Silo Art Trails: A Guide to Two Amazing Public Art Tours
Silo art has really taken off in Victoria and around the rest of the country. There are now two Silo Art Trails to be found in the state, with more popping up as time goes on.
These painted silos are a melding of history and art, devised to bring tourism to small, regional towns in the area.
And they’ve done just that – international acclaim has brought thousands of travellers flocking to this region of the state, spreading the tourist dollar where it’s most needed.
You can now find these painted silos in several states across Australia – Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales have all jumped on board.
Read more: How to Spend a Week in Melbourne
Like Australia’s “Big Thing” statues, these painted silos can brighten up any road trip, giving you sights to see along the way, as well as cause to stop in small country towns that you may otherwise miss.
While the online images of the silos are impressive in themselves, they are something that are worth experiencing in the flesh. Like most art, of course!
I’ve self driven both silo art trails this year (2019). The original trail in the state’s north-west takes you through the area of Wimmera Mallee.
The newer silo art trail in the northeastern part of the state will take you through Victoria’s High Country, a severely underrated part of the state. This tour starts at the town of Benalla, which is also covered in public art and has held an annual Wall to Wall Street Art Festival for the last few years.
Here’s everything you need to know about self-driving both of the Silo Art Trails in Victoria, as well as where you can find other painted silos in the state.
The Silo Art Trails of Victoria
History of the original Silo Art Trail
There are hundreds of silos littered across regional Australia, some which were built in the 1930s. Originally used to store grain, abandoned train lines and changes in agriculture have forced some to close.
The question then arises – what can then be done with these structures?
Some have been sold to private companies for storage. Others have been turned into telecommunication towers, providing mobile phone reception.
In what may be the most genius idea yet, the town of Mirrool in southern inland NSW has held an annual event since 1992, where there is a competition to boot a footy over the local silo. Whoever kicks the highest, wins!
And of course, they’ve become blank canvas for artists all over the world to paint large-scale works on their surface. Now there are two silo art trails in Victoria alone… and counting!
Silo Art Trails: The Wimmera Mallee Trail
Silo art started in the small town of Brim, in Victoria’s north-west.
GrainCorp, who owns most of the silos in Australia, agreed to allow Brisbane artist Guido van Helten to paint a mural on the 30 metre high decommissioned silos in Brim. The idea was originally intended to be a small community project, dreamt up by Brim Active Community Group, street art agency Juddy Roller and van Helten.
The mural, depicting four locals (three men and a woman) of unknown identities, were an instant sensation. While the paintings are impressive and van Helten is beyond talented, it is the melding of everything – the space, the canvas, the backdrop and the sheer size of the artwork that makes them what they are.
In 2016, it was agreed that more silos would be donated by GrainCorp and the trail was born. There are now six littered across the Wimmera Mallee region, in the towns of Patchewollock, Lascelles, Rosebery, Sheep Hills and Rupanyup.
Read more: 20 Small Towns in Australia Worth Visiting
Be warned in advance – the silos aren’t a mere hop, skip and a jump from Melbourne. They’re spaced about two hours apart and the northernmost painted silo in Patchewollock is about a five hour drive from the city.
I don’t really think there’s any way you could see all six in a day trip, unless there were at least two people driving and you were open to the idea of spending over ten hours in a car. If you were to try, it could only be done in the summertime, when there is as much as 16 hours of daylight in the day.
Instead, I’d highly advise breaking up the trip so you stay somewhere overnight. I’ll name a few options later on in this post.
Navigating the Silo Art Trail
We took two days to check out the silos, leaving Melbourne at 10am on a Monday and getting back in around 430pm on a Tuesday.
The silos weren’t all we were planning on seeing, as we wanted to stop at Lake Tyrrell in the state’s north-west and see the giant koala at the Grampians National Park on the way home.
It was a very leisurely journey – with two of us driving, we were able to stop whenever we wished, to grab a pie on the road or have a quick poke through any country town that looked interesting.
This is the route that we took – we thought it would be best to do the most driving on day one, then enjoy a leisurely sojourn back south, ticking off the silos as we went through.
Here’s a guide to the six silos on the original Silo Art Trail, who painted them and what they represent.
Patchewollock Painted Silo
Artist: Fintan Magee
The Patchewollock silo was completed in late 2016 and features local sheep and grain farmer, Nick “Noodle” Hulland. Magee believed the 42 year old embodied the typical look of a farmer and so used him as his muse.
Patchewollock has a population of 250 and is 420km north-west of Melbourne, in the Mallee district. It’s hoped the mural will help slow and perhaps even prevent the decline of the town.
88 Cummings Road, Patchewollock
Lascelles Painted Silo
The mural at Lascelles (or “Leigh Sales” as I kept calling it, Australians will get the terrible joke) features Geoff and Merrilyn Horman, whose family has farmed in the area for four generations. A staggering amount of time, one would agree.
I have to say that of all the murals, this one seems to blend in best with its environment.
Lascelles is truly a tiny town, with a population of just 48.
Lascelles Silo Road, Lascelles
Rosebery Painted Silo
Artist Kaff-eine completed her mural in late 2017, after assisting Rone with his.
Knowing that her work would be nestled between the monochromatic silos of Brim and Lascelles, Kaff-eine purposefully added colour to her mural, which features a young female farmer on one side and a man in an Akubra having a quiet moment with his horse on the other.
Henty Highway, Rosebery
Brim Painted Silo
Artist: Guido van Helten
Van Helten’s work is the first of the Silo Art Trail murals, completed back in 2015.
It depicts four members of the local community, although van Helten has kept mum on his model’s identities. He has stated that he wants the spotlight to stay on the resilience of all members of the small town, who face ongoing hardships such as economic pressure and the devastating effects of climate change.
This mural went on to inspire the original trail (and now other silo art trails) and has become a regional landmark in itself.
1986 Henty Highway, Brim
Sheep Hills Painted Silo
Adnate is a Melbourne-based artist who is known for his work with Aboriginal communities across Australia. His paintings regularly feature members of the Indigenous community and his mural at Sheep Hills is no exception.
It features four Indigenous people (Wergaia Elder, Uncle Ron Marks, and Wotjobaluk Elder, Aunty Regina Hood, Savannah Marks and Curtly McDonald) and the starry sky, which is significant within the local community.
445 Sheep Hills-Minyip Road, Sheep Hills
Rupanyup Painted Silo
Artist: Julia Volchkova
Rupanyup’s mural is painted by Russian artist Julia Volchkova, who chose two young sports stars as her models. Ebony Baker and Jordan Weidemann play netball and AFL respectively and are featured here in their sporting attire.
Unlike the rest of the silos on the trail, Volchkova’s work is painted on two large steel grain silos – however, it doesn’t make it any less impressive than the other taller works.
1 Gibson Street, Rupanyup
Other places of interest nearby
Country Victoria is full of all sorts of interesting things, both natural and man-made.
If you want to make a real trip out of your journey to see the painted silos of Victoria, there are plenty of other sights you can visit along the way.
Lake Tyrrell, also known as the “Mirror Lake” is in the state’s north-west, not at all far from the Patchewollock silo. There’s a salty formation on the lake bed, which gives it a reflective surface.
The lake is around 120,000 years old and is part of the Indigenous Boorong clan’s land. It features heavily in their Dreaming stories and astronomy. The lake’s name derives from the Aboriginal word Tyrille, which means “space” or “sky”. Very fitting.
It’s pretty amazing to see, to be honest and there was no one around when we visited in the late afternoon, apart from one couple and about ten billion bloody flies.
Sovereign Hill Ballarat
Ballarat is one of the state’s best known towns from the Gold rush era and packs a whole lotta history.
Sovereign Hill is an open-air museum, paying homage to this era of Victoria’s history. It features a replica of a gold mining town, filled with costumed actors and visitors can go panning for gold.
Here are some other things you can get up to in Ballarat.
Grampians National Park
The Grampians as they’re known, are mountains with waterfalls and hiking trails. They’re a great destination to head to if you fancy a day out in nature.
The Silo Art Trail is not far from the Grampians at all. If you were heading out there for more than a weekend, you could easily tack on a day spent tramping along trails and taking in the splendour around you (and bird watching too!).
Kryal Castle is on the way back from the Silo Art Trail, if you’re heading home via Ballarat.
It’s a replica of a medieval castle. There’s a maze, jousting, a wizard’s workroom, archery, pony rides… enough to keep you busy for at least an afternoon.
You can even spend the night there and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I wish to do this.
See prices and availability here
This area is known for its mineral spring water, which you can experience at Hepburn Bathhouse.
The spa comprises of two sections. General bathing is available in the two mineral pools within The Bathhouse, which can be accessed for between $37-$47 dollars (for an adult), depending on the time and day.
For an upgraded luxury experience, you can book into The Sanctuary, for $79-$99 per adult.
It’s well worth doing and yes, I’m speaking from experience here.
Original Silo Art Trail Accommodation
Most of the towns that feature silo art are tiny, so they don’t have many accommodation options, if any in most cases.
We decided to rest our weary bones in Horsham, which was about halfway back to Melbourne from Patchewollock. We were aiming to see three of the silos after visiting Lake Tyrrell and figured that if worst came to worst, we could make the hour long journey from Horsham to Brim in the morning before heading onwards to Sheep Hills and Rupanyup.
As luck would have it, we managed to tick off four silos in one day, drove down from Brim to spend the night in Horsham, before driving on to see the last two on the way back to Melbourne.
Check out other accommodation options in Horsham
Silo Art Trails: The High Country Silos
In April 2019, I journeyed out to Benalla for their annual Wall to Wall festival and here, realised that there was a whole separate silo art trail springing up, northeast of the town. In fact, some were being painted whilst we were there – it was amazing watching these artists at work!
Benalla is around a three hour drive from Melbourne and you can use it as a launching pad to see this particular silo art trail. Unlike the original trail, these are much closer together and can be seen quite easily in a day trip.
I would also advise not leaving it until late afternoon or last light to see the majority of silos on this list, as the sun will be setting behind all but the last one in Tungamah. I’m slightly disappointed in the majority of my photos from this trail, but then it gives me an excuse to go back and see them again!
Goorambat Painted Silo
Artist: Jimmy Dvate
As mentioned before, Dvate is my favourite Melbourne street artist. He cares about conservation efforts and much of his work focuses on endangered birds, to the delight of this “Birdgehl”.
This silo features the Barking Owl, which is the most threatened owl in Northeast Victoria and a country landscape on one side. The other, which was being worked on while we were there, is a trio of Clydesdale horses.
The community offer souvenirs for sale and there’s a cute pub opposite the silo. Don’t forget to spread your tourist dollars around!
This isn’t Dvate’s only silo – he completed one in Rochester, VIC in 2018.
Halls Rd, Goorambat
‘Sophia’ of Goorambat
Sophia is located in the Uniting Church, just up the road from the silos. Adnate created her during the 2017 Wall to Wall Festival and in doing so, depicted the female aspect of the Holy Spirit.
The church is open from 9AM to 5PM daily. If you arrive outside these hours, there’s a number on the door you can call. A volunteer of the church will be happy to let you in, to see this beautiful piece of art.
Goorambat Uniting Church, 33 Halls Rd, Goorambat
Devenish Painted Silo
Artist: Cam Scale
Scale’s work features a First World War nurse and a modern day combat medic, representing the fifty young men and women from the local community, who enlisted in military service during WW1.
These two paintings were unveiled in the 24th of April 2018, just before ANZAC Day on the 25th. It also marked the 100 year centenary of the end of the war.
Scale was working on a third mural when we visited, which once finished, depicted a Lighthorse man.
You could sit in the pub across the road and watch the artist at work, which was quite fun!
Main Street, Devenish
St James Painted Silo
Artist: Timothy Bowtell
These silos feature a mural of Sir George Coles, founder of supermarket giant Coles. He was a St James local.
Coles provided a $20,000 donation, in order for this artwork to get made.
Devenish Rd, St James
Tungamah Painted Silo
Artist: Sobrane Simcock
This was the first silo to be completed on this particular silo art trail, painted by Western Australian street artist Sobrane Simcock.
This is probably my favourite of this particular trail – I love the use of colour and the personality of the birds in Simcock’s work.
Cnr Middleton St & Station St, Tungamarah
Winton Wetlands Water Tank
Artist: Guido Van Helten
Founding silo artist Guido Van Helten has left his mark on this trail, painting a water tank in the Winton Wetlands.
Guido has painted portraits of three volunteers – Colin Hooke from Chesney Vale Fire Brigade, Robert Green of Taminick Fire Brigade and Danielle Spokes of Winton Fire Brigade.
We unfortunately did not get out to see this particular piece of art, as the light was fast fading. Next time!
652 Lake Mokoan Rd, Chesney Vale
Northeastern Silo Art Trail Accommodation
Benalla is the ideal place to stay when visiting this particular silo art trail. You could perhaps do the whole thing during a day trip from Melbourne – but it would encompass quite a lot of driving!
Check out other accommodation options in Benalla
All in all, driving out to either of the silo art trails makes for the perfect weekend trip in Victoria. Jump on it, if you have a couple of days spare and are feeling that familiar itch in your feet.
Other things to do in Victoria
Have you driven down either of these silo art trails? Would you like to?
Keen to do this road trip yourself one day? Stick a pin in this post for future reference.