Geotales and geotrails – collaborative geotourism initiatives and implications for new visitor experiences in regional NSW

Fleming, Guy1; Boyd, Ron2

1 Geological Survey of New South Wales, Department of Regional NSW, Maitland, Australia, 2 University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia

Geotrails provide an excellent opportunity to create new, place-based visitor experiences in regional locations that are self-guided, have low environmental or infrastructure impact, and are ideally suited to the social-distancing requirements of our post-COVID world. Several new geotrails have been successfully developed by the Geological Survey of New South Wales (GSNSW) in highly collaborative partnerships with the University of Newcastle, other local stakeholders and site custodians, with a longer-term aim of creating a network of geotrails across the state.

Geotourism is defined as tourism that focuses on an area’s geology and landscape as the basis of fostering sustainable tourism development. Geotrails provide this geotourism experience through visitor engagement, learning and enjoyment using an earth science approach. GSNSW’s geotrails are delivered in the form of free, self-guided apps for mobile devices, brochures, web content and signage (if supported by site custodians). Additional high-quality digital content such as spoken word audio, video, virtual and augmented reality imagery and podcasts can provide even richer content to support the geotrail.

Geotrails also provide an opportunity to incorporate complementary information, such as Aboriginal or European heritage, mining heritage and ecological features that have a relationship to the geology and landscape at a place. Integration of complementary information also adds greatly to visitor engagement and buy-in from local stakeholders or site custodians and can act as an enabler at relatively under-developed sites.

Best-practice geotrails are constructed around existing tourist routes that provide a logical and safe journey, incorporate local biodiversity and culture, meet the needs of visitors and local stakeholders, and allow for co-design and collaboration with local community and stakeholders during production.  Recently completed GSNSW geotrails at Port Macquarie, Newcastle and Warrumbungle National Park illustrate a best-practice approach for successful design and development based on practical experience.


Guy Fleming is a manager geoscientist at the Geological Survey of NSW. Guy has been playing a leading role in the design and production of geotrails at Port Macquarie, Newcastle and Warrumbungle National Park, with two geotrails in development along the Darling River and Mutawintji National Park in western NSW

About the GSA

The Geological Society of Australia was established as a non-profit organisation in 1952 to promote, advance and support Earth sciences in Australia.

As a broadly based professional society that aims to represent all Earth Science disciplines, the GSA attracts a wide diversity of members working in a similarly broad range of industries.