The regions of central and western Victoria are often bypassed by travellers, and yet they offer fascinating insights into Australia’s history and culture: from Indigenous Dreaming and custodianship of the diverse lands to Australia’s economic foundations in gold, grazing and grain and the recent revival of the arts in these regions.
Our 8-day tour begins in Ballarat, marked by the legacy of gold mining and the Eureka Stockade, but also by its cultural heritage, from the oldest regional art gallery in Australia to the area’s many beautiful contemporary gardens. Next, we travel west to Victoria’s centre, to witness the spectacular scenery of the Grampians and learn about Indigenous history, art, and custodianship of the land. We then move on to the harsh natural beauty of the Wimmera and the Mallee, where we follow the Silo Art Trail – the disused grain silos which serve as giant canvases for contemporary artists to capture the region’s history. As we move north, inland deserts and salt lakes give way to the billabongs of Murray River. We end the tour in Mildura, where we enjoy the landscape and explore the regional town’s cultural heritage.
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Paul Bangay’s Private Garden
Paul Bangay is one of Australia’s most loved and internationally renowned landscape designers. Enjoy a private tour of his own garden, Stonefields, led by Paul himself.
The Silo Art Trail
Huge grain silos dot the landscape of the Wimmera in western Victoria. A remnant of the golden days of Australia’s grain trade, these have been turned into huge canvases for contemporary artists to immortalise the people and culture of the region.
The Grampians (Gariwerd)
Get to know this region in depth: from the iconic views across a unique Australian landscape, to its precipitous waterfalls, to the deep history of Australia as revealed through the rock art of the Djab Wurrung and Jardwadjali peoples, the traditional custodians of the land.
Explore Australia’s history through the places and landscapes that have shaped it, from the Eureka Rebellion in Ballarat, to the grain and grazing of the Federation economy, and the rich Indigenous history of Country.
Unique Landscape of the Mallee
Get to know one of Australia’s most iconic landscapes: the dry soils, salt lakes, ephemeral rivers, sand dunes and the low-lying eucalypts that give the region its name. Explore the beauty of this region, including visits to Lake Hindmarsh and the Hattah National Park.
The tour begins at Melbourne Airport and ends at Mildura airport. Qantas offers suitable connections into Melbourne and out of Mildura from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Sunday 8 May – The Goldfields
We meet this afternoon at 2pm at Melbourne airport, Terminal 1. From here we travel by private coach to Ballarat. Once the centre of life on the goldfields, when it went from a field of tents to become one of Australia’s largest inland cities, Ballarat was also the centre of political turmoil, which came to a head in 1854 with the Eureka Stockade. On arrival in Ballarat, we visit the Gold Museum, which traces the development of gold mining in the region and its social history. After settling into our hotel, we have dinner in one of Ballarat’s best restaurants. Overnight Ballarat (D)
Monday 9 May – Paul Bangay and the Gardens of Daylesford
The cool climate of the southeastern goldfields is a gardener’s delight, and they have become home to some of Victoria’s most loved private retreats, including the personal garden of Paul Bangay, one of Australia’s most successful landscape designers. This morning we have an exclusive visit of Paul Bangay‘s own garden at Stonefields. After Paul takes us around his garden, we enjoy morning tea together on the property. In the afternoon, we visit Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, whose well-preserved buildings and streetscapes reveal the history of mining and migration in the colonial period. In the later afternoon, we visit St Erth, a cool climate garden owned by the Diggers Club, which conserves and propagates heirloom seeds and rootstock. Returning to Ballarat, the evening is at leisure. (B, morning tea)
Tuesday 10 May – Ballarat
This morning we have a lecture on the development of landscape painting in Australia in the 20th century. We then visit Ballarat Art Gallery, the oldest regional gallery in Australia, with an exceptional collection of Australian art. After a guided visit, there is time to explore the gallery’s temporary exhibitions. After a break for lunch, we travel to the Pyrenees wine region, about an hour’s drive north of Ballarat, for wine tastings and nibbles at some local vineyards. The region, with its cold winters and long hot summers, is well regarded for its red varietals. On our return to Ballarat, we visit the Botanic Gardens on Lake Wendouree. Evening at leisure. Overnight Ballarat. (B, wine tasting)
Wednesday 11 May – The Grampians
Today we drive west into Central Victoria. After a morning coffee break in Ararat, another of Victoria’s gold towns, we visit Brambuk, the Indigenous Cultural Centre near Halls’ Gap, at the base of the Grampians. Here we learn about the deep history and significance of the region – called Gariwerd by its traditional custodians, the Djab Wurrung and Jardwadjali people – and the very particular ecology of the National Park. After a break for lunch, we drive into the Grampians, a spectacular mountain range formed by sedimentary stone formed over 400 million years ago. We stop to take in scenic views across the ranges, including from Boroka Lookout, and the beautiful MacKenzie Falls, and visit some of the exceptionally well-preserved Indigenous rock art sites. In the later afternoon, we continue on to Horsham, our base for the next two nights as we explore the Wimmera and Mallee. Dinner and overnight, Horsham. (B, D)
Thursday 12 May – Silo Art & Wimmera Plains
The Wimmera Plains form an iconic Australian landscape, with its wide, dry plains and low-lying Mallee forests. With the expansion of the Victorian colony, the region was quickly taken over by graziers and farmers and by the early 20th century the region was a major producer of wheat and wool. Today we explore the history of the region, visiting the ‘Stick Shed’ at Murtoa, a cathedral-like structure built in 1939 to store huge quantities of grain, the Methodist Mission at Antwerp, and the natural beauty of the Pink Lake near Dimboola and Lake Hindmarsh. A highlight of today is the beginning of the Silo Art Trail – a public art project which turned the disused grain silos of the region into canvases on which contemporary artists depicted the history and people of the region. Returning to Horsham, the evening is at leisure. (B)
Friday 13 May – Silo Art and the Landscapes of the Mallee
Today we drive north, continuing along the Silo Art Trail and move deeper into the Mallee. As we move north, we notice the landscape becoming drier and less hospitable, the beginnings of Australia’s great inland desert landscapes – the Big and Little Desert wilderness areas – and the distinctive Mallee landscape, with its diverse species of eucalypts. After a break for lunch, we continue north to Lake Tyrrell, whose mirror-like surface creates the impression of an infinite skyline, and then to the Hattah National Park, where the Mallee landscape gives way to the billabongs and marshes of the meandering Murray. Dinner and overnight, Mildura. (B, D)
Saturday 14 May – Mildura and the Murray
The Murray River – despite the drought and chronic problems with finding a solution to water usage along the length of Australia’s longest river system – remains beautiful in the area around Mildura. This morning we explore the landscape, including a cruise along the river, home to native birdlife and unique vegetation. After our tour this morning, we have lunch at a local winery to enjoy the abundance provided by the region. Then we visit the Art Centre – a combination of galleries and collections centred on Rio Vista, a National Trust historic house. This evening, we meet for farewell drinks. Overnight, Mildura. (B, L)
Sunday 15 May – Departure
The tour ends this morning, with a transfer to Mildura airport for morning flights to Melbourne. (B)
Dr Nick Gordon
A cultural historian with a PhD in History, and practicing painter who brings this passion to the visual arts.
Dr Nick Gordon is a cultural historian and artist, with over 10 years of experience leading tours to Europe. He has strong interests in art, history, philosophy and architecture, from the ancient world to the present.
Nick holds a University Medal and PhD in history from the University of Sydney. He taught medieval and Renaissance history at the University of Sydney, the history of political thought at the University of Western Sydney, and architectural and Australian history elsewhere. He continues to teach at the Centre of Continuing Education, and gives occasional lectures on topics ranging from Classical Rome through to Australian and contemporary art. Nick has lead tours for Academy Travel since 2007, and designs study tours, residential tours and art-focussed tours, such as the Venice Biennale, Art Along the Rhine, Art Basel, and Amsterdam to Paris: Van Eyck to Van Gogh.
Nick is also an artist and his firsthand experience of art complements his academic expertise, through his knowledge of materials and the processes behind how an artwork is made, and his well-practiced eye for reading art.
We asked Nick, what do you enjoy most about tour leading?
“One of the things I enjoy most about touring is helping people understand more about what they’re seeing. This happens through a combination of background lectures exploring different contexts, cultural commentary on the road, and especially by being able to explain what is going on in an artwork with the artwork in front of us.”
“The aim of all of this is to help people see more for themselves, independently, both on tour and beyond. Some of the best moments for me on tour are when this happens, and you get to be part of something bigger as people start adding their own knowledge and experience to what we’re looking at. It makes each experience unique.”
We have selected 4-star accommodation for this tour, but please keep in mind that regional and rural areas are not always able to provide the same level of in-room service as inner city hotels.
Ballarat, Craig’s Royal Hotel (3 nights)
Historic hotel in the centre of Ballarat (next to the Art Gallery). Recently restored with modern conveniences in room, but period charm has been retained. www.craigsroyal.com.au/
Horsham, Horsham International Hotel (2 nights)
Comfortable modern hotel in Horsham, a stopping point on the road from Melbourne to inland Australia. www.horshamint.com.au/
Mildura, Mercure Hotel (2 nights)
Comfortable modern hotel in central Mildura, a stone’s throw from the Murray riverside. accor.com/hotel/
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.