Academy Travel is delighted to offer a unique journey through some of Australia’s best mountain scenery, combined with great art. Our carefully curated itinerary includes visits to the homes and studios of three prominent artists, a number of regional galleries and exhibitions in the national capital. Encounters with art are carefully balanced with relaxing drives through the scenery, gardens, food, wine and an exploration of the region’s Indigenous and European heritage.
Beginning in Sydney we travel to the Southern Highlands of New South Wales – long a haven for artists and art lovers. Two nights in Canberra allow us to catch two important exhibitions, Jeffrey Smart at the NGA and Ancient Greeks at the NMA. This is followed by two days of great scenery as we traverse the Monaro and spend a night in the Alps before following the course of the upper Murray River to Albury, our base for exploring the Victorian High Country and local sites.
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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.
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Enjoy a private visit to the late James Fairfax’s country retreat, beautifully landscaped and with murals by Donald Friend and other outstanding works of art.
Jeffrey Smart & Ancient Greeks
Visit the Jeffrey Smart Retrospective as well as Know my name, Part II, celebrating Australian female artists, at the National Gallery of Australia, plus the Ancient Greeks at the National Museum of Australia.
Gardens of the Monaro
Enjoy superb gardens on some of Australia’s finest properties, meet the owners and enjoy genuine country hospitality.
Take the Kosciuszko chairlift and enjoy the views from Australia’s highest peaks; follow the Murray River westward from its source high in the Alps.
Benalla Regional Gallery
Discover a hidden gem, one of Australia’s best regional galleries, with some of the big names in Australian art.
The tour starts on Monday 14 March at Grand concourse, Sydney Central at 9.00am and end on Sunday 20 March at Sydney Central, c. 8.00pm.
Included meals are indicated by B, L, D.
Monday March 14 – The Southern Highlands
We gather in Sydney this morning and head by coach for the NSW Southern Highlands, long a getaway for Sydney-based artists and art lovers. We enjoy a private tour of the late James Fairfax’s estate, Retford Park, at Bowral. The house was built for Samuel Hordern in 1887 and purchased by Fairfax in 1964. For decades until his death in 2017, James Fairfax was one of Australia’s leading patrons of the arts. He both collected European old masters (including Titian, Rubens, and Rembrandt) and supported up-and-coming Australian artists, befriending many of them. He embellished Retford Park with remarkable art and furniture, including dining room murals painted in the 1970s by Sydney-based artist Donald Friend. At the nearby town of Berrima there is time to stroll the colonial-era buildings and grab lunch at a café. On arrival in Canberra in the late afternoon we visit the collection of paintings by Sydney Nolan at the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery. The paintings are drawn from across the range of Nolan’s oeuvre and include several from the celebrated Ned Kelly series. Tonight we dine in a fine Canberra restaurant. Overnight Canberra. (D)
Tuesday March 15 – Jeffrey Smart, Ancient Greeks and two Canberra artists
The National Gallery of Australia is hosting several major exhibitions at the time of our visit. Our focus will be on the major retrospective of the paintings of Jeffrey Smart, one of Australia’s most celebrated artists, who would have turned 100 in 2021. Before our visit to the NGA, Academy Travel lecturer Dr Nick Gordon will offer us insight into the life and work of Jeffrey Smart in an online lecture presentation. After a break for lunch, we head to the National Museum of Australia, where an outstanding exhibition from the British Museum, Ancient Greeks is underway. In the late afternoon we tour the glass-making studio of Matthew Curtis and Harriet Schwarzrock. Both have works in galleries and private collections around the world. Curtis and Schwarzrock will both talk about the work and demonstrate their technique over afternoon tea. Overnight Canberra. (B)
Wednesday March 16 – Gardens of the Monaro
We depart Canberra this morning and head for the stark beauty of the Monaro plateau, beyond Cooma. We visit two historic gardens, both in their autumn prime. Hazeldean is one of Australia’s most important Angus beef breeding properties, and the gardens which surround its Leslie Wilkinson homestead are the proud creation of current owners, Libby and James Litchfield. Just beyond the town of Nimmitabel, we admire the Paul Bangay-designed Garden at Shirley, where hosts Jim and Sally-Ann Cottle also provide lunch. We then hope to visit the nearby garden and studio of one of Australia’s most sought-after contemporary painters, Lucy Culliton (visit TBC). Culliton’s work can be found in collections including of the Art Gallery NSW, Australian Parliament House, Canberra and the National Gallery Australia. She is well known for her landscape and still-life paintings, many of which depict her garden at Bibbenluke in the Monaro. We continue to Thredbo in the Australian Alps. Dinner is in our hotel. Overnight Thredbo. (B ,L,D)
Thursday March 17 – An Alpine Journey
This morning we take the Kosciuszko Express chairlift to a point some 560 metres above Thredbo. Here we enjoy spectacular views across the Alps. You can choose to undertake the four-kilometre hike to the Kosciuszko lookout or simply relax in the café and enjoy the outlook. In the early afternoon we begin our spectacular journey through the Alps to Albury. Our route along the Snowy Mountains Highway follows the course of the Murray River from its source at Tom Groggin through pretty villages such as Khancoban and Jingellic. Stretching from the coast deep into inland regions, the Snowy Mountains Highway was re-engineered as part of the post-war Snowy Mountains Scheme, and we will pass parts of this scheme during our drive. Before arriving in Albury, we call in at the home of contemporary sculptor Marley Dawson in the old gold mining town of Bethanga. Marley is represented by Sydney Gallery RoslynOxley9 and his work is to be found in commissions and collections around Australia and internationally. There is dinner in a local restaurant in Albury this evening. Overnight Albury. (B, D)
Friday March 18 – Albury Art and Rutherglen Wine
At the southern end of Wiradjuri lands, Albury’s significance to both indigenous Australians and Europeans derived from it’s an easily-negotiated crossing of the Murray River. By the time the railway line arrived in 1881, it was an important border town between the thriving colonies of New South Wales and Victoria. This morning we view some of the Indigenous art on the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk, which runs along the Murray River. We also visit the Murray Art Museum Albury, housed in an impressive contemporary building located within Albury’s historic precinct. For lunch we travel to the nearby wine-making region of Rutherglen in northern Victoria, for a relaxed lunch at Jones Winery Restaurant. Producing red wines such as shiraz and durif, Rutherglen is international known for its fortified wines such as Muscat and Topaque. There will be time to stroll in the well-preserved historical precinct of Rutherglen before returning. Overnight Albury. (B, L)
Saturday March 19 – Benalla Art Gallery and the Victorian Alps
Thanks to a number of bequests the Benalla Art Gallery, 90 minutes south of Albury, is one of Australia’s best regional galleries. The permanent collection includes works by Conrad Martens, Eugene von Guerard, Louis Buvelot, E. Phillips Fox, Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Clara Southern and Frederick McCubbin. At the time of our visit there is a special exhibition celebrating Benalla’s renowned botanic gardens, so we will pair our gallery visit with a stroll through the gardens. This afternoon we take a leisurely journey back to Albury via the historic towns of Beechworth and Stanley in the Victorian Alps. Most of the towns in the Victorian Alps experienced a short-lived boom in the 1850s Gold Rush, and this is reflected in the fine colonial architecture of the town centres. This evening we share a farewell meal at one of Albury’s best restaurants. Overnight Albury. (B, D)
Sunday March 20 – National Art Glass Collection
We depart Albury and head to Wagga Wagga, whose regional gallery houses the National Art Glass Collection, with works from the 1960s to the present day. This world-class collection comprises some 2,600 pieces, of which a rotating selection is on display in a special purpose gallery. There will then be a transfer to Wagga Wagga railway station for those wishing to travel back to Sydney by XPT train in the early afternoon, or to Wagga Wagga airport for those who prefer to take an afternoon flight. (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!”
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.