The Museum of Transport & Technology (MOTAT) offers an entertaining trawl through New Zealand’s vehicular and industrial past, nicely balancing preserving the nation’s machinery while keeping the kids entertained. The jumble of sheds and halls is centred on the restored Western Springs’ pumphouse where the massive 1877 beam engine and associated boiler room mostly sit grandly immobile, except when fired up (generally Thurs noon–1pm & 2–3pm).
Appropriately for an agricultural nation there’s an impressive array of tractors through the ages, with pride of place given to the one Edmund Hillary used to reach the South Pole in 1958, the first overland party there since Scott and Amundsen 46 years earlier.
Elsewhere there’s an entertaining, science-oriented, hands-on section, a Victorian village built around the original pumphouse engineer’s cottage, and a shed full of trams that plied the city’s streets from 1902–56.
An ancient, rattling Melbourne tram (every 10–30min; included in admission price) takes you 1km to MOTAT’s Meola Road site, with its impressive new Aviation Display Hall, a hangar eco-designed with vast laminated wood beams. Star attractions are one of the few surviving World War II Lancaster bombers, early crop-dusting planes a805 Great North Rd, Western Springsnd fragile-looking things that took early tourists to the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers in the days before decent roads. Imminent completion of restoration should see centre stage occupied by a double-decker Solent flying boat, decked out for dining in a more gracious age and used on Air New Zealand’s South Pacific “Coral Route” until the early 1960s.