Painted rocks turn Canberra walks into artistic, whimsical treasure hunts

Damien Larkins 24 September 2021 65
Painted rock with 'love' on it

You never know where you’ll find a painted rock in Canberra’s suburbs. Photo: Tiffany Fletcher.

Have you stumbled across small, hand-painted rocks on your walks recently? The playful pastime is becoming a growing trend in the ACT.

Across Canberra, locals are lovingly applying artworks to rocks and then placing them in public parks, paths and other places for strangers to find.

Native animals, flowers, book characters, superheroes, fruit and messages of hope – the rocks spark a moment of delight for those lucky enough to discover them.

The ACT ROCKS Facebook group is packed with creative Canberrans creating clutches of colourful stones who are hinting at where they’ll be dropped.

READ ALSO: Want your Munch-kins to get creative? Wheelie bin art is on the Monet

The group’s comments are filled with photos of beaming rock-hunters showing off their treasured finds.

O’Connor teacher Tiffany Fletcher has been painstakingly painting a set of rocks each day for the past month.

She loves the simple act of bringing a little bit of joy into strangers’ lives “as random acts of kindness”.

“It’s something I can do with my kids, and they love going and hiding them, and finding them,” she says.

Painted rocks on ground

You never know what painted rocks you’ll find around Canberra. Photo: Tiffany Fletcher.

For Tiffany, it’s also about community connection, which lately has become increasingly important.

“You leave them there knowing that somebody will find it and somebody will give it to somebody else,” she says.

“Somebody they’ve never met or they don’t know has left a little piece of joy for them.”

Each rock also has a message encouraging the finder to pay that joy forward.

Young boy holding up painted rocks

The ACT ROCKS page is full of pictures of happy people proudly displaying their finds. Photo: Tiffany Fletcher.

“On the back of every rock it says ‘ACT ROCKS’, then most people post a pic, keep or re-hide [their rock],” says Tiffany.

“If you particularly like the rock you can keep it, you can give it to somebody or you can re-hide it.”

Tiffany has been involved in the ACT ROCKS group for about 18 months, but she admits her rock-painting skills weren’t great at first.

“I was scrolling through my photos the other day and I saw the first set of rocks I painted,” she says. “They were horrific. I started off painting really basic things – basic shapes, basic monsters.

“As I’ve become more confident, I’ve moved into animals with textured fur and feathers, and buildings and things like that.”

READ ALSO: The only iconic bus shelter where adding your art is actively encouraged

Tiffany was doing two sets a week, but when lockdown began, she started doing a set each night.

Now she spends every evening on the couch, with a set of paint pens and a pile of rocks.

She always gives one or two away from every night’s work, left in her letterbox for contactless collection.

“People always ask me, ‘Can I buy one?’ but I always say I don’t sell my rocks,” says Tiffany. “But I’m happy to gift you one.

“I don’t paint them to keep them – I paint them to give to people.”

Prior to lockdown, the Fletcher family would drop their rocks in public a couple of times a week, and it was a great chance to talk to people and make new friends.

“Sometimes I’m there and people will see me looking around and they’ll come up and go, ‘Are you looking for rocks too? We’ve come down to find Tiffany’s rocks,'” she says.

“My kids will go, ‘That’s mum, that’s mum!’ which is really lovely.”

While it’s a close-knit community, it’s not unusual to never hear what happens to the rocks after they are dropped off.

READ ALSO: What can shared green spaces do for community wellbeing?

But Tiffany says that’s OK.

“I reckon when I drop a set of seven rocks, I’ve got to have made at least three people happy,” she says.

Tiffany plans to drop her collection all across Canberra when lockdown ends.

Find out more at ACT ROCKS.

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65 Responses to Painted rocks turn Canberra walks into artistic, whimsical treasure hunts
Carl Ostermann Carl Ostermann 10:06 pm 21 Sep 21

In the nineties, it was adventurous gnomes sending their owners... postcards from all over the world

Skye McWilliams Skye McWilliams 4:03 pm 21 Sep 21

A great school holiday project to keep the kids entertained! And good fun for the grown ups as well!

Catherine Mckean Catherine Mckean 8:56 am 21 Sep 21

Noni Evans I have one in my back yard.

Noni Evans Noni Evans 6:32 pm 20 Sep 21

Casey Jane , found any yet?

Lorraine Clements Lorraine Clements 5:33 pm 20 Sep 21

Got some outside our place that I have put little jewels all over them.

Wilma Robb Wilma Robb 12:07 pm 20 Sep 21

Such a nice treat for children when they spot them😆

Dawn Manning Dawn Manning 10:12 am 20 Sep 21

Gail Barton this is what that rock with a heart on it was! 😬

Toni Brown Toni Brown 8:37 am 20 Sep 21

My friend Lorraine does this <3

Lewis P Owlay Lewis P Owlay 7:27 am 20 Sep 21

Yep seen a few people steal them then post pics on FB

    Tracy Lea Tracy Lea 10:20 am 22 Sep 21

    They are not ‘stealing’. The rocks are hidden with a message to keep OR re-hide.

Lorraine Erikson Lorraine Erikson 5:48 am 20 Sep 21


Mariusz Weclawiak Mariusz Weclawiak 11:30 pm 19 Sep 21

Erin Anderson is that you?!

    Erin Anderson Erin Anderson 11:32 pm 19 Sep 21

    Mariusz Weclawiak 😂 no sorry haven’t got the brush out in awhile

Samantha Oliver Samantha Oliver 10:51 pm 19 Sep 21

Found these today whilst walking with the kids in Richardson

Ray Mcgee Ray Mcgee 10:36 pm 19 Sep 21

Seen them around Lake Tuggs :)

Jody Berg Jody Berg 10:11 pm 19 Sep 21

Jo Martyn , you should paint some!

Mandii Bennett Mandii Bennett 10:10 pm 19 Sep 21

Betty Meiksa thanks for bringing joy

Alice Caroline Alice Caroline 8:29 pm 19 Sep 21

I saw one in a tree along the Queanbeyan river walk💕 so cute! Such a gorgeous idea.

Deb Crisp Deb Crisp 8:04 pm 19 Sep 21

So super proud of my sister starting the Gordon Park rock spotting with my daughter's the first week of lockdown... 5 weeks later the place has so many incredible and beautiful rock designs around! My girls love seeing how much it has changed and all the ones that have come since it started!

Karenne Eccles Karenne Eccles 7:44 pm 19 Sep 21

This i has been happening in Kiama also ...

Sam Da Cruz Sam Da Cruz 7:00 pm 19 Sep 21

India Elise this why you were painting rocks yesterday??? 😂

    India Anderson India Anderson 8:23 pm 19 Sep 21

    Sam Da Cruz na just coz! 😁

    Elise Anderson Elise Anderson 8:25 pm 19 Sep 21

    Sam Da Cruz but if it makes people happy that’s a plus 😊

Sandra Cole Sandra Cole 6:46 pm 19 Sep 21

WOW! Wonderful thought.

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