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 new 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.
Superlative regional galleries in the goldfields towns of Bendigo and Ballarat: two of regional Australia’s most dynamic and expansive collections
The landscapes of the Yarra Valley, Dandenongs and Mornington Peninsula
The McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery and TarraWarra Museum of Art, leading private collections of contemporary art
Colonial Australia, at Barwon Park Mansion, the well-preserved Gold Rush town of Maldon and Goulburn Valley’s Tahbilk Winery
Heide Museum of Modern Art, celebrating Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker and the thoroughly modern Reed family
Days 1–3: Meet at Tullamarine airport and travel to Castlemaine Art Museum. Continue to Bendigo, uncovering Gold Rush history through its many historic buildings and galleries. Enjoy a day trip to the Goulburn Valley to visit Shepparton Regional Gallery and the historic Tahbilk Estate, one of Australia’s oldest wineries.
Days 4-5: Travel to Ballarat to explore the excellent Regional Gallery, before continuing on to tranquil Queenscliff. Enjoy the Bellarine Peninsula with a trip to Geelong, whose regional gallery has helped change the city’s reputation, and a visit to Barwon Park Mansion, a 42-room bluestone mansion.
Day 6-8: Explore the Mornington Peninsula, beginning with a ferry crossing from Queenscliff to Sorrento and finishing at McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery. Travel to the Yarra Valley to explore the Dandenongs and Cloudehill gardens; and visit the TarraWarra Museum of Art and the Heide Museum of Modern Art before returning to Tullamarine airport.
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.
Tuesday 20 October: Castlemaine and Maldon
The tour begins at 10:30am this morning, when we gather at Melbourne Airport (Terminal 3) to travel by coach to Bendigo. On the way we stop at Castlemaine, for a lunch break and a tour of Castlemaine Art Museum. The museum, which was saved from closure recently by a very generous anonymous donation, has a fine collection of Australian heritage art, including works by Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton, which is complemented by a strong collection of modernists from Margaret Preston to Jeffrey Smart. After our visit, we continue to Bendigo, stopping at Maldon, an exceptionally well-preserved town from the Gold Rush – the source of the wealth that led to the creation of many of Victoria’s excellent regional galleries. In the evening we meet for a welcome dinner in one of Bendigo’s fine restaurants. Overnight Bendigo (D)
Wednesday 21 October: Bendigo
The discovery of gold in 1851 on what would become the 7th largest gold field in the world led to the rapid development of the city of Bendigo. The townspeople quickly developed their own civic identity and wished to make their home the “Vienna of the South”. These ambitions led to the construction of many elegant public buildings, and also to the foundation of an art gallery in 1887. Bendigo Regional Gallery has gained an international reputation, over the past decade, especially following its expansion, its acquisition of contemporary Australian art, and its temporary exhibitions that are of a standard rarely seen outside of the main state galleries in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. This morning, after a talk, we visit the impressive gallery, touring its permanent collection of Australian art and visiting its temporary exhibitions. 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, which houses a fantastic collection of Chinese decorative arts and the world’s two longest Imperial Dragons. Overnight Bendigo (B)
Thursday 22 October: 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 together, before exploring the wetlands by boat and strolling among the historic buildings of the vineyard. Returning to Bendigo in late afternoon, the evening is at leisure. Overnight Bendigo (B, L)
Friday 23 October: 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. The recent hang also breaks with tradition by bringing together the masterpieces by Australian female artists in the main exhibition space. After a break for lunch, we visit Lake Wendouree and the botanic gardens, before continuing on to Queenscliff. Evening at leisure. Overnight Queenscliff (B)
Saturday 24 October: 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 25 October: The Mornington Peninsula
Today we explore the Mornington Peninsula, starting with a ferry crossing from Queenscliff to Sorrento and a visit to Point Nepean Quarantine Station, which operated for over a century and has almost 50 heritage-listed buildings. After our visit of the site, we continue to lunch at one of the peninsula’s excellent vineyards. In the afternoon, we continue north along the peninsula to McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery, a private endeavour started by 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. In the late afternoon, we continue to the upper Yarra Valley, where we enjoy the quiet and seclusion of our hotel on the Upper Yarra River. Light dinner together. Overnight Oscars on the Yarra (B, L, D)
Monday 26 October: The Dandenongs
Today, after a leisurely start 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 landscape painting style. Our first stop is the National Rhododendron Garden, whose extensive plantings overlook the Yarra Valley. After exploring the gardens we break for lunch at Olinda before visiting Cloudehill – a beautiful cool climate garden owned by the Diggers Club (a society who maintain heirloom seed and plant stock). Returning to the Yarra Valley, we enjoy a wine tasting. In the early evening there is a talk in the hotel, followed by dinner together. Overnight Oscars on the Yarra (B, D)
Tuesday 27 October: Tarrawarra and Heide
This morning 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 a break for lunch in Healesville. In the afternoon, 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 the airport, arriving at about 5pm, in time for evening flights to Sydney. (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
A Grade 1 tour is appropriate for travellers in good health with good mobility, who can comfortably participate in up to 3 hours of physical activity per day on most days. More Details
There are currently no places available on this tour. A place on the waitlist is not a confirmed place on tour. If you would like to be notified if a place becomes available on tour, please register your details.
There are currently no places available on this tour. A place on the waitlist is not a confirmed place on tour. If you would like to be notified if a place becomes available on tour, please register your details below.
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