Te Papa Tongarewa is at the top of all museums in New Zealand. It is located in the capital city, Wellington and is recognised as the country's national museum. Both the architecture and the furnishings are very special. We highly recommend this museum during your visit to New Zealand.
To show that New Zealand has two different cultures, the ancient Maori culture and that of the European immigrants, the building is split into two separate parts, which merge together in the centre. This is to emphasise that both cultures are at the source from one indivisible country: New Zealand.
While in Auckland, a visit to the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) is well worth a visit. The Auckland War Memorial will surely impress you with the sacrifices New Zealanders have made overtime during various wars and peace missions.
Sometimes a local town feels like a complete museum, such as Napier in Hawke's Bay on the East Coast of the North Island. In 1931, it was hit by a devastating earthquake and then rebuilt in Art Deco style, hence the name ‘Art Deco City’.
Something completely different is the Kauri Museum in Matakohe on the North Island. Here, everything revolves around the wood and resin of the kauri trees, the history of the people who have worked with them all their lives, and the products that are made from them. Definitely, have a look if you are on the way, or coming from the Waipoua Kauri Forest with the famous giant trees.
# 1 Te Papa Tongarewa
Te Papa Tongarewa is New Zealand's national museum. It was opened in 1998 and it is a must-do if you visit the capital Wellington. Why? Because here, the whole country is highlighted in all its facets. The museum is located in the centre of Wellington and is notable for its special architecture designed by Ivan Mercep.
A lot of symbolism has been incorporated in both the interior and the exterior. For example, the three stones that mark the entrance have the meaning of Mother Earth, the original Maori people and all inhabitants of the country who have the right to live there under the Waitangi Treaty.
The building includes a central hall that separates and connects the north and south wings, which are dedicated respectively to the Maori and the Pakeha (Europeans). From the north wing, you have a view of the harbour, from the south of the city.
In the main hall, you will find the Signs of a Nation exhibit on the subject of the Treaty of Waitangi. Which concluded in 1840, between the Maori chiefs and the British settlers, a document considered the birth certificate of modern New Zealand.
One of the main attractions is Rongomaraeroa, a marae or community house from Maori culture that serves to meet, debate and celebrate. The museum's collections cover five themes:
- The Pacific
- The Maori
- The environment
As well as the permanent collection, there are regular partial exhibitions. The museum is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm (Thursdays from 10 am to 9 pm). The entrance is free. Guided tours are available and the museum has a café and library.
# 2 Auckland City Art Gallery
This is New Zealand's oldest and largest art institution, founded in 1888. The collection includes a variety of artefacts related to the country's history and modern art. You will also find work by Maori artists and artists from the Pacific, European painting (including Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Karel Appel, Alexander Archipenko), sculpture, etchings and lithographs. The current location at Albert Park in the heart of Auckland opened in 2011 and is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.
The City Art Gallery is active in the restoration and conservation of paintings, photographs and works on paper; the studios where this takes place can be visited. An important section of the Gallery is the Creative Learning Centre. Here, it is made clear in a visually appealing way, how works of art are created and how artists look and imagine the world around them.
# 3 Auckland War Memorial Museum
The Auckland War Memorial Museum was established as a memorial to the 12,000 residents of Auckland province who lost their lives in World War I and World War II.
As well as both world wars, attention is also paid to the civil wars in New Zealand, the Boer War in South Africa in the 19th century, the various international conflicts and the involvement of New Zealand troops in recent UN peacekeeping missions.
In the World War I Sanctuary, the Roll of Honour lists the names of the fallen, many of whom have their final resting place unknown. The World War II Hall of Memories contains the names of Aucklanders fallen in the two World Wars, in Korea, during the Malay-Borneo conflict and in Vietnam.
Dedicated to the building itself with its beautiful stained glass windows, inscriptions and decorations and other architectural details, the Colours Gallery highlights the development from a humble 1852 cottage into one of the Southern Hemisphere's most important museums.
The museum will not fail to impress you. It is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm; admission is free, but a donation of NZ $10 per person is welcome. The museum also has a café and a shop.
# 4 Ferrymead, Christchurch
Ferrymead Park is a replica of a village from the early 19th century. The replica contains everything that would normally belong in a village. You’ll find houses, a school, church, prison, train station, town hall, post office, printing house and shops.
There are also exhibitions and demonstrations with tractors, fire engines, aeroplanes, trams and trains, model trains, radios, etc. These collections are owned by private associations and are managed by volunteers who restore and display the objects.
Ferrymead was founded in 1960 by a group of enthusiastic people who had the intention of reviving the past and preserving it for the future. The site has historical significance, as New Zealand's first railway line was commissioned here in 1863.
Ferrymead is open daily. There is a tearoom on the main street and souvenir and gift shops. A visit to Ferrymead is a fun and educational outing, where you can step back in time.
# 5 The Kauri Museum
In Matakohe, on the West Coast of the North Island, approximately one hour drive, northwest of Auckland, is one of New Zealand's most remarkable museums. This special museum shouldn't be missed on your way to/or from the famous Waipoua Kauri Forest.
Here, everything revolves around wood - the wood of the kauri tree. Through old photos and recreated interiors of historic houses, you will get a picture of how the pioneers lived and worked in the distant past. And also, what the wood and resin of the kauri trees meant to them.
The museum has the largest collection of kauri wood furniture and kauri resin in the world. Plus, a restored historic machinery park and a steam-powered sawmill. The highly flammable resin of the cowrie was used by the Maori for heating and lighting, as a pigment in tattoo making and as chewing gum.
On the grounds are buildings from the pioneer era. Such as a fully-equipped school and a church from 186, built from - how could it be otherwise? - cowrie wood. The statue at the entrance of the museum represents a moa, a long-extinct flightless bird; it is made of wreckage from the coasts of Northland.
The Kauri Museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. In the souvenir shop, you can admire and purchase a variety of cowrie wood products and polished cowrie resin jewellery.
# 6 The Museum of Transport and Technology
The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) is New Zealand's largest museum of transportation, technology and social history. The museum displays examples of New Zealand's and Auckland's heritage in transportation, and its mission is to preserve that heritage, as well as to educate and recreate.
Your visit is an engaging, interactive journey that will introduce you to the developments and successes that shaped New Zealand from the early 1800s into what it is today. Topics covered include:
- Trains and trams
- Road transport
- The military
Take a ride on a historic tram (departs every 30 minutes, duration: 25 minutes), see the Victorian Village and Walsh Memorial Library, and join one of the daily tours. In any case, allow plenty of time for your visit, as there is so much to view and enjoy.
The MOTAT has two locations: Great North Road, Western Springs and nearby Meola Road, home to the impressive Aviation Display Hall.
# 7 Shantytown, West Coast
Living history in a recreated gold-mining town, that's what you'll find in Shantytown between Greymouth and Hokitika on the west coast of the South Island, three kilometres from Highway 6. It's a fun and educational getaway for young and old and a welcome break from your journey along the west coast of New Zealand.
The complex comprises of approx. 30 buildings and shops that bring the past to life and are still being built. There is a museum with thousands of objects and historical photos. Attractions include a ride on a historic steam train, a recreated Chinatown, an old sawmill, a blacksmith shop and many “old” houses.
There is also a Magical Theater that brings the lives of the former residents to life in a special way. And you can take a walk in the rainforest. This is the most popular attraction, especially for children. Shantytown is open daily from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. The last steam train departs at 4 pm. You can rent audio equipment with explanations in 3 languages.
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