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 the country’s economic foundations in gold, grazing and grain, and the recent revival of the arts in these regions, such as Paul Bangay’s private garden and the Silo Art Trail. This 8-day tour takes you deep into Australia’s history, from Ballarat to the Grampians and across the unique landscapes of the Mallee to Mildura. The cultural program is rounded out with visits to vineyards and fine regional dining.
Private visit of Stonefields, Paul Bangay’s personal garden near Daylesford, led by Paul himself
The Silo Art Trail, where street art meets the monumental form of Australia’s iconic grain silos
The Grampians: spectacular mountain views, waterfalls and Indigenous culture and rock art
Lake Tyrell and the Pink Lake, unique features of the Wimmera-Mallee landscapes
Grain, grazing and gold: Australia’s modern history, from the Eureka Rebellion to the Murtoa Stick Shed
Excellent regional art collections at Ballarat, in Australia’s first regional gallery, and Mildura
Visits to the Pyrenees and Mildura wine regions, including tastings
Days 1–3: Meet at Melbourne Airport and travel to Ballarat; visits to the Gold Museum, Regional Gallery, and the Pyrenees wine region; private visit of Paul Bangay’s private garden and Daylesford.
Day 4: Explore the Grampians: Indigenous rock art and culture, spectacular views and waterfalls.
Days 5–6: Across the Mallee, from the Murtoa Stick Shed to the beginning of the Silo Art Trail and the unique landscapes of the region, including Lake Tyrell, the Pink Lake at Dimboola and the Mallee in spring flower.
Days 7–8: In Mildura, with visits to the arts centre, exploring the Murray and lunch at a winery. Departure.
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 11 October: The Goldfields
We meet this afternoon at 2pm at Melbourne airport, terminal 1, from where we travel by private coach to Ballarat. Ballarat was once the centre of life on the goldfields, when it went from a field of tents becoming Australia’s largest cities. It 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 12 October: Paul Bangay and the Gardens of Daylesford
The cool climate of the south-eastern 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 13 October: 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 14 October: 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 Mallee. Dinner and overnight, Horsham. (B, D)
Thursday 15 October: Silo Art and Wimmera Plains
The Wimmera Plains form an iconic Australian landscape, with its wide, dry plains and land 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 16 October: Silo Art and the landscapes of the Mallee
Today we drive north, continuing along the Silo Art Trail and moving 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 17 October: 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. After lunch 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 18 October: 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:
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