By: Tatum Stafford
When it comes to public art, WA is no stranger to a colourful display.
As incredible public artworks continue to pop up across the state (and soon, at many Perth train stations thanks to the METRONET Public Art project), the number of self-guided art trails that you can drive, ride and walk to view is continuing to grow.
All you’ll need is a map and a camera – here are nine eclectic WA art trails worth exploring.
Wara Art Trail, York
Each spring, the regional town of York hosts a jam-packed program of comedians, musicians, circus acts and artists for the York Festival. Luckily for art lovers, the 2018 festival introduced the now-permanent Wara Art Trail featuring giant animal sculptures created by a group of Japanese and Australian artists. The trail was partially funded by the Australia-Japan Foundation and encourages festival-goers to stroll amongst giant Australian animals designed with ‘Wara’, or ‘rice straw’.
Wara art originated in Japan at the beginning of the 21st century as a way to creatively use excess straw at the end of a rice harvest. The resulting sculptures spawned a new art form, and since 2007, Japan has held multiple Wara art festivals each year.
Previous Wara art at the York Festival has featured endangered Australian fauna, including the numbat, western ground parrot, Murray cod, bilby and western swamp tortoise.
PUBLIC Silo Trail, regional WA
The bright, towering PUBLIC Silo murals have become a drawcard for road-trippers. Dotted throughout regional WA, the colourful grain silos form Australia’s largest public art trail.
Managed by non-profit art organisation FORM in collaboration with the Co-Operative Bulk Handling (CBH) Group, the trail has turned working grain silos into sites of world-class mural art.
The very first PUBLIC silo mural was painted in Northam in March 2015, and in the years following, six more giant murals have joined the trail. Each mural is completely unique in its design and subject.
Mural highlights include Fremantle-based artist Amok Island’s banskias on silos in Ravensthorpe, internationally renowned street artist HENSE’s explosion of colour on Northam’s massive eight-silo mural, and the vibrant ruby-red sea dragon that adorns CBH’s Group’s Grain Terminal in Albany.
Byford Sculpture Trail
After winning the People’s Choice Award at the 2009 Sculptures by the Sea exhibition, Dwellingup-born artist Len Zuks was commissioned to create a series of nine sculptures to weave through the town of Byford. Renowned for his motto “Ridiculous is king”, Len’s artwork is internationally renowned and has been displayed in the Louvre, at the Venice Biennale and in the London Olympics art exhibition. Utilising discarded steel, Len worked with the Byford Progress Association to create this eclectic sculpture trail as an ode to the town and wider region’s local history.
The 6.2km trail follows the South West Highway through the Byford town centre, with sculptures scattered amongst local cafes, pubs and shops. It winds southwards to the edge of the town, then finishes in the town centre with a Boxing Kangaroo sculpture.
Visitors can drive, walk or ride through Byford to view the trail in its entirety. Sculpture highlights include the Horse and Jockey (a tribute to Byford’s own 1919 Perth Cup champion Rivose), the Returned Serviceman which honours the men who returned from the First World War to live and work in Byford, and the Child Health Sister, dedicated to Sister Wossley, who looked after local Byford children in the 1940s. View the full Byford Sculpture Trail map for more details.
Collie Mural Trail
With attractions that date back to the late 17th century, it’s no secret that the town of Collie is home to plenty of local stories. These stories helped guide the creation of the newly completed Collie Mural Trail, which features more than 40 murals splashed across the walls of local shops, community centres, the Collie Railway Station and even the massive Wellington Dam.
Arguably the trail's crown jewel, the Wellington Dam mural (which is now the world’s largest dam mural) is named ‘Reflections’, and features a design inspired by artist Guido Van Helten’s discussion with members of the local Collie community. The mural is a staggering 8000 square metres and took four months to complete. Thousands of tourists have visited the dam since its unveiling in February 2021.
The rest of the trail’s murals capture three themes which were voted on by the Collie community: the history of Collie, the natural environment of the region, and local Aboriginal culture. Each mural features an information plaque that shares a local story, and a unique QR code. When scanned, the code sends visitors to an app featuring audio interviews with each mural artist. View the Collie Mural Trail map for the full list of locations.
Understory Art & Nature Trail, Northcliffe
Paying the local ‘Forest Folk’ a visit is a highlight on any Northcliffe travel itinerary. These hand-carved sculptures sit on the 1.2km long Understory Art & Nature Trail, a purpose-built walk trail behind the Northcliffe Visitor Centre that was designed to reflect the rich heritage of the Southern Forests region. The trail was launched in 2006 by Understory – Art & Nature, a local not-for-profit arts organisation who sought to showcase the region's natural environment through works by a range of local artists.
Set amongst towering karri, jarrah and marri trees, the walk's sculptures were designed to ‘disappear’ amongst the bushland. Keep an eye out for the Forest Folk and the ‘little people of the forest’ sculptures carved into trees and around the path.
A recent addition to the trail is a sculptural series called Rising from the Ashes by local artist Kim Perrier. It was commissioned to commemorate the resilience of the local community during the catastrophic 2015 Northcliffe bushfire, and pays tribute to local firefighters and community members who helped with the town’s recovery efforts. You’ll find these sculptures etched into trees (like the one pictured below) throughout the walk.
The trail is open daily from 9am to 4pm.
Mandurah City Art Trail
Circling the picturesque marina and weaving through the town centre, the 1.5km-long Mandurah City Art Trail features 15 artworks dotted along the trail, ranging from aluminium sculptures and stained-glass windows to full-scale murals.
Some of the trail’s most exciting artworks are a series of 3D pavement paintings by Australian artist Jenny McCracken that depict local wildlife. These include a giant pelican feeding on a fish in the Mandurah Marina, an array of wildlife found in the Peel-Harvey Estuary outside the Mandurah Visitor Centre (pictured below), and a blue swimmer crab extending its nipper to those strolling along the Mandurah Bridge.
Other notable artworks on the trail include the Arty Bike Rack (part-sculpture, part-functioning public bike rack), the Lady Bananas murals that wrap around the Monkey Bar and Lounge, and the Snakes and Ladders mosaic, complete with handmade tiles to let visitors play a few rounds, at the Eastern Foreshore. Check the Mandurah Art Trail map for the full list of artworks.
Ultimate guide to Mandurah »
Margaret River Region Open Studios
The annual Margaret River Region Open Studios sees many local artists opening their doors for a behind the scenes look at their diverse works.
The trail is designed as a self-drive itinerary covering five participating towns and their surrounding areas: Busselton, Dunsborough, Cowaramup, Margaret River and Augusta. Each region has its own map that features the addresses of up to 30 artist studios, galleries and workshops. You can see works including handmade pottery, sculptures, blown glass, wooden furniture and metal jewellery.
Though the line-up of artists varies year to year, artists Leon Pericles, Gerry Reilly, Patricia Negus and Salli Coppin are frequently featured.
Elizabeth Quay Public Art Walk, Perth
There has been no shortage of public art popping up in and around Elizabeth Quay. The Elizabeth Quay Public Art Walk is a short but memorable trail which features statues, mosaics and lighting displays. Head there after sundown for the best view of the illuminated attractions.
Spanda, the 29m-tall, circular sculpture that sits at the centre of the quay, is one of its most recognisable artworks. It features five rippled rings to represent the linkage of the Swan River, land and sky. Another iconic quay sculpture is First Contact (pictured below), a cast aluminium piece resembling a giant bird by renowned Indigenous artist Laurel Nannup. It sits at the William Street Landing, and depicts the Noongar people’s first visions of European settlers arriving on ships that, at a glance, resembled floating birds on the water.
Other notable works along the quay’s art walk include EDGE, an illuminated light display that snakes around the entire inlet, the colourful Horizontal Geometries on the walls of V Burger Bar that represent the diverse Swan Riverbed, and the Pinjah mosaic that lines the BHP Billiton Water Park, which was inspired by elements of Noongar culture. View the Elizabeth Quay Public Art Walk artwork list for more details.
Farm Gate Art Trail, Ravensthorpe
In 2009, the farming community of Ravensthorpe decided to get creative with their leftover scrap materials. Over the next three years, old machinery was re-shaped and scraps were reworked to create a trail of large-scale sculptures themed around local wildflowers and landscapes. During a relaunch in 2020, 15 new sculptures were added.
The trail winds through the towns of Ravensthorpe, Lake King, Jerramungup, Esperance and Hopetoun. Some of the most eye-catching sculptures include a 2m-tall echidna, a teapot-shaped water tank and ‘Pa-bull Picasso’, a rusted bull that sits proudly on a Ravensthorpe farm. Visit the Fitzgerald Coast website for a full list of trail sculptures.
Last updated: May 2021
Banner image credit: Tourism Western Australia