Located just 12 miles northeast of Akaroa, this museum is home to one of the largest and most well-preserved collections of traditional Māori artifacts in the country, making it a worthwhile detour from the charming harbor town.
While the colonial exhibition has a respectable array of European pioneer artifacts, the museum’s real attraction is the broad collection of Māori artifacts. It includes an extensive range of significant items in extraordinary condition, dating back to the 1400s.
The highlights of the collection are a replica wharenui (meeting house), hand-carved observing all Māori traditions and Tapu (spiritual code), using original materials from other meeting houses. There is also a hand-carved waka (war canoe) dating back to 1867, as well as stone tools and personal adornments.
The museum is housed in the old Okains Bay Cheese Factory, which was converted and opened as a public museum in 1977, in the decades since the collection has been categorized and expanded, becoming an impressive look at what life on the Peninsula was like in ancient and colonial times. In the main courtyard are preserved colonial-era buildings including a working Blacksmith shop from the early 20th century.
The museum also hosts an annual event on the 6th of February for Waitangi Day, which includes demonstrations of traditional Māori dance, a Māori hāngi (traditional method of roasting food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven) and an impressive display of the waka in the river.
Know Before You Go
Okains Bay is on the Banks Peninsula, only hour away from Christchurch and a short drive over the hill from from Akaroa which is a popular tourist destination with some breathtaking views over the harbour on the way.