airport_transferbarbathtubbusiness_facilitieschild_activitieschildcareconnecting_roomcribsfree_wifigymhot_tubinternetkitchennon_smokingpetpoolresturantski_in_outski_shuttleski_storagesmoking_areaspastar
Explore your world
Cancel
The 10 Must-Visit Museums in New Zealand

The 10 Must-Visit Museums in New Zealand

Picture of Thalita Alves
Updated: 24 April 2017

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.

Te Papa Museum

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.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 55 Cable St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand, +64 4-381 7000

Te Papa Museum | © Andrew Turner/Flickr

Te Papa Museum | © Andrew Turner/Flickr

Auckland War Memorial Museum

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.

Auckland War Memorial Museum, The Auckland Domain, Parnell, Auckland 1010, New Zealand, +64 9-309 0443

Auckland War Memorial Museum | © Siyamalan/Flickr

Auckland War Memorial Museum | © Siyamalan/Flickr

Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre

Blenheim’s Omaka Aviation Centre is a must-visit for plane buffs and war history enthusiasts. In fact, this specialist museum, along with Te Papa, topped TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Museums in the South Pacific in 2015. It’s the attention to the finest details that attract people to this aviation powerhouse: among the various items on display you’ll find vintage planes from both World Wars, a trove of memorabilia, cars, military uniforms and portraits.

Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, 79 Aerodrome Rd, Omaka, Blenheim 7272, New Zealand, +64 3-579 1305

Pfalz D3 Replica on Display at the Omaka Aviation and Heritage Centre | © Phillip Capper/Flickr

Pfalz D3 Replica on Display at the Omaka Aviation and Heritage Centre | © Phillip Capper/Flickr

Otago Museum

This incredibly diverse museum in Dunedin should be browsed at a leisurely pace. To give you an idea, the Otago Museum is home to butterfly displays, Japanese memorabilia, a planetarium, dinosaur fossils, Egyptian artifacts, as well as extensive Maori and Pacific exhibitions. All up, there are more than 1.5 million items in their collection. If you happen to be travelling with kids, the paid Discovery World Tropical Forest exhibit is a popular choice among local and visiting families.

Otago Museum, 419 Great King St, North Dunedin, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand, +64 3-474 7474

Otago Museum Nature Gallery | © Samuel Mann/Flickr

Otago Museum Nature Gallery | © Samuel Mann/Flickr

Canterbury Museum

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.

Canterbury Museum, Rolleston Ave, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand, +64 3-366 5000 

Canterbury Museum | © Anthony Cramp/Flickr

Canterbury Museum | © Anthony Cramp/Flickr

The New Zealand Maritime Museum

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.

New Zealand Maritime Museum, Corner Quay Street and Hobson Street, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand, +64 9-373 0800

New Zealand Maritime Museum Exhibit | © Alex Indigo/Flickr

New Zealand Maritime Museum Exhibit | © Alex Indigo/Flickr

The International Antarctic Centre

There’s a reason the International Antarctic Centre is one of Christchurch’s prized attractions. It’s located quite close to the airport and is well-suited for kids and adults alike. The centre’s Antarctic Gallery explains everything there is to know about the continent and its international significance, while penguin encounters and the Husky Zone are guaranteed to put a smile on all animal and wildlife lovers’ faces.

International Antarctic Centre, 38 Orchard Rd, Christchurch Airport, Christchurch 8052, New Zealand, +64 3-357 0519

Taxidermied Emperor Penguins at the International Antarctic Centre | © _somaholiday/Flickr

Taxidermied Emperor Penguins at the International Antarctic Centre | © _somaholiday/Flickr

Waikato Museum

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.

Waikato Museum, 1 Grantham St, Hamilton 3204, New Zealand, +64 7-838 6606 

Waikato Museum | © Nzwj/Wikimedia Commons

Waikato Museum | © Nzwj/Wikimedia Commons

Southland Museum

Famous for its unique Tuatara enclosure, the Southland Museum is a great place to verse yourself on New Zealand’s compelling wildlife. The oldest member of the museum’s Tuatarium (as they’ve dubbed it) is Henry, a 110-year-old reptile that holds the world record for living more than 46 years years in captivity. Other ongoing exhibitions worth checking out include the Natural History Gallery, which goes beyond the tuatara exhibits, and the World’s Fastest Indian section, which celebrates Invercargill’s most famous export.

Southland Museum and Art Gallery, 108 Gala St, Queens Park, Invercargill 9810, New Zealand, +64 3-219 9069

Tuatara Statue Outside the Southland Museum | © ItravelNZ/Flickr

Tuatara Statue Outside the Southland Museum | © ItravelNZ/Flickr

Steampunk HQ

In recent years, the small coastal town of Oamaru earned international fame for its celebration of all things steampunk. First there was the annual Steampunk Festival; then, the quirky Steampunk HQ museum came into being. A culmination of retro-futuristic art and sculpture fills the Victorian-style building that hosts each exhibition. The gallery opened its doors in 2011 and is well-known for having a full-scale, fire-spitting train engine among its compelling displays.

Steampunk HQ,  Tyne St, South Hill, Oamaru 9400, New Zealand, +64 27 778 6547

World of Wearable Art & Classic Cars Museum

Nelson’s flagship museum definitely puts the ‘wow’ factor into its famous World of Wearable Arts show. More than that, it showcases a remarkable collection of classic cars alongside the internationally-acclaimed garments. Even the museum’s gift shop is worth exploring for its cool relics — from jewellery to books and locally-produced ceramics. All in all, this is a place of wondrous contrasts that’s bound to pique everyone’s interests.

National WOW Museum & Nelson Classic Cars Gallery, Cadillac Way, Annesbrook, Nelson 7011, New Zealand, +64 3-547 4573

World of Wearable Art Displays | © Tony Hisgett/Flickr

World of Wearable Art Displays | © Tony Hisgett/Flickr