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
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
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
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
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
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.
7. T.S.S. Earnslaw, Queenstown
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.
8. E Hayes Motorworks Collection, Invercargill
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.
9. Transport World, Invercargill
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!