The Perfect Rainy Day Activity in Auckland #1: The Maritime Museum

326 days ago, we were leaving the city we lived in to start a slightly insane challenge: 365 Days in New Zealand Doing 365 Activities. We were driving on State Highway One heading south in a giant campervan with nothing but the open road ahead. We looked at the other side of the road at a standstill of traffic with relief. Today, we are in that standstill of traffic in a much smaller car heading into Auckland, rain thrashing against our windscreen…

… Welcome back to Auckland

It’s mixed feelings in the car as we are making our way back to Auckland. Although it is a city that we personally know a little too well, it reminds us how much we have done since we were last here – how much has changed in a year! Thankfully, we still have 40 days left of awesomeness and we want to enter Auckland with the idea of doing activities that we personally have never done before and show you guys some more “outside the box” activities. Everyone knows about the Auckland Museum, Sky Tower, Mt Eden, One Tree Hill, Rangitoto Island, etc. Just take a look at our Auckland Region – Guide for Backpackers. The problem is the weather is especially sh*tty today, which limits our choices… But when it rains there is always one sort of establishment you can always rely on: museums!

Our rainy day saviour!

Once back in the CBD of Auckland, we find somewhere to park for the next week – by the way, ouch! (Parking in the CBD ain’t cheap! If you can, park on the outskirts, pack light, and walk!) From there, we walk down the infamous Queen Street, the city centre’s main street, and make our way to the Viaduct Harbour. Hidden behind a gargantuan America’s Cup sailing vessel displayed on land is the Maritime Museum!

We're back in Auckland! We're back in Auckland!
Learning about the early Maori explorers on our guided tour Learning about the early Maori explorers on our guided tour
Lots of interactive displays along the way Lots of interactive displays along the way
Stepping onto the boat that rocked Stepping onto the boat that rocked

A guided tour of the Maritime Museum

When we arrive at the Maritime Museum, we meet Don who volunteers to do guided tours of the museum. Guided tours are an optional inclusion with the museum admission, and usually depart at 10.30am and 1pm. First, he takes us to a small harbour of heritage vessels, from traditional-style Maori ocean-going canoes to European sailing vessels. Usually, the museum runs regular sailings of these vessels so you can experience them for yourself. In fact, we don’t know another Auckland Harbour cruise which is cheaper than those from the Maritime Museum. (It’s around NZ$50 for a museum entry plus sailing). Unfortunately for us, the sailing today has been cancelled due to the weather but as we are about to find out, there is still a lot going on in this museum.

Early voyages to New Zealand

We get back inside out of the rain to our first exhibition: Landfalls. Instantly, we are thrown into the importance of maritime history in New Zealand. New Zealand is an isolated country in the South Pacific ocean, one of the newest to be colonised in the world, and the story, the theories and techniques used by those first Polynesian and European explorers is fascinating.

Down-scaled replicas of Polynesian canoes sit on display in a room decorated in woven flax. Carved Maori objects, such as a prow, are in glass display cases, as well as models of canoes to illustrate the story of these early voyages to New Zealand. Although there are interpretation panels for those who prefer to read, we gain a huge insight into New Zealand’s history from Don.

Can you imagine having to navigate the ocean with the stars?!

Mapping of the coast

Once the Maori settled in New Zealand, it was centuries later that the Europeans started mapping out New Zealand, which we learn more about in a room showcasing models of ships and stories of the Dutch, English, French and Spanish. With Dom’s keen interest in the maritime world, and has even spent a few years out at sea himself, he answers all our questions about mapping a coastline without GPS (we are such Millennials…).

Moving sails, rocking boats and making our own yacht

Some interactive displays lie along the way of how certain sailing vessels work, like a moving model of a Fijian sailing boat with a unique sail. When we step into the New Beginnings exhibition about the mass European emigration, we are given a card profiling a real individual who were among some of the first Europeans to emigrate to New Zealand. At the end of the exhibition, we would learn of their fate… Until then, we step into a room made up to be like the sleeping quarters of those early migration ships. What’s more, the room is rocking! We leave the room to a wheel of fortune which will tell us what happened to our immigrants!

Moving onto the more modern vessels of today, a praised sailing yacht in New Zealand is the America’s Cup sailing boat. Interactive displays allow you to build your own yacht, understand the wind to sail effectively, and work as a team to sail a yacht! We also can’t ignore the elephant in the room which is the huge 1995 America’s Cup-winning boat NZL32! It’s an impressive sight to see so close and out of the water. We get to marvel at this, as well as some other large vessels that we have seen along the way from the upper levels of the museum giving us another great perspective.

Robin builds his own boat Robin builds his own boat
A small exhibition on the whaling history in New Zealand A small exhibition on the whaling history in New Zealand
We find out the fate of our immagrants We find out the fate of our immagrants

Kiwis and coasties

The final exhibitions we explore include an ever-changing art gallery, as well as Kiwis and the Coast. This final exhibition shows New Zealand’s connection with the ocean over the years, with mock-ups of 1950’s ice cream parlours, information on lighthouses, the famous Hamilton Jet Boat – a boat we have been on in New Zealand so many times that we could make a drinking game out of it – shipwrecks, border protection, fishing, navigation, and so so much more! We are seriously blown away like a couple of sails right here with the wealth of displays here at the Maritime Museum that even in our two-hour visit we still feel like we could discover more if we stayed here longer.

Bars, booze and big pizzas: a real welcome back to Auckland

We say goodbye to Dom and the Maritime Museum and thanks for saving us on a rainy day! Now we walk to ACB Base just of Queen Street where we check-in and start catching up with some people with a few drinks. First up, it’s the Hello Sunshine rooftop bar on Level 6 of the Base Hostel. There’s live music, good vibes and shelter from the rain! Next, we meet up with some more people at the Bluestone Room, Auckland’s oldest commercial building and finally end up eating some over-sized pizza at Sal’s on Fort Street. We have barely been back in Auckland a day and here we are stumbling back to Base in a drunken state. Nice.

Well, tomorrow it looks like we’re still going to be caught under the rain in Auckland but never fear! Robin has done some last-minute organisation to find another perfect rainy day activity! We’re going on a food crawl of Auckland! Hurray for food! See you tomorrow, team!

Laura and Robin

There's so much to see in the Maritime Museum on all levels!
There's so much to see in the Maritime Museum on all levels! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

Have you read yesterday’s post about exploring Leisure Island? How about these articles?

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See you tomorrow!

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