Tom Wilmer

Host of Journeys of Discovery

Host of the Lowell Thomas Award-winning NPR digital media travel show, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, Wilmer has also produced the on-air travel show for KCBX since 1989, and served as digital-media travel host for KRML in Carmel, Calif.

The Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer podcast is also featured on the NPR ONE mobile app, iTunes, Stitcher.com, player.fm (UK) a selected "Best Travel Roundup Podcast" and more than 20 other podcast channels around the world. Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer travel show covers a wide array of subjects including agriculture, culture, arts, science, history and cuisine.

In addition to winning the Lowell Thomas Award--Best Radio Travel Show for several years, Wilmer is the recipient of more than a dozen prestigious industry awards for radio and video, and the prestigious Tourism Australia/QANTAS "Henry Lawson Travel Writing Award" for the best North American feature about Australia as a travel destination.

Wilmer was Travel Editor for Central Coast Magazine in California from its inception through 2008, and Travel Editor at Las Vegas Magazine (1998 - 2003), he has also been a frequent contributor to numerous upscale lifestyle magazines including Tahoe Quarterly, and Arizona Foothills, and former Home Section columnist for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, and locally has produced features for New Times, The Tribune and other regional publications.

Author of three books: Romancing the Coast, California Coast Getaways, and Wine Seekers Guide to Livermore Valley. Wilmer has also produced numerous lifestyle magazine features and more than 1,500 newspaper travel feature stories. His Knight Ridder Syndicate travel features have appeared in more than 40 North American newspapers, including the Toronto Star.

His on-location shows have ranged from the Arctic to African safaris, in the wheelhouse of the Rainbow Warrior II, flying in WWII bombers, navigating a micro light above Victoria Falls, sailing around Grenada, hiking through the wilds of Malaysian jungles and exploring remote atolls and isles throughout the South Pacific. His feature, recorded live at Harland & Wolfe Shipyards in Belfast Northern Ireland, celebrating the centenary of the launch of the Titanic was the recipient of a Best Travel award from Outdoor Writers Association of California.

Recent video/audio Awards:

  • First Place Award for Best Short Video- Pinnacles National Park 2015.
  • Wilmer and his video partner, Simo Nylander produced a video for National Park Service's Alcatraz Cruises 2015
  • In-depth video audio series for the Morro Bay National Marine Estuary Winner of 2015 "Best Outdoor Video"
  • Award from Outdoor Writers Association of California, along with "Best Short Video" award for Morro Bay Estuary Water Quality feature
  • Amgen California bike race commercial 2016
  • First Place "Best Outdoor Radio Feature" Saving Cecil's recorded live on location in Botswana
  • Second Place "Best Outdoor Radio Series" for Audubon Rowe Sandhill Cranes, First Federally Funded Wild Mustang Refuge, Heartland Shooting Range Grand Island, Nebraska. Awarded by Outdoor Writers Association of California

Professional Membership:

  • National Press Club, Washington D.C. (www.press.org)
  • Vice President (SF) Bay Area Travel Writers (www.batw.org)
  • Board of Directors Outdoor Writers Association of California (www.owac.org) 
Thomas Wilmer

The base commander at California National Guard base Camp San Luis talks with correspondent Tom Wilmer about the process of becoming the first military base in America to achieve 100 percent carbon neutrality. Initiatives include installation of extensive rooftop solar arrays, 40 electric vehicle charging stations, replacing gasoline powered vehicles with electric power sources, and transitioning to 100 percent LED lighting inside buildings and for exterior lighting. 

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Jon Jarosh, Director of Communications at Destination Door County. Jarosh explains how Door County, Wisconsin has cultivated a motivated COVID-aware tourism sector that goes to great lengths to ensure safe social-distancing, wearing masks and promoting safe outdoor dining and activity venues.

Door County has been a favored vacation destination for families across the Midwest for more than a century. Popular outdoor activities include hiking, biking, boating, and family forays at u-pick cherry orchards. Outdoor experiences continue in the midst of winter with snow shoeing, cross country skiing and ice fishing on Sturgeon Bay.

Thomas Wilmer

Reporting from Door County, Wisconsin, correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Meredith Coulson-Kanter, innkeeper at the historic White Gull Inn, which has been catering to guests in Fish Creek since 1896. Next up is a visit with Martine and Edgar Anderson, owners of Fragrant Isle, the Midwest’s largest lavender farm located on Washington Island.

Thomas Wilmer

Carol and Christian Ash share tales of their Kick Ash coffee house in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. In the midst of COVID-19 their business, in addition to serving killer coffee and gluten-free pastries, has become a community gathering spot via their remote workplace with high-speed Internet. Come along and join the conversation as correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Carol and Christian Ash.

Thomas Wilmer

Karen Berndt, owner of Harbor Fish Market & Grille in Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin talks about the reasons why the historic business is thriving in the midst of COVID-19. A combination of ample outdoor dining  and a dedicated staff, attentive to proper social/health protocol are essential aspects of their success in maintaining a viable business.

Thomas Wilmer

Mark Twain was reputed to say that Louisiana’s state capitol was “the ugliest thing on the Mississippi.” Maybe it’s a matter of time and distance, but today lots of people think the former capitol building in Baton Rouge is extraordinarily enchanting, with powerful neo-Gothic medieval castle motifs accented with twin crenellated turrets.

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Jamie Cyphers, the great-great-granddaughter of Kingsport, Tennessee moonshiner Charles “Old Man" Bishop, who reportedly first concocted Long Island Iced Tea back in the 1920s.

Wilmer also stops in for a visit with two Kingsport professional bartenders, Shane Winegar and Randy Ashens, who challenged New York mix-masters to a competition to determine which region makes the best Long Island Iced Tea, irrespective of origin.

Issues & Ideas: Wildfire season, Santa Barbara history, and a SLO airport project

Jul 23, 2020

In this episode of Issues & Ideas: Wildfire season has arrived in California, and managers of a preserve in Monterey County are hoping to change the way communities approach wildfires. We’ll hear from a Santa Barbara historian to learn more about what was making news one hundred years ago. Bakersfield’s South High School has had a Confederate rebel for its mascot since 1957, and we’ll hear from Marcus Hicks, who, as a Black student, talks about what it was like to be in that environment. The Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture brings new art exhibits to the community throughout the year, and we’ll learn about a current sculpture at what locals call Hendry's Beach. The San Luis Obispo Airport has an upcoming project to the airport's runway. The US Forest Service plans to prevent wildfires in the Los Padres National Forest by cutting down trees. And finally, we'll hear from a local tech business leader who believes “it’s high time we demand the right to open, tinker with, and repair everything we own.”

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Correspondent Tom Wilmer explores the region around Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Environmental educator Jackie Scharfenberg provides insights about the "Ice Age Legacy" at Kettle Moraine State Forest.

Additional visits include:

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he explores why Green Bay Packers fans, self-proclaimed “cheeseheads," are among the most passionate in the entire NFL. Wilmer also explores the Green Bay Botanical Gardens, the National Railroad Museum, Bay Beach Amusement Park (where classic rides like the tilt-o-whirl cost just twenty five cents), and the Green Bay Boohyah Collegiate League baseball team. 

Kodak Corporation

Correspondent Tom Wilmer met up with Georgia Durante at a summer camp for kids run by St. Vincent de Paul in the hills above Santa Barbara, California where she talks about her best selling book, The Company She Keeps chronicling her incredible life journey. 

Thomas Wilmer

A short drive from Chattanooga, Tennessee is the town of Cleveland. A stroll down the main drag reveals a sleepy, slow-paced community with old brick buildings and enchanting homes right out of a Jimmy Stewart, Frank Capra flick. Cleveland, a city of less than 50,000 souls has been chugging along since its incorporation in the 1840s. The local work force has plenty of employment options with Whirlpool, Mars candy bars, Duracell, Olin and Coca Cola operations based in Cleveland.

Moving Picture World

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Santa Barbara historian Betsy J. Green about Santa Barbara’s Flying A Studios, which was producing movies before the advent of Hollywood. Green also shares insights about the 1918 flu epidemic in Santa Barbara, and how the 1925 earthquake that destroyed numerous buildings spurred the city to mandate all city-core reconstruction projects to employ California Mission-Revival architectural motifs.

Thomas Wilmer

Luckenbach, Texas is hunkered between South Grape Creek and Snail Creek on the south side of Ranch to Market Road 1376, and a mere 13 miles from Fredericksburg.

It was Waylon Jennings’ tune "Back to the Basics of Love" that put Luckenbach on the map. In the early days of the 20th century, Luckenbach was a thriving little town with close to 500 residents, but by the 1960s it claimed just three residents. That’s when the legendary Hondo Crouch and his partner bought the ghost town and started a dance hall and pub.

Thomas Wilmer

Fredericksburg has been the go-to travel destination in the Texas Hill Country for close to a century. Peaches are distinctive in Fredericksburg, as the growers produce all of their tasty treats for the local roadside fruit-stand market.

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer for a conversation with the patriarch of Fredericksburg’s peach empire, Mark Wieser at Fischer & Weiser Specialty Foods. His family started growing peaches for the roadside market back in the 1930s. 

Issues & Ideas: Flying at SBP, job losses for undocumented workers and GALA pride

Jun 26, 2020

On this episdoe of Issues & Ideas, San Luis Obispo author Nicholas Belardes talks about growing up in Bakersfield and going to a high school steeped in Confederate symbolism. A new report from UC Merced shows undocumented workers have been hit hard when it comes to job loss during the pandemic, especially women in non-essential jobs. SLO County Regional Airport director Kevin Bumen discusses the current protocol of transiting through the airport, in-flight COVID-19 precautions and the state of the airline industry as people are beginning to think about traveling again. Michelle Call of  the Central Coast's Gay and Lesbian Alliance, or GALA, gives us an update on local happenings during Pride Month. And finally, we learn how sea otters may be keeping our estuaries’ underwater plants healthy.

Randi Hair

Boo Mitchell carries on the legacy of his father, Willie Mitchell, as a producer of chart-topping record hits. One of Boo Mitchell’s proudest achievements was taking home the “Record of the Year” Grammy in 2016—the first time in the history of the Grammy Awards that a Memphis-made record garnered the award. Boo’s father is remembered and revered as a pioneer of the Memphis Soul sound. A partnership between Al Green and Willie Mitchell created their first home-run hit in 1971, followed by a number-one hit every year for the next four years.

On this episode of Issues & Ideas, Cal Poly grad student and photojournalist Diego Rivera discusses his  reporting on the SLO Police Department's explanations for using tear gas and pepper spray during the June 1 San Luis Obispo protest march. We’ll hear from Courtney Haile, co-founder of R.A.C.E. Matters SLO, describing the goals of the organization and the recent protests around San Luis Obispo County. Michelle Shoresman of the San Luis Obispo County Health Department talks about her job helping find medical coverage for poverty-level residents. And while government insurance covers the poorest of the poor, there are still millions of Americans who fall into a gap: they make too much to qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford to buy insurance on the marketplace. The Noor Foundation in San Luis Obispo County aims to close that gap. Finally, UC Santa Barbara professor of communication Robin Nabi talks about her research on the positive effects of entertainment media as it relates to stress, illness, and goal attainment.

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport with a conversation with airport director Kevin Bumen. Bumen shares insights about current protocol of transiting through airports; in-flight COVID-19 precautions and the current status of the airline industry; details about TSA protocols; United, Delta, Alaska and American Airlines' modification of service frequency, including United's temporary elimination of service between San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles; and Delta's elimination of service to Santa Barbara.

Randi Hair

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for a conversation with blues singer April “Sexy Red” Jackson as she shares insights about the juke Joint culture. At one time juke joints dotted the rural countryside throughout the South. 

Thomas Wilmer

Garth Newel Music Center, situated in the Allegheny Mountains in Bath County, Virginia, is less than 3.5 hours from Washington D.C., but it’s a world away. Founded in 1973, Garth Newel is home to one of America’s premier chamber quartets. Join the conversation with violinist Teresa Ling, Evelyn Grau (viola), Isaac Melamed (Cello), and Jeanette Fang (piano). Afterwards we’ll visit with Shawn Puller, Executive Director.

In this edition of Issues & Ideas—protests, demonstrations and rallies continue across the Central Coast and nation, and one of the many issues brought into the spotlight is the racism that has shaped our cities over the past several decades, and how that racism intersects with climate change. We have an interview with Peter Rupert, director of the Economic Forecast Project at UC Santa Barbara, an initiative involved in Santa Barbara County's reopening after the pandemic shutdown. Consuelo Muets, CEO of SPOKES—which, for a membership fee, provides resources for nonprofits—talks with guests from OperaSLO and the Clark Center for the Performing Arts in Arroyo Grande. And finally, contributor Tom Wilmer traveled to Arkansas in 2016 and spoke with Robin White, superintendent of the National Park Service's Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. Given the national conversation at the moment, we're listening again to White's perspective. 

Thomas Wilmer

A curiosity about the mysterious island penitentiary in the middle of San Francisco Bay led Father Bush S.J., to volunteer his services on Alcatraz in 1958. Join correspondent Tom Wilmer on Alcatraz Island for a visit with Father Bush as he shares recollections from his four years on the Rock when he was a young seminarian. Father Bush is the last surviving member of the clergy who served on Alcatraz.

Thomas Wilmer

The International Civil Rights Center & Museum preserves and showcases the legacy and significance of the Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth sit-ins. Four young African American students at North Carolina A&T State University sat at a “whites only” counter inside the Woolworth restaurant on February 1, 1960. 

On this episode of Issues & Ideas, emergency relief for undocumented immigrants recently became available in California, but demand outweighs the supply of cash. We’ll learn how the California NanoSystems Institute at UCSB is repurposing 3D printers to make face shields for healthcare workers. And hear about the challenges facing small farmers in California due to COVID-19. We get an update on First 5 SLO County from director Wendy Wendt; the independent public agency, created by California’s Proposition 10, uses a tax on tobacco products to fund programs for children through age five and their families. The city manager of Morro Bay, Scott Collins, talks about having to discourage vacationers due to the pandemic. And finally, we’ll learn about an award-winning book by UCSB professor emeritus Tonia Shimin featuring the art of her late father, Symeon Shimin.

National Park Service

When correspondent Tom Wilmer stopped in to visit with Robin White, National Park Service Superintendent at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, their conversation quickly led to tears when Wilmer asked White to talk about lessons learned, but more importantly, lessons not learned in the intervening six decades--a moment in time back in September 4, 1957, when nine African American students attempted to register for classes at the all-white Central High School.

Herald-Citizen Cookeville, Tennessee

The middle Tennessee town of Monterey was established in 1893 by the Cumberland Mountain Coal Company. Today, coal is history, but the town still chugs along with just under 3,000 residents. It’s 100 miles to the nearest big towns of Knoxville, Chattanooga or Nashville; this is a place where people come to get away from it all to bike, kayak, hike and just kick back.

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from Birmingham, Alabama, where he visits with Ivan Holloway, executive director at Urban Impact. Holloway and his team develop sustainable economic opportunities and historic preservation initiatives within the underserved African American communities in the Fourth Avenue Business District and the historic Civil Rights District.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from Birmingham, Alabama. Join Charles Woods III, education programs manager at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, for a TED talk-style walking tour of the institute’s museum and adjacent Kelly Ingram Park. The park was the site of major protests in the 1960s, where attack dogs were unleashed and the city's then-police chief directed assaults on the protesters with high-pressure fire hoses.

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