If you are exploring Australia and in search of an experience with a touch of the educational, here are my must-sees…
The Powerhouse Ultimo, Sydney
Housed in a former electric tram power station, this museum focuses on technology, science and innovation. As you walk in, you are greeted by the Whitbread Engine, the oldest working rotative steam engine in the world. Designed by Scottish engineer James Watt, it was installed at London’s Whitbread Brewery in 1785 and remained there for 102 years before being restored for the museum’s opening at the current site in 1988 (maas.museum).
Australian War Memorial, Canberra
Above is a memorial wall at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The Duke of Edinburgh opened two of its wings in 1971
Cultural mix: The White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney (pictured) showcases contemporary Chinese art
This site covers the continent’s involvement in war from the first settlement at Sydney Cove to UN peacekeeping roles. The Royal Family has strong links to the place: Prince Harry, son of King George V and Queen Mary, planted a Lone Pine in 1934, and the Duke of Edinburgh opened two of its wings in 1971 (awm.gov.au).
The White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney
This little gem opened in 2009, in a former Rolls-Royce service depot, to showcase contemporary Chinese art. Owner Judith Neilson was inspired to create the collection after visiting Beijing in the 1990s and now has more than 2,000 works by almost 700 artists (whiterabbitcollection.org).
The Norman Lindsay Gallery, Sydney
One of the most beautiful buildings in the Blue Mountains, this gallery in Faulconbridge is the former home of artist Norman Lindsay, whose bucolic lifestyle was portrayed by Sam Neill in the 1994 film Sirens. The sandstone house showcases Lindsay’s bohemian paintings as well as characters from his children’s classic The Magic Pudding, published in 1918 (nationaltrust.org.au/places/norman-lindsay-gallery).
National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra
Enthusiasts can discover more than three million works including movies, TV programmes and records at the archive. Memorabilia includes scripts, costumes and props from films such as 1986 action-comedy Crocodile Dundee, Moulin Rouge and Muriel’s Wedding (nfsa.gov.au).
The National Arboretum, Canberra
There are an astonishing 44,000 rare trees spread across 617 acres in this place of beauty and recreation. It also contains bike trails and horse tracks. The site was put on the map in 2014 when the then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge planted an English oak tree (nationalarboretum.act.gov.au).
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Opened in 1999 in the Old Parliament House with just 28 pieces of art, the National Portrait Gallery now encompasses its own purpose-built building, where the works honour ‘highly significant’ Australian citizens. The collection covers four centuries and contains photographs, prints, collages and caricatures of people from all walks of life, including Clifton Pugh’s 1958 portrait of Barry Humphries (portrait.gov.au).
Want to feel the force of an earthquake? Head to the National Science and Technology Centre where galleries include Australia in Space, investigating space technology; Awesome Earth, where you can experience seismic forces; and a Mini Q lab where little scientists can experiment (questacon.edu.au).
The Mad Max 2 Museum houses a collection of memorabilia from George Miller’s 1981 movie
The Mad Max 2 Museum, Sydney
British couple Adrian and Linda Bennett moved to the Outback to create this museum dedicated to George Miller’s 1981 movie. Located in Silverton, where the film was shot, it houses a collection of memorabilia from the movie – including original and replica vehicles (silverton.org.au/experience/attractions/mad-max-museum).
Australian Sports Museum, Melbourne
Sports fans will be bowled over by this site within the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground celebrating the country’s rich sporting history. An interactive gallery allows you to take part in cycling, archery, shooting a netball and beating the goalie. It also includes an avatar of the late Shane Warne (australiansportsmuseum.org.au).
Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania
The largest privately funded museum in the southern hemisphere, ‘Mona’ has been dubbed the ‘museum of sex and death’. Owner David Walsh opts for fun art to grab your attention under these themes, rather than the work of famous artists. To get the full experience, travel there by ferry in the Posh Pit for $60 – a 25-minute trip from Hobart in a private lounge (mona.net.au).