New Zealand: Main Sights
Land of the Long White Cloud
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington
This huge modern museum is one of the largest national museums in the world, and houses high-tech, state-of-the-art exhibitions on the culture, history and natural environments of New Zealand. Visitors can experience a mini-ecosystem of native bush, wetlands and waterfalls, learn about New Zealand’s native wildlife through interactive displays and discover the country’s rich Maori heritage. Also in the museum is New Zealand’s national art collection, a modern Maori Marae, or traditional meeting house, and frequent touring exhibitions on various topics.
Abel Tasman National Park
New Zealand’s smallest national park covers an area of 225 square km at the northern tip of South Island, and is a popular destination for both New Zealanders and foreign visitors. An area of stunning natural beauty, Abel Tasman National Park is best known for its 51km long Coast Track, running between Marahau in the south to Wainui in the north. The coastal path is a fairly easy walk, and there is a more challenging inland path too. There are camp sites and huts along the route if you wish to cover the whole path, and other activities in the park include sea kayaking and swimming with seals and dolphins. The Tonga Island Marine Reserve lies offshore, and there are also sandy beaches, waterfalls, unspoilt countryside and abundant wildlife to discover.
The most popular tourist draw on North Island, Rotorua is infamous for its sulphurous odour, a result of the intense geothermal activity in the area and numerous ground fissures emitting steam around town. The best place to see this is at the Whakarewarewa Thermal Area south of town, where you can witness the Pohutu Geyser erupting up to twenty-five time a day as well as mud pools. Also on site is the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, where you can see traditional cultural performances and watch Maori craftsmen and women at work. In town, the Rotorua Museum of Art and History, housed in a grand Tudor-style building built as a spa in 1908, is worth visiting for its displays on Maori history and restored Edwardian spa treatment rooms. There are a number of modern spas around Rotorua too.
On the east coast of North Island, Napier is renowned for its Art Deco architecture, a result of the whole scale rebuilding of the city after a devastating earthquake and fire in 1931 which destroyed most of the then existing city. Today, Napier is full of attractive Art Deco buildings such as the 1932 Daily Telegraph Building with its zigzag designs and the 1938 Municipal Theatre, noted for its Egyptian style columns. There are organised tours around town for those with a real interest in architecture. Other attractions include the National Aquarium of New Zealand with its state of the art displays of live marine and freshwater creatures, and the Hawke’s Bay Museum, chronicling the earthquake and the area’s Maori heritage.
The provincial capital of Canterbury province, Christchurch was founded in 1850 as a Church of England settlement, and it remains New Zealand’s most English city, famous for its Gothic architecture, beautiful park and Oxbridge-style punts on the river. The Canterbury Museum is worth a visit for its extensive stuffed bird collection and Maori artefacts, while the Christchurch Art Gallery houses an impressive collection of both New Zealand and international artworks. The International Antarctic Centre is one of the city’s more unusual attractions, with displays on Antarctic geology and exploration, and the Botanic Gardens, laid out in 1863, are a real delight.