9 Must-See Automotive & Transport Museums in New Zealand

I love cars. I love to drive. I love the smell and the sound of cars racing on a circuit and the roar of a Spitfire buzzing an airfield. I know I’m not alone. Whether you are into Veteran, Vintage, Hot Rod, Rat Rod, Classic, Modern, European, American, British or Australian cars, New Zealand is a treasure trove of remarkable vehicles. Some are on display in museums around the country, some are driven regularly and many are tucked away in private garages  – waiting to be shown off on special occasions.

If you are a gear head, rev head, boy racer, gentleman racer, collector, driver or enthusiast, you really need to consider a trip to New Zealand to experience some of the incredible machinery we have to offer. It’s not just the cars, we also have a thriving Warbirds and vintage aviation scene with regular shows and many world class museums. We have truck & transport museums and motorcycle collections – oh, we also have the Earnslaw!

In this post I’m going to list some of the key destinations that any serious car/transport enthusiast should include in their trip to New Zealand.

As part of a tour to New Zealand, you could visit any or all of the destinations mentioned below. It’s a great way to bring focus to an already stunning drive through one of the most wildly beautiful countries in the world. If you time it right, you could tie your trip in with one of a multitude of classic motorsport, car or aviation events that take place around the country.

Here are 9 of the best Automotive and Aviation destinations in New Zealand.

1. Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT), Auckland

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Since most visitors to New Zealand arrive in Auckland, MOTAT is a great place to start your adventure. They have a huge collection of aviation, rail and road transport.


2. Southward Car Museum, Wellington

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Southward Car Museum is an absolute treasure trove of classic, vintage and veteran cars ands motorcycles. An hour north of Wellington City, Southward Car Museum can either be visited as a day trip from Wellington or in a nationwide itinerary as you drive down SH1 on the Kapiti Coast.



3. Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, Blenheim

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New Zealand film director Peter Jackson is a huge vintage aviation buff, and is the driving force behind making this one of the world’s best WWI era aviation museums. The museum is located in Blenheim, only half an hour from the interisland ferry terminals at Picton.

Coincide your visit to this stunning museum with the Classic Fighters Airshow, held every second Easter.



4. World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars Museum, Nelson

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It seems like an unusual combination, but this location is great for couples with different interests. The museum is split between the classic car museum and the World of Wearable Arts museum, which features many incredible wearable works of art from around the world.



5. Highlands National Motorsport Museum, Cromwell

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Based at the Highlands Park race track, this is New Zealand’s newest motoring museum and is constantly refreshing the list of cars on display. While here you canalso enjoy hot laps in a range of supercars and race cars. There’s also a Go Kart track, and Highland hosts several major motorsport events per year.

Highlands Motorsport Museum


6. National Transport and Toy Museum, Wanaka

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The Wanaka Transport and Toy Museum has an enormous collection, including over 600 cars. The museum covers 16 acres of land and is positioned right next to Wanaka Airport which is also home to Warbirds and Wheels.

7. T.S.S. Earnslaw, Queenstown

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I’ve been a semi-regular passenger on The Earnslaw since I was about 4 years old. This beautiful Twin Screw Steamer has been working on Lake Wakatipu for over 100 years. You can walk the catwalks above the engine room and watch the stokers feed coal into the boilers. Simply enjoy a cruise across the lake or disembark at the far end of the voyage and explore the beautiful Walter Peak Station.

Photograph by Real Journeys

Photograph by Real Journeys

8. E Hayes Motorworks Collection, Invercargill

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This is a small collection at the bottom of New Zealand inspired by the story of Burt Munro, as told in The World’s Fastest Indian movie. Much of Munro’s collection of tools, parts and bikes is on display in the showroom of E Hayes and Sons in Invercargill. While in town you can also go to Oreti Beach to see where Burt raced and tested his bikes before heading to Bonneville, Utah to break a series of records at Speed Week.

E Hayes Hardware and Tools Dept

E Hayes Hardware and Tools Dept

9. Transport World, Invercargill

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The most recent addition to the list is Bill Richardson Transport World in Invercargill. This incredible collection of automotive and motorcycle history needs to be seen to be believed. There is a special focus on trucking, and many trucks which operated in the Southland region and beyond for the past 100 years have found a home here. Transport World is joined by sister museum, Motorcycle Mecca, opening November 2016.

There are many more museums, attractions and events in New Zealand that would appeal to any motorsport or classic car/machinery fan. Have you been to NZ and visited any? Do you have any favourites that aren’t on the list? Comment below!

Come and see for yourself!

New Zealand is a beautiful country with amazing scenery and stunning roads. Why not come and take a look for yourself? If you don’t feel comfortable driving yourself (on the left side of the road!), contact me to discuss you very own personal tour of New Zealand. I’ll tailor a tour specifically to your interests and together we’ll explore this remarkable country. I’ll drive!


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  1. Stephen Tanner 07/09/2016 at 9:12 pm - Reply

    When you want a ‘busman’s holiday’ that involves great cars and driving, look us up!!

    • Mike 08/09/2016 at 4:21 pm - Reply

      Hi Stephen, great looking site. I’ll bear you in mind if I have the right client looking for something a little bit special! Cheers, Mike.

  2. Trevor Jones 26/09/2016 at 9:32 am - Reply

    I can’t believe you have left out Bill Richardson’s Transport World in Invercargill.!!

    • Mike 26/09/2016 at 11:37 am - Reply

      You’re absolutely right Trevor! Bill Richardson’s Transport World is phenomenal – truly world class. When I wrote this post I hadn’t yet visited the new museum. I have since and I’ll update this post to reflect that. Thanks so much for checking out my site!

  3. ed Tubman 26/07/2018 at 11:04 am - Reply

    Time to visit the Classics Museum in Hamilton

    • Mike 26/07/2018 at 11:06 am - Reply

      Thanks Ed, I need to spend a bit of time in Hamilton. The gardens and the Tea place are also on my list.

  4. Henry Collins 01/11/2018 at 7:59 am - Reply

    I love these type of museums. I am a big fan of classic cars and airplanes. Not long ago I went to the The National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution and it was amazing. I’ll be sure to follow your recommendations if I travel to New Zealand

    • Mike 01/11/2018 at 8:00 am - Reply

      Hi Henry, I went to the Air and Space Museum in August, it was incredible!

  5. Stella Morgan 06/12/2018 at 5:12 am - Reply

    Great place for classic car lovers like me, I really like classic cars like in the pictures above. Keep up the good work.

  6. Rod. Cripps 31/12/2018 at 10:49 am - Reply

    Hi Mike – I am trying to locate a car museum which was founded by the late Hans Compter, I think it was in Aukland. I am in Melbourne across the ditch. Do you have any knowledge that might help?

    Thanks, Rod. Cripps

  7. Kelly Kate 10/01/2019 at 9:04 am - Reply

    Wow these classic cars in the picture are amazing. Loved watching these and now I am willing to visit this place. Good luck for more amazing posts.

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