Occupied by the Wiradjuri since time immemorial, scene of the first rural expansion in colonial Australia and site of a major gold rush, the area just west of the Great Dividing Range from Sydney has a dramatic landscape and a storied past from which generations of artists have sought inspiration. Our carefully planned itinerary across the Blue Mountains and from Oberon up to Gulgong includes several visits to the studios of working artists, regional galleries and museums, scenic drives, fine food and wine.
Covid-19 cancellation policy
The following special cancellation and refund conditions applies to this tour.
If you book on this tour and then find that you are unable to travel due to Government imposed Covid-19 travel restrictions we will provide a 100% cash refund of all monies paid to Academy Travel for this tour. This refund will be given irrespective of how close to the tour start date you become ineligible to travel, but you must inform us within 24 hours of becoming personally unable to travel in order to obtain a full refund.
If the tour cannot proceed due to Government imposed Covid-19 travel restrictions, the tour will be cancelled and all participants will receive a 100% cash refund of all monies paid to Academy Travel for this tour. This refund will be given irrespective of how close the cancellation occurs to the start date of the tour.
Visit practising artists Euan McLeod, Jeff Rigby, Amanda Penrose Hart and Harrie Fasher in their studios
Spend a night at the impeccably restored Hydro-Majestic Hotel in Medlow Bath, enjoying great views of the Megalong Valley
Dine at The Zin House, one of regional NSW best restaurants, located on a Mudgee vineyard
Enjoy spectacular scenic drives through the mountains
Explore the gardens of Mt Wilson in the Blue Mountains
Day 1: Visit Sydney artist Euan McLeod then landscape artist Jeff Rigby in the mountains. Overnight at Hydro-Majestic Hotel in Medlow Bath
Day 2: Visit Essington Park, home of artist Joanna Logue, Mayfield Gardens and Bathurst before travelling to Mudgee for three nights.
Day 3: Explore the museums of Gulgong and lunch on a vineyard near Mudgee
Day 4: Excursion to Hill End and Sofala, exploring Gold Rush heritage and meeting artists.
Day 5: Visit the Foundations in Portland then Windyridge garden in Mount Wilson
The tour starts and ends at Wynyard in the Sydney CBD.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Monday April 26: The mountains
We gather for coffee at Wynyard in the Sydney CBD before setting off at 9.30am. Our first stop is the Haberfield studio of painter Euan McLeod. Winner of both the Archibald and Sulman prizes, the Blake Prize and the Gallipoli Art Prize, Euan’s work is to be found in major public collections, such as the National Gallery of Australia and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Euan has worked extensively in the Central West, including stints at Hill End. His energetic, gestural style has ensured him a keen following among contemporary art collectors. In the Blue Mountains, after a picnic lunch stop, we call in at the home and studio of landscape painter Jeff Rigby. Jeff’s meticulous landscapes are to be found in collections including the Art Gallery of NSW and Parliament House in Canberra. He has created many depictions of Bathurst and the landscape of the Central West. In the mid-afternoon we arrive at our ‘destination hotel’, the gloriously restored Hydro-Majestic at Medlow Bath. There will be time to enjoy sunset drinks overlooking the Megalong Valley and a tour of the hotel’s heritage before dinner in the hotel’s well-regarded restaurant. (L,D)
Tuesday April 27: Oberon and Bathurst
We descend Victoria Pass this morning and take the highly scenic Jenolan Caves Road to ‘Essington Park’, south of Oberon. This 150-year-old homestead is today owned by painter Joanna Logue and her sister, the Sydney caterer Simone Logue. A selection of Joanna’s paintings of the area has been installed in the homestead especially for our visit. Just a few kilometres away is the impressive Mayfield Garden. Created by the Hawkins family over the last 20 years, the European-inspired plantings will have superb autumn colours for our visit. After lunch at Mayfield we travel the short distance to Bathurst to visit the regional gallery, known for its collection of ‘Hill End’ artists of the mid-20th century, including Russel Drysdale, Donald Friend and Jeffrey Smart. We also take a short walking tour of the historic architecture of Bathurst’s Town Square, a product of the Gold Rush and the pastoral wealth of the region. We then head to Mudgee, our base for the next three nights. (B,L)
Wednesday April 28: Gulgong and Wineries
Just north of Mudgee, the town of Gulgong retains an authentic gold rush heritage and has several places of interest. Our first stop is the Holtermann Collection of photography. The images were created by Bernard Holtermann, a German immigrant who struck it rich when he found a 153kg nugget at the Hill End goldfields in 1872. The collection, from the earliest days of photography, won a Silver Medal at the 1878 Paris Exposition Universelle Internationale and is recognised by UNESCO. The State Library of NSW, custodians of the Collection, recently moved it to a purpose built gallery in Gulgong. Our next stop in Gulgong is the Henry Lawson Centre. This celebrated poet spent his childhood in the region and the Centre celebrates his life and writings. There will also be time to pop in at the Settler’s Museum, containing some well-preserved colonial buildings and other artefacts from the earliest European settlement of the area. We return to Mudgee for a late lunch at The Zin House, located on a winery and regarded as one of regional NSW’s best restaurants. In the late afternoon we take the short drive out to Lue, to visit Lue pottery. The Gulgong area is well known to potters, thanks to its range of clays and minerals, including white kaolin used for making porcelain. Overnight Mudgee. (B,L)
Thursday April 29: The artists of Hill End and Sofala
This morning we take the dramatic back road to Hill End, famous as a Gold Rush town and later for the artists who settled in the area, seeking to capture and mythologise the spirit of the Australian bush in the mid-20th century. Thanks to these pioneering artists, the pretty village remains the home of several artists of note. As well as visiting heritage sites at Hill End we hope to visit the home and studio of one of Australia’s leading contemporary landscape artists. This artist’s home also has a fine collection of works by the original ‘Hill End School’. (The artist is busy working on a show and will only confirm closer to the tour date.) We will stop for a simple café lunch at Hill End. In the afternoon we travel via some dramatic scenery to Sofala, immortalised by Russel Drysdale. After strolling the town we visit the home and studio of landscape painter Amanda Penrose Hart. Penrose Hart moved from Sydney on to a property that includes stretches of the original coach road and goldfields in order to paint the landscape she loves. As well as a studio visit, we enjoy sunset from the panoramic terrace in front of the house and a dinner cooked by the artist! Overnight Mudgee (B,L,D)
Friday April 30: The Foundations and Mt Wilson
Portland was a company town, built to house workers at the Portland Cement Works. The Works closed in 1991, but recently a private philanthropist has purchased the entire site and is rehabilitating it as an arts and entertainment precinct. We will tour this exciting project with the site manager, and visit the foundry and studio of sculptor Harrie Fasher, now widely recognised as one of Australia’s leading sculptors. Harrie’s large scale works in steel, wood and bronze, many featuring horses, are represented in collections from Canberra to New York, and you may have seen her work in Sydney’s Sculpture by the Sea over several years. We continue via Bells Line of Road to Mount Wilson, famous for its gardens. By a stroke of fortune, Mount Wilson was spared the devastation of the 2019-20 bushfires. The gardens will be at the height of their autumn splendour for our visit, and the contrast with the devastated landscape on the approach is unforgettable. We visit Windyridge Garden before continuing to Sydney, where we arrive in the evening. (B)
A cultural historian and founding director of Academy Travel, with a strong interest in visual arts, architecture and music.
Robert Veel is a cultural historian with over 20 years’ experience leading tours to Italy, the USA, Scandinavia and Turkey. He has a strong personal interest in the visual arts, architecture and music, and is a founding director of Academy Travel.
Robert holds a BA, Dip. Ed and M.Ed, all from the University of Sydney. He worked as a lecturer at the University of Sydney before a long stint at the University’s Centre for Continuing Education, lecturing in Italian history and culture and working as Assistant Director. Robert continues to teach occasionally in Continuing Education courses.
Robert’s historical and artistic knowledge stretches from the Middle Ages through the early 20th century. In Italy he has led many tours focusing on the Medieval and Renaissance periods. In the United States he likes to focus on the founding of the Republic and the Gilded Age of the early 20th century. In Scandinavia he is particularly interested in national identity and its role in Scandinavian literature, design and architecture. Robert speaks fluent Italian.
Robert led his first tour to Italy in 1990 and has not looked back! He has led more than 50 tours and designed many of Academy Travel’s most popular tours, including Sicily, New York, Rome and Venice residential tours, and our Scandinavia tours. More recently Robert led the first offering of Academy Travel’s tours to Tasmania and New Zealand.
We asked Robert, what do you enjoy most about leading tours?
“I really enjoy travelling with like-minded, interested travellers who are up for a bit of an intellectual adventure. It’s often the unexpected things that create the ‘shared joy’ of group travel”, says Robert “a wonderful, but little-known painting, a great performance or a fabulous meal. These are the things we travel for.”
“Over the years travellers have commented on my seemingly boundless enthusiasm. It’s true that I am curious about most things – people, places, history and artistic expression. There’s a kind of alchemy when this enthusiasm rubs off on others – hopefully with a bit of useful information as well!”
Hydro-Majestic Hotel Medlow Bath (1 night) We have selected valley view rooms in this beautifully restored heritage hotel, famous for its spectacular views.
Winning Post Motor Inn, Mudgee (3 nights) This comfortable hotel is very centrally located, close to shops and restaurants. It has a good in house restaurant.
What is included in the tour price?
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
All accommodation at properties mentioned in the itinerary
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Taxis may also be used for short trips on some tours. Some city stay tours may involve local transport
Lunches and dinners indicated with the letters L and D in the itinerary
Beer, wine and soft drinks at sit-down lunches and dinners. Picnic and light lunches may not include alcoholic drinks
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
All tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
On international tours only
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required, and when stated as included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Some trips may be made by public transport such as high-speed train and subway
What is not included in the tour price?
Our tours do not include the following:
Air or land travel from your home city to the tour start/end points
Local taxes and airport levies that we are not able to prepay on your behalf. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Lunches and dinners not specifically indicated with the letters L or D in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as passports, laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
Airport Transfers on international tours
Tours may begin at either the arrival airport or the first hotel. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel, and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
We require all tour participants to have adequate insurance coverage.
For domestic tours, Medicare and your private medical insurance should be used to cover any medical expenses.
Domestic travel insurance is available and strongly recommended to cover non-medical expenses such as cancellation.
For international tours, we require you to have comprehensive travel insurance. Prices vary according to your age, your pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the length of your journey abroad.