From rainforest draped with waterfalls to coastal coves and great swathes of moonscape desert, the New South Wales countryside, coast and outback has this way of inspiring creatives. All of us, really.
Tap into those who immortalise the state’s beauty at art galleries, intimate not-for-profit centres, museums and studios. Sculptures, paintings, prints, installations and photography all await, in institutions big and small.
Near the Queensland border on the far North Coast, the town of Murwillumbah is small in population, but big in art. Welcome to the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre. With panoramic views of the Tweed River dancing over manicured gardens, the setting here is almost as memorable as the art you’ll glimpse inside. Exhibition spaces host a vibrant program of works, including the biennial Olive Cotton Award for photographic portraiture. But surely the highlight is the space dedicated to one of Australia’s most significant still-life and interior painters: The works of Margaret Olley (AO) are celebrated in a glorious apartment that recreates the artist’s own living space.
Forty minutes’ drive south in Bangalow is Ninbella, an independent gallery representing Aboriginal artists from the Western and Central Desert regions of Australia, as well as the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. From here, you’re just a 20-minute drive from Byron Bay, where independent galleries galore line beach-facing streets.
Closer to Sydney still, Newcastle Art Gallery is currently under renovation – when it reopens you can expect the exhibitions and public programs the gallery is already known for, as well as an outdoor sculpture garden featuring the works of international and local artists, new café and other event spaces.
The Lock-Up, Newcastle - Credit: Jessie Jane
A short walk away, in the heritage Newcastle Police Station building, is The Lock-Up, a multidisciplinary contemporary arts space offering a diverse program of exhibitions, events, installations and workshops.
The Museum of Art and Culture Lake Macquarie, yapang now includes a dedicated space for contemporary Aboriginal art exhibitions, as well as a sculpture park set on five hectares of leafy grounds, featuring work by local and national artists.
Venture as far south as you can in New South Wales to the Victorian border, and along the banks of the beautiful Murray Riverin Albury you’ll discover the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk, a series of contemporary sculptures by local Aboriginal artists, detailing the Indigenous significance of the land.
In the city, you’ll find Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA), a contemporary gallery offering talks and workshops alongside international touring exhibitions and local and Indigenous art.
A comedy flick about the contribution of the Parkes Radio Telescope to the 1969 Apollo Moon landing, The Dish was filmed in the country NSW town of Parkes. You can visit the CSIRO’s Parkes Observatory, which is 20 kilometres north of town, and discover the global research this immense structure is contributing to and advancing.
South of Sydney, the Wollongong Art Gallery manages a collection of contemporary, Aboriginal, Asian and colonial artworks, as well as changing exhibitions. It’s a dynamic place for discovery, with plenty of opportunities to get hands-on. Just outside of Nowra, 100 kilometres south, is Bundanon, the home and studio of the late Australian artist Arthur Boyd. Open from Wednesday to Sunday, the estate offers guided tours that showcase the property and an extensive art collection from one of Australia’s greatest potters, painters and printmakers.
In the far west of the state in a remote mining town, the unexpected Broken Hill City Art Gallery is the oldest regional art gallery in NSW. As such, it comes with a dramatic and extensive collection of works from Australian colonial times, as well as early 20th-century and contemporary paintings. Plan your day around this immersive experience.
Just 20 minutes outside of the town is the soul-stirring Living Desert and Sculptures, featuring 12 sandstone artworks by Lawrence Beck that manage to capture the outback skyline in all its fiery glory.
Also nearby in the hokey town of Silverton you’ll find the John Dynon Gallery, a high-five to all things outback. The colourfully decorated Aussie tin shack it calls home is almost as eye-catching as Dynon’s work.
Destination NSW acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as the Traditional Owners and occupants of New South Wales land and water.