The Rotorua Museum (Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa) is a mix of histories. It tells the story of the Maori peoples, it tells the story of the thermal wonders of Rotorua, and it tells the story of the famous bath house and the early days of tourism in the city.
The Museum is located inside of the old bath house. The building is of the Elizabethan Gothic style, and it was built in 1908 to attract European tourists to the baths. The building sits within the Government Gardens amongst croquet fields and flowers.
The best way to start your museum experience is to catch the 20 minute “Rotorua Stories” film showing in the cinema. It gives you a quick history of the area and its importance. It really provides a frame of reference for the rest of the exhibits, so it’s worth the watch.
After that, make your way through the rest of the museum at your leisure. The bath house exhibit was quite interesting, showing off some of the original baths. It gives you a look straight into the past. Climb up past the attic and out onto the viewing platform on the roof to get a beautiful view out over the Government Gardens and Lake Rotorua. My favorite exhibit was “The Beating Hearts of Te Arawa”, which gives insight to the origins of the Maori peoples in New Zealand, up to modern life. *Generally, photography is not allowed in Maori exhibits throughout New Zealand, so there are no photos to show here.
While I did enjoy the Rotorua Museum and learning about the history of Rotorua, I didn’t enjoy the admission price. I am generally a budget traveler, so I have to pick and choose which attractions I go to. Adult admission to the Rotorua Museum is $20 per person. For $20, I’d like to be able to spend an easy 2-3 hours wandering through the exhibits, but I saw everything and was out after only about an hour. If you don’t mind spending the money, it is a beautiful place to see, but if you’re on a tight budget, I’d suggest skipping it.
There are plenty of free things to do in Rotorua instead.
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