A guide to Australia’s top art galleries and museums

10 March 2018

Australia is a historic and big country that is full of culture and amazing stories. There’s a lot to learn and there’s no better place to start than at some of our capital cities’ top art galleries and museums.

Because there’s so much to chose from we’ve compiled a list of must-see cultural institutions by state. They’ve been chosen because they offer a genuine insight into Australia, its history, its future and the many people who live here.


The Australian Museum

The Australian Museum is Australia’s oldest museum and it’s a fantastic museum for adults and children alike. It has diverse displays focusing on the history of the First Australians right through to prehistoric Dinosaurs.

Whether you are interested in the natural world, prehistory, sustainability or Indigenous Australia this museum has so much to offer. Just make sure you keep the whole afternoon free for this one!

The Museum of Contemporary Art

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The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) is a right in the heart of Sydney’s tourist hot spot. As you wander around Sydney’s stunning Circular Quay you will see the MCA building.

The Museum is “Dedicated to exhibiting, collecting and interpreting the work of today’s artists” and it does not disappoint.

With a collection over 4,000 works by Australian artists, you can see photography, sculpture, works on paper, painting and more. This one is well worth a visit, but make sure you check out the program of exhibitions and special events that will be on.

After an afternoon immersed in the gallery spaces, if you have the time stop in at the café, which has the most amazing view over the Harbour.

The Powerhouse Museum

The Powerhouse Museum is not your typical museum. This one is a fun contemporary museum with exhibition displays that focus on showing the national and global impacts of technology, engineering, science and design.

It also showcases insights into topics as diverse as decorative arts and space exploration. If you are spending time in Darling Harbour, you are only a short walk away from this amazing venue.

Sydney Museum

Sydney Museum is another one that’s not far from Circular Quay; the beautiful building the museum is located in originally served as a new colony’s first Government House.

There is a selection of permanent and changing exhibition spaces over several floors, but the one you shouldn’t miss is on the top floor. Gadigal Place is a gallery that not only honours the traditional Indigenous custodians of the very land the museum stands on, it also honours their history, struggles and the vitality of culture.

Read more about Sydney.


National Museum of Australia

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The National Museum of Australia is a museum that tells a lot of Australian stories including ones that are a more controversial and less covered.

From the sweeping lines of its’ modern design to the varied exhibitions that are constantly changing, it showcases the key narratives, issues, people and events that have helped make Australia the place that it is.

Canberra Museum and Gallery

Right in the heart of Canberra’s CBD, the CMAG has a very significant national collection on permanent display in its’ Nolan Collection.

It’s always worth a visit for its social history exhibit "Canberra Stories", which tell stories about early pre and post contact, sport, business and community and the content is all specifically focused on the region.


If you're visiting Brisbane, the sprawling South Bank Parklands along the Brisbane River should be on your list of places to visit.

While you're there, check out some of the amazing cultural institutions situated along the tourist hot spot.

Queensland Museum

The Queensland Museum is a great museum that offers a unique insight into the diversity of cultural and natural wonders found within this huge state.

Each of the floors tells a different story, from prehistoric life to ordinary people in times of war, to specimens that help illustrate the diversity of life.

Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art - QAGOMA

QAGOMA is huge and it is spread across two buildings along the River. With a collection of about 18,000 works, the distinct differences in the content of both buildings means that you can focus on historical works, or more contemporary pieces.

It also means you’ll need an entire day to get through it all!
For those with an interest in historical art, you can check out the Australian Collection, or the International and Asian Collection on display in the Art Gallery building.

Museum of Brisbane

Allianz Global Assistance Overseas Health - Brisbane City Hall Museum

As you leave Southbank and head into the Central Business District of Brisbane, located on the third level of the stunning heritage-listed City Hall building is the Museum of Brisbane.

Take the time to go into the free museum to see its ‘highlights tour’ and then take in the views with a tour of its’ famous Clock Tower. The exhibition spaces are regularly updated, but they always tell uniquely Brisbane stories of people, events, the city and the river.

Some other museums and galleries


The Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, or MONA, has quickly become a must-do part of Australia’s cultural trail. The exhibits are constantly changing and include works by some of Australia and the World’s most sought-after artists.

This venue is critically acclaimed the world over and if you’re lucky enough to make it across the Bass Strait (that bit of water between the mainland and Tasmania), you simply must take time to visit MONA.

Melbourne Museum

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Melbourne Museum, located in the Carlton Gardens in Melbourne, is a natural and cultural history museum adjacent to the Royal Exhibition Building.

It has seven main galleries, a Children's Gallery and a temporary exhibit gallery. It also features the Sydney Myer Amphitheatre, The Age theatre, and the IMAX theatre where 3-D format documentaries are shown.

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