Shoalhaven shines for cultural tourism

Rediscover Arthur Boyd’s Bundanon along with 7 art trails just hours from Sydney.

The Shoalhaven is fast becoming Australia’s most desirable regional destination for cultural tourism with the re-imagining of Arthur Boyd’s Bundanon, a variety of art trails and a year-long program of arts events. Located on the beautiful south coast of New South Wales, Shoalhaven is just a two-hour drive from Sydney or Canberra and offers everything you need for an arty mini-break.

‘Shoalhaven is a perfect place for artists to live and make work, and our new arts and culture guide links them all, big and small, in seven art trails that lead you across the region,’ says Coralie Bell, Tourism and Economic Development Manager at Shoalhaven City Council.

The comprehensive guide features over ninety arts attractions and activities for visitors and locals alike, demonstrating that an authentic arts ecology is embedded deep in the DNA of the Shoalhaven.

‘Even with all those wonderful arty things to do across the seven art trails, a visit to Bundanon has to be at the top of the list,’ she says.

Set on a 1000 hectare wildlife sanctuary, Bundanon was the home of iconic Australian painter Arthur Boyd for many years. It is now a major cultural attraction, with a subterranean art museum at the heart of Bundanon’s recent $30M development.

‘The new Art Museum is truly unique, as is Bundanon’s new Bridge for creative learning, which houses accommodation and multi-purpose spaces. All this set in the stunning Australian bush, beside the Shoalhaven River that inspired Arthur Boyd and will continue to inspire artists for years to come. We are so excited by this re-imagining of Bundanon, which was a gift to the Australian people.’

Embedded in the landscape, Bundanon’s Art Museum houses a changing program of art exhibitions and unique cultural experiences, with events and concerts presented across the site. There will be three exhibition seasons annually coupled with tailored learning and engagement programs.

Exploring Shoalhaven’s arts trails

Shoalhaven has long been known for its vibrant arts and cultural sector, with exciting annual festivals, contemporary art spaces, plentiful live music, and local markets for makers and creators.

The seven art trails have been designed to gently guide visitors across the Shoalhaven so they can experience the cultural fabric of the region.

‘One unique aspect of the area is our makers, who sell their work at local artisan markets, co-op stores or from their own studios. It always makes the experience richer to meet the maker and understand the work whether you are buying or just browsing,’ says Bell.

Given the last couple of years of social distancing and lockdowns, this taps into our need for a deeper human connection and authentic creative expression, along with a desire to get out into nature. These twin desires are driving a greater appreciation of outdoor arts and cultural experiences, whether that’s art trails, outdoor events and public art.

‘There are so many creative workshops available whatever your interests, such as jewellery making, alcohol ink art, or even chocolate sculpting to get you in the “zen” zone,’ says Bell.

‘We even have whale watching down our beautiful rugged coastline,’ she adds. ‘Winter is a great time for wine and whales, with nine cellar doors to visit and the humpback migration lasting from May to November. A cosy coastal break with wine and whales makes the perfect complement for your leisurely arts trail adventure in the Shoalhaven.’

Along with Bundanon, locals and visitors alike treasure the Fleet Air Arm Museumshowcasing the Naval history of the region. Then there is the Shoalhaven Regional Gallery, currently showcasing MindScapes by Graham Blondell and an exhibition of video art These Stories Will Be Different by Zanny Begg. Or visitors can try the mural trail featuring well-known street artists; and ‘Meroogal’ a gothic-house museum described as a rare and precious gem. These attractions are all in and around Nowra, with many other smaller villages and townships to visit across the region.

Discover the new arts and culture guide with over 90 art experiences.

Dr Diana Carroll is a writer, speaker, and reviewer based in Adelaide. Her work has been published in newspapers and magazines including the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Woman's Day, and B&T. Writing about the arts is one of her great passions.