The small cities of the countryside and coastline surrounding Melbourne have a wealth of cultural sites to tempt visitors. Chief among them is an outstanding collection of regional and private galleries, with excellent collections of heritage and modern art. This eight day tour gives art lovers the chance to sample a range of Australia’s best regional galleries, and then goes beyond the confines of the galleries to explore the landscapes and historic sites that give a broader context for understanding the art and history of Australia. The tour is rounded out with fine dining and visits to wineries.
Heide Museum of Modern Art, celebrating Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker and the thoroughly modern Reed family
The McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery and TarraWarra Museum of Art, leading private collections of contemporary art
The landscapes of the Yarra Valley, Dandenongs and Mornington Peninsula
Colonial Australia, at Barwon Park Mansion, the well-preserved Gold Rush town of Maldon and Goulburn Valley’s Tahbilk Winery
Superlative regional galleries in the goldfields towns of Bendigo and Ballarat: two of regional Australia’s most dynamic and expansive collections
Days 1–3: Meet at Tullamarine and travel to the Yarra Valley; visit Heide Museum of Modern Art and TarraWarra; explore the Dandenongs and Mornington Peninsula.
Day 4: Enjoy the Bellarine Peninsula, from tranquil Queenscliff to Geelong, whose regional gallery has helped change the city’s reputation, and bluestone heritage at Barwon Park Mansion.
Days 5–6: Uncover Gold Rush history at Ballarat and Bendigo’s galleries.
Days 7–8: Day trip to the Goulburn Valley to visit Shepparton Regional Gallery and the historic Tahbilk Estate, one of Australia’s oldest wineries. Visit Castlemaine Art Gallery.
The tour begins and ends at Terminal 1, Melbourne Domestic Airport. Qantas and Virgin fly into and out of Melbourne from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Wednesday 5 May: Heide
The tour begins at 2:00pm this afternoon, when we gather at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport (Terminal 1, baggage carousel number 3) to travel by coach to the Yarra Valley. On the way, we visit the Heide Museum of Modern Art. John and Sunday Reed, art patrons who transformed their acreage outside of Melbourne into a haven for writers and artists, including Sidney Nolan and Albert Tucker, founded this gem of a collection in the 1950s. It is now one of the premiere collections of Australian modernism, with works by Nolan, Boyd, and Albert Tucker, and its sculpture garden has works by Anthony Caro, Anish Kapoor and Inge King. After our visit, we continue to our hotel in the Yarra Valley, where we relax and enjoy dinner together. Overnight Yarra Valley. (D)
Thursday 6 May: Tarrawarra and the Dandenongs
This morning, after a talk in the hotel, we visit the TarraWarra Museum of Art. This collection, founded by Eva and Marc Besen, is housed in a stunning modern space surrounded by the estate’s vineyards. The collection includes works by many of Australia’s most prominent artists, including Brett Whitely, John Olsen, Fred Williams and Rosalie Gascoigne, and the foundation is well known for its highly-regarded temporary exhibitions. After visiting the collection, we have lunch at a nearby vineyard. In the afternoon, we travel through the Dandenong Ranges, in whose temperate forests and secluded valleys artists such as Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin and Tom Roberts found inspiration for an emerging Australian style of landscape painting. In the later afternoon, we visit the National Rhododendron Garden, whose extensive plantings overlook this wonderful landscape. Returning to the hotel, we have dinner in the hotel. Overnight Yarra Valley. (B, L, D)
Friday 7 May: The Mornington Peninsula
Today we explore the Mornington Peninsula, starting with a visit to the McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery, a private endeavour of the May family in the 1970s, which has been mostly supported through philanthropy – notably, the generous contributions over the decades by Dame Elisabeth Murdoch. The 16-hectare open-air museum displays over 100 large sculptures in park and bushland settings, including ground-breaking works by Inge King, Patricia Piccinini and Ken Unsworth. After our visit we continue touring along the eastern side of the Mornington Peninsula, enjoying the views across the vineyards, stopping for lunch, and admiring the dramatic coastal scenery. In the later afternoon, we visit Point Nepean Quarrantine station, where dozens of historic buildings look out across the bay. We then take the ferry across Port Phillip Bay to Queenscliff, a pretty seaside town. Evening at leisure. Overnight Queenscliff. (B, L)
Saturday 8 May: Barwon Park and Geelong
This morning we explore the history of grazing in Victoria with a visit to Barwon Park to tour the 42-room bluestone mansion built for the squatter Thomas Austin (who is generally thought to have introduced rabbits to Australia). The manor, now a National Trust estate, is perfectly indicative of the wealth acquired by the squattocracy in the 19th century. We then travel to Geelong, a city that has played a major part in the growth of the Australian economy as the main port of the Victorian wool industry. With the decline of the port and the revitalisation of the waterfront, however, the city is taking on a new role. Geelong Regional Gallery, part of a multimillion-dollar arts facility, has a strong collection, especially of works that highlight the region’s history. Returning to Queenscliff, the later afternoon and evening are at leisure. Overnight Queenscliff. (B)
Sunday 9 May: Ballarat
Ballarat, whose name is derived from indigenous words for resting place (Balla Arat), was established as a township in the 1850s, when 20 000 diggers turned up to exploit the newly discovered goldfields (and whose rebellion against strict licensing and heavy taxation shortly afterwards at Eureka shot the town to further prominence). Ballarat’s place in the birth of the national story was further enhanced in the 1880s when the citizens of the town established Australia’s first regional gallery as a way of providing access to art for the people on the one hand, and advancing the city’s status on the other. This morning, we visit the excellent collection at Ballarat Regional Gallery, which has works by almost every major Australian artist from the 1870s to the end of the 20th century. After a break for lunch, we continue on to Bendigo, stopping for an afternoon tea break at Maldon, a small Gold Rush town that has preserved much of its original architecture and feel. Evening at leisure. Overnight Bendigo. (B)
Monday 10 May: Shepparton & the Goulburn Valley
Today we travel to Shepparton, in the Goulburn Valley. The town, although much less prestigious and much smaller than Bendigo and Ballarat, also owes its early development to the Gold Rush, and subsequently to farming and the railways that linked the fertile valleys of northern Victoria to Melbourne. We visit Shepparton Art Gallery this morning, which has a strong collection of Australian ceramics, as well as paintings, prints and contemporary Australian art. We then travel to Tahbilk, a historic winery founded in 1860 on the banks of the Goulburn River. Here, we enjoy lunch in its highly regarded restaurant, tour the heritage buildings, and explore the wetlands by boat. Returning to Bendigo in late afternoon, the evening is at leisure. Overnight Bendigo (B, L)
Tuesday 11 May: Bendigo
Bendigo’s history parallels Ballarat’s quite closely throughout the 19th century, with the discovery of gold in 1851 and the rapid development of the city in what would become the 7th largest goldfield in the world. As in Ballarat, the ambitions of the new townsmen extended to culture, and the art gallery was founded in 1887. The development of Bendigo Regional Gallery has taken a different course, however, especially following its recent expansion, its acquisition of contemporary Australian art, and its temporary exhibitions that are of an international standard rarely seen outside of Australia’s capital cities. This morning, after a talk we visit the impressive gallery, whose excellent collection ranges from historic paintings of Bendigo, through to the greats of modern Australian painting and contemporary art. In the later-afternoon, following a break for lunch and some time at leisure, we take a walking tour of Bendigo’s historic buildings, products of the Gold Rush that are emblematic of the citizens’ aspirations, and visit the Golden Dragon Museum. Dinner at one of Bendigo’s fine restaurants. Overnight Bendigo. (B, D)
Wednesday 12 May: Castlemaine and Departure
This morning we travel to the airport, stopping for an out-of-hours visit to Castlemaine Art Museum, whose collections are housed in a beautiful art-deco building. We continue to the airport, arriving at approximately 1pm, in time for mid-afternoon flights. (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.”
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate, taxis or public transport are also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required and when stated as included
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 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.
What is not included in the tour price?
Our tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity