Margot McGovern discovers Australia’s leading arts and cultural hubs by bike.
Australia is home to some of the world’s finest art, most innovative theatre, leading art galleries, museums and performing arts precincts. It’s no wonder tourists and locals love to visit for a taste of each state or territory’s unique history, culture and artistic flair.
Most major arts and cultural centres are conveniently located within the bustling hubs of our capital cities—easily accessible by bike. Here’s all the information you’ll need to plan an arty day out in seven Australian cities.
North Terrace is Adelaide’s cultural heart and a must-see for first-time visitors to the city. Close by the banks of the River Torrens it is home to the University of Adelaide, the State Library, Museum and Art Gallery. However, North Terrace itself is not ideal for cycling on. While it has bike lanes in places, it is also a popular hotel strip, with taxis pulling in and out to pick up and drop off passengers. It also accommodates the tram, busses and heavy car traffic. So it’s best to visit the gallery and museum from the Linear Park track that runs along the river. You can access North Terrace from the River via Frome Road or Kintore Avenue.
Bike parking is available on both sides of the museum, at the State Library next door and in the laneway between the art gallery and museum.
After a day exploring the exhibits, head to the nearby Festival Centre for a State Theatre show. Head north along Kintore Avenue to the Women’s Memorial gardens, and take the path along the top of the gardens. If you happen to plan your trip for the first week of March, you may be lucky enough to hear one of your favourite authors speak, with the gardens being the longtime home of Adelaide Writers’ Week. Exit the gardens on King William Street and cross at the lights to the Festival Centre. There is bike parking available outside the Festival Theatre.
If you need a bike while you’re in town, pick up a free City Bike, helmet and lock from one of 14 locations around the city.
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The Sunshine State’s leading galleries, museum and performing arts centre, including the Gallery of Modern Art with its interactive children’s exhibitions, are all conveniently located on Brisbane’s trendy South Bank. The cultural hub overlooks the Brisbane River and is accessible via bike-friendly roads from all directions, including the Riverside Bikeway. There is bike parking aplenty, including uncovered racks by the Stanley Street bus stop in front of the gallery, on the corner of Stanley Street in front of the Queensland Museum and on Grey Street and Russell Street at the performing arts centre. There are also undercover racks available in the Performing Arts Car Park, though you’ll need to note car park closing times.
If you don’t have your own bike, rent a ride from Brisbane’s CityCycle bike share system. There are 150 stations located around the city, including on Grey Street, opposite the performing arts centre. A City Cycle subscription can be purchased for $2 a day and trips under 30 minutes are free.
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As the nation’s capital, Canberra is home to many of Australia’s cultural and artistic treasures. It’s also famous for its extensive bike network. If you’ve arrived in the city sans velo, you can hire one from $40 a day from Mr Spokes Bike Hire. Once you’ve picked up your hired bike, it’s an easy 2.5km trundle south across the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and south-east along King Edward Terrace to the National Portrait Gallery to meet Australia’s famous faces. You can also head across Queen Elizabeth Terrace to the National Gallery of Australia, which is home to more than 160,000 works of art. Bike parking is available on Queen Elizabeth Terrace between the two galleries.
A short, 3.6km ride across Lake Burley Griffin, via the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and the off-road path along the banks of the lake will take you to the National Museum of Australia, home to such curiosities as the Holden prototype, Pharlap’s heart and the Playschool ‘flower clock’.
End your day with another short 2.6km ride back along the bike path and London Circuit to take in a show at the Canberra Theatre Centre. Undercover bike parking is available in the precinct.
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Tasmania’s capital is uniquely suited for visitors with a twin love of art and bikes. The best way to enjoy the seaside city’s galleries, sculptures and public art is by picking up one of the ARTBIKES available from Arts Tasmania on Elizabeth Street. ARTBIKES are free for the first day, $22 overnight or $44 for the weekend.
Make your first stop the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, which is just a short 1km ride from Arts Tasmania via Liverpool Street, Argyle Street and Macquarie Street. Bike parking is available at both the Dunn Street and Argyle Street entrances.
From there, take the off-road path north-east along Davey Street to the Intercity Cycleway which will take you along the banks of the Derwent River to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). A one way trip is 12km. At MONA you’ll find some of the most provocative exhibitions in Australia, including the ‘Cloaca’ poo machine and the eerie Death Gallery.
After your visit to MONA, head back to Hobart to catch an evening show at the Theatre Royal on Campbell Street between Liverpool Street and Sackville Street
If you have a few days in town, pick up an ARTBIKE map with your hire bike and check out the other cultural highlights, including the Salamanca markets and galleries and the Battery Point sculpture trail.
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Arts Centre Melbourne is located on the banks of the Yarra River immediately south of the CBD between bustling Southbank and St Kilda Road. The centre is home to Hamer Hall, the Theatres Building and Digital Learning Hub and is right next door to the National Gallery of Victoria. Every Sunday the centre hosts an artist market where you can discover some of the best locally-made creations.
If you’re approaching via the river, take the Main Yarra Trail on the north bank or the capital city trail on the South. If coming through the city, Swanston Street will lead you directly to the centre. It also has Copenhagen-style lanes and motor traffic is limited. From the south, take St Kilda Road. It has bike lanes the whole way, although you need to be wary of parked cars and confident in heavy traffic.
Start your day browsing the exhibitions at the NGV before heading to the Melbourne Museum in the afternoon. If you don’t have a bike with you, there’s a Melbourne Bike Share docking station in front of the gateway Adventist Centre, just south of the gallery. A subscription can be purchased for $2.80 per day and trips under 30 minutes are free.
To reach the museum, head north across Princes Bridge and continue up Swanton Street before heading east on La Trobe Street and north again on Rathdowne Street. There’s a docking station in front of the museum on Rathdowne Street and both the museum and arts centre have bike racks at their entrance.
When you’ve had your fill of history and natural wonders, make the return journey to the arts centre to catch an evening concert or Melbourne Theatre Company show or take St Kilda Road and Grant Street to the Malthouse Theatre.
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For your culture hit in Perth, head to the aptly-named Perth Cultural Centre, which ishome to the Western Australian Art Gallery, theatre centre, museum and library, as well as a number of smaller performances spaces and the flourishing Urban Orchard, where seasonal produce is grown year round.
The Cultural Centre is located behind the William Street restaurant strip and is easily accessed via the city’s bike network, although the Roe Street entrance is perhaps the most bike-friendly, offering access via an off-road, shared-use path.
Bike parking is available at the Cultural Centre, with additional rails at Perth Station across Roe Street.
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Many of Sydney’s key cultural attractions are nestled within leafy parks, making them even more enjoyable to reach by bike. A visit to the Australian Museum, across the road from Hyde Park is a great start to a bike tour. Nearby bikes can cross William Street, and take the path through Cook and Phillip Park past the Aquatic and Fitness Centre. Riding along the off-road path beside St Marys Road and turning north-east to follow the path beside Art Gallery Road will take you to the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Once you’ve had your fill at the gallery, you can follow the off-road path along the edge of the Doman beside the Cahill Expressway to cross into the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney at the corner of Shakespeare Place and Macquarie Street. Travel along the off-road path beside Maquarie Street and cross onto Macquarie Street itself where the path terminates at the Cahill Expressway intersection. Follow Maquarie Street north to arrive at your final destination—the Sydney Opera House— for an evening show
Bike parking is available beneath the monumental Steps at the Opera House. There are also bike racks available at the main entrance to the Gallery of NSW and outside the Australian Museum on College Street.
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