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28 October 2021

A walk in the park… with sculptures

A sculpture trail is a great way to combine an enjoyment of art with a pleasant walk – and Auckland has plenty of excellent options


A sculpture trail is a great way to combine an enjoyment of art with a pleasant walk – and Auckland has plenty of excellent options

If you have an hour or two to spare, there are several city trails, some structured, some more of a walk, with sculptures to admire as you meander along. Or you might prefer a day-trip out of the city – and Auckland is lucky enough to have several trails within an hour or so of the city centre.

Some sculpture walks are free of charge, others are privately owned and the art is for sale, and several provide opportunities for some of the country’s foremost artists to display their works. Auckland also hosts two or three sculpture trails that are annual or biennial and are fundraisers for various charitable causes. 

Auckland Waterfront Sculpture Trail

Auckland’s historic waterfront quarter is home to an interesting collection of urban sculpture. These artworks, although not designed specifically to be part of a sculpture walk, complement each other and represent a microcosm of the art of public sculpture in New Zealand. Take a stroll along the waterfront, enjoying views of the Waitemata Harbour on the way. Here you will find some of the finest sculptures in the city’s central business district, among a series of open plazas linked by a harbourside walk and broad avenues.

Look out for The Lighthouse, by Michael Parekowhai; A Maori Figure in a Kaitaka Cloak, by Molly Macalister; Fire Window, by Eric Orr; Long Modified Bench, by Jeppe Hein; Wind Tree, by Michio Ihara; Sounds of Sea; The Flooded Mirror, by Rachel Shearer; Silt Line, by Rachel Shearer and Hillery Taylor; Cytoplasm, by Phil Price; and Raupo Rap, by Denis O'Connor.

Domain Sculpture WalkAuckland Domain, Parnell

A sculpture walk in the Auckland Domain came about after group of eight artists got together about 20 years ago looking for a way to mark the new millennium and raise awareness for public art.The Outdoor Sculpture 2001 Incorporated Society, which included Chiara Corbelletto, John Edgar, Charlotte Fisher, Fred Graham, Christine Hellyar, Neil Miller, Louise Purvis, and Greer Twiss, began to develop the idea of a sculpture walk in the Auckland Domain, led by the PA Edmiston Trust, which has been committed to art projects for Auckland City since its founding in 1946, and with funding from the New Zealand Lotteries Board Millennium Fund and the Auckland City Council.

Their aim was to reference the history of the Domain in their works, and each of the artists has thought carefully about their chosen site to achieve this. The eight sculptures were installed in the Domain between 2004 and 2005.

The works are all easy to find, close to paths and roads running through the Domain. For more information, a map and to explore other public art projects the Edmiston Trust is involved with in and around Auckland go to


NZ Sculpture OnShore
Fort Takapuna, Vauxhall Road, Narrow Neck

This iconic North Shore event once again takes place in Devonport, Auckland, at the historic Fort Takapuna O Peritu site. This cliff top park, with the backdrop of Rangitoto Island and the Hauraki Gulf, is a dramatic setting for the country’s largest exhibition of contemporary sculpture. The 2020 exhibition showcases around 100 large-scale, diverse and interactive sculptures by established and emerging artists from all over New Zealand.

There’s also an indoor gallery in the historic Officers’ Mess building at Fort Takapuna, where visitors can view and purchase artwork from the extensive range of 700 original works from more than 100 NZ artists. Works include bronzes, glass, ceramics, carving, metalwork and jewellery.

NZ Sculpture OnShore, which has run biennially for 26 years, is one of the largest fundraising events for Women’s Refuge NZ.

Brick Bay Sculpture Trail
17 Arabella Lane, Snells Beach 0982

Less than an hour from central Auckland and close to Matakana, the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail is set among extensive native bush and a second-growth kauri forest. The trail showcases contemporary sculpture created by some exciting contemporary New Zealand artists. Large-scale sculptures are set in a peaceful, natural environment featuring native trees, wildlife and ponds planted with water lilies.

You’ll probably want to allow an hour or so for the sculpture trail, and visitors are welcome to start or finish their walk at the Glass House Restaurant (bookings recommended), which cantilevers over the lake and offers relaxed all-day dining. Brick Bay is also home to Brick Bay Wines, and tastings of its handcrafted wine selections are available at the bar.

Children are welcome, too, with the trail being suitable for off-road pushchairs although there are steps along the way. There’s a sandpit, swings and climbing frame, when the children can play while you enjoy a platter and cup of coffee or glass of wine. Well-behaved dogs are also welcome.

Kaipara Coast Sculpture Garden
1481 Kaipara Coast Highway, Kaukapakapa

Close to Kaipara, and about a 40-minute drive from Auckland, this sculpture garden offers two parts – a walk that takes around 1 hour, and a side walk through a conservation trail that can take an additional half an hour or so. This trail needs a reasonable level of fitness and isn’t suitable for pushchairs.

The sculptures, which are for sale, change annually, and the 2020 exhibition includes a musical boardwalk in the orchard area, other interactive sculptures such as a magnified garden in the vegetable gardens, sculptural fantails scattered through the gardens and other playful pieces set among ponds, native bush and hedges in more formal areas.

This year’s addition to the gardens is a large amphitheatre to be used over the summer for musical events. A highlight will be a fundraising event on Sunday afternoon 2nd February 2020 for Kaukapakapa School, called “Rumble in the Jungle”, which is a celebration of the 1950s and 1960s, with classic cars, food, refreshments and great dance music from Auckland bank Foxtail Rumble.

Because of the birds and wildlife in the bush along the trail, dogs aren’t allowed in the gardens.

Refreshments are available at the adjacent Kaipara Coast Plant Centre and Coffee Stop.
Open Daily 9am to 5pm. Last admissions 4pm (closed Christmas Day and Anzac Morning).

Gibbs Farm Kaipara

Gibbs Farm Kaipara

Gibbs Farm, Kaipara
0984/2421 Kaipara Coast Highway, Makarau

Gibbs Farm is a 404.6ha private property and the setting for a sculpture collection, amassed over nearly 20 years, that includes major works by Graham Bennett, Chris Booth, Daniel Buren, Bill Culbert, Neil Dawson, Marijke de Goey, Andy Goldsworthy, Ralph Hotere, Anish Kapoor, Sol LeWitt, Len Lye, Russell Moses, Peter Nicholls, Eric Orr, Tony Oursler, George Rickey, Peter Roche, Richard Serra, Kenneth Snelson, Richard Thompson, Leon van den Eijkel and Zhan Wang, many of which have been specially commissioned.

The property sits on the edge of the Kaipara Harbour, which occupies the whole western horizon; and the harbour is so shallow that when the tide goes out the shallows are exposed for several kilometres and the light bounces off them across the land. Everything in the property flows towards the sea; and every work relates in some way to this. During the three- to four-hour walk around the farm, visitors can appreciate how each artist has worked around the landscape of the farm and harbour.

The closest cafes are in Waitoki and Helensville, south of the farm or Warkworth and Wellsford, north of the farm.
Gibbs Farm is open from 10am to 2pm to artists, educational institutions, charities and the public, by prior appointment only. Visitors collect a guide on arrival.

The Best Laid Plans Go West by Dave McCracken

The Best Laid Plans Go West by Dave McCracken


Connells Bay Sculpture Park

Sculptures by New Zealand artists are showcased at the Connells Bay Sculpture Park, owned by John and Jo Gow, who have a passion for art, theatre and for the natural outdoor environment. 

The permanent collection comprises over 35 permanent works by prominent New Zealand sculptors, most specifically commissioned for their sites. Every two years the couple commissions a new photographic image to be installed on one of two photographic bill boards. The two images currently on display are works by Peter Peryer and Judy Darragh.

Bookings are essential, and all visitors join a guided tour of between around 10 and 15 people for the walk that takes around two hours.

You can call in for refreshments to Man O War Vineyard, Passage Rock Vineyard and Poderi Crisci, all located within 5-10km from the park.

Sculpture in the Gardens, Auckland Botanic Gardens
102 Hill Road, The Gardens, Manurewa, Auckland

This biennial exhibition of the works of 20 sculptors runs from 17 November 2019 to 1 March 2020, and is organised by The Friends of the Botanic Gardens to make art and sculpture accessible to everyone. Admission is free and school children, the local community, visitors from Auckland and further afield are all encouraged to enjoy the trail that champions NZ artists. There’s also a growing collection of 21 permanents works to enjoy as you walk through the Botanic Gardens at other times of the year.

The signposted trail is 2km long and you can pick up a free trail guide from the visitor centre, use the free Wi-Fi to download a QR code reader ap, or read signs about the artists and sculptures along the way. There are also guided walks for all ages and abilities.

For those who can’t walk the whole distance, mobility scooters or wheelchairs can be booked at the visitor centre.


Grey Lynn Park
Rose Road, Grey Lynn
Grey Lynn Park, in the middle of residential Grey Lynn, covers approximately 10.5ha. An active recreational area, it is regularly used as the venue for the Grey Lynn Festival, and although it consists mainly of playing fields, with trees around the edges and some wilderness areas in the eastern side valleys, it also has an interesting and varied display of sculptural works by nine local artists. This collection is on the eastern side of the park close to the Rose Road entrance.

Western Park
Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby
This 8ha public park between Ponsonby Road, Hepburn Road, and Howe Street was given to Auckland City Council in 1875. Trees were planted and improvements followed including walkways now among mature trees that trace the path of a seasonal stream through a sloping valley, and sports fields and tennis courts are on the flat, lower area.

Several distinctive sculptures by artist John Radford, entitled TIP, can be found close to the Ponsonby Road frontage. Radford has described the TIP works as referring to “a loss of our past via the wholesale demolition of parts of Auckland City. Dumped in countless nameless landfills, maybe these multiple architectural dismemberments have undergone a subterranean reassembly and are about to lurch back up out of the ground.”

Boy Walking, Potters Park, Balmoral
Artist Ronnie van Hout's 5.6m hyper-realistic sculpture is of a larger-than-life child strolling forwards into the future with confidence and exploring the notion of a child transitioning into adulthood.
Boy Walking came together over 18 months, with Van Hoot devising a concept for Auckland Council, making a full-scale model of the sculpture cut from blocks of expanded then casting it in aluminium and painting it. The internal structure of the $550,000 Boy Walking is heavy steel armature, precisely engineered to support the sculpture from loads and prevailing winds, then installed on near-invisible footings in the park.

Karangahape Rocks
Symonds Street Park
The park at the corner of K Road and Symonds Street has been home to a large bronze work – weathered to a beautiful green verdigris colour – by one of New Zealand's most significant sculptors, Greer Twiss, since 1968. “I made a rocky seaside of water and rocks, with people sitting beside them, for the people who use this park," says Twiss.
The work is a fountain that was designed to avoid the usual problems of water spraying everywhere because of the wind. Unfortunately, it stopped working in the late 1980s until 2012 when its mechanism was fixed.

Aotea Square
An arch at the Queen Street entrance to Aotea Square is called 'Waharoa' (Gateway in Māori), formed in wood and copper by Māori sculptor Selwyn Muru. An expressionist version of a traditional Māori entry gate, it features symbols like birds, fish, the crescent moon and stars, and elements like the nuclear disarmament symbol, reflecting the modern influences on New Zealand art.

Mountain Fountain Sculpture
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell
The bronze fountain by New Zealand sculptor Terry Stringer is an angular "mountain" originally commissioned in 1979 as the centrepiece of the Aotea Square with a form echoing the roofline of the Aotea Centre.


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