© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

How to Spend Way Too Much Time in the Te Papa Museum

© NZPocketGuide.com

75 Days on the Road

It’s free, it’s big, it’s New Zealand’s national museum: The Te Papa Museum! That’s our Wellington activity of the day, which is perfect because it’s raining anyway. (To be fair, even if it wasn’t raining, we’d be checking out this museum).

First things first, we need to go back to the campervan, which is conveniently parked next to the Te Papa Museum, to pay for some more parking. As get closer and closer to the large open car park, we see the tops of gazebos and trucks… The Sunday Market is happening around our campervan!

More than anything, we find this pretty hilarious and the vegetable stall owner who is using our campervan to rest his empty boxes against doesn’t seem to mind either. We’re just happy we don’t have a ferry to catch today or something.

Te Papa’s secret exhibition

Oh well, car parking is free until 3pm because of some market, so we walk across the road to the Te Papa Museum. Before taking the main entrance, Laura proudly wants to show Robin the “secret exhibition”. Well, it’s not really a secret, as it has big signs outside of it, but everyone misses it!

Just outside the Te Papa entrance and down a short flight of stairs, we are looking at part of the earthquake proof foundations of the Te Papa Museum. The same as the base isolators we saw on the Parliament tour we took yesterday, the building is separated from the ground by hardcore rubber discs to absorb the shocks of earthquakes. There’s a slab of the rubber to play around with and see how heavy it is, among other earthquake proofing and detecting machines.

Crowds? What?!

Once Laura receives a resounding: “Thank you so much for showing me this secret exhibition,” from Robin, we can now enter the Te Papa Museum. Admittedly, we have both been here before, but we are surprised to see a brand new exhibition staring us in the face called Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War.

We are also surprised to see how packed the museum is today! Any other time we have been here, midweek, it has been “quiet as”, bro. (A bit of Kiwi lingo for you there). But man, a Sunday while it’s raining is a recipe for crowds in such a renowned museum. We join the queue to reduce the congestion in the exhibition, but sure enough, we get into the exhibition about New Zealand’s darkest war time in no time.

Meeting giants

A huge soldier is sprawled in mid-action as he falls to the ground shooting a hand gun. Wow… Just wow. We have never seen a sculpture look so impeccably lifelike! What is this sorcery?! Everthing is detailed: the facial expression, the real fabric of his clothing, the fly that has landed by his side, the hair on his arms, even the hair follicles on his skin, and the beads of sweat dripping from under his hat… If this guy all of a sudden stood up and started talking to us, we would not be surprised.

Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott is the first sculpture and story of six lifelike sculptures on the Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War exhibition. (Check out What is Anzac Day? to get more details on what happened in Gallipoli during World War One).

Reading letters to home

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The red poppy incident of 2016

Room after room has more displays that wow us. (We are not exaggerating here)! An interactive display shows how each weapon impacts a skeleton on impact, some World War One attire is cut out so we can see what is on the inside, guns, weapons, rations… It’s all covered in some extremely creative ways in this museum.

The exhibit ends with some red paper poppies, the symbol of war remembrance in New Zealand, where we can write a message, fold the poppy, and drop it at the feet of the final sculpture of a survivor of the war, walking away with fear in his eyes. (So incredibly eerie on such a lifelike face). As much as Laura wants to be respectful, she totally screws up her poppy and throws a scrunched up piece of crap into the pile of poppies.

Luckily for you guys, that exhibition ends in 2018, so you have plenty of time to see it!

Dinosaurs, volcanoes and a real giant squid

After that surprising exhibition, which we probably should have visited last, we walk through the beginning of New Zealand – how New Zealand came to be due to tectonic plate movement. Robin spots the museum’s token dinosaurs in an instant. Earthquakes, volcanic rocks and all things geology are displayed in simulators or other interactive displays.

A Maori archway welcomes us to the Mountains to Sea exhibit crammed with all your earthly animals. Even the ceiling has manikins of sea creatures hanging above. The finale of this section is The Colossal Squid. We used to say that was the best thing about Te Papa before we just saw Gallipoli, but the real giant squid specimen still manages to impress.

Walking in the bush

Just to show you how much of New Zealand life that Te Papa encompasses, there is even an outdoor “Bush City” section representing the forests of New Zealand, complete with a swing bridge, limestone caves (we’re back in Waitomo!), and a sandpit with fossils to discover.

Making music in the Pacific Islands

More and more exhibitions are to explore on five different floors. Upstairs, we walk through the story of human migration to New Zealand, from the first Maori settlers to today with people from all over the world. We spend a significant amount of time in the Pacific Islanders room making music with touch panels. We love how interactive this museum is!

How long did we spend in that museum?! We emerge into dusk and make our way back to the Trek Global Backpackers for a night of food, talking to other backpackers, and chilling.


Tomorrow, we are heading to the Weta Studios with Henriette from Germany to see the props, the effects, and all the behind the scenes stuff from The Lord of the Rings! We can’t wait!

That part with the Waitangi Treaty that we didn

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See you tomorrow!


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