There’s never been a better time for a South Coast road trip as the River of Art Festival prepares to light up the local creative scene.
Kicking off on Friday September 16, the annual Eurobodalla festival celebrating the South Coast’s extensive arts scene is back and—with more than 100 exhibitions, workshops, open studios, music, and performances—bigger than ever.
From learning crafts old and new to a light and laser show with night markets, plus live music, we asked River of Art festival Chair Leanne Joyce for her pick of five things you won’t want to miss.
Road trip anyone?
Explore charming towns and villages
It wouldn’t be a trip to the South Coast without enjoying some sun, sand, and surf—and with something on in each town, it’s the perfect excuse to explore as much as you can.
“Every journey along our coast and through our hinterland is an adventure during the River of Art—you just never know who is going to have a burst of inspiration that hasn’t made it onto the program yet,” says Leanne.
“You might design a day trip based around a creative workshop or stay overnight to catch a show—either way there’s too much to fit in just one day.”
Head to the thriving town of Moruya to be at the heart of the festival or take the opportunity to visit Narooma to join a whale-watching charter while the migration is at its peak. But if you’re looking to slow down, Leanne recommends heading to the smaller South Coast villages.
“Mogo has lovely galleries and the famous Wildlife Park, Tilba is listed on the National Trust, Bodalla has the famous Bodalla Dairy Shed and Malt Man Brewing—you might even see the emus on the beach at Potato Point!”
Light up the night at Luminous
Animated projections, roving performance, night market, and live music—this year’s finale of the River of Art Festival is set to be spectacular.
Ending the festival with a bang on Saturday 24 September, LUMINOUS: ART AFTER DARK will light up the beautiful Moruya River at 9 pm. But before that, you can start the evening by meandering among the light sculptures and artisan stalls, snack on oysters from the food market and be awed by roving performances and live music by Dom Turner & The Rural Blues Project and Dog Trumpet. Then, when the stars come out, grab a blanket, and settle on the foreshore for a stunning light and laser show.
“Luminous is going to be the biggest light and laser show the Southeast has ever seen, transforming our beautiful Riverside Park into a colorful wonderland,” says Leanne.
“Beforehand, festival goers can explore the nearby events like collaborative exhibition 6x3d at the Mechanics Institute or the Baroque music performance by The Muffat Collective, the original harpsichord is rarely seen outside of capital cities.”
With tickets available for just $20 (and free entry for children under 16), it’s the perfect excuse to end your South Coast adventure on a high note.
Admire the River of Art Prize (and learn to paint like Bob Ross)
As a vibrant celebration of all things art, it seems only right that you take a moment to view the 2022 River of Art Prize winner in the region’s newest venue—the Bay Pavilions.
And with the winner officially announced on Friday 16 September, exploring the 25 finalists in the Pavilion’s exhibition space is the perfect way to kick off a creative weekend.
“It’s a lovely round trip from Moruya along the highway to Batemans Bay and back along the coast to chat with artists as you explore more of the art trail,” says Leanne.
“The Bay Pavilions is also hosting a range of festival events including theatre, music, and workshops.”
If that’s not enough, among the workshops is the opportunity to learn how to paint mountains to the sea using Bob Ross’ wet-on-wet oil painting technique (yep—the one you’ve seen on Youtube and Netflix).
Leanne’s top suggestion?
“Don’t miss an evening with Vince Jones on September 23, his career is now in its 50th year, with an incredible 22 albums behind him and he’s also a local, having lived and visited here since he was a young lad!” she says.
Explore more than 70 events on one Saturday
While the River of Art Festival runs over a whopping 10 days (including two weekends), Saturday 17 September is a standout if you’re only able to get away for a short trip. But for the River of Art Festival team, Nestled—a community installation and free community workshop—is a must-do.
“The first Saturday of the festival is a big one, and this free and welcoming community workshop is easygoing and open for much of the day,” says Leanne
“Symbolic of our continuing recovery from bushfire, Nestled is a part of Navigate Arts Regeneration Road Trip, a collaborative effort to create public art across the South East and explore our connection to place and country.”
Inviting festival goers to join in on the creativity, the installation will see a series of nests hidden in the trees along the riverside at Albert Stewart Park with little solar lights marking their location. Locals and visitors are encouraged to contribute a story or reflection about their connections and memories of the Moruya River, placing them inside each nest for someone to discover and read.
And according to Leanne, there will be plenty of other things to fill your day.
“There are around 70 events across the Eurobodalla on just this day alone, making it one of the biggest of the festival,” she says.
“The Moruya Riverside Markets are on in the morning, there are exhibitions and workshops within walking distance and then visitors can spend the afternoon at the Eurobodalla Botanic Gardens for chamber music, jazz, and rock. That evening, don’t miss Flutter, Heidi Hillier’s new comedy circus cabaret at Narooma’s Kinema, last year’s show was unforgettable!”
Plan your own adventure
Candle making, street art, and even paint and sip workshops—if you don’t know where to start (or how to choose), we don’t blame you. Luckily Leanne has a solution.
“Grab your calendar and head to our website to explore the interactive map and program! There are over 100 events along 120 kilometers of coastline, gorgeous farmlands, national parks, and of course our townships,” she says.
“Combined with the Eurobodalla Food Trail and the opportunities for spontaneous and guided adventures it all makes for an inspiring and refreshing way to mark the change of season just a couple of hours drive from the nation’s capital.”
Simply head to the interactive map, search by artist, date or event type and get ready to explore the South Coast like you never have before.
For more information visit riverofart.com.au
What: River of Art Festival
When: Friday September 16 to Sunday September 25
Where: Various locations