Benalla, some 200km northeast of Melbourne, has all the makings of a well-equipped rural city. Founded in the early 19th century, it may be small by big city standards (population 10,000) but it has a rich history, thanks to its connections to Australia’s most notorious bushranger/outlaw, Ned Kelly. Kelly’s gang operated in and around the area before it culminated in a shootout with the local police, whereby he was arrested and executed for his crimes.
In more recent times, quiet little Benalla has been making its name other ways – street art. Since 2015, the city has hosted the Benalla Wall to Wall Art Festival, bringing buildings, streets and pavements to life with colourful, vibrant street art.
I was very lucky to be in town while the festival was on last April, bringing together 50 artists from all over the world who made the city their artistic playground and canvas. White walls were turned into bright and vivid tapestries, and there were activities relating to arts, culture and music happening all over the city throughout the three-day period. Locals and tourists alike were out on the street watching the artists at work and there was a highly festive, carnival-like atmosphere in the air.
Three giant murals adorn the side of the Benalla SEC building.
I really liked this one by Phibs and George Rose. 🙂
For those who missed the fest, fret not as the murals will be there until the next year. Guided tours to spot these artistic pieces are available, or you could get a brochure from the tourist information centre/art museum and try to locate them on your own.
What else is there to do in Benalla? If you like greenery, then take a stroll in the city’s picturesque heritage park, the Benalla Botanical Gardens. First established in the late 1800s, the place has its own rose gardens and also plays host to the annual Benalla Rose Festival. The art gallery, another major attraction, is located within the park, sitting next to the tranquil man-made Lake Benalla. Great for picnics and evening excursions to watch the sunset.
Inside the spacious gallery, which houses permanent and temporary exhibitions by local and international artists.
Had a quick coffee before we left town.
It was a shame we were rushing for time so we didn’t get to see as much as we’d like to, but I think visitors going on the food and wine trail from Melbourne should definitely stop by Benalla.