The National Arboretum is a scenic tourist attraction, located 10 minutes from Canberra's city centre. The 250 hectare property is uniquely special as it contains 94 forests of endangered and threatened species of trees from Australia and around the world. Visitors can walk through the forests, play at the creative Pod Playground, admire the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection, walk through the architecturally-striking Village Centre, have a coffee in the café and pick up some tips from the award-winning gardens.
Amongst the forests, trees and gardens, there are also a variety of sculptures which fit into the natural landscape, with interesting stories behind each one. If you would like to visit the six main sculptures around the property, see here for a full map of the property and sculpture locations. This self-guided tour explains how to get to everything by car, however you can easily walk between the first four on this list, if you don't mind a couple of hills. Pick a day with crisp, blue sky and marvel at the beauty of each sculpture and their stunning, scenic locations.
Drive up to the Himalayan Cedar Forest to view the Wide Brown Land sculpture up close
Wide Brown Land is the first sculpture that you will find after driving up Forest Drive into the National Arboretum. As you near the top of the hill, turn right at the sign to the Himalayan Cedar Forest. It is then a short drive to a car park, which is the entrance to the Himalayan and Cork Oak walking trails, Himalayan Cedar Forest BBQ area and the access point to walk around this 35 metre long sculpture. Kids in particular enjoy running along its length and from its high vantage point, you have sweeping 360 degree views over the entire region. The words Wide Brown Land comes from the famous poem 'My Country', written by poet Dorothea Mackellar in 1908, about her homesickness for Australia (see the full poem here). The sculpture's form and style was inspired by Mackellar's own handwriting and was created by Marcus Tatton, Futago Design Studios and Chris Viney. See here for details.
Tip: Pack a picnic and sit in front of the sculpture, to enjoy one of the best views in the region.
Kids love climbing all over the curly handwriting and peeking through the letters. Image: National Arboretum Facebook
A Backwards Attitude is located back down on Forest Drive, on the right hand side of the road on the way to the Visitor Centre. The larger-than-life human sculpture depicts a middle-aged man dressed in teenage clothing leaning back precariously close to the ground, reflecting the backwards attitude of politics today. I personally saw this sculpture for the first time at the Floriade festival in 2016, where it was a popular "selfie spot" with people standing with him, trying to copy his pose. This $70,000 sculpture, created by Canberra-raised artist Louis Pratt, was then donated to the arboretum where it now lives permanently. The artist explained the meaning of the interesting sculpture in an interview with the Canberra Timeshere, when it was installed in 2017. See here for details.
Tip: Park your car at the Visitors Centre and walk back along the paths for a closer look.
A Backwards Attitude, by Louis Pratt, as seen at Floriade in 2016...
Nest III is the next sculpture on the map, which is conveniently located at a Lookout with even more stunning and sweeping views over the city. To get there, continue along Forest Drive past the main Visitor Centre and park your car at Dairy Farmers Hill. On the path to the Lookout you will see Nest III sculpture on your left, which is made out of recycled farming materials and depicts a wedge-tail eagle sitting in its nest and overlooking the land. It is the perfect location for this proud bird of prey. This sculpture was created by Richard Moffatt in his studio on the South Coast of NSW. See here for details.
Armillary Sphere Sundial is also located at the same location and was a gift from the people of Queanbeyan to celebrate Canberra's Centenary and Queanbeyan's 175th birthday in 2013. The silversmith sculptor who designed the sundial, Hendrick Forster, has also made a similar one for the gardens at Parliament House, as a unique way to tell the time in a natural environment. See here for details.
Tip: Make a quick stop at Sprout Café at the Visitors Centre (between 9am - 4pm) to pick up some takeaway coffees or cold drinks to enjoy at the Lookout.
Enjoy the views and sculpture at Dairy Farmers Hill. Nest III (bottom left) and Armillary Sphere Sundial (bottom right)
In the Stream and Breezing in Canberra are two tall sculptures designed by Japanese artist Kozo Nishino, using wind and airflow to bring the lightweight, kinetic metal sculptures to life. They can be found in the forests further down Forest Drive, however they have both been designed to be viewed together as people drive along the Tuggeranong Parkway, in front of the arboretum. In the Stream is an abstract design with a tall yellow post which stands at 12 metres tall and Breezing in Canberra is 7 metres tall (on a red post) and resembles a bird moving in the air, turning and twisting with the wind as it is alive. See here for details. Tip: To get the best view, ensure you are a passenger in the car as you drive past the southern end of the arboretum on the Tuggeranong Parkway, to catch a glimpse of each one in movement.
Breezing in Canberra by Kozo Noshimo, as seen from the Tuggeranong Parkway outside the arboretum
For more details of the other artworks within the National Arboretum property, see here for where to find them. What I personally enjoy about the art and sculpture at the National Arboretum, is that there is beauty everywhere you look - both natural and man-made. Ensure you stop and admire the detail on the building as you walk into the Visitor Centre: the leaves of a Wollemi tree, the curved wooden pods at Pod Playground, the petite designs of a bonsai, and the spectacular views over the city centre. You don't need to look hard to find art and beauty at the arboretum, it is simply everywhere you look.
Why? Art, sculpture & scenery, minutes from the city centre
When:The gates to the arboretum are open from 7am to 5:30pm seven days a week during Eastern Standard Time (winter/ non-Daylight Savings Time) and from 6am to 8:30pm seven days a week during Daylight Savings Time. The Visitor Centre is open 9am - 4pm