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InterNATIONAL PARKtours and Binna Burra Lodge: The family connection

InterNATIONAL PARKtours and Binna Burra Lodge: The family connection

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interNATIONAL PARKtours (IPT) was formed in 1975 and has a unique link to Binna Burra Mountain Lodge in Beechmont, Queensland.

IPT is owned by adventurer Lisa Groom, however the adventure originally began back in 1933 with pioneer, journalist, and explorer Arthur Groom.

Arthur is Lisa’s grandfather. He was a visionary man whose dedication, ideas and drive led to the creation of Binna Burra Mountain Lodge. A plaque at the entrance to Binna Burra dedicated to Arthur says: ‘To a man who loved and understood the bush and found his happiness sharing it with others’.

Arthur’s son, Tony Groom, says this short sentence sums up his father’s life. Arthur’s journey to Binna Burra began with a trip to the neighbouring O’Reilly’s Plateau where he worked as a guide. During a long walk he discovered the peak where Binna Burra now sits and tried to interest the O’Reilly family in establishing another camp there. But they were already committed on Green Mountain, and so Arthur decided to do it himself.

His early vision was to create a place where people could stay and experience the beauty of the Lamington National Park. This place was not to be a five-star, luxury resort, its entire focus was to be on helping visitors appreciate the natural wonders which surrounded them.

Arthur teamed with engineer and road builder, Romeo Lahey and together they formed Queensland Holiday Resorts Ltd, a company which offered shares to anyone who was interested. The initial offering attracted small donations – times were tough and the world was in an international depression. In order to generate more interest Arthur and Romeo organised a month-long holiday camp atop Binna Burra in December 1933.

Despite incredible and ferocious storms which drenched the mountain top and hammered the camp with gale force winds, the camp of 80 people was deemed a success, and Binna Burra Mountain Lodge grew from there.

Arthur met and married Marjorie who was holidaying at Binna Burra with her sister, and together they had three sons, Richard, Tony and Donn. When Tony was 14, Arthur died of a heart attack, the sad, premature end to a lifetime of heart troubles. And that’s how at the age of 21 Tony found himself following in the footsteps of his father. Arthur’s passion became Tony’s passion when his father passed away before his time.

“The place ran down for the next seven years after dad’s death,” says Tony. “The managers at the time didn’t understand what it was there for and the board decided they were going to close the Lodge. I was at the shareholder’s meeting and someone said, ‘Why don’t you go and run it?'.

I had very fond memories of the place because I grew up here but I wasn’t a businessman, I couldn’t read a balance sheet, but I knew what the place was here for. Dad had always said, ‘All you have to do is give them a hot shower, a good bed and a good feed and let the park do the rest.’”

“The 1970's and 1980's were a boom period for the lodge, we renovated the old buildings, built new ones, built the teahouse, I just had a good team,” says Tony. “I was young and full of energy, I didn’t worry about taking a holiday for years.” During this time, the company bought Carnarvon Lodge and land at Girraween National Park. There was so much happening that Tony called on his two brothers, Donn and Richard, to help out and for many years they worked a rotation system of management of the lodge.

Connie Gartside was a regular visitor to the lodge in the 1960’s. She then became the assistant manager and then Tony’s wife in 1967. They had two children, Lisa and Dave.

During his time at the Lodge, Tony was offered a Churchill Fellowship to study visitor facilities in the national parks of North America. He spent four months exploring the iconic parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon. When he returned to the lodge, regular guests asked him when he was going to create a tour! The inaugural group tour went back to those grand national parks over 5 weeks and cost $1760. The company interNATIONAL PARKtours was born with this first tour to the west coast of North America and now offers 25-30 tours worldwide each year.

Tony’s children Lisa & Dave became avid travellers with the same sense of adventure as Tony & Arthur. They were raised at Binna Burra Lodge, and still reside on the mountain to this day. Dave’s creativity led him to become a formidable landscape artist and his works are exhibited in his Studio Gallery on the mountain. Lisa started working as a tour leader with IPT in the early 1990’s and took over the reins of the business from her parents in 2001. Her connection to Binna Burra Mountain Lodge led her to become a director of the board for nine years until 2017. Tony is still active in the business in that both he, still accompanies a few tour groups each year.

Arthur Groom’s legacy and passion for nature lives on in Tony, in his grandchildren Lisa & Dave, and his great-grandchildren, Luke, Inari & Eliza. In fact, Inari has just commenced a job at Binna Burra as a guest activities guide, following in the footsteps of her great-grandfather.

Lisa’s passion for IPT is unparalleled. In the ten years that she has been running the company, she has scouted for tours and guided groups in some of the most diverse and awe-inspiring corners of the planet. “Travel is a privilege, an education, a revelation and, dare I say, a way of realising our similarities and bridging the differences. There is a world of wild places waiting to be discovered”.

Pictured above: three generations of adventurers - Tony Groom, Lisa Groom and Inari Beyer

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