Much like the famed American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Auckland Museum (officially named the Auckland War Memorial Museum) is a sight to behold for both tourists and residents alike. Up on a hill overlooking the city, the museum has numerous exhibits on the culture and history of New Zealand from the first peoples to present day.
To reach the museum, we ventured through Albert Park, pausing on a bench to inhale bananas and avoid the sun for a moment. We walked through Auckland University, and as it was a Saturday in the summer, no students were to be found. We traveled across a bridge over the highway and found ourselves at the Domain, a large recreational park with steep paths surrounded by lush greenery. Luckily, there are plenty of benches to pause on during the hike up; we definitely realized how out of shape we were as we made our climb. Reaching the top was gratifying – the Museum overlooks the Hobson Bay and offers a glorious view of the city.
Entrance into the museum is pay-as-you-wish, with a suggested donation of $10NZ. They also offer a live Maori show or guided tour for an additional fee. We opted out of the additional fee as we were trying our darnedest to be “budget” travelers.
On the bottom level, there are numerous displays and exhibits on the first peoples of New Zealand including a giant war canoe carved from a Totara tree and a Maori Meeting House which you must remove your shoes out of respect in order to enter.
In addition to the history of the country, the museum also has a “Weird and Wonderful” exhibit featuring the many creatures and critters who roam the country. In this exhibit, you can watch cockroaches attack a plate of dishes, dig your hands into mealworms and see various stuffed birds, sea creatures, and dinosaur bones aligning the ceiling and walls.
There is also an exhibit on volcanoes, teaching you everything you need to know about the colossal giants, and you can sit in a simulated volcano eruption (minus the heat).
And up on the top level, there is a Japanese airplane from World War II, and a mock city area with a bar, hotel, house and general store to peek into.
The Auckland Museum should definitely be on any tourist’s must-do list when visiting the city. Not only can you learn about the culture and history of New Zealand, but you can also become acquainted with the many animals and insects that roam the country. – Jennifer