Good as gold! Auckland's iconic golden frames turn 25

Last Updated : 15 May 2024
Mahurangi Regional Park

French impressionist Edgar Degas once said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” That’s certainly one of the benefits of the nine giant golden frames that encourage visitors to stop and admire Auckland’s regional parks for the masterpieces that they are.

With fabulous forests, captivating coastlines, wonderful wetlands and waterfalls, Tāmaki Makaurau has enough beauty and colour to fill an art gallery. To highlight these scenic spots, ornate oversized picture frames were installed in 1999 – long before the days of social media – and these photo-friendly spots have become a beloved part of our landscape.

The frames were part of an award-winning campaign created by Saatchi & Saatchi called ‘Put yourself in the picture’ and thousands of visitors over the past 25 years have done just that, taking snaps and selfies alongside Auckland’s natural wonders.

These highly Instagrammable frames are located at Waitākere, Tāpapakanga, Ambury, Āwhitu, Hunua, Long Bay, Shakespear and Mahurangi Regional Parks. Fun fact: On one side of each frame is a park ranger - can you spot them?

Are you ready to get in the right frame of mind? See how many golden frames you can visit to admire Auckland’s picture-perfect beauty.

1. Tāpapakanga Regional Park

This pocket of paradise near Ōrere Point in south-east Auckland overlooks the Firth of Thames and offers pōhutukawa-lined shores, beachside camping and a friendly farm environment. The park is part of the Te Ara Moana sea kayak trail, following the waka routes used by several mana whenua groups to transport kai and other items between settlements. The Waikaha Stream campground is only accessible via kayak, making it one of Auckland’s quietest camping spots.

Location of the frame: Near the main car park at the start of the Tāpapakanga Coastal Path.

2. Hunua Ranges Regional Park

Escape to bushland in south-east Auckland where you’ll find fabulous forest walks and one of Tāmaki Makaurau’s most-beloved waterfalls, Hunua Falls. Walks here range from the family-friendly 20-minute Hunua Falls Track and the 75-minute Hunua Suspension Bridge Track to longer, more difficult hikes suitable for experienced trampers only. Hunua Ranges Regional Park is home to Auckland’s only mainland population of the kōkako.

Location of the frame: Between the car park and the Hunua Falls.

3. Ambury Regional Park

For a slice of country life close to the city, Ambury Regional Park is a must-visit. This working farm features sheep, goats, cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, peacocks and horses.

The foreshore area is also great for bird spotting – look out for godwits, knots, pied oystercatchers and wrybills.

Location of the frame: Near the recreational paddock on the Ambury Foreshore Track.

4. Waitākere Ranges Regional Park

An 11m-high kauri pou (post) signals your arrival at Arataki, the gateway to Waitākere Ranges Regional Park. The park is home to Arataki Visitor Centre and features lookout balconies with spectacular mountain views and bush walks for all ages. The Arataki Nature Trail is an easy walk featuring a plant ID loop that kids will love.

Location of the frame: Just to the left of the Arataki Visitor Centre entrance.

This regional park actually features two golden frames! The second can be found at Te Piringa / Cascade Kauri, which recently reopened after a six-year closure, Te Piringa is home to the Waitākere Ranges’ oldest and most precious stands of kauri. This tapu (sacred) forest is protected by a rāhui (restriction), so please follow Māori tikanga (custom) by using the wāhi whakanoa cleansing waters at the entrance of the park.

Location of the frame: Near the Cascades waterfall and Waitākere Golf Club on the Montana Heritage Trail.

5. Long Bay Regional Park

This sprawling sandy beach is an Auckland favourite for safe summer swimming and seaside walking. The park is adjacent to Long Bay-Okura Marine Reserve, with rock pools visible at low tide. All sea life in the reserve is protected – if you’re very lucky you might spot dolphins.

Location of the frame: Near Vaughan Homestead on the Long Bay Coastal Track.

6. Shakespear Regional Park

This pest-free sanctuary is a haven for native birds such as kiwi pukupuku (little spotted kiwi), ruru (morepork) and korimako (bellbird), plus native skinks and geckos. There are even titiwai (glow worms) in Waterfall Gully. Listen out for kiwi if you’re visiting at dusk!

Location of the frame: On Bruce Harvey Drive.

7. Mahurangi Regional Park

Mahurangi Regional Park is a favourite for sailors and sea lovers thanks to its picturesque coastline and enchanting isles. The park is divided into three parts – Mahurangi West, Scott Point – Mahurangi East and Sadler Point – Mahurangi East. The sheltered waters of Otarawao Bay (Sullivan’s Bay) make it a popular camping destination and great spot for a swim.

Location of the frame: Near the Sullivan’s Bay Campground at Mahurangi West.

8. Āwhitu Regional Park

This scenic gem on the western shores of Manukau Harbour tugs at your heartstrings. The area gets its name because of the ‘yearning’ (āwhitu) felt by Hōturoa, the leader of the Tainui waka, when he left the area. It’s easy to understand Hōturoa’s sense of longing, with two white sand beaches (Kauritūtahi Beach and Brook Beach), historical homesteads to visit and wetlands to explore, this park really is something special. Keep a look out for the rare mātātā (fernbird).

Location of frame: At the lookout point near the start of the Brook Homestead Walk.

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