Explore Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique history, culture, and natural environment through its incredible museums, which range from major collecting institutions to small regional gems.

Top museums

Wellington
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington

Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington

Taking up a sizable chunk of the capital’s waterfront, New Zealand's national museum is hard to miss. ‘Te Papa Tongarewa(opens in new window)’ translates from Māori to ‘container of treasures’. This is where you’ll find the national collections of art, natural history, and Māori artefacts, along with wonderful exhibitions about New Zealand’s geology and social history. Admission is free. 

Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland

True to its name, the Auckland War Memorial Museum(opens in new window) is both a war memorial and a significant collecting museum. Visitors can explore exhibits showcasing how war has impacted New Zealanders, alongside galleries filled with dinosaur bones and artefacts from Ancient Egypt. Other highlights include some of the world’s most important collections of Māori and Pacific artefacts.  

Otago Museum, Dunedin

When the Otago Museum(opens in new window) was founded in 1865 it housed only a small collection of rocks that had been gathered from outcrops across Otago. Today, its collection has grown to 1.5 million objects and includes the Tūhura Science centre, the world’s first bicultural science centre, integrating art, science, and Māori origin stories. The museum still has a strong focus on Otago, producing an exciting programme of exhibitions and events that showcase the region’s unique history and natural environment.  

Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi, Bay of Islands 

The Waitangi Museum(opens in new window) tells the stories of this nation's birth, following the arrival of Europeans. Focusing on the signing of Aotearoa New Zealand’s founding document the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi), the museum examines events from multiple perspectives and considers impact of the treaty on the lives of Māori and what it means for New Zealanders today. Located on the grounds where the treaty was first signed in 1840, visitors can also explore Treaty House, New Zealand's first residence for a British Government official, and Te Rau Aroha, a fantastic new museum honouring Māori armed forces.  

Heritage attractions

Wellington
Katherine Mansfield dining room, Wellington

Katherine Mansfield House, Wellington 

Katherine Mansfield, one of literature’s greatest modernist writers, left New Zealand as soon as she was old enough, finding her home country lacked the excitement of Europe. Yet New Zealand’s landscapes and domestic details featured in her writing constantly. Visit Katherine Mansfield House, the beautifully restored town house where Katherine was born, for an insight into how early family life shaped her writing. 

Howick Historical Village 

Visit the Howick Historical Village(opens in new window) to see what life was like for early European settlers between 1840 and 1880. Guides dressed in period clothing will show you around 30 original and replica buildings, including a schoolhouse, church, blacksmith's forge, and general store. There are also interactive exhibits showcasing aspects of daily life, from domestic chores to traditional trades, such as blacksmithing and woodturning. 

Regional gems

Northland & Bay of Islands
Multisensorial show, Manea Footprints of Kupe, Hokianga, Northland & Bay of Islands

Manea Footprints of Kupe, Northland 

Manea Footprints of Kupe tells the story of Kupe, the Polynesian explorer who discovered Aotearoa New Zealand roughly a thousand years ago. This immersive experience brings Kupe’s journey from Polynesia to New Zealand to life through storytelling, art, immersive film, and taonga (sacred treasures). The museum sits on the shores of Te Hokianga-nui-a-Kupe, the historic site from which Kupe launched his return voyages to Polynesia. As you step into the building, you are welcomed by tour guides who are, in fact, Kupe’s direct descendants. 

The International Antarctic Centre, Christchurch 

If you’re wondering whether a visit to the International Antarctic Centre might be a cool thing to do, the answer is ‘yes, precisely -8°C of cool.’ The centre’s storm room is designed to give you a sense of what it’s like in Antarctica. The room is chilled to a base temperature of -8°C, but simulated storms drop the temperature to well below -18°C. Afterwards, melt the icicles and your heart by cuddling a husky or visiting the Penguin Rescue. Then catch a film showing in Generation Antarctica. These short films showcase the latest science on climate change and demonstrate how a warming climate is impacting Antarctica. Your little ones can take a pledge to be part of a new generation of environmental caretakers, determined to do what they can to fight climate change.   

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