New Zealand is no stranger to weird tourists attractions. There’s the Giant Gumboot Statue in Taihape, the tree church in Ohaupo, the shockingly artistic Kawakawa public toilets, and Bradrona, the controversial bra fence in Central Otago. And then you have the countless small-town museums and galleries, which are in many cases thoughtful labours of love dedicated to the quirkiest of fascinations. So while New Zealand has a reputation for being an outdoor enthusiasts playground; if you’re looking for new things to do in New Zealand, try popping into some of these cool museums listed ahead.
Claphams National Clock Museum
If you like quirky remnants of days gone by, then the Claphams National Clock Museum in Whangarei is for you! Archibald Clapham was an engineer and clock collector from Yorkshire who moved to New Zealand in 1903. His private collection consisted of about 400 clocks, but after he gifted it to the local council, the collection grew to around 2,100 rare and outrageous timepieces. Stop by to see tall and elaborate grandfather clocks, an unusual piece that moves in an anti-clockwise direction, an 1830s German monastery clock complete with a cuckoo at the top, and a clock with written memos that appear at certain times of the day.
Three hours’ drive south of Christchurch you’ll find the small farming town of Oamaru, which has unexpectedly become the steampunk capital of the world. What is steampunk, you ask? Steampunk is a sub-genre in popular culture that highlights a dystopian-style future where technology is fused with Victorian-era steam power machinery – think Snowpiercer, Mortal Engines, and the works of H.G. Wells. Steampunk HQ is a unique museum that celebrates this genre, and provides visitors with an immersive and interactive experience that showcases art, movie sculptures and costume, with a steampunk dress-up booth presenting some great Instagram opportunities. The museum is fittingly located within a beautiful 1883 stone building, which in itself is a sight to see. Just be sure to visit the ‘Infinity Room’!
In 1975, Teresa and Nigel Ogle decided to buy a 70-year-old cheese factory and turn it into a unique and award-winning museum. The Tawhiti Museum showcases realistic life-size and scale models – all made on site by Nigel himself – that depict the history of the area. In fact, Nigel has created castings from the features of friends, relatives, and local people, ensuring the images shown in the museum are an incredibly realistic representation of the district. With rooms dedicated to shipping, farming, the railways, and just everyday life, Nigel’s painstakingly researched figures help to provide a 3D image of the past. Visit this attraction on a day trip from New Plymouth.
As the largest city in New Zealand, it’s no surprise that Auckland has more than a few museums and art galleries to explore. Perhaps one of the most exciting Auckland attractions, though, is Artspace on K’Road. This forward-thinking gallery brings together contemporary art and exhibitions, but it offers so much more than that. Artspace aims to challenge societal norms by holding free talks covering a range of topics, such as social context and institutional programming, and by fostering critical debate and intellectual feedback. It can feel a little full on, but it is definitely well worth your time.
Te Papa Museum
Showcasing a range of innovative displays and exciting exhibitions, this Wellington museum documents and celebrates Maori heritage, New Zealand nature, and the country’s history. One of the most fascinating exhibits here is the Earthquake House, which offers visitors insight into the aftershocks of the 1987 Edgecumbe Earthquake through an impressive simulation. 2019 is also going to see the return of the colossal squid, the biggest invertebrate on the planet, which is native to the depths of the Southern Ocean and can only be seen at the Te Papa Museum.
The Castle Pamela
While only open during school holidays, statutory holidays, and by appointment, The Castle Pamela is one truly out-of-the-ordinary experience. Located about 50 kilometres south of Hamilton, the castle was built by Pamela and Kelvin Baker to house Pamela’s impressive doll collection, and today contains thousands of dolls as well as miniature trains. The castle itself is well worth a gander, with the whole museum representing one woman’s niche fascination.