Southward Car Museum is located around 45 minutes drive north of Wellington, midway between Paraparaumu and Waikanae. Look for the signs on where to exit the new expressway.
Alternatively, modern trains travel from Wellington central station to either Paraparaumu or Waikanae and then it is a short taxi ride to the museum. The museum houses the private vehicle collection of the late Sir Len Southward as well as many other exhibits.
The world class collection is now managed as a charitable trust and continues to be added to and changed to ensure relevance to a diverse range of visitors many of which return on a regular basis.
With over fifty percent of visitors being tourists, it is a must stop venue if you are staying close or just passing by.
The complex includes extensive lawn areas as well as a large lake at the rear. With many different sized function rooms, it is an ideal spot for a wedding or other special event.
The main building includes a large theatre with a unique moving floor that can either be set at an angle with seats for shows or flat for large ballroom type events. There is also a fully functioning Wurlitzer organ that comes up through the stage floor.
Sir Lens collection started with a model T Ford which is still on display, and now numbers around 450 vehicles and over 100 bikes as well as a few aeroplanes among many other items from a time gone by.
The museum includes numerous vehicles depicting the full transport history of New Zealand as well as including many unusual vehicle related displays.
One of the favourites is the Bulletproof Cadillac previously owned by Mickey Cohen a big time USA gangster that is complete with bullet marks in the one-inch thick glass windows. The oldest vehicle in New Zealand, an 1895 Benz Velo is also on display.
That vehicle is still in working order and still gets taken out for the odd event even now. Another favourite is the V16 Cadillac previously owned by Marlene Dietrich. A stunning vehicle from a time gone by.
No transport museum is complete without a DeLorean and their one is a favourite with the younger generation. A commercially unsuccessful vehicle but now with cult following due to its staring role in the “Back to the Future” films. The ideal background for the obligatory “selfie”.
Don’t miss the downstairs area that is filled with nostalgic vehicles that remind visitors of their own past. In that area you often hear “that was the vehicle I learnt to drive in” or “my grandparents had one of those”.
Museums generally conjure up images of a lot of old stuff. Southwards on the other hand is dedicated to ensuring the vehicle display stays relevant to younger visitors. With that in mind more modern vehicles and bikes are constantly being added to the museum along with exploring more innovative ways of displaying the existing vehicles.
Recent purchases of the museum include a Lamborghini Diablo, Shelby Mustang, Dodge Viper, Carver One as well as a Ken Block Subaru rally car.
Most visitors take at least an hour to take in all the exhibits. Some in fact take the whole day. Such is the variety of vehicles on display.
Each vehicle includes a display data card that details the specific information on that vehicle including engine specifications, manufacturer’s or model history and any unusual facts. Southwards is open every day from 9.00am to 4.30pm apart from Christmas day and Easter Friday.
The Southward complex includes a lovely little coffee shop with cabinet food and a well priced souvenir shop selling both museum and New Zealand souvenirs.
If you have a group visit planned give them a call in advance and they can organise special lunch options for you.
So, if you are in the Kapiti area which has so many unique attractions not found elsewhere in New Zealand, please stop by this world class display. The largest and most unique car museum in the southern hemisphere.
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