The best museum in New Zealand

Well, to be honest, we didn’t visit very many museums in New Zealand, unless you count the many Department of Conservation exhibits we stopped at. Those exhibits were great, amazing even,and brought back fond memories of the visitor’s centre at Algonquin. For the purposes of this contest though, I will count only the actual musuems we visited.

Te Papa in Wellington. 

Absolutely amazing. This museum is free with donation, and has so many excellent exhibits. One floor was entirely designed for the geography nerds among us. Information on earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics and rock cycles was next to interesting displays on the wildlife of New Zealand, which included a huge room displaying the biggest giant squid ever captured. There was even a house which simulated an aftershock of 5.0 magnitude. The next floor is dedicated to Maori traditions, immigration, and the people’s history of New Zealand. There is another floor, but we had to skip it, as we stayed until the museum closed. All through the museum there are interactive displays and children’s centres, as well as innovative exhibits, such as a 3-D movie of the giant squid, and recordings of children talking about the most interesting behaviours of animals. We spent over three hours here and wanted to come back the next day. Scott’s favourite part was a small exhibit outside which showed how the building was engineered not to collapse in Earthquakes including a viewing area of the the buildings supports.

Auckland Museum

Another free with donation musuem, but they make you buy a ticket for $10 as your supposed donation. This museum felt more formal and not as interesting to Scott and I. It’s building was absolutely beautiful and built in the middle of a giant park, so it had location going for it. The three floors contain information about Maori traditions, the natural world, and New Zealand’s contributions to wars around the world. We spent the most of our time on the third floor, learning about New Zealand’s participation in WWI, WWII, and various other conflicts. It was incredibly interesting and engaging, but I think we were comparing it to the excellent war museum in Ottawa, and left not fully satisfied.

Cable Car Museum – Wellington

It seems a little ridiculous to pit this small, focused museum against the two heavy weights, but we really enjoyed this place. At first we only entered to pass time while waiting for the next cable car down the hill, but we ended up staying for nearly an hour. The first floor has a restored cable car you can sit on, as well as an excellent history of the cable car in Wellington. It was fascinating to learn so much about something I knew nothing about before. The basement had another restored car, and the historic winding machine that used to control the cars. My favourite part by far were the videos playing in a screening room, one abut the trams of New Zealand and one about the private cable cars all over wellington. Since the city is built on a hill, many residents have installed their own cable cars for easy access to their homes. I watched the whole movie, and we later saw a few of these cars while driving around. It was definitely worth the visit. 

Weta Cave – Wellington

We made the short trek out here because we were both big Lord of the Rings fans. I distinctly remember watching all of the additional footage on at least one of the DVD’s and being fascinated by the “making of” scenes. This small museum is mostly a gift shop, with collectibles on display and for sale. There was also a video that outlined what kind of work they did for various films and the different departments making up Weta. It was definitely worth a visit just to see some of the life size figurines. 


It was a close race between Te Papa and the Cable car Museum, but if I take revisability into consideration, I’d have to give it to Te Papa.  I can’t wait to go back and check out that upper floor. 

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New Zealand’s Weird Food: McDonalds Edition

We stopped at a lot of McDonalds on our trip through New Zealand, not necessarily for the familiar food, but for the free and reasonably speedy internet.

Although we didn’t try any of the options available,  it’s always interesting, especially as a former employee, to see the regional variations on McDonalds food. That Kiwi Brekkie Muffin does look delicious though!


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North Island Road Trip

After trading in Blackhole for the vastly superior Shenzou, we made our way to the North Island. Here we had only 6 days to explore before meeting a friend in Auckland, so we crammed as much as we could into our short time.

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After an amazingly luxurious ferry ride on which I watched the children’s classics Monsters Inc and Mars needs Moms, we headed into Wellington to begin the second part of our adventure.

We had a fantastic time driving through deserts, sheep farms and forests, stopping in Wellington, Auckland, and some smaller towns. The north island had a totally different feel from the south, and was much warmer too!

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Up the West Coast

After our lovely day in Franz Josef, we spend the next two days slowly winding up the beautiful west coast. We weren’t able to fully appreciate it’s beauty because it was teeming rain the whole time, but we did have a great stop at the famous pancake rocks, where we had to run through the gale, taking out our camera for pictures and then quickly waterproofing it again.

While the scenery we could see was breathtaking, the most exciting part of our west coast adventure was when we were trapped in the parking lot of a grocery store with a dead battery and we watched an elderly man beat in the window of a car to save a baby who had been locked in. Thrilling!

The west coast definitely had it’s own special charm and beauty. A very small population of New Zealand’s already small population lives there, and the passes through the mountains are often closed in winter due to snow and ice, so it had an isolated and remote feel to it. We drove for hours without passing any thing but sheep and mountains. In short, exactly what you would expect from New Zealand. It was a little sad because we knew it was the last chapter of our journey with our faithful van, but I think Scott was excited to finally sleep in a real bed.


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New Zealand’s Weird Food: Pies

I suppose pies aren’t specifically a New Zealand food, but they sure are popular there! We were just excited to to eat something with delicious pastry, a rarity in Japan.

Scott is a little embarrassed by this picture, as he is a few days into the “Great Beard Experiment 2011”, an enterprise brought on half by curiosity, and half by the necessities of living in a van. Ultimately it was not a very successful venture, but this pie was delicious.

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Franz Josef

New Zealand really is the best country for geography nerds. Many countries may have the same interesting topographical elements, but I can’t imagine that any country has them all so close. In one day we drove through a rainforest, from the beauty of the Fjordland national park to the base of a glacier. Amazing.

After a quick stop at the excellent visitors centre, we drove as close as we could to the glacier, ate some peanut butter sandwiches and went for a hike. First stop, Peter’s pond, which was created when the glacier retreated and left behind a large chunk of ice. It used to be much larger, but has shrunk over the years, and will soon disappear.

After stopping to check out all the striations, erratics, and moraines, we reached the foot of the glacier.

We couldn’t, as the signs made sure to remind us, go any closer, without taking a guided tour, but it was surreal just to see an actual glacier up close.

As we left, I couldn’t help but think that this would be a much better grade nine geography field trip than the dump… Too bad we don’t have one in Waterloo.

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