While Te Papa maybe the media darling, the Museum of Wellington City and Sea is equally vibrant in telling the social and cultural history of New Zealand's capital city.
The building it's housed in, the Bond Store Building, dates back to 1892 and is itself a historic building. It recreates a turn of the 20th century warehouse complete with sights, sounds, smells and computerised vermin!
The main focus though is on this city's close links with the sea, both as a life giver and a life taker. Over 800 years of maritime history is covered stretching from traditional Maori waka ( war canoe) to European container ships. Kids can climb into the captain's cabin and steer a course using the ships wheel. The tragic sinking of the Wahine ferry in 1968 where 51 people lost their lives is given special remembrance including a moving film made by a top New Zealand director. Navigation equipment, ship fittings and life saving apparatus are on display as well as medallions, coins and other treasure hauled from the briny depths.
The museum also goes to great lengths to recreate what life was like in the early days. You'll hear audio accounts from such diverse people as powerful bankers, all knowing taxi drivers, rugged fishermen and a seamstress or two. Maori tradition and mythology is represented as well. A spectacular special effects show introduces you to the Taniwha (sea monster) that created Wellington Harbour and the exploits of the mythical warrior Maui.
To help with navigating the three floors, there are a number of specialised tours which can be booked in advance. Kids are specially made welcome with a scavenger hunt around the Wellington waterfront
Queens Wharf, 3 Jervois Quay, Wellington.
To book a group visit or tour call 04 472 8904.