WellingtonSee & Do
Exterior of the Wellington Museum, a blue building with a red door.

Wellington Museum

One of the many jewels of Wellington’s waterfront, Wellington Museum resides in a beautifully restored former cargo warehouse. It reflects Wellington’s history and tells the stories of its people. From its maritime history, and Māori and European settlement, to its growth as a region, and its evolution since becoming the capital in 1865.

Wellington’s harbour has served as a vital trade hub throughout its history. The waterfront was a hive of activity in the late 1800s as it helped supply goods to a growing country. Since the museum sits in an 1892 cargo storage building, it’s only fitting that the first experience you have is an immersive one. Reflecting the wharf at the end of the 19th century, sacks, barrels, the sounds of a busy wharf, and a scuttling ‘rat’ or two will greet you as you enter.

One of the first exhibitions you’ll discover is Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Playful and fun, it tells Wellington stories inspired by its natural and cultural landscape. Discover the people, art, and environment of the city through treasures, activities, and play. A large-scale timeline takes you on a journey from creation to today. Works from local artists show the city through their eyes.

Inside a room at the Wellington Museum with wood flooring, wood-paneled walls and ceiling, two mannequin busts dressed in nautical jackets and three rotary phones displayed on a blue octagonal pillar in the middle of the room.

Spread over three additional floors, Wellington Museum has many stories to tell. There’s a room that tells 100 Wellington tales, starting from 1900. It features the great waterfront strike of 1913, the death of New Zealand’s famous author Katherine Mansfield in 1923, the saddle of Wellington Zoo’s Kamala the elephant, and a tribute to Kirkcaldie and Stains, New Zealand’s longest-running department store. There’s also an exhibition where you can watch Māori legends come to life through holographic special effects. A room up in the attic holds a time capsule that will take you on a 14-minute journey through Wellington’s history.

The top floor has a moving tribute to New Zealand’s most significant shipping tragedy — the Wahine disaster. In 1968 the ferry that travelled between New Zealand’s North and South Islands floundered in Wellington Harbour during a storm. There were 51 lives lost.

On top of the stories, displays, and curiosities, this free-entry museum regularly runs events, lunchtime talks, music gigs, workshops, and temporary exhibitions. All to further reflect Wellington’s history and its people.