hecking out a gallery is the perfect excuse for a weekend away – just ask the happy visitors to MONA each Saturday. With this in mind, we have brought together a list of top art pilgrimages from Sydney or Melbourne. Near and far, these inspiring spots are definitely worth the trip, and not just because of their quality exhibition calendars.
Bundanon, West Cambewarra NSW
Arthur and Yvonne Boyd gifted their vast property on the banks of the Shoalhaven River to the Australian people in 1993. Arthur felt that “you can't own a landscape”, that the pristine bush and farmland should be shared, and shared it has been. Bundanon now runs a prestigious artist-in-residence program, nurturing multiple artists and musicians at any one time.
Bundanon is open to the public on Sundays, when visitors might encounter some of the projects residents are working on, catch a performance or take a tour of Arthur’s studio. Regular exhibitions are offset by works from the Boyd family archives and collections, and it is possible to stroll marked bushwalks or explore the homestead's gardens, which are dotted with sculptures from the Boyd family and friends.
The Arthur & Yvonne Boyd Education Centre was designed by Australia's internationally acclaimed architect Glenn Murcutt – visiting the building to see it cascade down the landscape is a must for architecture fans.
En route: It doesn’t get much cuter than the sweet town of Berry, which is on the way to the gallery as you head south from Sydney. Stop for a spot of antiquing, watch the world go by from the window of the local pub, or indulge in a brandy-soaked prune and custard tart at the Berry Sourdough Cafe.
Bendigo Art Gallery, Bendigo VIC
Well worth the two-hour drive up the highway, this prominent regional gallery is set in a building with a welcoming brick arch. Visitors are drawn by the strength of the exhibitions, which cover photography, contemporary art and sculpture, but it is the fashion and textiles shows that have set Bendigo apart.
Under director Karen Quinlan's stewardship, the annual attendance has multiplied with 250,000 visiting each year. This success can be attributed to thoughtfully themed shows and high-quality works – Golden Age of Couture and The White Wedding Dress were hugely successful and the current Grace Kelly: Style Icon is expected to do just as well.
En route: Once you’ve had your fill of style inspiration, stop in south of Bendigo at pretty Castlemaine to sample Castlemaine Rock. Every country town worth its salt should have a local lolly, and these sweet, golden shards are essential for the car trip home. If you’re after something more substantial, seek out gastro pub fare at the Public Inn.
Campbelltown Arts Centre, Campbelltown NSW
Less than an hour from Sydney, Campbelltown Arts Centre is the premier arts facility in the Greater Sydney area. The centre hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year and presents a diverse range of performances, workshops, exhibitions and events. Their impressive multi-disciplinary program is worth keeping an eye on – acclaimed performers and artists regularly appear on the bill.
A new kind of art institution, Campbelltown is interested in examining ideas through collaboration across disciplines. In keeping with this aim, from June they will present Transmission, pairing contemporary artists with musicians to produce work together.
As well as performance and exhibition spaces, the site includes a Japanese garden – perfect for a spot of quiet contemplation – which was a gift from Campbelltown's sister city Koshigaya.
En route: Just outside Campbelltown is the magnificent Mt Annan Botanic Garden, home to thousands of native plants and abundant birdlife. Australia’s biggest botanical garden, the rolling hills and lakes stretch for hundreds of hectares and are prime for picnickers, walkers and cyclists.
TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville VIC
TarraWarra has a unique privately funded collection with a focus on modern Australian pieces. Hosting work by internationally acclaimed artists like Chiharu Shiota and established Australian artists such as Callum Morton, the gallery’s artistic clout belies its sleepy setting. The prestigious Archibald Prize tour will make a stop at TarraWarra in June.
There is a timeless quality to the award-winning building, despite the artwork’s contemporary edge. As you enter the stately grounds, curving limestone walls cut through and emerge out of the hill. Framing the picturesque Yarra Valley landscape, this modern ruin is enriching for the mind and the belly – on site is the acclaimed TarraWarra restaurant, where museum-goers settle in to taste local wines and linger over lunch in front of the open fire.
While you’re there: You can't go wrong when eating and drinking in Healesville, which is heaving with wineries and restaurants, but the pick is Innocent Bystander, a hub of activity in the centre of town. Grab woodfired pizza with buffalo mozzarella, or sample cheese, wine or locally brewed beer. Don’t forget to take a loaf of sourdough home – some of Victoria’s best is baked right here.
Tweed River Art Gallery, Murwillumbah NSW
Late artist and arts patron Margaret Olley once declared Tweed River Art Gallery “one of the most beautiful regional galleries in Australia”, and set in a verdant valley, it is easy to see why. Art and nature blend together here; the changing exhibitions give way to spectacular scenery. Located 50km north of Byron Bay, this hilltop locale offers panoramic views of the forested Tweed Valley and River.
The area has long been populated by artists and craftspeople and they have become closely involved with the gallery, weaving it into the fabric of the community. There is an artist-in-residence program, artisan markets and regular artist talks. The collection includes portraiture, landscapes, photography, ceramics and woodwork that reflect the character and personalities of the area. This community aspect punctuates many of the gallery's offerings – where else might you attend an event that involves afternoon tea with the exhibiting artist's family?
Extend the trip: If you have ventured this far, take another couple of days to cruise one of the most picturesque coastlines in Australia. The northern NSW beaches will reward you with classic rolling surf, wetlands and estuaries, and lush rainforest hinterland.