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Travel Update: COVID-19

The APT Story

A family-owned company since its creation in the 1920s, APT had its beginnings when Bill McGeary built a bus body on a tray truck after a tram strike affected the city of Melbourne. Through Bill’s son Geoff, APT pioneered Australia’s dynamic travel industry via a diverse range of modes. Such innovation continues to thrive within the APT Group today.

It's been quite a journey

McGeary bus in front of the Sydney Harbour.

In the early 1920s, the cable tram drivers in Melbourne’s northern suburbs went on an extended strike. Where some saw inconvenience, a 24-year-old mechanic named Bill McGeary recognised opportunity. Bill converted his truck to a bus and began ferrying commuters from the tram-starved suburb of Northcote to the tram and train terminus in Clifton Hill.

“Dad’s gamble really paid off,” recounts his son Geoff McGeary. “He was able to sell the Northcote route to buy a bigger and busier route in the southern suburbs. Over the next 20 years he bought more routes and buses.”

As his business grew, Bill looked beyond commuter bus routes into charter bus services.
“Dad was always searching for new opportunities,” said Geoff. “He secured school run contracts for a number of private schools as well as running trips to greyhound and harness racing events.”

But in the mid 1950s Bill’s health began to fail. Without his energy and expertise, his once-thriving business deteriorated. Geoff was determined to save the business. So in 1961, aged 19, he obtained a special under-age bus driver’s licence and took over McGeary’s Parlour Coaches.

Young Geoff McGeary sitting in his office smiling.

Geoff possessed his father’s entrepreneurial spirit and his own insatiable curiosity for discovering new destinations. “The dinner table conversation was never about football,” recalls Geoff’s son Rob McGeary, an APT director. “It was about great places where interesting things happened.”

Geoff seized on Australian’s increasing appetite for domestic tourism and began his pioneering camping holidays to Queensland and Central Australia.

“We grew up hearing stories about a coach bogged somewhere in a riverbed, or a new destination that we were exploring,” Rob remembers.

As the 1960s rolled in to the 70s the company moved with the hedonistic spirit of the times. McGeary’s Parlour Coaches became Australian Pacific Coaches and conducted day tours and themed weekends. In the mid 70s the company was renamed Australian Pacific Touring (APT) and took its first foray into international travel with trips to New Zealand followed by Canada and Alaska in 1991. It was here that APT moved beyond its traditional coach touring to include travel by luxury train and cruise ship.

APT also built on its outback experience in the Northern Territory and expanded its luxury wilderness adventures into Western Australia’s Kimberley. For Geoff’s daughter Lou Tandy, an APT director, The Kimberley is the location for one of her fondest travel memories. “We were at APT’s lodge at Bell Gorge when local indigenous children put on a corroboree for my son’s third birthday. It was a magical experience.”

People sitting on old bus in the outback.

In 2005, Geoff saw an opportunity for a new style of travel and launched APT’s innovative Europe River Cruise business. Since then APT has continued to commission new ships and offer new destinations in Asia like Myanmar and the Mekong, as well as the US and South America. In 2014, Geoff McGeary’s services to Australian tourism were recognised with the Order of Australia Medal. And in 2016 he was honoured as Australian Tourism Legend at the 2015 Qantas Australian Tourism Awards. Geoff is characteristically modest about his achievements.

“It’s not what I’ve done, it’s what our people have done,” Geoff said. “People have come from all sorts of different backgrounds and they are now concocting, dreaming, experiencing trips of a lifetime. That makes me very proud.”

Geoff, Rob and Lou are continually looking to the future of APT. Their spirit of innovation and their love of travel are set to steer APT in exciting new directions.