After more than a year of international travel restrictions and domestic border closures, many of us are longing for a holiday. While an overseas destination won’t be on the cards for Australians for a while, State Library Victoria collections can take you to faraway places – and back in time – without leaving your home. They can also give you inspiration for your next big trip.

Shows coach crowded with passengers and luggage on top.
Off for the holidays: Outside Cobb’s Office, Bourke Street, 1881. Wood engraving by Julian Rossi Ashton; A/S17/12/81/401

A simple search in the Library’s online catalogue using a basic term like ‘travel’ finds over 45,000 items including books, maps, ephemera, magazines, pictures and more. Many of these can be viewed from home by Victorian resident members. You can sign up for a free Access membership online.

You can refine your search results using the facets on the right-hand side of the page. There are a number of headings grouping together similar items. For example, under ‘Subject’ many sub-headings show the number of items dealing with that topic, such as Tourism, Railroad travel or Travel writing.

If you are exploring the collection from home, you can opt to see what’s available immediately through your computer by selecting ‘Online items’, which includes collection items which have been digitised, as well as ebooks.

Man on camel in desert with train in background. Signed in the image l.l.: Northfield.
Travel by Trans-Australian Railway – in Comfort – save Days – Across Australia, ca. 1930-ca. 1939. Poster art by James Northfield. This item is in copyright; H90.105/19.

Historically, recreational travel was only enjoyed by the privileged upper classes of society who could afford the costs and complexities of travel. Gradually, the concept of travel tourism was taken up by the middle classes and then eventually by all sections of the population. Technological advances, particularly the development of railways, also helped – making travel more feasible and affordable for the broader populace.

Book cover for Railway Empire: how the British gave railways to the world. Ebook held by Library.
Book cover for The world the railways made by Nicholas Faith. Ebook held by the Library.

In addition to many books and travel guides, the Library holds many pictures and photographs. With these, you can travel vicariously throughout Victoria, Australia and the world!

Colour image of the Sphinx with men and camels standing in front.
Egypt, The Sphinx, 1915; H84.414/14
Venezia - Piazzetta di S. Marco e Palazzo Reale viste dal mare: Looking across water towards St. Marks Square -- View along a canal with couple seated in a gondola in foreground -
Views of Venice, Italy, ca. 1930-ca. 1945; H92.350/420

You can also take a trip back through time with our historic goldfields guides and handbooks for new arrivals, and our posters and postcards promoting regional domestic travel:

Guide to the gold-fields of Victoria, with a map, and the new regulations for the gold-fields and local courts (1856)

Homes in Victoria, or, The British emigrant’s guide to Victoria, : to accompany passage warrants. No. 1, Victorian institutions & establishments / by N. W. Pollard. (1861)

Guide for excursionists from Melbourne (1868)

Stage coach laden with luggage and many Chinese people en route to the gold fields, ca. 1900-ca. 1920 [Copy of an earlier photograph]; H35244
Front cover of Summer at the Seaside with image from the "Leader" captioned "loch and gorge, near Port Campbell".
Summer at the seaside guide published by Victorian Railways, ca. 1900
Beach goers on sand and in water
Portsea Pier & Beach, Portsea, Vic, ca. 1920 to ca. 1954. Postcard by Rose Stereograph Co; H32492/2262.
The Chalet, Mount Buffalo National Park, Victoria, Australia
Mt. Buffalo National Park, Victoria, before 1937; H2015.89/1

Long before travel as a form of tourism evolved, merchants and adventurers were travelling to parts unknown. Niccolo and Maffeo Polo – the father and uncle of the famous Marco Polo – were 13th Century Venetian merchants who travelled to Asia to trade in valuable goods. Travelling such distances in those days entailed travelling from a European port to a Middle Eastern port, and then a lengthy overland journey by horse or camel. The journey would have taken years to achieve.

Marco Polo knew the toll of such travel well. He didn’t meet his father, or his uncle, for the first time until he was aged 15, when they returned from their long journey to and from Cathay (now China)!

You can follow in the footsteps of bygone explorers through our three travel databases, accessible to Victorian Library members from home:

Leisure, Travel & Mass Culture: The History of Tourism: This resource presents a multi-national journey through well-known, little-known and far-flung destinations unlocked for the average traveller between 1850 and the 1980s. Guidebooks and brochures, periodicals, travel agency correspondence, photographs and personal travel journals provide unique insight into the expansion, accessibility and affordability of tourism for the masses and the evolution of some of the most successful travel agencies in the world.

Mapping the World: Maps and Travel Literature: Discover an archive including a myriad of maps representing the long nineteenth century.

Age of Exploration: Explore five centuries of journeys across the globe, scientific discoveries, the expansion of European colonialism, conflict over territories and trade routes, and decades-long search and rescue attempts in this multi-archive collection dedicated to the history of exploration.

Old map of western and eastern hemispheres of the world Facsimile of Jean Rotz’ map of the world, showing the Eastern and Western hemispheres which are partly joined, ca 1885. Reproduced by kind permission of the Trustees of the British Museum

Also see: journeys & exploration

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