Sculptureum is an Auckland day trip that will impress you on an ‘international scale’. That’s a statement you could easily make about scenery in NZ, but perhaps not so before about a sculpture park.
Set in the beautiful countryside of Matakana, Sculptureum is about an hours drive from Auckland city. Matakana itself is a destination for Aucklanders, especially on the weekends when the local market hums. Plus, it’s just ‘up the road’ for those lucky enough to have beach homes at nearby Omaha.
The gardens of Sculptureum
As you enter the grounds of Sculptureum a sense of peace envelopes you. On one side you have vines stretching up a hill, on another a beautiful high hedge hides the road, and then you have the grounds of Sculptureum themselves. Paths lead off waiting to be explored, and in the centre of the grounds, a restaurant sits, open to everything, inviting you in. You have arrived – breathe in the serenity.
So what exactly is Sculptureum? It’s a destination! It’s sculpture gardens and art galleries, combined with a two beautiful eateries, all set in its own little 10 hectare world.
Entry is $39 per adult (there are deals for group). You begin your exploring by the ticket booth, entering the first of three gardens – the Garden of Creative Diversity. You can immediately see that alongside inspiring, it’s important to the owners to also educate, and make you think. This includes a walkway lined with inspirational quotes from Steve Jobs.
Walking through the gardens is easy. There are 1.5kms of flat, wide paths to follow, with surprises at every turn.
The art galleries at Sculptureum
Once you’ve finished outside, you head inside to go through the 5 art galleries. These hold an eclectic mix of art from around the world. ‘Serious’ art by Picasso sits alongside ‘fun’ pieces. Neither I nor hubby are ‘museum’ or ‘art’ people, yet we were entranced by all we saw. For us, it was some of the ‘everyday’ items that had been transformed into ‘art’ that were the most fascinating. I got a sense that although obviously a serious collector, that the curator isn’t dictated to by what ‘should’ be.
I won’t spoil the surprises ahead of you with photos.
After the art galleries you emerge outside to The Palm Garden, this one full of art from around the world. If it’s designed to delight, inspire and educate, then it’s working!
More gardens to delight
The Palm Garden leads on to the Pink Snail Garden. This is a whimsical garden, full of oversized plastic animal sculptures. In amongst the art however, are aviaries with the most colourful finches, parrots and parakeets, and turtles in a tank! Why? Because you can.
As you leave this garden, you head back inside and exit through the last art gallery, which contains a stunning glass installment from the infamous glass artist, Dale Chilhuly. If you’ve ever been to the Chihuly Gardens in Seattle, you will recognise the piece instantly, it is classic Chihuly.
Worked up an appetite?
By now you’ll probably have worked up an appetite, and feel deserving of a good meal. Sadly on the day we visited the restaurants were closed as they prepared for a wedding, so we didn’t get to experience their food offerings. But I have it on good authority that the food at Rothko restaurant is delicious, and dining here would continue the ‘we’re impressing you’ theme. For those wanting something a little more relaxed, there’s also Rothko Jnr, where from two jazzed up containers they serve burgers, fried chicken and Hallertau beer (one of hubby’s favourites). The containers sit in the gardens, where there are picnic tables set under the palm trees. If this had been open, I imagine our day would have been a lot longer!
Check before you go!
This does raise a good point – Sculptureum and Rothko do close for private events, so always check their website before planning a visit. Generally the gardens and gallery are open 10-5, but are closed Tuesday and Wednesdays.
If the restaurants are closed when you visit, don’t despair. Matakana Village is a quick 5 minute drive away, and has plenty of options for you. I highly recommend Matakana Market Kitchen – it sits under the movie theatre, opening out onto a terrace that overlooks the ‘river’. Pop in there for a coffee and something sweet, a full meal, or just a glass of wine. From here you can also explore some gorgeous artisan shopping, to complete your day.