If there was one thing in Marlborough, world famous for its wines, that I wasn’t expecting to find I would have to say it was the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. I had no idea it existed or that I would be fascinated (yes fascinated) in tales of aviation development during World War I and the brave men that flew them. This is no mean feat, given that unless I am sitting up the front of the plane with a glass of bubbles, flying is just another form of transport, kind of like my faithful Toyota!
What makes this museum so interesting? Well for starters the displays are truly out of this world, it is like stepping foot onto a Hollywood movie set. No surprise given that Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of Rings Trilogy is an avid World War One aviation collector and that the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre plays host to some of his vast collection. Not content with just lending his collection, he sent in experts from world renowned Weta Workshop and Wingnut Films to create the sets that make this attraction world class.
Aircraft are suspended mid air from the ceiling, one hangs precariously in a tree after being shot down by enemy fire and a pilot balances on the wing of his plane in a desperate attempt to land after being damaged in a midair collision. The latter has to be one of my favourite stories, probably because the pilot, Keith (Grid) Caldwell was based in Marlborough for a time. The Red Baron crash scene is another favourite, prior to visiting my awareness started and ended, dare I say it, with the song “Snoopy’s Christmas”…
Visually the displays are stunning and combined with some great stories on the interpretation panels and from the guides (one of whom is actually an ex WWII spitfire pilot) there really is something for everyone. Personally I could spend ages in the memorabilia hall; the uniforms, beautiful embroidery crafted by men for their sweethearts and stories of friendship and valor are incredibly engrossing. The stories encompass all the nations involved in this turbulent time in history and whilst the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre is not just for aviation or World War One enthusiasts – be warned it just might just make you one!
Open daily from 10:00am - 4:00pm (last entry at 4pm) except Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Visit http://www.omaka.org.nz for more details.