Museums of almost everything

As you drive through Taranaki you will pass three types of landmarks that give you a glimpse into the region’s history.

The oldest are remnants of immense pa sites painstakingly hand-carved into Taranaki's hilltops.

These sites repelled pre-colonial invaders and post-colonial musket and cannonballs, and tell stories of the region’s often bloody past.

Then there are the countless old dairy factories that punctuate the Taranaki landscape every few kilometres, a nod to the foundations that dairy farming has built for the region’s culture and economy.

More recently, the gleaming elements of the oil and gas industry have been added to the landscape, an illustration of the other cornerstone of regional innovation and economy.

Discover the region’s stories

The many stories of these landmarks – and the passionate people behind them - are best discovered at one of Taranaki’s selection of museums.

The best place to start is the remarkable Tawhiti Museum, a short drive from Hawera. Widely regarded as New Zealand's best private museum – a fact supported by TripAdvisor users judging it the third best museum in New Zealand (behind Te Papa and Auckland Museum) – it has to be experienced to be believed.

The hand-built creation of artist Nigel Ogle, Tawhiti Museum has transformed an old dairy factory into an incredible journey through Taranaki’s history, told with hundreds of hand-crafted scale and life-sized models and thousands of artefacts. Highly recommended is the Traders & Whalers attraction – a spectacular ride through the region’s past.
To discover more of the natural history, head to the innovative Puke Ariki museum and library complex on New Plymouth's waterfront. Here you’ll find major exhibitions exploring the region’s natural, geological and human stories, and a changing exhibitions that put the spotlight on specific aspects of the region’s culture. Puke Ariki also features two cafes, the region’s i-SITE Visitor Information Centre and the Taranaki Research Centre, a fascinating repository of the region’s history that goes beyond the exhibitions.

The Museum of South Taranaki – Aotea Utanganui in Patea, offers a fascinating insight into the past of the town’s fortunes. The region also offers a number of more eclectic private museums, from Inglewood’s Fun Ho! Toy Museum, to Hawera’s Elvis Presley Memorial Record Room to Stratford’s Taranaki Pioneer Village. There are countless ways to sample the more unique aspects of the region’s rich heritage.

To discover them all pick up a copy of the Taranaki Museum and Art Gallery guide from one of the region’s i-SITE visitor centres.

Photo of Aotea Utanganui by Richard Wotton