Cultural tourism venture thrives on the Coast
  • Friday 20 November 2020

Local Saltwater man Simon Thornalley has combined his passion for the ocean, Indigenous culture and extensive maritime experience into a unique tourism venture on the Sunshine Coast.

Launched in early 2020, Saltwater Eco Tours focuses on sustainable tourism and providing authentic experiences aboard the 100-year-old timber vessel Spray of the Coral Coast based in Mooloolaba.

Simon, a young First Nations man of Torres Strait Island descent, was born on the Sunshine Coast and introduced to sailing by his parents who were world class sailors and adventurers. He continued his passion through commercial diving, maritime operations and being a skipper.

This love of the ocean inspired his vision to establish an eco-tourism business which he developed in consultation with the Kabi Kabi peoples to share their culture and wisdom of the Sunshine Coast’s ecological diversity.

“Building a company from the ground up has been a huge learning experience for me and I am incredibly grateful for the skills I have been able to gain,” Simon said.

“We continually refined the business model with some help from a range of industry experts, however I always ensured I stayed true to my own vision.

“I have been fortunate to meet so many passionate and knowledgeable people through networking and other events that helped get the name out into the community.

“I want to continue to expand the business on the Sunshine Coast, ensuring I support other local businesses, the Indigenous community and to help bring visitors to our region,” Simon said.

“Sunshine Coast Council has been supportive throughout the whole journey, from my first meeting when all I had was an idea, to providing marketing and business opportunities since launching the business.”

Simon’s advice to other businesses is: Never give up and stay true to your own vision.

“The business model I envisioned included countless hurdles to overcome and I was told by many that some of my ideas were impossible to achieve.

“Through persistence and a driving passion we have since managed to overcome most of those hurdles and created the exact business I had envisioned,” said Simon.

Community Portfolio Councillor David Law said that he is thrilled to see Saltwater Eco Tours succeeding.

“Mr Thornalley worked closely with Sunshine Coast Council to ensure the business responded to a growing demand for immersive cultural experiences, while at the same time providing employment opportunities for local First Nation peoples.”

Hear more about Simon’s journey in the Bound for Success business podcast.

Local Business Champions: Sharing Stories highlights the success and capability of our local business community.

The series acknowledges local business efforts, whether it’s a change in their business models to grow current or new business; new business ideas to recover from COVID; or an inspiring story from a local business owner.

Are you a Local Business Champion or do you know of someone who is? Tell us your story by emailing

Local Business Champions: sharing stories,