The Best New Zealand Museums.
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The Practical Guide of the Activity.
- 1Are New Zealand Museums Interesting?
- 2The Te Papa of Wellington, Best Museum in the Country.
- 3Discover the Haka at the Auckland War Memorial.
- 4Rotorua Museum and the Maori culture.
- 5The Otago Museum in Dunedin.
- 6Dive Into the Antarctic in the Canterbury Museum.
- 7Do You Really Need to Visit a Museum During Your Stay?
1Are New Zealand Museums Interesting?
Is it a good idea to visit a museum in a country renowned for the beauty of its landscapes and outdoor activities Fortunately, New Zealanders have discovered the magic formula to design exciting museums.
The history of New Zealand begins with the arrival of Maori in the ninth century before the bloody confrontation with the British in the eighteenth century.
The legends and battles that have shaped New Zealand society are worthy of interest to fully enjoy a few weeks' stay.
Coming from so far to visit New Zealand without discovering its history and traditions would be a regrettable mistake.
An error all the more unforgivable because the fusion between the Maori and Anglo-Saxon influences has produced a unique and fascinating culture.
Forget the old dusty galleries! ent only the five best museums in New Zealand.
Some are free, others with paid entry, but to be included in the Kiwipal ranking, they had to be irreproachable in terms of content and especially not to be boring!
Of course, all these high places of Kiwi culture have audio-guides, guided tours, cafés and souvenir shops ...
But you do not need any help to know how to visit a museum, and I will only give you a brief description and practical information, like the opening times, addresses, rates, exhibitions ...
The first three museums in our ranking are on the North Island and the last two on the South Island. Honestly, between a worn Maori show in Rotorua or an exceptional museum like the Te Papa of Wellington, there is no reason to hesitate!
Even if you are allergic to museums, keep in mind that you will find there the best souvenir shops of the country. If you break your piggy bank for a beautiful Maori artefact, you will at least have the certainty of not exchanging your precious dollars for a cheap copy.
2The Te Papa of Wellington, Best Museum in the Country.
Imagine six ultramodern floors filled with treasures and facilities that host cultural shows on an area equivalent to three rugby fields! The Te Papa Tongarewa deWellington (“Treasures of our land” in Maori language) is the emblematic museum of New Zealand.
The Te Papa's mission is to retrace the History of New Zealand. Temporary exhibitions are open to any subjects and can be dedicated to dinosaurs, aerospace or even video games.
Conservatives have favored quality to quantity. Each floor is organized around a central theme, with wide aisles where the subtle lighting emphasizes the artworks.
Success is at the rendezvous with a million visitors annually in a country that counts only 4.5 million inhabitants!
Above all, it is the ideal place to discover the great Maori culture by admiring delicate artworks and exciting films.
Do not miss the sumptuous “marae”, an authentic Maori carved wooden house, and the canoe designed for a hundred rowers.
This museum will amaze above all by its originality and interactivity whether shivering in front of the world's largest giant squid, experiencing an earthquake, traveling to the dinosaur’s era or diving into the bowels of a volcano... you will not see the time goes by.
It would take several days to explore Te Papa Tongarewa, but a few hours are already enough to apprehend the culture of the country. If you are passing through Wellington (the capital of the country and a fantastic city), this is the best museum in New Zealand and a must-do visit!
|Museum||Te Papa Tongarewa|
|City||Wellington, North Island|
|Web||Visit the website|
|Address||Cable St, Wellington, 6011|
|Opening||Every day including holidays and New Year (closed for Christmas)|
|Opening Time||10 am to 6 pm all week (until 9 pm on Thursday)|
3Discover the Haka at the Auckland War Memorial.
I sometimes think of regret to the number of travelers who miss this Auckland Museum believing that this is a museum dedicated solely to veterans. In fact, the Auckland War Memorial which recalls the Greek temples is probably the second-best museum in New Zealand after the Te Papa of Wellington.
It is essentially the splendid Maori collections that justify the displacement. Since the museum was fully restored, the Auckland War Memorial has the largest permanent exhibition devoted to the cultures of the Pacific.
Maori culture is a tribal culture where artistic expression and warlike instincts form an explosive mixture.
It is enough to admire the prodigious canoe of war of 35 m long entirely carved in a trunk of a tree to be amazed. The authentic Marae with carved pillars and Tikis totems with incomparable finesse always surprise visitors.
If you have always wanted to know the secret of the All Blacks' Haka you will discover the meaning of this tribal dance.
Designed to remove the vital force of the opponent before a battle, the Haka is performed during the traditional dance shows that you can reserve at the reception.
The other galleries of the museum do not share the same homogeneity, but are very interesting anyway.
Dinosaurs and extinct species such as the moa (a three meters high ostrich) and the giant Haast eagle (powerful enough to attack the man) seem to have escaped from a Harry Potter novel.
Often neglected by visitors looking for blue skies after spending 24 hours on a plane, the Auckland War Memorial is a real must-do. The 15,000 art works exhibited justify the entrance fee at $25 (up to $45 with the Maori dance extra). A reasonable rate for a museum with quality exhibitions often renewed and whose only fault is to close its doors every day at 5pm.
Remember to pay a visit at the beautiful Botanical Garden of Auckland Domain.
|Museum||Auckland War Memorial Museum|
|City||Auckland, North Island|
|Web||Visit the website|
|Address||Auckland Domain, Parnell 1010|
|Opening||Every day (except ferial days)|
|Opening Time||10 am to 5 pm all week|
|Price||$25 per adult, $10 per child.|
Attention, Maori shows are held every day at 12:00, 13:00, 13:30 and 14:30 from November to March only.
4Rotorua Museum and the Maori culture.
Nestled in the Government Gardens in Rotorua, the Rotorua Museum is a modest-sized Tudor-style museum, although several recent extensions have allowed it to expand its collections.
Following successfully the spirit of the Te Papa of Wellington, the Rotorua Museum bet on quality rather than quantity.
Each ticket of this museum gives access to three permanent exhibitions and a screening of the volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera (vibrant cinema armchairs will surprise and amuse children).
The major exhibition Nga Pumanawa o Te Arawa (the heart beating of Te Arawa) traces the origins of the Te Arawa tribe, the very first one to settle in the region.
The artworks exhibited are of a delicacy and a stupefying beauty. They are treasures (“taongas” in Maori language), whether they are made of wooden, jade or flax.
One of my favorite sections presents the Pink and White Terraces tragically buried during a volcanic eruption in 1886.
There are still a few rare photographs of these pink silica terraces where the first settlers used to come to enjoy the hot springs.
The section will also present the encounter between Maoris and English settlers and violent conflicts until a peace agreement was signed at Waitangi. It is an opportunity to understand the history of the country with its legends, its traditions and the clash of cultures that is still alive today.
In the same spirit, the exhibition “Ake! Ake!” Pays tribute to the Maori Battalion of Company B decimated during the Second World War.
The portraits of these heroic soldiers provide a link between tradition and modernity. A gallery of portraits full of emotions which deserve a visit.
On the other hand, the exhibition “Taking the Cure” qui présente les anciennes installations thermales which presents the old thermal baths has never been my favorite.
The museum of Rotorua was in 1908 the first establishment to offer thermal cures in the country before being reconverted into a museum.
You can overfly this part which presents the experimental treatments of the time.
But before leaving, you should definitely to climb to the belvedere to enjoy the most beautiful point of view on the city and its lake!
There are so many visits to doin the entire Rotorua's region, but its photogenic museum has become an emblematic icon of New Zealand and is an absolute must-do.
|Ville||Rotorua, North Island|
|Web||Visit the website|
|Address||Oruawhata Drive, Government Gardens, Rotorua|
|Opening||Every day (except on public holidays)|
|Opening time||From 9 am to 6 pm from December to February and from 9 am to 5 pm the rest of the year.|
|Price||$20 per adult, $8 per child.|
The smell of sulfur in the town of Rotorua (caused by an intense geothermal activity) may sometimes accompany you in the museum.
5The Otago Museum in Dunedin.
At first sight, this museum with neo-classical architecture does not seem particularly imposing. It is sometimes confused with its neighbor, the Settler Museum, but the Otago Museum of Dunedin is the best museum of the South Island of New Zealand.
The museum presents the natural history of the Otago region, from the dinosaursto our contemporary era. First of all, most of the collections are free!
Of course, the Maori traditions are in the spotlight as well, and you can admire totems, a war canoe and a whole collection of jewels carved in pounamu.
The other cultures of the Pacific are not neglected, and the star of the museum is undoubtedly an original statue of the Easter Island, which was brought back during a trip in 1800.
The animal gallery (Animal Attic) completely restored in 2012 has about one hundred species on display.
And if you are not in a hurry you could visit the “World Collection” which is a heterogeneous gallery that exhibits both samurai's armors and Roman emperors' busts.
More original, an optional paying attraction takes place in a large tropical greenhouse.
The “Butterfly house” of the “Discovery World Tropical Forest” allows to admire thousands of exotic multicolored butterflies that take flight in the midst of orchids.
But it is mostly from its maritime exhibition that the Otago Museum derives its fame.
This is hardly surprising in a country with more ships per capita than anywhere else in the world. The fifty models of ships presented in the gallery will delight you if you are passionate about marine.
Ultimately, the Otago Museum suffers partially from the comparison with the museums of the North Island (especially when it comes to the Maori culture).
This is nevertheless an excellent choice if your trip is essentially dedicated to the South Island.
To visit the tropical greenhouse, leave your sweatshirts in the cloakroom even in winter and privilege the morning visits when the butterflies take the first flight of their brief existence.
|Ville||Dunedin, South Island|
|Web||Visit the website|
|Address||419 Great King St, North Dunedin|
|Opening||Every day (except on public holidays)|
|Opening time||From 10 am to 5 pm every day.|
|Price||Free / Buttterfly House at $10 per adult, $5 per child.|
6Dive Into the Antarctic in the Canterbury Museum.
The Canterbury Museum is largely devoted to the Antarctic continent, but New Zealand culture remains in the limelight. Its atmosphere will especially appeal to young audiences, but with some imagination, adults should have fun too.
I always appreciated the atmosphere of the Canterbury Museum which reminds me of the film, “Night at the Museum”. I would be curious to explore the aisles of the museum outside of the opening hours to check if the artworks come alive at nightfall.
This museum is often accused of being a labyrinth where one searches his way through a maze of galleries. The museum has seven permanent exhibitions, so take the plan distributed at the reception, especially if you have a plane to take at the end of the day.
In this museum, old and new artworks do not always mix very well. The vestiges of the colonial past coexist with Maori culture and the skeletons of dinosaurs. We thus pass from very successful galleries to more heterogeneous ensembles.
Fortunately, the exhibition devoted to the Antarctic (located 5000 km from New Zealand) is exciting. Being a desert of ice, the fifth continent is the most hostile in the world, but penguins and sea lions living under Northern Lights have seen some adventurers.
The museum exhibition traces the adventure of the first explorers who managed to reach the South Pole.
Located near the Christchurch Botanical Garden, this neo-gothic museum has miraculously survived the 2011 earthquake that ravaged the city center. Access remained free despite the tragedy, and a small gesture would be nice if you enjoy your visit.
A beautiful photo exhibition in the museum is devoted to the anonymous heroes who help to rebuild Christchurch. Please also note that the neighboring International Antartic Center is exclusively devoted to the South Pole and I recommend its visit.
|City||Christchurch, South Island|
|Web||Visit the website|
|Address||Rolleston Ave, Christchurch 8013|
|Opening||Every day (except on public holidays)|
|Opening time||From 9 am to 5 pm from April to September and from 9 am to 5.30 pm from October to March.|
7Do You Really Need to Visit a Museum During Your Stay?
I do not see any particular reason for pacing the paths of a museum if one does not feel the urge to do so. On the other hand, if you want to understand the kiwi culture, you should visit at least one museum during your stay, especially if the weather is bad.
I am convinced that a stay in New Zealand makes more sense with a minimum of culture.
Contrary to the impression given by the dinner shows focused on folklore, Kiwi Culture has more to offer than only the Haka and warriors codes.
Whatever the purists, the museums of New Zealand reconcile the content and form. Kiwis prefer interactivity and you will not spend hours reading explanatory cards to understand the origin of a pottery fragment from the 13th century!
The Te Papa is the best museum of New Zealand and one of the most beautiful in the world, and you must absolutely visit it during your stay (it is even free!). Hopefully, the paid museums do not charge excessive rates (approximately $20 per adult).
However, I would not recommend visiting several museums during a short stay.
In order to understand Maori culture, a visit to a large museum will often do.
I also consider that the practice of guided activities (the kayak in Abel Tasman for example) makes it possible to discover the culture and the History of the country without necessarily enclose itself in a museum.
At Kiwipal also we have our traditions and I give way to my friend Ben the Kiwi.
Expert on the culture of the country, you can ask him any questions about the museums of New Zealand.
Questions & Answers.
What can I do for you? I am at your disposal to help you choose a museum to visit during your stay. Do not be shy and click the big button to contact me ;-)
- All topics ... 19 answers in total
- Booking a Muesum Visit 6 answers
- Maori Culture 4 answers
- New Zealand Museums 3 answers
- Purchase Souvenirs 2 answers
- Rotorua Museum 2 answers
- Auckland War Memorial 1 answer
- Otago Museum 1 answer
Booking a Muesum Visit
- Are museums in New Zealand free?
The Te Papa, the Canterbury Museum and the Otago Museums are free, but offer temporary exhibitions and some paying shows.
- Can we visit museums in a few hours?
You can settle for a quick tour of the Te Papa, which is free, to admire the Maori section in less than an hour.
- What is the best museum to visit with children?
I recommend the Te Papa without any hesitation, because it is the most playful and the most interactive.
- How to get to a museum?
Hop-off buses offer stops in front of the main museums.
- Are audio guides available?
All the museums presented in this file offer audio guides in exchange for a few dollars extra.
- Can we eat in museums?
The five museums presented in this guide have a café, but the best one is at the Te Papa and it is the most comfortable.
- What is the best museum devoted to Maori culture?
The five best museums in the country present galleries dedicated to Maori and Polynesian cultures. The Te Papa and the Auckland War Memorial compete for the number of works exhibited, but I think the Rotorua Museum has a more intimate atmosphere.
- Should we visit a museum or attend a Maori dinner-show?
I recommend you the museum to cultivate you, but the folklore shows have their charm if you consider them for what they are in reality: folk shows.
- Which museum offers the best Maori dance show?
I recommend the Te Papa show, visually great. However, the one presented at the Auckland War Memorial will suit if you do not plan to visit Wellington.
- What museum to choose to understand the meaning of the Haka?
All museums cover the subject, but you can also check out the Kiwipal article about Rugby to discover the hidden meaning of this ritual dance.
New Zealand Museums
- Which island has the most beautiful museums?
The three most beautiful museums of the country (Te Papa, Auckland War Memorial, Rotorua Museum) are all on the North Island of New Zealand.
- Do you need to visit a museum when you arrive in New Zealand?
It's not a pleasure to visit a museum after having spent more than one day in the cramped cabin of an airplane. On the other hand, if the weather is bad, the museum option remains interesting.
- Do we need to visit the Dunedin Rugby Museum?
This small museum is located on the floor of the old Dunedin station. It is dedicated to New Zealand athletes, mainly rugby players. It is a nice museum and not an expensive one, ($6, $2 per child) but is definitely not a must-do.New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame
- Can we buy souvenirs in museums?
All museums have their shops and offer souvenirs of better quality than in basic souvenir shops, but the quality is necessarily more expensive.
- Are the souvenirs sold in museums genuine?
Although the quality of the products is good, they are usually not manufactured in New Zealand. You could ask the sellers, but pounamu's jewelry (New Zealand's jade) are increasingly imported from China.
- Can we enjoy the belvedere at the Rotorua Museum for free?
Alas, no ! You'll need to pay the museum entrance fee to climb up to the "Rooftop Viewing Platform" and enjoy the view of the lake and the gardens of Government Garden.
- Is the smell of sulfur present in the Rotorua museum?
The smell accompanies you into the lobby, but is no longer perceptible in the galleries.
Auckland War Memorial
- Why is Auckland War Memorial paying?
In reality the museum has been completely renovated in recent years and if it remains free for the inhabitants of Auckland (who have paid the works with their taxes), the entrance is not free for the tourists.
- Should we visit the Otago Museum if we are passionate about Natural History?
Yes, but do not expect to find exhibitions able to compete with the Museum of the Navy or the Great Gallery of Evolution in Paris, for example.
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