The North West area of Victoria is one of Australia’s most important grain-growing regions. Fields of wheat, barley, rye and legumes stretch for hundreds of kilometres, with nothing interrupting the rows of crops except towering silos. Some of these silos are adorned with colourful and vivid artwork by renowned artists depicting various aspects of the local culture. Visiting each of these silos as part of the silo art trail in the Wimmera Mallee region is one of the most unique road trips in Victoria.
Silos have been a major part of the farming industry since around the 1930s and are often built alongside railway tracks for easy transportation of the harvested grain. Since 2016, there has been an ongoing effort to encourage people to visit these old farming towns in the Wimmera Mallee region and these painted silos have done the trick. While the Great Ocean Road gets the crowds, the Silo Art Trail is the perfect excuse for a road trip into Victoria’s much less visited north-west area.
I spent a week driving along the Silo Art Trail, visiting all eight of the current sites and staying overnight in the small towns along the way. If you want to take a trip to the Wimmera Mallee region and check out the Silo Art Trail, this blog has all the information you’ll need.
About the Silo Art Trail
The Silo Art Trail in the Wimmera Mallee region of North West Victoria is considered the largest outdoor gallery in Australia. The trail includes commissioned murals on eight different grain silo sites across a number of rural towns.
The murals depict an insight into the local community and culture by world-renowned artists, who often spent weeks in the towns to gather inspiration for their pieces. The first silo in the region was painted in Brim in 2016 (which was also the second recognised silo art in Australia). After its incredible success at drawing visitor’s attention, the idea of the Silo Art Trail was born, and the subsequent art was commissioned. Sea Lake’s silos are the most recent addition, which were completed and joined the trail in late 2019.
The trail now extends from Rupanyup up to Patchewollock and across to Nullawil in North West Victoria. It’s been credited with breathing new life into these small rural towns which had otherwise very little appeal to visitors. The silo art has helped keep some of the pubs and general stores in these towns open with visitors stopping for lunch and supplies on their way through.
When to visit the Silo Art Trail
North West Victoria is great to visit at any time of the year. However, in summer you’ll most likely get some stinking hot days. When I visited in January there were a few days of high 30s, even pushing the 40-degree mark. The area is very dry, so the landscape will also be a sunbaked golden colour at this time. However, you’ll be blessed with clear blue skies and long daylight hours too.
Winter is the coldest time, but temperatures will generally be moderate in this part of Victoria. It does get a bit of rain, but if you time the weather right you can get some very clear days and beautiful sunrises.
Autumn and spring would be the best seasons to visit the Silo Art Trail. This is when you’ll get the best weather and very few other people visiting outside of the holidays.
How to get there
The Silo Art Trail is a great self-drive road trip in Victoria. You’ll want to set aside at least a couple of days to really enjoy the region, as it’s quite a long drive from Melbourne.
The closest silo art to the city is at Rupanyup, which is 289km or just over a three-hour drive from the CBD. This is where most people choose to start the art trail as the other sites are all north from here.
The northernmost silo art is in Patchewollock, which is 160km north of Rupanyup. From Patchewollock, the trail heads east to finish in Nullawil, which is another 120km away.
What you need to know before you go
The Silo Art Trail is not something you want to try and do as a day trip from Melbourne. There’s lots of driving to be done from one silo to the next and if you plan on taking in all eight sites, you’ll be driving many hours. It’s best to break the trip up and allow at least two days, or longer if you want to enjoy some other parts of the region.
Each silo town, as well as others in between, generally have a pub and general store for essential supplies. You can also find a few fuel stations along the way, although most are basic and tend to be part of the general stores. It’s important to note that you can’t always assume that these places will be open all the time, so make sure that you’re well-stocked.
These tiny towns are very quiet with sparsely populated farms surrounding them, so shops are not always open regular hours like you might be used to in the city. Make sure you have enough fuel in the tank and water and snacks with you. In saying that, it’s also a good idea to plan to spend some money in these towns and support the local community. Have some lunch at the pub or grab a cold drink from the general store.
Most towns also have small picnic areas with public toilets as well. These are generally well maintained and cleaned by the council but you might want to carry some toilet paper with you just in case.
There’s plenty of signage and parking areas around each silo. You won’t struggle to find your way around. The silos stand out from across the horizon, so it’s hard to miss them.
I visited the area in mid-January, and it was relatively quiet. I saw a few other cars at some of the silo art spots, but in general, the roads are extremely quiet and the towns are peaceful places.
Where to stay on the Silo Art Trail
If you want to stay along the trail, there are some great campgrounds. The road trip is really ideal for those with caravans or campervans, as you’ll find some cheap community-run places, some even with powered sites. If you’ve got the Wikicamps app, you’ll find the overnight camping spots easy enough.
For those looking for some more comfort, there are also other accommodation options. Many of the pubs offer basic rooms, which would be your best bet in many of these small towns near the silos. Sea Lake has some particularly great accommodation options, with rooms at the Lake Tyrrell Accommodation starting at $120 per night.
If you want to be close to shops and a more bustling area, you can also stay at larger towns such as Bendigo or Horsham which are still within easy reach of the silos. If you stay at Horsham, you could even complete the silo art trail in one long day from there as it’s quite close to Rupanyup. However, I recommend breaking it up for at least a night on the trail, so you can appreciate the region.
Where to eat on the Silo Art Trail
On the Silo Art Trail itself, self-catering is a great option, as there are plenty of general stores and IGA supermarkets on the way to stock up on supplies. However, it’s also a good idea to try and support some of the rural pubs by having a meal at the bar.
A favourite stop on the Silo Art Trail is Mallee Sunset Gallery in Rosebery. This old, converted timber church is now a café and gift shop run by a beautiful local lady right across from the silo art in Rosebery. She claims to make the best iced coffee in the region. She’s only open Wednesday to Sunday from 9am to 5pm. It’s considered a must-stop on the Silo Art Trail.
Silo Art Trail and towns on the way
I’m going to run through all eight of the current silo art sites and the towns along the way. It’s most convenient to begin in Rupanyup, which is closest to Melbourne, so heading north from there, these are all the places you need to know about.
Rupanyup silo art
The two greyscale portraits on Rupanyup’s twin steel silos are the work of Russian mural artist, Julia Volchkova. The silo art depicts two youth from the town, a female in netball gear and a male in an AFL uniform. The monochrome work was completed over several weeks in 2017 and represents the town’s youth and their love of sport.
The town of Rupanyup is a quiet farming community. The name comes from the Aboriginal word meaning ‘branch hanging over water’. The town layout is unique in that it has a wide medium strip down the main street. Many of the town’s shops appear old and rundown but this just showcases the history of the settlement. It’s known as the ‘town with pulse’ because its farms specialise in lentils, chickpeas and beans, instead of the wheat in other nearby towns.
Where to stay | You can stay at the public campground at the central Memorial Park. It’s $10 per night for a powered site on a large gravel area and they have hot showers and toilets.
Where to eat | The Kindness Kitchen is a 100% vegan café, one of the only such cafes of its kind in the entire region of Victoria. It’s relatively new to town, and open from 8.30am to 3.30pm from Thursday to Sunday. Definitely the trendiest café on the Silo Art Trail.
Sheep Hills silo art
The vivid mural at Sheep Hills silo was completed by popular Melbourne-based artist, Adnate, in 2016. He spent several weeks in the community and he sought to emphasise the area’s Aboriginal history and connection through his work. These silos are one of the most stunning sights on the whole trail. The entire silo structure is decorated with the portraits of Wergaia Elder and Wotjobaluk Elder alongside two young children, with the background being a deep purple night sky which is meant to depict the local dreamtime stories.
Sheep Hills is almost a non-town now and the silos seem to be standing lonely in the middle of nowhere off the side of the road.
Although this town doesn’t have a silo art attached to it, it is worth knowing that it’s the main service town for the Wimmera Mallee area. If you’re after any supplies, you’ll be able to get it here with an IGA supermarket, a few cafes and take away shops, petrol stations and banks.
Where to stay | Country Roads Motor Inn is a comfortable motel with an outdoor pool and large rooms.
Where to eat | The Creekside Hotel is the popular choice in town for a feed and a drink. It has a nice restaurant feel rather than a traditional pub, but you’ll find plenty of nice pub meals on the menu.
Brim silo art
This now iconic silo art was the first to be completed in Victoria and the original inspiration for the Silo Art Trail. Completed in 2016, Guido van Helten’s mural depicts an anonymous multi-generational quartet of farmers. It was intended that the mural represent the strength and resilience of the community in the face of hardships.
It’s one of the only silo art sites to be lit up at night, so if you’re staying nearby it’s a good chance to catch a different view of it.
This tiny wheatbelt town became well-known after the first silos were painted here in 2016. It’s since become a popular place to stop for the night, as it’s nicely located in the middle between Rupanyup and Patchewollock.
Where to stay | There’s a great campground on the banks of the Brim Weir Pool, which has toilets and showers and access to powered sites. It’s $10 per night and is a great bush setting at the back of the town.
Rosebery silo art
Melbourne artist, Kaff-eine spent time exploring the Mallee region before completing this mural in late 2017. She depicts two typical characters of the region in her work. The first silo is painted with a young female farmer and on the right silo, a horseman sharing a moment with his steed.
Don’t forget to drop into the Mallee Sunset Gallery just on the opposite side of the road to the silo for an iced coffee!
Although not being home to any of the silo art sites, Hopetoun is a nice town to stop and pick up some supplies. There is a 24-hour unmanned fuel station, an IGA store, local petrol station and nursery, and a couple of cafes and, of course, the pub.
Where to stay | Lascelles Lake just next to town is a popular holiday destination and a great place to camp if you have a caravan or campervan. There are a few limited powered sites, otherwise you can camp anywhere for free along the banks of the lake.
Where to eat | Hopetoun Café is your regular small-town café that serves burgers, fish and chips, coffee and cake. It’s right on the main street and often the only place open for some food.
This colourful silo art was done by Brisbane artist, Fintan Magee, in late 2016. He stayed at the pub to meet the locals and find a muse for his work. He found it in local sheep and grain farmer, Nick Hulland, who he painted on the silo as an embodiment of the archetypical Aussie farmer.
Patchewollock is a very quiet little town. It’s in close proximity to the Wyperfeld National Park, with most people passing through town on the way to the snow drift sand dunes. The general store was the only thing open when I was there, and the lady was very friendly. The pub is open from 5pm every night, and occasionally for lunch.
Lascelles silo art
The Lascelles silos were the blank canvas for Melbourne-based artist Rone. He decided to depict local farming couple Geoff and Merrilyn Horman, part of a family that have been farming in the area for four generations.
His distinctive painting style means that the monochrome artwork blends into the concrete silo’s environment. The first silo you see from the car park is of Geoff, while you have to walk around the other side to find the portrait of Merrilyn.
This tiny town has a pub and a general store and that’s about it. Still, it’s a great place to stop for a meal or stay overnight, with the pub being open from around 10am until 8pm every day, later on weekends.
Where to stay | The Lascelles pub operates self-contained cabins for an overnight stay, starting from $80 per night. If you have a camping setup, the picnic area across from the pub has powered sites for $10 per night with hot showers and toilets (pay at the pub, of course). I camped here for the night and would happily do it again as it’s right across from the silos.
Where to eat | It’s all about the pub in Lascelles. They serve regular pub food and pizza.
Sea Lake silo art
These are by far the most colourful and vibrant of the silo art in the Wimmera Mallee region. The incredibly beautiful artwork depicts a girl swinging over Lake Tyrrell, with the bright colours of a sunset or sunrise over the background. It was completed by two artists, Drapl and The ZooKeeper.
Silo Lake town
Sea Lake is a colourful little town on the Calder Highway. It’s a nice place to stop with a small supermarket, pharmacy, petrol station and of course, a pub. It’s worth taking the detour from town out to Lake Tyrrell, and even better if you can get out there for sunset.
Where to stay | For camping, the Sea Lake Travellers Rest park area has overnight camping options with $20 for a powered site ($15 for solo travellers!) or $10 for unpowered. For something more comfortable, Lake Tyrrell Accommodation offers a range of rooms starting from $120 per night.
Where to eat | The Bottom Café on the main street is a popular little place. Pretty standard take-away and eat-in options such as burgers, sandwiches and wraps, with a popular breakfast menu.
Nullawil silo art
The final silo art in the trail is at Nullawil. The artwork there was done by Australian street-artist Smug. It is a photo-like depiction of a farmer and his Kelpie, with the emphasis being on the working dog, and was completed in 2019.
This tiny town is located right on the Calder Highway. There’s a little general store if you need supplies, but otherwise the town is a pretty quiet one.
Things to see near the Silo Art Trail
If you’ve got more time, you may as well make the most of this region of Victoria. There’s a few other places that are worth exploring near the Silo Art Trail and can easily be added onto your trip.
Lake Tyrrell is a shallow, salt-crusted depression in the heart of the Mallee region. It’s just seven kilometres north of Sea Lake and is worth a detour off the Silo Art Trail. It’s Victoria’s largest salt lake and is ancient at almost 120, 000 years old.
There is evidence of local Aboriginal people occupying the land around the lake for 45, 000 years. It’s part of the land of the Boorong clan, who are renowned for their astronomy and stargazing. The name of the lake is derived from the local Wergaia word for ‘sky’ in recognition of its importance for local dreamtime stories. It is known for being one of the best places in the country to view the night sky, so if you’re a keen stargazer this is a place you’ll want to visit.
There is an unmanned visitor centre, toilets and viewing platform at the lake. You can also continue driving past this centre on a dirt road and you’ll come to a car park area out on the lake where you can take photos of the salt crust.
Over 100, 000 tonnes of salt is extracted from the lake each year, but most of the operations are well away from the visiting area.
The best time to visit Lake Tyrrell is sunrise or sunset when you can witness the incredible colours. There are also stargazing lounges supplied at the end car park, if you want to return after dark.
Wyperfeld National Park
If you have a 4WD and a bit of extra time up your sleeve, you might want to explore Wyperfeld National Park. If you head west from Patchewollock, you’ll get to the snow drift sand dunes and camping area.
They are the biggest sand dunes in the national park and are great to check out, especially at sunset time. The campground there is managed by Parks Victoria.
Grampians National Park
The Grampians is one of Victoria’s most spectacular and popular national parks. The rugged mountain landscape is well-known for its hiking trails and waterfalls.
You might be surprised to learn that Halls Gap (the main town at the heart of the Grampians) is just 75km south of Rupanyup, where the Silo Art Trail begins. If you have the time, you can easily extend your road trip to include both the Grampians National Park and the Silo Art Trail.
Bendigo is an old gold rush boom town that has become one of the largest rural cities in Victoria. It’s a nice place to stay the night or spend a weekend, with a lot of history and art to explore in the area. The Bendigo Art Gallery, Central Deborah Gold Mine and Golden Dragon Museum are all worth visiting if you have the time.
Check out some accommodation in Bendigo here.
More silo art
If you’re not sick of silo art yet, then I have some good news: there’s plenty more to see in Victoria! Near Bendigo, you can check out two silo art sites, one at Rochester and the other at Colbinabbin.
If you want to do another silo art road trip, then North East Victoria also has a shorter silo art trail which is north of Benalla.
Suggested silo art trail itinerary
Over two nights, you can explore the whole Silo Art Trail at a comfortable pace. Here’s my suggested Silo Art Trail itinerary.
Day 1: Melbourne to Brim
Begin your drive from the city and head for Rupanyup, the start of the silo art trail. It’s a long three and a half-hour drive, so take a break in Ballarat on the way.
Check out the silo art in Rupanyup, and then continue driving up the road towards the next silo. You’ll pass through the small town of Minyip, before arriving in Sheep Hills. Stop to admire the beautiful silo art here and then continue on towards Brim.
You’ll pass through Warracknabeal, so you can stop here for some supplies at the local IGA. As you come into Brim, you can check out their silo art site and then stay the night at the town’s great public campground.
Day 2: Brim to Lascelles or Sea Lake
Continue the next day through the town of Beulah onto Rosebery. Stop to take a look at the silo art here and don’t forget to stop at Mallee Sunset Gallery for morning tea.
Continue your drive onto Hopetoun. This town has a great IGA, a couple of cafes and petrol station if you need supplies.
Keep driving north to Patchewollock, the northernmost silo art on the trail. Check out the impressive artwork here and then head southeast to Lascelles.
Stop in Lascelles to have a look at the silo art here. If you’re weary, stay the night at the campground next to the Lascelles Hotel or in the hotel’s rooms.
If you’re keen to continue on, you can keep driving to Sea Lake for the night. There’s a campground here too or you can stay at Lake Tyrrell Accommodation just outside of town. If you do choose to stay in Sea Lake, you have to head out to see Lake Tyrrell at sunset or sunrise, or both!
Day 3: Back to Melbourne
If you stayed at Lascelles, drive onto Sea Lake to check out the silo there and the colourful main street. Take a side trip to Lake Tyrrell and enjoy the vast expanse of the salt lake.
From Sea Lake, head down the Calder Highway and don’t forget to stop in Nullawil to check out the last silo art stop on the trail.
From Nullawil, you can head back to Melbourne. It’s a long 300km or three and a half-hour drive back, so stop in Bendigo for a break if you need.