From Italy’s alps to Victoria’s peaks – how Hedonistic Hiking evolved

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Jackie Parsons is the British half of the Anglo-Australian couple behind the luxury gourmet hiking company Hedonistic Hiking, who met in Italy, falling in love while were working together as tour guides.


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Jackie hails from England’s flat coastal county of Norfolk, which perhaps explains why she was attracted to hills and mountains.  While studying languages at university (she is fluent in four languages) and developing an interest in Latin cultures, she travelled to Mexico and the South American Andes, before returning home where she found herself leading tours across Europe.  

Meanwhile, Mick grew up in Victoria, developing a love of nature and knowledge of the Australian bush from a young age.  He trained as a professional chef and worked his way across Australia before migrating to Europe where he too worked as a tour guide. Mick and  Jackie were guiding tours for Contiki through Italy when they met, fell in love and in 2007 fulfilled a life-long ambition they both held to start their own tour company. Hedonistic Hiking was born . 

“Researching new tours is something we really enjoy – it is so exciting to hike new trails, discover new places and then pull it all together into a tour. We both love history and culture so are always drawn to areas which have a fascinating story,” Jackie said.

Drawn together by a mutual love of food, wine and the outdoors, when they decided to put down roots in Australia, Jackie was deeply drawn to north-east Victoria. The high peaks and the green, fertile alpine valleys reminded her of her beloved Italy, and the large number of Italian wine-growing families in the region made her feel instantly at home.

2020 has tossed up challenges, though the restrictions on Australians travelling to Europe have provided a silver lining for Hedonistic Hiking. Jackie and Mick have taken the opportunity to develop new tours in some of Victoria’s best hiking country.

“With theses new tours closer to home we’re looking forward to introducing our guests to our local area, and bringing much needed business back into the region after a tough year of bushfires and Covid.” Jackie said.


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Jackie and Mick have three passions in life: great food, fine wine and hiking in awe-inspiring  landscapes.  Until 2020’s disruption to their European season, they enjoyed a double life – living and working in Italy from April to November and returning to the Victorian High Country to guide tours in the Australian summer.  Their guided gourmet walking tours in Italy take hikers all over the peninsula, from the high mountains of the Alps and Dolomites in the north, through the olive groves and vineyards of Tuscany and Umbria, all the way to the pristine Pollino National Park in the far south.

These hiking tours combine stunning scenery with fabulous food and accommodation underpinned by personal connections, relationships and friendships Jackie and Mick have forged with hoteliers, restauranteurs and suppliers over the years. As they design, research and personally guide each tour, guests benefit from these close bonds with an intimate tour, akin to travelling with a bunch of friends.


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Food is an incredibly important element of each hiking tour. Local cuisine varies hugely from region to region and Jackie and Mick always like to share local culinary traditions and give guests the chance to taste prized ingredients.  When you travel on foot, you literally walk through the menu each day – dishes that arrive for dinner reflect exactly the produces, growers and fields you have seen while hiking.  The same goes for the wine with local grape varieties selected to complement the flavours of the traditional specialities.  This focus on local produce has the same importance on Hedonistic Hiking’s tours in Italy and Australia, with Jackie and Mick constantly tracking down suppliers of the very best ingredients in their local area.

Spending more time in Australia this year has enabled Jackie and Mick to research new hikes in their home territory. Bright and the Victorian High Country are exciting new additions, plus they have ventured further afield to design new tours along the Goldfields Track near Castlemaine and in the Grampians.  Tapping into the area’s history and its traditional owners is an important element says Jacki.

“On the South West Coast and Grampians tour we are going to have a private visit to the only UNESCO World Heritage listed landscape in Australia – Budj Bim – where you can walk as a guest on Gunditjmara country and experience a culture that is over 60,000 years old. You will see remnants of a settled lifestyle
including circular stone dwellings and the remains of Australia’s first and largest freshwater stone aquaculture system.”

For the first time, Hedonistic Hiking are offering day hikes from Bright, exploring the Ovens Valley and trails on the plateau of Mount Buffalo, the unique granite mountain that lies west of Bright.

New Victorian guided tours for 2020/2021

Highlights of the Goldfields Track – On the trail of a golden history

Escape to Bright – Head to Victoria’s high country for walking and wellness

Day Hike in the Victorian Country – Choose a hike to suit your experience and interests

More information: Hedonistic Hiking

About the author: Fiona Harper is a Queensland-based travel writer – follow Fiona at Travel Boating Lifestyle


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