The Canterbury Museum first opened its doors in 1867, moving to its current premises in 1870. In its lifetime, the museum’s collection has evolved to include an incredibly diverse range of natural and human history pieces: think fossil bones, fossilised insects, Maori artifacts, Asian arts, and the world’s largest Antarctic-themed collection. Permanent exhibitions to check out include the Paua Shell House, Quake City, and the museum’s Early European Settlers display.
The Air Force Museum of New Zealand
As its name suggests, the Air Force Museum of New Zealand is set on preserving and showcasing the country’s military aviation history. This must-visit attraction stemmed from the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s Historical Centre, which was established at the original air base at Wigram in 1976. It currently relies on six buildings on the same site to display its impressive collection of vintage aircraft, vehicles, engines and artifacts amassed from New Zealand’s military efforts.
The Yaldhurst Museum
The Yaldhurst Museum is as much an educational venue as it is an integral component of Christchurch’s history. The museum is set on the grounds of one the city’s earliest homesteads, originally built by local resident John Taylor in 1876. A few generations later, Taylor’s great-grandson Alfred Thornhill Cooper decided to showcase his ever-growing vintage car collection in his very own specialist museum. Since its 1968 inauguration, the Yadlhurst Museum has amassed more than 160 cars, and has expanded to include exhibitions on race cars, horse-drawn carriages, motorcycles, engines and various other transportation-focused relics.
International Antarctic Centre
Located on the International Antarctic Programmes’ campus at Christchurch Airport, the International Antarctic Centre sets out to show all visitors why Christchurch is viewed as the gateway to Antarctica. It opened in 1992, on the site where the New Zealand, United States and Italian Antarctic Programmes were already in full swing, and has since grown into one of the city’s top tourist attractions. The centre’s experiences include penguin encounters, a myriad of interactive exhibitions, an HD movie theatre, and even a husky cuddle zone.
The Christchurch Arts Centre is home to Rutherford’s Den: an interactive, educational exhibit that aptly pays tribute to one of New Zealand’s most distinguished figures. Earnest Rutherford was a pioneer in the scientific realm and is widely regarded as the father of nuclear physics. The specialist museum is filled with hands-on activities and displays that explain everything there is to know about atoms, ions, and the importance of Lord Rutherford’s discoveries, to life as we know it.
The Toy Collector
Quite a recent addition to Christchurch’s museum scene, The Toy Collector was born out of a pure love for all toys, old and new. A bright red building compels visitors to experience – and embrace – the evolution of toys throughout the ages. The museum opened its doors in February 2016, and is already making a positive impression with its nostalgic displays, impressive toy car collections, and a fully-functioning model railway.
Ferrymead Heritage Park
An open-air historic museum that brings the Edwardian era into the present. The Ferrymead Heritage Park recreates an early 1900s township – with a school, church, jail, general shop, picture theatre, railway station, and houses among its various features. The park also hosts a series of smaller heritage museums, owned and operated by individual societies, which are open to public viewing throughout the week. Sundays are usually when most of these attractions are fully up and running.