Museums: everyone's favourite wet weather tourist attraction! Here's a list of our favourite museums in New Zealand.
Auckland War Memorial Museum
The natural history section is wonderful, as is the volcanoes exhibition. The museum building itself is a beautiful example of neoclassical architecture, set within the tranquil Auckland Domain. (Explore the Wintergardens whilst you’re there!)
This interactive museum experience can be found in the heart of Oamaru's Victorian Precinct. You can - indeed, are encouraged to - touch everything, from the items in a replica nineteenth century dispensary to the slates in an old schoolroom. There are toys, artefacts, antique dresses ... even a ridable penny-farthing carousel. The best thing is you can explore Whitestone City whilst dressed up in Victorian costume, posing for photos along the way. We recommend doing the guided tour, as you’ll get a lot more out of your visit.
This eclectic museum is housed in a gorgeous building on the edge of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. It’s free to enter, although donations are encouraged, and takes a long time to explore. My favourite exhibitions are the nineteenth century street - modelled after actual shops Christchurch had back then, and the early settlers section, where, as well as artefacts, there's a recreated hut showing how the first European New Zealanders would have lived. Perhaps the museum’s quirkiest exhibition is the paua shell house, a testament to dedicated collectors everywhere.
The Museum of Transport and Technology is in Auckland, and it’s less boring than it sounds. As well as a collection of old trains, planes and automobiles, it has a restored Victorian pumphouse and a model village. (It’s become quite popular with the steampunk crowd in recent years.) For kid’s, MOTAT’s a great place to learn about how things work. It’s tactile and exciting, and there’s an old-fashioned tram to ride on. If you’re interested in the history of New Zealand invention, this is the museum for you.
This is New Zealand’s national museum, perched proudly on Wellington’s waterfront, and it doesn’t disappoint. The history of New Zealand’s flora and fauna, and of the arrival of the Māori, is excellently presented. There’s a great outdoor exhibition in which paths wind through a collection of native trees, over bridges, and through a cave complete with (fake) glowworms and moa bones. Te Papa also has the world’s only colossal squid specimen on display – you can see why people might have thought it was a monster!
Waipu is a small town up north. It has a few interesting second-hand shops, a stunning beach called Waipu Cove, and a surprisingly brilliant museum. The story of the brave Scottish immigrants who founded Waipu is fascinating, and Waipu Museum tells it with relish. It’s a relatively small museum, but it’s very well designed.
The Edwin Fox Maritime Museum
The Edwin Fox is the world’s last surviving Australian convict ship, the last surviving wooden New Zealand immigrant ship, the oldest surviving East Indiaman, the second-oldest surviving merchant sailing ship, and the ninth-oldest ship in existence. The impressive thing is you can go inside the ship itself. The Edwin Fox is a truly special piece of not only New Zealand, but world history.
Omaka Aviation Heritage Museum
This is a special museum. The displays were made by Weta Workshop (of Lord of the Rings fame,) and many of the planes housed there actually belong to Sir Peter Jackson. The aircraft - and perhaps more importantly, the pilots that flew them - are brought to life in immersive detail.