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The best place to start is Puke Ariki - the expansive and innovative museum and library on New Plymouth’s waterfront.
Four major permanent exhibitions explore the region’s natural, geological and human stories, and a dynamic exhibition and events programme puts the spotlight on specific aspects of the region’s culture.
Puke Ariki also features two cafes and the Taranaki Research Centre - a fascinating repository of the region’s history that goes beyond the exhibitions.
A short drive from Hawera is Tawhiti Museum, widely regarded as New Zealand's best private museum.
The hand-built creation of artist Nigel Ogle, Tawhiti Museum has transformed an old dairy factory into an incredible journey through Taranaki’s history, told with hundreds of hand-crafted scale and life-sized models and thousands of artifacts.
Highly recommended is the Traders & Whalers attraction – a spectacular ride through the region’s past that has to be experienced to be believed.
The Museum of South Taranaki – Aotea Utanganui – has recently reopened in Patea following an extensive redevelopment, and offers a fascinating insight into the town’s fortunes over the years.
Taranaki is also home to a wide range of more eclectic collections that offer a fascinating way to spend a weekend or more.
Almost every corner of the region offers an opportunity to experience private collections of almost everything.
Gain an insight into Taranaki’s pioneering past through Taranaki Pioneer Village near Stratford, Taranaki Aviation, Transport and Technology Museum near Egmont Village, the Tainui Historical Society Museum in North Taranaki, and Waverley’s Woolshed Museum.
But the diversity of the region’s avid collectors doesn’t stop there:
- From toys at Inglewood’s Fun Ho! National Toy Museum
- Country music at Manaia’s Country Music Hall of Fame,
- Banking and financial artefacts at New Plymouth’s TSB Bank Museum to the
- Almost complete history of the sport of bowls at the TSB Bowls New Zealand Museum
- Elvis Presley memorabilia at KD’s Memorial Record Room in Hawera,
But the real discovery is often the passionate and knowledgeable people behind these unique collections, revealing the old adage that every object tells a story, and in many cases more than one.
For more information and a free Taranaki museum and gallery guide visit: www.taranaki.info/