There’s so much more to Melbourne’s art scene than the two NGV precincts in the middle of the city. Whilst NGV International brings icons from across the globe, and the Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square promotes Australian art, it doesn’t take a long drive to get to fantastic art hotspots that offer a unique experience for locals and travellers alike.

Venture down Peninsula Link— Melbourne’s newest freeway down south— or head to the often less-discovered northern suburbs for a fix of art inspiration. With picnics and group bookings welcome at many of the best art galleries in Melbourne, they’re of course, all fitted out with amenities and cafés to fuel you for the walks around the grounds. One of Melbourne’s best restaurants is also housed at a new sculpture park – why not treat yourself?

For those coming from afar, organising a weekend trip away and car with GoGet couldn’t be easier, and there are plenty of boutique BnBs to stay for a night or two. Take in the green hills, bay views and vines of the Peninsula, or opt for a road trip to regional towns to spend a lazy Sunday with a picnic and friends.

best art galleries in melbourne

HEIDE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART:

Just off the Eastern Freeway in Bulleen is Heide, a sprawling estate which is now run as a gallery and foundation to support modern Australian art. Artworks, architecture, gardening and history all combine for a cultural experience of a different kind. The gardens surrounding the exhibition and historical spaces house sculptures to elevate your art knowledge as well as your #Insta game. Not interested in art? Come down anyway with a picnic and lie in the gardens free of charge.

McCLELLAND SCULPTURE PARK AND GALLERY:

Expansive bushland in Langwarrin, right off the Mornington Peninsula Freeway, is home to tens of sculptures lining McClelland’s grounds, as well as a gallery and restaurant. Entry gets you access to all spaces, including showcase spaces where they host events of the best sculptures each year. Many are interactive and invite photography as well as candid posing. Another great spot for a Sunday picnic on the lawn, or enjoy the wonderful food served in the café. Consider it for your next function, or simply come again with a book under the shade of a sculpture.

PT LEO ESTATE:

Head right down Peninsula Link—making it so easy to access all your summer dream weekends possible—and you’ll find Pt Leo Estate in the suburb of Merricks. More sculptures delight here, as well as fantastic views of Western Port Bay and the vineyards that serve the on-site restaurant, Laura. Work up an appetite for lunch or dinner by choosing the short or long walks through the fields. Laura was awarded Best New Restaurant in Good Food Guide’s 2019 awards, so why not treat yourself? Drink responsibly if driving and take home a bottle from their cellar to look forward to for another time.

JACKALOPE:

This site may be more food-related but one look at the architecture and surrounds will have you swooning. Famous for their restaurant, Rare Hare, Jackalope houses a boutique hotel and spa in the midst of their seemingly never-ending vineyards. Coming soon is an ACMI-supported installation called Rain Room—as obvious as the name suggests—to engage the senses of all visitors in a rare experience. Walk through the various buildings to admire the beautiful interior designs and enjoy an incredible Australian-inspired lunch in a buzzing communal space.

GEELONG GALLERY:

Hop in the car and head south-west to Geelong for a day trip or weekend away among locals on the waterfront. The gallery houses both Australian and International art, including sculpture and decorative arts. The building itself is stunning, and the gallery presents historical findings about the region as well as Indigenous Australian art. In fact, the Archibald Portrait Prize was held here this year, bringing art lovers from all over to experience a new part of Melbourne’s art scene. The gallery offers free entry, so you can then enjoy Geelong’s booming culinary scene while you’re here. On the drive, stop off in one of the quaint country towns on the way for a stretch and dare to resist the bakeries.

BENDIGO ART GALLERY:

A big name in the Victorian art scene, Bendigo Art Gallery brings in hoards of travellers each year for stand-out exhibitions. In the past year, the gallery has shown works from Frida Kahlo to prison-trained Bali Nine artist, Myuran Sukumaran. This year, a huge exhibition on the designs of Cristóbal Balenciaga will no doubt have the Calder Freeway gridlocked with fashion lovers. Save yourself a weekend to come up to Bendigo and visit the beautiful towns and forests along the way, including Castlemaine, Mount Macedon and the spa region of Hepburn and Daylesford. It is a charming drive in winter.

 best art galleries in melbourne

About Sophie Evans

Sophie is a freelance journalist based out of Melbourne. Currently studying at Swinburne University, she is also the Editor of Swine Magazine to which she regularly contributes.