A classic Auckland forecast of mixed sun, rain and cloud call for a perfect activity of both indoor and outdoor family fun, and we’re lucky enough to find all this at the New Zealand Maritime Museum.
Not just for “boat lovers”, the museum’s captivating exhibits are focused on sharing the country’s stories of the sea, so there’s something enticing for everyone (and every age!).
Perfectly located on the Viaduct Harbour in Auckland, it’s a lot bigger on the inside than it looks – extending out along a wharf and housing a number of themed galleries. Free guided tours are available with entry but we decide to explore it ourselves before heading out on the afternoon harbour sailing on offer.
We begin to wander through the galleries, the first of which are set out chronologically, beginning with the history of the first Polynesian explorers.
The kids love the short animated film in the little theatre, and whilst exploring the canoes, outriggers and other vessels my daughter is quick to make comparisons to the film Moana.
It’s fascinating to learn about this early history of New Zealand’s discovery by sea, as well as admiring both the artifacts remaining from the era as well as full size replicas of the voyaging canoes used.
The next few galleries focus on the European explorers and then their settlement in New Zealand, one highlight is a replica cabin and sleeping quarters from a 19th century sailing ship, which moves, creaks and rocks to mimic conditions out at sea.
It’s difficult to imagine having to live in such a tight space for a three-month journey to the other side of the world.
There are plenty of other interesting galleries, including model ships, lighthouses, whaling, a traditional kiwi bach and beach shop, plus my personal favorite – an intriguing section about the HMS Orpheus shipwreck, including artifacts washed in from the wreck back in the late 1800’s.
Another unmissable gallery is Blue Water Black Magic, which takes up the spectacular piece of modern glass architecture at the end of the wharf.
Yachting enthusiasts will love this tribute to Sir Peter Blake, a celebrated New Zealand ocean racer and passionate environmentalist who lead the win of the 1995 America’s Cup. On display is the massive winning yacht, the NZ32 Black Magic.
The kids were kept entertained with the interactive yacht activities – building digital yachts, learning how to sail (or in our case sink) effectively, as well as working with a team to sail a yacht. Suddenly it’s time for our sailing on the museum’s heritage scow, the Ted Ashby.
We’re provided with raincoats just in case, but the sun is shining and there’s a nice breeze, and soon enough we’re setting out on the Waitemata Harbour towards the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
There’s plenty of seating on board and we’re invited to help hoist the sails, but I opt to sit back and take in the view.
It’s a relaxing trip and we’re passed by an array of different boats, which helps me understand why Auckland is aptly named “the City of Sails”.
The crew are all volunteers so love being there, and are more than happy to chat about sailing and answer any questions we have. We sail under the bridge and it’s captivating to look up at the sheer size of it above us, as well as the beautiful coastline on either side of the harbour and back to the skyline of the city.
The one-hour trip comes to an end as we motor back into the marina and we decide it’s time for lunch. Thanks to the picturesque location of the museum, we’re surrounded with fantastic waterfront restaurants to choose from. As you can see, this museum is certainly not just for “boat lovers”.
If you’re looking for a memorable, relaxing and fascinating activity for all ages and any weather situation, don’t miss the New Zealand Maritime Museum.
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