New Zealand’s Top 7 Historical Museums at a Glance

Aside from having a thriving sports and racing industry, New Zealand is also home to some of the world’s most prestigious and respected museums.

Travellers come from far and wide to the ancient island to gather knowledge about its history, its indigenous people, and its incredible ecological diversity, and there are 8 museums in particular that have been frequented by information-seekers from every corner of the globe. Read all about them below.

#1: The Kauri Museum, Northland

At the very top of New Zealand is the Kauri Museum in Matakohe, a small town just half an hour outside of Dargaville. The name of the establishment refers to NZ’s magnificent Kauri trees, which are native to the region and can grow up to 50 meters tall and 13 meters in girth.

This museum documents the early European pioneer days, during which Kauri timber was taken from the region for various essential purposes. The museum contains the world’s largest collection of Kauri furniture and gum, along with dioramas of gum digger huts, a real sawmill replica, and much more.

#2: The Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland

The Auckland War Memorial Museum is nestled in one of the capital city’s most iconic buildings, and is also one of the oldest museums in the country. It tells the tales of the island, its surrounds, and its native people, and contains hundreds of Maori and Pacific Island artefacts.

They include a Hotunui (a carved meeting house), the Te Toki a Tapiri (a traditional war canoe), and more than 1.5 million natural historical specimens too.

#3: Waikato Museum, Hamilton

Founded in 1987, this establishment overlooks the picturesque Waikato River, hence its name. It covers a wide range of topics, from the Tangata Whenua (local Maori people) to social history, natural science and more.

The museum also has no less than 13 galleries, and boasts up to 25 new exhibits and hundreds of public events each year. Highlights include Te Winika, the Maori war canoe, and the Waikato WWI tale ‘For Us They Fell’.

#4: Tawhiti Museum, Hawera

Just an hour’s drive from Mount Taranaki, Tawhiti Museum is a personal project collated by local artist Nigel Ogle.

Ogle has created countless life-sized dioramas and models of past events in New Zealand, and the museum itself also has a fascinating history as a former cheese factory to pair with these highly detailed works.

#5: The Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa

New Zealand’s designated national museum, known as Te Papa, was recently named one of the top 25 museums in the world by tripAdvisor. It started out as a modest colonial establishment in 1865, and occupied a few different locations in Wellington before settling in Cable Street in 1998.

It focuses on a variety of topics, including Taonga Maori, Pacific Cultures, Art, Social History, and Natural History. Visitors can also look forward to the moving ANZAC exhibit and plenty of futuristic, interactive displays that showcase Maori culture.

#6: The Great War Exhibition, Wellington

Wellington is a hotspot when it comes to NZ’s arts and culture scene, so it stands to reason that it should house multiple museums for history buffs to enjoy. The Great War Exhibition opened in 2015 to tell the story of WWI and the valiant contributions of the Kiwis who fought through it – and survived it.

It includes life-sized sets, incredible artefacts, and highly detailed, miniaturized scenes of history. Guided tours of mock trenches are also available.

#7: Bill Richardson’s Transport World, Invercargill

This fascinating experience was built solely by an extremely passionate man who collected hundreds of automobiles, petrol pumps, and other related items for decades. A decade after his death in 2005, his family decided to open his collection to the public, creating Invercargill’s transport museum.

The establishment contains, among other things, 1930’s V8s, Henry Ford Letter cards, hundreds of vintage trucks, Model Ts, antique Kombis and much more. There’s even a Lego construction zone available for the kids to enjoy!