Sight impairment no barrier for experiencing Sydney’s famous sites

Famous sightseeing hot spots around Sydney like the Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley, Manly, Kiama and the famous Sea Cliff Bridge along the Illawarra Escarpment, are now easily and regularly accessible for the blind and low vision community with the launch of Cocky Guides, a new multi-sensory tourism venture.

Cocky Guides have launched eight tactile and sensory tours from Sydney, allowing vision impaired travellers unique experiences and access to some of Sydney and New South Wales most visited sites. The more popular day trips include a tactile sculpture walk at Manly, an opportunity to meet the farmers at the local market in Kiama and a visit to the world heritage listed Blue Mountains by train.

“We’ve been running trips the past six months and building our capability with blind and low vision community groups across Sydney, the Hunter and Illawarra. Our collaborative approach to product development has resulted in a program of group adventures offering low cost support for active community members, allowing participants to experience popular tourism destinations.” said founder of Cocky Guides, James McFarlane.

Gina, a recent traveller and low vision community member, loves the support Cocky Guides provide.

“Absolutely brilliant experience. I gained a lot of confidence with your support and as a group we all enjoyed it tremendously. We wish you would let us know when the next trip is going! We hope you will continue to provide this service as it’s so important for [our] community to be able to participate,” Gina said.

In 2016 Vision Australia estimated there are 384,000 people in Australia who are blind or have low vision. The 2018 annual report from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT estimated 122,000 people in NSW and the ACT have a vision impairment serious enough to affect their everyday lives.

“I’ve spent over 10 years in tourism roles in Australia and Europe. Not once had I met a blind traveller. I found this very surprising considering the estimated number of people with a vision impairment in Australia alone. I launched Cocky Guides to make travel fun, safe and accessible for the blind and low vision community,” James McFarlane said.

Cocky Guides run regular tactile and sensory group adventures from Sydney. For more information phone 1300 657 640 or visit