Writing this I learnt that there are only ten museums, three of of any significant size, in Auckland. Not many for a city of coming up to a million and half people, with 175 years of written history (though settled by Maori far sooner). No wonder rainy day options are limited!
A New Zealand history museum, a natural history museum and a war memorial in one, Auckland Museum is housed in a formidable classical building in The Domain. It was built in two halves when funds allowed, the front half behind the Cenotaph is stone, while the newer back half with the funky dome is concrete, though it’s not immediately obvious. Inside the collections are nicely displayed but seemingly unchanging, I visited five years apart and saw little different. They host temporary exhibitions of variable quality (Antarctica huts and WOW were great, Taku Tāmaki – Auckland Stories less so), and the popular Late At The Museum series of talks during the winter months.
Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT)
A substantial museum filled with all sorts of things, including colonial era cottages, large steam engines, model and real railways, heritage shops, local history, trams and planes. It’s takes a good chunk of a day to see everything there is to see there, though I suspect like Auckland Museum (and most museums to be fair) things don’t change that much. Perhaps I’ve gotten too used to art galleries and their rotation of exhibitions. For those that like planes, the Aviation Hall is a highlight, in particular the Lancaster bomber and rare Short S45A Solent flying boat.
Less well known than it should be despite it’s prime location by Viaduct Harbour, it offers a comprehensive collection from traditional Polynesian boats through to the super modern America’s Cup boats, including a wing devoted to New Zealand’s most famous sailor, Sir Peter Blake. There’s more detail in a previous blog post on the Maritime Museum.
Torpedo Bay Navy Museum
The Royal New Zealand Navy celebrates it’s 75th birthday this year, and for the vast majority of it’s life it has been based in Devonport. Which makes it appropriate that this relatively small but smartly presented museum can be found there, at the base of North Head, with wonderful views back toward to the city.
Howick Historical Village
A bit of a gem for those who like historic buildings, as they’ve collected a bunch primarily from the Howick region, and laid them out nicely to show the progression of New Zealand settler life in the nineteenth century.
Huia Settlers Museum
Small and only open weekends 1.30-4.30pm, but well worth stopping into on your way to or from Whatipu or Huia to see the collection of heritage items, my favourite of which was photographs of the old railway that ran from Piha, literally along the beach at points.
Comparable to, if larger than, the Huia Settler Museum, Devonport Museum has similarly limited opening hours (weekends 2-4pm) but a larger collection covering the history of this historic Auckland suburb.
Rotoroa Island Museum
To the east of Waiheke Island, Rotoroa Island was used by the Salvation Army to help treat addicts, a history well presented in this small but nicely designed museum.
To be honest most of the best museums in New Zealand aren’t in Auckland…