Occupied by the Wiradjuri since time immemorial, scene of the first rural expansion in colonial Australia and then 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, including major artists such as Russell Drysdale, Donald Friend, Jeffrey Smart, Margaret Olley and Brett Whiteley.
Our five-day tour from Sydney explores the spirit of this landscape in all its senses. We visit regional galleries, including a new gallery at Mudgee and the refurbished Orange Regional Gallery, meet leading contemporary artists, explore the indigenous and Gold Rush era heritage of the region and enjpoy superb lasdscapes. We also enjoy the region’s fine food and wine with meals at excellent restaurants.
COVID-19? Book with confidence If Government imposed COVID-19 restrictions mean that we cannot run a tour, or that you cannot travel to join a tour, then you will be given a 100% refund of all monies paid to Academy Travel for your tour.
Vaccination requirements Academy Travel requires all participants on its tours to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. We reserve the right to inspect your digital vaccination certificate.
Meet the artists
Since the 1950s the Hill End Central West has attracted leading Australian artists. The tradition continues and on the trip we will meet several contemporary Australian artists in their studios, all of them inspired by the heritage and landscape of the region.
Fine food and wine
The climate and terrain of the Central West are perfect for producing high quality food and cool climate wines. Fine dining and wine tastings on the tour allows us to sample both.
Gold Rush Heritage
A walking tour of Hill End, together with visits to the towns of Sofala and Gulgong, allow us to experience the heritage of the Gold Rush, which lasted from the 1850s until the 20th century.
There has been alot happening in the arts scene in the Central West recently. Enjoy the artists of the ‘Hill End School’ at Bathurst Regional Gallery, the priceless historical photographs in the Holtermann Collection Museum in Gulgong, the newly opened Mudgee Arts Precinct and the refurbished Orange Regional Gallery, home to one of NSW’s best regional collections.
Day 1-4: Depart Sydney, visit the Penrith Regional Gallery, travel to Mudgee. Explore the Holtermann Collection at Gulgong and enjoy a visit to Hill End and Sofala with visits to artists studios.
Day 4-5: Travel to Orange via Bathurst visiting a heritage property and the Brett Whiteley exhibition at the Regional Gallery. In Orange, sample local wines and explore the recently reopened Orange Regional Gallery before returning to Sydney.
The tour begins at 9.30 am on December 10 at Sydney Central Station.
The tour ends on December 14 at Sydney Central Station in the evening.
Friday 10 December 2021 – To Mudgee
We depart by coach from Sydney Central Station at 10.00am. Our first stop is the Penrith Regional Gallery, located in the home of mid-20th century artist Margot Lewers. There will be two exhibitions on show, one of them a selection of works from the 2020 Archibald Prize. The gallery has an excellent café where we have lunch. In the afternoon, after crossing the Blue Mountains, we visit the little-known Maiyingu Marragu indigenous rock art site near Lithgow. There are ancient ‘stencil’ paintings of hands on a rock ledge and a women’s birthing area, reminders of the very long indigenous occupation of the region before the arrival of Europeans. We continue north to Mudgee, our base for three nights. Dinner is in a local Mudgee Restaurant. Overnight: Mudgee (L, D)
Saturday 11 December – 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 lunch at The Zin House, located on a winery and regarded as one of regional NSW’s best restaurants. In the late afternoon we visit the Mudgee Arts Precinct, the region’s newest gallery. Overnight Mudgee (B, L)
Sunday 12 December – 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, subject to confirmation we will visit the home and studio of one of the town’s artists. We will stop for a simple café lunch at Hill End. In the afternoon we travel via some dramatic scenery to Sofala. After strolling the town we visit the home and studio of landscape painter Amanda Penrose Hart, winner of the 2017 Gallipoli Art Prize. 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)
Monday 13 December – Bathurst and Orange
This morning we head to Bathurst via ‘Brucedale’ the homestead of the Suttors, one of the original European families to settle the Central West. The Suttor family story is closely linked to that of the Wiradjuri warrior and resistance leader Windradyne, whose grave is on the property. After a café lunch in Bathurst we visit the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery and meet the director, Sarah Gurich. The gallery is known for its collection of ‘Hill End artists’ of the mid-20th century, including Russel Drysdale, Donald Friend and Jeffrey Smart. At the time of our visit there will be an exhibition of works by Brett Whiteley, who travelled regularly to Hill End. We then head to Orange, there will be time to refresh before dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight: Orange (B, L ,D)
Tuesday 14 December – Orange Regional Gallery
The Orange Regional Gallery re-opens in early December 2021 after an extensive refurbishment. Thanks to some significant donations over the decades, the Orange collection includes important works by Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Grace Cossington Smith, Sydney Nolan, Lloyd Rees, Roland Wakelin and others. To celebrate the reopening a selection of the gallery’s 1500 works of Australian art from the 1920’s to today will be on show. We then travel to Mount Canobolas, just outside Orange and the centre of the local cool-climate wine growing area. We sample some local wines and share a light lunch before joining an afternoon XPT train at Orange for the trip back to Sydney. The train arrives in Sydney in the mid-evening. (If you prefer, we can also book a flight back to Sydney at an additional cost). (B, L)
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!”
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.