us a personal tour of his favorite spots on the island. Our cabin on the Coral Expeditions II was the best on the entire ship. We had the most desirable treehouse(cottage) at Silky Oaks and we were able to reserve the best view table for dinner each night of our stay. Taken together, these thoughtful touches took what would have been simply a delightful trip and turned it into something quite memorable.
Our advice for anyone considering Stuart? Give him a full data dump on what you want out of your trip. Stuart and his staff can handle lots of information. Be sure to let him know both your likes and dislikes. When he comes back with suggestions, give them careful thought. We did things we would not have considered if we had planned this trip ourselves, and it all turned out beautifully.
I just returned from Australia/New Zealand and to be honest I couldn’t have been more satisfied with not only Stuart and his associate Debbie’s assistance but also with the result of our collaboration. When I arrived in Melbourne, a packet with all of the details was in my room. Catherine picked me up for my tour to see the Koalas, have dinner at Harry’s and then on to see the Penguin Parade….where I was charmed by these small creatures. She was knowledgeable and we stopped at a few places along the way that she thought I might like. All in all, she was a delight.
My Helicopter tour to see the Great Ocean Road and the 12 Apostles was divine. It was my first helicopter and I loved it! The views were spectacular and my pilot was great fun to spend time with. Every detail was well coordinated and we finished up with a sweep around the city.
Paul, my tour guide to see the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, kept apologizing because the fog interfered with the views, but I assured him that in some ways it enhanced the experience. The botanical gardens were beautiful, the Waradah Aboriginal Center was very interesting and as Paul knows some of the folks there I was able to speak with them and gain more insight into their ways. He introduced me to the gentleman who had taught all of the participants in the program to play the didgeridoo and he played for me….what sublime sounds he creates from such a seemingly simple design. I stopped into the gallery there and was provided more information about the aboriginal art. Lunch at Echo was lovely and later when I mentioned to Paul that I had not seen a kangaroo in the wild, he promptly detoured to find some for me. When we returned to Sydney, Paul did a mini-tour of the city and along some of the back streets, I never would have found on my own.
All of my tour guides promptly found out what was of most interest to me and adapted the tour based on our conversation and didn’t hesitate to alter the plan as we talked.
I have loved my time in Australia and New Zealand, and my experience has been made all the better with the help of Stuart and Debbie.
I only have wonderful things to say about Stuart Rigg and his team. All of their staff were most helpful and accommodating with any of our questions and concerns. What was also fantastic was that we were able to change our itinerary as we needed, which worked out very well. Cate in the New Zealand office & Pam in the Sydney office were both excellent to work with. The accommodations, drivers and tour guides were all excellent. We have spoken highly of your company to friends here in Canada and have suggested that they use your services, should they want to travel to this part of the world.
We would use Stuart again – our trip was outstanding and everything went off without a hitch. Great properties, people, and experiences!!
Guides were well suited for the area and wonderful to spend the day with while driving or sightseeing. They accommodated our requests and provided schedule changes as needed. A special recognition to Carly in Sydney…she made our visit extra special with her amazing knowledge and flexibility.
We enjoyed the prepaid meal structure which we had not experienced before…a nice way to do it!
To conclude, we had our first Wendy Perrin WOW Experience which happened to be a seaplane ride over the Sydney Harbor and Opera House. This is something that we would not have thought to do ourselves and would have missed out big time! An amazing and fun experience…we even happen to get to travel up the coast a bit because the seaplane company needed to drop some passengers at a small resort destination. The views were stunning and provided a perspective we would not have had without Wendys WOW. Thank you Wendy for such a magnificent addition to an already outstanding adventure.
We have never been on a more wonderful trip. It was magical. Stuart and Tanya made sure that everything was absolutely perfect and we just cannot say enough good things about their work for us. (August, 2017 trip to Hamilton Island, Daintree, Kangaroo Island, and Sydney).
Stuart and Pam on his team really got to know what kind of things interested us. Also when the resort we were going to at the barrier reef got hit by a cyclone, they reached out to us with options that were great just 6 weeks or so before we were going. They actually crafted probably the highlight to the trip by suggesting the Barrosa Valley. Also, everything they booked was really well done. There were no cutting corners.
I truly have nothing but great things to say about Stuart and Pam. I called them as we were planning several times. Always able to help. Explained things clearly. We had only good surprises on our trip. There dining choices in Barrosa were out of this world. Tour guides. Rich and Lingering in Barrosa was perfect. Richard for the hunter valley truly world class. Also, the walking tour guide really took up to parts of Sydney I would have never seen.
My wife and I had a great trip that was planned by Stuart Rigg and his team. Their impeccable planning was a key component to helping us navigate and enjoy two countries, AU and NZ, with which we had no prior experience. The hotels were great (we often got corner rooms with views for the normal price), the route was trouble free and the tours and suggestions never failed. The best item, for me, was the Abel Tasman National Park cruise. The operator was superb and we would have had to be extremely lucky to have found this small company on our own. Most people were on large, crowded boats. Ours had 4 people, and the captain was also an ecologist. I could go on… I highly recommend Stuart and his team.
My wife and I have used Stuart Rigg and his team on two occasions. On both trips, everything proceeded without a hitch—resort and car reservations all equaled or exceeded our expectations, our adventure activities guides were top-notch, and our various transfer drivers always arrived a bit early. But what really distinguished Stuart in our mind was the way he handled the “unexpected emergency” when we found ourselves stranded in Lamington National Park with the only exit road closed because of rock/mud slides and fallen trees caused by Cyclone Debbie that battered Queensland during the first days of March 2017. The resort we were staying at could do nothing more than keep us up-to-date on efforts to reopen the road. Fortunately, one call to Stuart’s cell phone late on a Friday night (i.e. it was after normal office hours) ended with him arranging for a helicopter to pick us up the next day to fly us back to Brisbane. His ability to do this was especially impressive because almost all helicopters in the greater Brisbane area had been diverted to rescue work.
We’ve traveled extensively. Most travel agents are good at doing the easy stuff. But exceptional agents like Stuart Rigg have the contacts and ability to get the traveler out of unforeseen jams.
March 2017 / Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and surrounding areas
For our first trip to Australia in February 2017, Stuart carefully considered our interests and ideas and turned this into a well-organized itinerary that was truly custom-fit. We spent 9 days in Sydney with side trips to the Blue Mountains, the Hunter Valley and Uluru. The companies he worked with for tours and activities where clearly top-notch, as were the accommodations. All the transfers and hand-offs worked seamlessly. During our trip we noticed that Stuart and his team kept in touch with the hotels and tour operators continuously to assure that we had their full attention to our needs.
I decided to look for a travel agent when planning a last minute extended trip to Australia during the holiday season. Because of the timing, I was having problems both narrowing down what I wanted to do and finding openings for hotels. After using Wendy’s site, I was contacted by Stuart who asked a number of questions that helped me focus on what I really wanted out of my trip. The itinerary he and his assistant Sophie came up with perfectly incorporated my preferences to see all I could in Sydney and have time at the spa and the beach. Given the short time frame, we only had time to exchange comments on the first draft itinerary before I arrived in Australia, so I was very impressed and grateful when Sophie called me at my hotel to talk through final changes. I had never done formal tours when traveling before and was incredibly impressed with their chosen guides/vendors. Every tour went above and beyond my expectations, whether one-on-one or in a small group. For example, instead of the usual wine tasting tour of a few varieties at several vineyards, our guide gave an instructive lesson in how to properly conduct wine tasting and the opportunity to taste almost all of the wines at a high-quality vineyard. The hotels they booked were also excellent, and I greatly appreciated Stuart reaching out to ensure things were going well during the trip. Thank you so much for the service you provide!
Stuart Rigg booked us a wonderful trip over the 2016 Christmas holidays. We took our 14 year old grandson with us and requested that the plans include events that would be enjoyable to him. We were booked at Hayman Island resort where we went open ocean snorkeling; at the Wolgan Valley resort where we enjoyed a wide variety of native animals (kangaroos by the score; wombats, etc.); and in Sydney (at Park Hyatt) where we visited the zoo and had surf lessons at Manley and Bondi beaches. We finished with New Years Eve at the Sydney Opera House where we enjoyed the amazing fireworks over the harbor. All in all a wonderful experience.
Stuart Rigg provided us with an amazing Australian experience. I would – and have – refer them to anyone, including my family and close friends. Not only were the hotels we stayed at well located, the rooms we requested for views etc were exactly what we asked for. The guides they provided were probably the best thing about our trip. They were beyond friendly and extremely knowledgeable. I would highly recommend the walking tour in Melbourne. You got a feel for the City and saw outstanding street art.
We highly recommend Stuart Rigg and his team for an Australia tour. We had a great planning experience prior to being in country for 2 weeks and good contact once we were there. We had requested boutique hotels or 4-5 star city hotels and were very pleased with the selections and treatment. Everything was planned thoroughly and every guide and driver was on time and organized.
Because of illness, we had to dial back a bit on a couple of the scheduled activities. Stuart and his assistant Debbie were great. They arranged to modify one tour to add on what we had missed a prior day. They touched base along the way. Each guide and driver said Stuart and his team were great to work with, very detailed and very thorough from their perspective, too. The private guides were exceptional. We had requested tours that omitted forts and churches and museums, preferring to get a feel for neighborhoods and culture, and aboriginal sites, and were very satisfied. We also used the Stuart’s office in Auckland to organize our week in New Zealand, also with excellent results.
Stuart Rigg and Debbie, on his team, organized an absolutely amazing trip for us! We contacted them in July 2016 to help us with our anniversary trip to Australia for October 2016. We had started doing research and planning out where we wanted to go but were having issues with the logistics of the trip. We also didn’t really have any idea for the transfers, the order of travel and how long we should stay in each place. We were a bit late in the game planning the whole thing and were worried we wouldn’t be able to stay at all the places on our list, many of which were small and in high demand.
Our initial contact with Stuart was via email, but they quickly organized a time that we could all talk on the phone to get the ball rolling, which was very helpful. We spoke for about 45 minutes, we told them what we liked and disliked when we traveled, the places we thought we wanted to go, hotels we had researched, and type of travelers we were, and they provided information about each of the places, feedback on hotel options, and answered our questions. We had round trip tickets to Sydney, Michelle definitely wanted to go to Uluru, and I wanted to make sure we went to Tasmania, and both of us wanted to go to Great Barrier Reef. The exact places, the sequencing, what we did, and how long we stayed was up in the air. The rest of the planning took place via email; despite the time difference the communication always seemed quick. We asked lots of questions and waffled on some things but the emails were always friendly and never felt short or like we were being too demanding. Based on our previous travel experiences they made recommendations for hotels and activities to quickly finalize an itinerary that ended up being spot on. We imagine putting the itinerary together to be a bit like a puzzle to accommodate openings at the various hotels and for specific activities. We had to crisscross the eastern part of the country a bit, but they fit in every single place and activity we wanted.
Execution of the trip was virtually flawless from the second our driver George met us in the airport on October 2nd to when he dropped us back off October 16th. During all of our transfers our drivers were always there before the allotted pick up time, never rushing us, but silently waiting for us to either arrive in airport or come down to lobby. We never had to wait on anyone or try and figure out when we needed to be somewhere because they had let us know ahead of time. Not having to worry about all the transfers for our 5 flights really took some of the stress of travel off of us and made the whole trip more enjoyable. And other than a weather issue in Hobart we didn’t have any issues the whole trip with activities, hotels, checkins, checkouts, or anything really. We fit a lot into a two week trip but it was the perfect amount, we honestly don’t think we could have or would have wanted to do more and it didn’t feel like we were too rushed either. Every place we stayed was spot on for us, it was a good mix of perfect locations, luxury, and privacy. Each place we stayed was aware it was our anniversary trip, and most places went out of their way to do or provide something special for us. We also had a welcome card and champagne from Stuart and his team to start our trip and a nice bottle of wine and a cheese plate for our final night.
We had communication with Stuart and Debbie throughout the trip, they helped finalize some dinner reservations and spa appointments as we went along, just as during planning they were easy to contact and quick to respond. We also had a phone call from Debbie to check in and make sure we enjoyed ourselves and we discovered they’d been checking in with hotel staff the whole trip to make sure everything was going perfectly.
We would definitely recommend Stuart and his team to anyone looking to go to Australia and hope to use them again on a return trip!
Wendy Perrin, you recommended Stuart Rigg to us and he got us the most amazing small boat cruise to see the NYE fireworks on Sidney Harbor the year before last – it had been my husband’s dream to do this! His expertise was priceless – there were many to choose from online but you don’t really know what you are getting for sure, so having an expert from the area was imperative. He got us a great one and at a better price than we could have gotten booking on our own. He also helped to book the rest of our trip – we knew a lot if what we wanted to do and he got it done and often found better choices for us on places to stay – like an amazing apartment style hotel in Sydney. Thank you!!! We recommend him highly!!! And NYE/Winter Break was the most amazing time to go to Australia! We went with our 4 teenaged kids and had a blast!
We used Stuart Rigg with Southern Crossings for our August 2016 trip to Australia. We spent time in Sydney, The Kimberly and North Queensland. From the outset, dealing with Southern Crossings was simple and efficient. Their guidance was invaluable and they handled all of the bookings for our hotels, transfers and day trips (both private and group tours). Everything up until we arrived in Australia was handled via email (much easier when there’s a 14 hour time difference between you and your travel agent), and when we arrived in Sydney, they had a representative from the company greet us at the airport and ride into the city with us. Every hotel we stayed at was lovely and in a fabulous location. Every tour they recommended was excellent. Above all, I liked knowing that I had a resource in Australia to help should any problems arise. HIGHLY recommend! They made me look like a hero to my family and we all enjoyed the trip of a lifetime.
Totally smooth and perfectly arranged.
We used Stuart Rigg based on Wendy Perrin’s recommendation. From the planning to the execution, Stuart’s team was very informative, helpful, and did their best to accommodate whatever we wanted. They gave us the restaurants we requested, and even recommended to try certain restaurants in some cities, which turned out to be really good restaurants.
Our trip was flawless and hassle free, the arrangement was perfect, and they appointed the best vendors in every city we visited. From limousine transfers to the different city tours, all the selected vendors performed their best.
Stuart gave us a call during the trip to make sure everything went well.
It was definitely one of our most memorable journies. We surely will contact them again for our next visit, and definitely recommend to our friends and families.
My wife and I traveled with two friends on a return trip to Australia arranged completely by Stuart Riggs. We started in Hobart staying at the very unique and comfortable Henry Jones Art Hotel and then traveled to Freycinet and were treated like royalty at Saffire, a 20 room lodge overlooking Wine Glass Bay. Our stay at Saffire was exquisite– excellent food and impeccable service. Great hiking and delicious oyster harvesting. From there we traveled to Melbourne to visit some friends and we stayed at the Park Hyatt which was very comfortable. Our traveling companions went on to Bali and we traveled to Daintree and stayed at Silky Oaks, again a very comfortable accommodation. I do wish they had a better gym, but everything else was great. Rick, our guide in the Daintree Forest was excellent. From Daintree, we flew to Lizard Island and again the accommodations, food and extremely personal service were exceptional. The diving and snorkeling was quite good but there were unfortunate evidences of coral bleaching that really did not interfere with the array of fish. One dive site which is a must is Cod Hole where you are greeted by the most incredibly docile and huge potato cod. Finally we returned to Sydney, a beautiful city which we had visited 10 years before and it had all the grace and beauty and sophistication which we had remembered. One of the highlights was staying in another Park Hyatt Hotel, overlooking the harbor and the Opera House and each night we were totally entertained and fascinated by the Vivid artistic lighting display on the Opera House structure. Stuart did an exemplary job for us. We loved our trip.
My husband and I just completed a trip, March 2016, to Australia and New Zealand with the help of Stuart Riggs at Southern Crossing in Australia. Everything went very smoothly, he gave us great options to choice from, arranged all hotel, air, transfers, most importantly he listened to what we wanted. We had speciality guides for custom private tours that were arranged specifically for us.
Our guide in the Blue Mountains, Tim Tranter took us on a 5 hour walk in the mountains and pointed out the different biospheres that we walked though and discussed the landscape. Who knew the trees didn’t lose their leaves in the fall..they lose their bark.
Lord Howe Island was just what we needed for a few days after the long flight. We snorkeled and saw so many beautiful fish and we swam with a four foot turtle!
New Zealand was equally as beautiful. Milford Sound is not to be missed and Queenstown was a delight. Darryl Gunn, our guide from Black, was a fifth generation New Zealander who was very enthusiastic about showing us the back county where you could only go with four wheel drive. That was an awesome trip, we really enjoyed Darryl’s stories regarding the area when he was growing up in Queenstown and his sharing stories from the region during his grandfathers time.
Everything was just as we wanted and Stuart’s team called us several times while we were in Australia/NZ just to check-in and let us know they were there to help if we needed anything.
I would definitely recommend using them if you are traveling to that part of the world.
All the places we stayed in were fantastic and fitted the criteria we discussed with Stuart in advance. All arrangements went smoothly as planned. The only improvement would be that normally on self drive holidays I expect a map, some driving directions and suggestions of where to stop off. None of this was in the arrival package. Some of the drives were long and I am not sure whether this could have been mitigated by using more regional airlines. However, I would not have wanted to miss any of the destinations, apart from Penola.
Stuart Rigg from Southern Crossings is The Best for planning your trip to Australia. I had a complicated trip with 14 plane flights, multiple destinations, half by myself, half with others. Stuart did the Australia portion and handled my specific requests beautifully. He kept it within budget, found me the perfect hotel and guide in Hobart, Tasmania who took care of me perfectly for 4 days, and ensured that the rest of the trip to the Great Barrier Reef with drivers and flights in between all went smoothly. Thank you, Wendy and Stuart. My trip exceeded my expectations because of you!
Stuart Rigg and Jane Reynolds with Southern Crossings helped prepare an absolutely amazing trip for my wife and I. Southern Crossings helped us experience as much of Australia as we could fit into a two week holiday, and patiently worked with us through several iterations of our itinerary as we finalized our ultimate plans. The suggested tour companies were as advertised, and the organized transfers helped us enjoy seamless travel throughout the country – from enjoying everything Sydney has to offer, to shark cage diving in Port Lincoln, diving the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns, and sailing the Whitsundays. Would recommend Southern Crossings to anyone interested in traveling to Australia.
Stuart and his team were a pleasure to work with. They organized a thoughtful itinerary that was responsive to our multiple and sometimes conflicting desires and filled with creative and luxurious elements. Logistics were handled seamlessly, as if Stuart was at our side throughout. Where problems arose (as they inevitably do), Stuart helped to address and resolve them quickly. We would gladly work with the Southern Crossings team again, and in fact already intend to.
The land travel was smooth. The day trips were well thought out and fun. The recommended hotels were perfect. The welcoming gifts were wonderful. We were delighted with our experience.
We knew we wanted to go to Australia and that’s about it. Both Stuart and Debbie were very knowledgeable and helpful when it came to suggestions of where to go and what to see; even what restaurants were worth a visit. When I had a health issue and had to cancel my trip, then turned around days later and wanted to re-book, they were understanding and quick to recapture my itinerary. We had ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEMS with Southern Crossings’ plans for us. Everything went off as planned. Every time we needed a driver, one was there. Even when our flights were late, someone was there to meet us. We had wonderful tours with the best of tour directors. As far as the planning and travel advice were concerned, our trip was perfection. WHEN we take our next trip down-under I will call Stuart and Debbie and no other.
Stuart Rigg of Southern Crossings put together a fabulous trip to Australia for our family. My husband and I took our sons, ages sixteen and thirteen, and there was something for each of us on this trip. We stayed at beautiful properties and had magnificent experiences. We will cherish our memories forever. We felt like we really experienced Australia. Stuart and his staff were so friendly and easy to work with, and they took our preferences into account. I would highly recommend Stuart to anyone thinking of going to Australia.
Stuart and his team did an incredible job planning our dream honeymoon. After a long wedding planning process, the last thing we wanted to do was deal with the stress and uncertainty of planning a trip to the other side of the world. After describing our travel style and preferences to Stuart, he immediately provided us with an impeccable itinerary that incorporated all of our must-sees along with other great suggestions that we hadn’t known about. It also balanced the level of luxury we were seeking with our budget as newlyweds. Not only did we have an incredible time exploring Australia and Fiji, but every detail was accounted for along the way—all of our connections, reservations, pickups and tours were executed perfectly and promptly. We can’t say enough good things about the level of professionalism and care that was provided by Stuart and everyone at Southern Crossings. Thank you!
Worked with southern crossings for a trip to Australia over the holidays. In retrospect, we are very happy that we worked with them. They did an excellent job of listening to what we were looking for and provided constructive and candid feedback. The tour guides they used were excellent. They were constantly available during our trip for restaurant reservations and the like (despite the holiday). Also were able to come up with contingency options when flight schedules changed or when resorts were shut down due to weather (Lizard Island).
Spent Thanksgiving week in Sydney on a trip planned by Stuart Rigg and his team at Southern Crossings. Marvelous from start to finish. The specialists asked us great questions (not too many, and fun questions like “what is a favorite memory from another first time trip to an international city?”). We replied and they offered us really great suggestions, so many that we had trouble picking. They gave some helpful feedback, then booked everything, from someone meeting the plane on arrival to departure. We loved every minute of the trip they arranged, some of our favorites were a seaplane tour, which landed for a divine lunch at a quaint cottage; a day with Suzanne Ackerman of Walkabout Tours seeing beach towns, art galleries and neighborhoods; a sail around Sydney harbor; and a hike with an Aboriginal expert talking about plants and wildlife. When a small problem with a vendor for a planned fishing trip arose, Stuart and the team handled it without a fuss so we could zip on to our next activity. We were particularly pleased that our travel specialists paid careful attention to our group’s needs and abilities (ranging from a 60 year old to two energetic college kids) so that everyone enjoyed every activity. The documentation Stuart’s team provided was detailed so we had contact names, phone numbers, drivers waiting, etc. every step of the way. And a 24 hour a day hot linking us to Stuart’s team was also appreciated.
Wanted to formally thank you and your staff (especially Jane) for the wonderful trip. Everything was as promised and we had “the trip of a lifetime” which will provide many pleasant memories for years to come. All properties were wonderful. Great locations, outstanding rooms and excellent service. The Park Hyatt and Southern Ocean properties were quite special. Our guides were terrific and ensured we saw and experienced as much as possible. All airport transfers and flight arrangements went well too and helped to ease the city transitions. The Sydney Bridge Climb was actually easier than we imagined and the pictures will serve to prove to friends and family members that we actually did it. Thanks for your encouragement. The flight along the Great Ocean Road coast was another special moment that will long be remembered. Of course, we have many shots of the Remarkable Rocks and our Flinders Chase adventures and that day is burned into our memory.
The country is vast and we feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to see so much of it in just under 3 weeks. We certainly hope to return one day and experience a bit more. Again, many thanks for orchestrating our fabulous adventure.
We recently returned (October/November 2014) from a fabulous three-week visit to Australia organized by Stuart Rigg at Southern Crossings. We outlined our interests (animals, nature, and history), travel preferences (including some hotels), and general guidelines on timing and budget, and Stuart came back with a thoughtful, well-paced itinerary that met our criteria. We started with three days in Sydney, moving on to Orpheus Island for three days of recovery time (Stuart’s suggested substitute when Lizard Island was damaged by the cyclone), then to the Daintree Rainforest and Kuranda, four days on Kangaroo Island, four days in Tasmania, and finally two days in Melbourne. The private tours he organized were all outstanding, led by very experienced guides. I would strongly recommend using Southern Crossings for a trip to Australia.
Our family group of six adults have just returned from two weeks in Australia on a tour orchestrated by Stuart Rigg and his staff. It was very well planned and executed and gave us a good mix of experiences to savor. All of us are raving to all we encounter about what a fabulous trip we had. We got to know and enjoy the cosmopolitan and vibrant nature of both Sydney and Melbourne while taking in the best of both cities and their environs, hiking in the Blue Mountains, traversing the Great Ocean Road and watching the penguin parade on Phillip Island were all wonderful and memorable adventures. For all of us getting to know Sydney and Melbourne through various touring experiences, enjoying our own explorations or partaking in the food and nightlife of each city were all highlights.
The snorkeling we did with the small group operator that Stuart arranged for us at the Great Barrier Reef was spectacular. Four Mile Beach is breathtaking and the rainforest excursion was so informative and enjoyable. Stuart recommended that we make Port Douglas our base for our visit to this area and it was a marvelous suggestion. Uluru was fascinating, and seeing the Rock at sunrise and sunset was breathtaking. Learning about the Aboriginal people—their history, customs and religion—was very interesting.
All in all this was a very well balanced trip that made the most of our time. Stuart put together an itinerary that was reflective of our stated interests and budget. We can all wholeheartedly recommend Southern Crossings to help you with your travel experiences in Australia.
We worked with Stuart and Debbie to create a custom tour with some difficult requirements: We needed to be in Brisbane, Sydney, Brisbane on successive weekends; we wanted a few off-the beaten-path locations; and we needed to eat in places that are accommodating to people with food sensitivities.
Stuart was wonderful. We had the smoothest vacation ever. Australia itself is terrific—friendly people, stunning vistas and a real range of options from the Outback to the Sydney Symphony, from a private cruise in Sydney Harbour to a self-driving experience fighting for a share of the road with triple road trains in the Outback. It is a magnificent country to visit, and Stuart is the perfect travel planner for whatever type of experience you want it to be.
I called on Stuart this past winter to help me arrange a trip to Melbourne, for the Australian Open tennis tourney, and then for a two-week business trip to Sydney, with a short pit stop somewhere-anywhere-in-the-country in between. He and his team did a flawless job. I’m a big DIY kind of traveler, haven’t worked with agents much, and won’t ever plan a big trip without one going forward. In Melbourne he booked me at The Olsen in Melbourne, where my next door neighbor was tennis player Serena Williams (Venus was right down the hall and I believe Lleyton Hewitt was also on the same floor—so heady location). He got me terrific tickets to the tennis, as well. Then it was on to Daylesford, which was lovely, and in Sydney he had found me a flat to rent in the neighborhood I requested. It was all perfect… (Oh, and Stuart, looks like I’m coming back…).
The bonus I didn’t expect was that Stuart’s team was so thorough and so responsive that I felt like I had friends on tap should I need them in a place so very far from home.