Just offshore from South Yarra breakfast hotspot Kanteen (that is, a mere three murky kilometres upstream from the CBD) is one of Melbourne's wildest secret havens. The newly-regenerated Herring Island is one of Melbourne's most naturally beautiful outdoor gallery spaces and home to the city's most unique Summer Arts Festival.
Accessible only by boat, Herring Island has to be one of Melbourne's least-known treasures. From humble beginnings as a basalt quarry last century, Como Island (as it was then known) came into existence after being filled with the silt dredged from the Yarra. It was leased by the Scouts during the 1950's and 1960's, and renamed after the President of the Australian Scout Association, Sir Edmund Herring. Responsibility for the island shifted to Melbourne Parks and Waterways in 1994, who have worked on transforming the island into a sustainable recreational destination for Melburnians.
Perhaps the most exciting part of this transformation is the island's new identity as a Sculpture Park. Herring Island hosts two sculptures by internationally-renowned artist Andy Goldsworthy, and four by Australian sculptors. All of the works focus on the island's unique history and environment, using a range of natural materials like Dunkeld sandstone and Yarra River bluestone.
These days, the old scout hall plays host to the Herring Island Summer Arts Festival which runs from January through to April. The 2011 Festival will showcase modern art, photography and ceramics, as well as special Australia Day activities. A punt service will operate throughout the festival, and will begin early service on weekends throughout December.