Covering three floors of a stunning neo-Gothic building in heart of Christchurch, the Canterbury Museum tells the stories of the region and the world around us. Walk down a re-created 19th-century Christchurch street, see the skeletons of dinosaurs and extinct native birds, and marvel at the vehicles Antarctic explorers once used to get to the South Pole.
Established in 1867 by geologist Julian Haast, the Canterbury Museum offers visitors the chance to immerse themselves in the history and culture of the Canterbury region. The museum houses a range of permanent exhibits dedicated to subjects like Canterbury’s precolonial Maori communities, the region’s 19th-century European settlers, New Zealand’s extinct native birds (including the moa), and the devastating 2011 earthquake.
The Museum is also home to a number of surprising items, including the skeleton of a carnivorous allosaurus, the Egyptian mummy of Tash Pen Khonsu, and Fred and Myrtle’s Paua Shell House, an iconic Kiwi home lined with paua shells. After exploring the main collection, be sure to walk through the museum’s temporary special exhibitions. The Christchurch hop-on hop-off tram stops at the museum, which offers guided tours twice daily. Things to Know Before You Go
- The Canterbury Museum is ideal for nature and history buffs, as well as families with kids.
- Entry to the Canterbury Museum is free, but donations are welcome.
- The 4th-floor café offers coffee, light fare, and lovely views of the nearby botanic gardens.
- The museum store sells pottery, paua (abalone), and pounamu (nephrite) items, and can ship your purchases anywhere in the world.
- All floors of the museum are accessible to wheelchair users. Wheelchairs are available; email the museum to book one in advance.
How to Get There
The Canterbury Museum is on Rolleston Avenue, in the city’s Cultural Precinct on the edge of the Botanic Gardens. It’s a short walk down Worcester Boulevard from the Christchurch i-SITE Information Center. The city’s Bus Interchange is about a 10-minute walk across the Avon River, and the Christchurch Tram lines run right past the museum. If driving, parking is available on nearby streets or in the gardens.
When to Get There
The Museum is open every day of the year except Christmas Day; check the website for seasonal hours. Arrive in the mid-morning to beat the crowds and guarantee entry into all of the exhibits. Activities for Children at the Canterbury Museum
The Canterbury Museum typically runs events for kids during New Zealand school holidays. Contact the museum in advance to find out what’s on offer. The museum also has its own natural history center for children called Discovery, where kids can learn more about the animals that live among us—and the ones that used to rule the earth. Discovery is even home to some creepy-crawly live tarantulas. There is a small fee to enter Discovery.