The 10 Must-Visit Museums in New Zealand

Auckland War Memorial Museum
Auckland War Memorial Museum | © Siyamalan/Flickr
Thalita Alves

The interesting thing about New Zealand museums is that each has their own story to tell. Some do this by showcasing the finest artworks, others bring Maori heritage to the forefront, and a few have their own specialist topics to share. Add these 10 must-visit museums to your itinerary to get familiar with the country’s historic treasures.

1. Te Papa Museum


Te Papa Museum
© Andrew Turner/Flickr
Wellington’s Te Papa Museum is globally renowned for its innovative displays and comprehensive collections. It’s a place that documents and celebrates Maori heritage, New Zealand nature, and various historical events. One of the best interactive displays at Te Papa is the Earthquake House — a simulation that gives visitors a real-life insight into the aftershocks that occurred during the 1987 Edgecumbe Earthquake.

2. Auckland War Memorial Museum

Memorial, Museum

Auckland War Memorial Museum
© Siyamalan/Flickr
Along with being housed in one of the city’s oldest parks, the Auckland War Memorial Museum hosts an incredible collection of historic relics and pieces that aptly showcase New Zealand’s culture and tradition. It was built in 1929, in response to Aucklanders’ demands for a site that pays homage to the lives lost during the First World War. To this day, the museum’s ANZAC Day memorial dawn service is one of its highest regarded traditions.

3. Canterbury Museum


Canterbury Museum
© Anthony Cramp/Flickr
The Canterbury Museum has an excellent collection of ongoing and temporary displays. Quake City is one of the museum’s most recent permanent additions — it uses storytelling and interactive exhibits to educate visitors about the 2010-2011 Canterbury Earthquakes. Another collection worth delving into is the Iwi Tawhito – whenua hou (Ancient Peoples – new lands), which combines Maori taonga (treasures) and life-size dioramas to explore New Zealand’s history.

4. The New Zealand Maritime Museum

Museum, Shop

New Zealand Maritime Museum Exhibit
© Alex Indigo/Flickr
A real treat for maritime enthusiasts visiting the City of Sails (for those who aren’t aware, that’s the local nickname for Auckland), The New Zealand Maritime Museum is home to a trove of nautical exhibits from the past and the present, from ancient Maori vessels, to vintage warships and even America’s Cup racing yachts. The museum also holds regular sailings around the Waitemata Harbour, giving its visitors a unique perspective of the area’s heritage vessels and nautical history.

5. Waikato Museum


Waikato Museum
© Nzwj/Wikimedia Commons
Located on the banks of the Waikato River in Hamilton, the Waikato Museum comprises 13 different galleries that host more than 25 new displays and hundreds of events each year. Compared to many museums on our list, this a small venue, but it’s one that really packs a punch when it comes to teaching about New Zealand history and Maori culture. The museum is known for interactive scientific displays as well as an impressive collection of Maori artifacts and carvings.

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