A visit to Tawhiti Museum, Hawera

Tawhiti Museum

We visited Tawhiti Museum on New Year’s Day 2021 after spending NYE at nearby secluded spot; Ohawe Beach.
The hot summer days we’d had leading up to New Year’s Eve had been beautiful but it was also a nice relief to have a slightly overcast New Year’s Day – a more comfortable, less sticky day with a slight breeze – perhaps it was just me but I felt it gave a calming start to the New Year on a day when a few people probably needed to just kick back and recover!

We did a few errands in the town of Hawera, a lot of the larger stores were open and we were able to pick up some bits and pieces for the van. This was our first major trip away in this campervan and we were still figuring out what we needed or wanted to put into it. And then there are simply things that you forgot! So we picked up things like solar lights, citronella candles, a bluetooth speaker, gas BBQ lighter and some handy dandy double-sided velcro tape that we stapled to the inside of cupboards and use to keep our glass bottles in place. The velcro also works great as a curtain tie-back on the full-length curtain separator we put up behind the front seat. I’ll have to get some more interior photos for a future post about little jobs we’ve done in the van.

Anyway…. we had read about a super little museum on the outskirts of Hawera so we popped along for a quick visit while we were in the area. The little visit turned into a full afternoon! Tawhiti Museum is a tardis of a place with something to appeal to all tastes and between the hubbie and I we were happy to meander around slowly discovering the various exhibits – the only problem was we kept find *another* building, or we’d walk around a corner and find the little shed we entered had morphed into a huge hall!
I’m not complaining here – just pointing out that you might want to ensure you leave enough time for a good look around!

We paid the full entrance fee for the museum, including tickets for the bush railway and Traders & Whalers – a boat-based attraction within the museum grounds.

Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus

The museum is made up of several groups of buildings, all quite rustic and in keeping with the relaxed feel and character of the place. But before you think this is one of those dusty old shed museums with things just piled up or random old junk put on shelves… think again. Tawhiti Museum has an amazing and very well-presented array of interesting heritage items – from farm machinery to shipping to vintage toys, and wartime memorabilia to kitchen paraphanalia.
One of the things that helps bring the exhibits to life is the attention to detail and realistic figures used to set up various scenes. All the figurines, from the life-size right down to tiny scale models used in dioramas, are made on site in the ‘Body Shop’ which you can view as part of your visit.

The man behind the museum is ex-art teacher Nigel Ogle. Back in 1975 Nigel and his wife Teresa bought the 70-year-old Tawhiti Cheese Factory. Nigel started his small private collection as a hobby but it soon became the focus of public attention and the focus of an impressive visual history of South Taranaki. The museum is now an award-winning visitor attraction and a valued education facility.

We began our visit with a little trip on the Tawhiti Bush Railway, a 2’6″ gauge railway representing the logging railways that used to operate in Taranaki. The track has native planting and a range of buildings alongside the line, with life size figures highlighting how life used to be lived. The end of the track has a reconstructed sawmill set up with a range of historic displays explaining the old sawmilling and timber transportation days.

Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
One of the many displays set up to represent scenes from life gone by
Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
The figurines are realistic and create a three-dimensional image of the past
Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
All the life size models were created from moulds cast from real people – family friends and locals!
Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
The goods listed in this land purchase are represented in the image below….
Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
One small corner of the vast Farmpower Hall which exhibits a range of machines and demonstrates the evolution from
horse-drawn equipment to a powered machines of all types and sizes
Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
A selection of lawn mowers
Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
A small selection of photos of the extensive display of ‘dioramas’ all created with huge attention to detail and to represent moments in history
Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
Tawhiti Museum visit by Kiwi Blog Bus
The entrance to the Traders & Whalers boat attraction

Traders & Whalers is set within Tawhiti Museum but does require an additional ticket to be purchased. The attraction is an innovative and historical representation of the Taranaki Coast in the 1820-1840 period. Visitors are whisked away in a boat to learn more about life in this time period as the boatman glides you past and through realistic life size scenes and sounds of the sailors and locals working, trading and battling. Photography isn’t permitted in the attraction but take at look at the video below which features the attraction.

The museum grounds also house a retail shop and a cafe, with plenty of parking and a dedicated area for campervans 🙂

I’ll leave you with this official video from Tawhiti Museum – and a recommend that you make time (plenty of time!) to visit one day!

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