Review: Auckland War Memorial Museum

On my second day in New Zealand, I headed east and successfully navigated to Auckland War Memorial Museum, in the middle of Auckland Domain (a park with sweeping green lawns). It’s highly impressive from the outside, reminding me of Washington DC’s Capitol building, although I was somewhat regretful at having to step out of the sunshine to go indoors for the museum. If only museums had detachable roofs like football stadiums or convertible cars!

The museum covers three floors and I spent 2-3 hours there.

Review

Content 2.5/3

Polynesian sailing boat

Some of the highlights were an enormous sailing boat, a Maori meeting house and a simulated volcano room. In the rest of the museum there were plenty of high-quality artefacts on display, with occasional interactive screens and a hands-on discovery centre for children. Generally it was engaging, but there were some areas that I skimmed through either because I already knew a lot about them (the world wars) or because I’ve seen better elsewhere (natural history – difficult to compete against London’s Natural History Museum). 

Coverage 1/2

The museum covered a nice range of topics in depth – Polynesian and Maori history on the ground floor, natural history on the first floor and New Zealand at war on the second floor. I spent two or three hours there and it gave me a nice overview of New Zealand’s history, but I suspect if I had already been in New Zealand for a while I might have already been aware of quite a lot of the information it presents. There is also a War Memorial incorporated into the museum which is an unusual extra touch.

Value for money 1/2

NZ$25 / £15. On the expensive side for museums, but just about a fair price. However if you’re a resident in New Zealand it’s free – in which case it suddenly becomes excellent value for money!

Organisation 2/2

Nothing to fault – the staff were all friendly and helpful, there are free maps available and all the exhibits had clear description signs (in both Maori and English).

Bonus point: Would I go again?

Probably not if I had to pay – it was a decent museum, but nothing stood out so much that I’m desperate to go back.

War Memorial

PRACTICALITIES

Weather: All inside, so completely non-weather dependent. Although if it’s a sunny day take a picnic afterwards to eat on the lovely green lawns of Auckland Domain right outside the museum.

Location: On the wonderful Auckland Domain with plenty of other things to do nearby. I walked from Parnell’s weekend market, then afterwards to Mount Eden.

Public transport: Available all around the city if necessary, but the museum is walking distance from the city centre anyway.

Photography: Average for a museum. No restrictions for non-commercial photography, but there’s a limit to how much you can photograph of artefacts behind glass panels.

Accessibility: Lifts & ramps available.

War Memorial

Verdict

6.5 out of 10

Auckland War Memorial Museum is a high quality city museum. If you arrive into Auckland with a couple of days to spare, it’s definitely worth a visit to give yourself an overview of New Zealand’s history. The ground floor and the volcano room should not be missed. If you’re limited on time, prioritise Te Papa in Wellington.

Have you been to Auckland War Memorial Museum? What was your favourite part?

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