Our Museum

New Zealand’s geographic isolation has forged our identity as a country and as New Zealanders. We are a nation of innovators, of dreamers, and of pioneers. People who are driven to find their own course, to seek out new possibilities with imagination and conviction.

Nowhere is this expression of our New Zealand identity stronger than through our bond with the ocean. From the first discovery by Kupe, to one of the most courageous migrations by the Polynesian peoples, to Abel Tasman and then Cook. These pioneers forged our spirit of exploration and broke the boundaries of what people thought possible. Many of New Zealand's greatest maritime adventurers and explorers have emerged from this spirit, and the New Zealand Maritime Museum celebrates these people who sailed to the limits of their imagination.

Suitable for all ages, the Maritime Museum aims to provide a rewarding, enjoyable and unique discovery experience for present and future generations through the preservation and presentation of New Zealand’s maritime heritage.

We display and present items of national, regional, local and general maritime interest in a way that stimulates interest and preserves the items for the benefit of the people of New Zealand.


Our Gifted Māori Name

Hui Te Ananui A Tangaroa
When asked for an appropriate Māori title for the New Zealand Maritime Museum Sir Hugh Kāwharu proceeded to give a steer toward the ancient Māori and Polynesian understanding of Tangaroa as personification of the sea and its many powerful elements.

Sir Hugh gifted the name ‘Hui Te Ananui A Tangaroa’ to the museum. This is a traditional and universally understood name for the dwelling of Tangaroa, ‘an undersea haven; his home’ beneath the sea. The descriptions of Tangaroa are many, rich and vivid. And so too his dwelling in terms of its narratives in Māori lore, especially seen in the origins of whakairo (wood carving) and marae visual arts including ta moko (living skin art).

Tangaroa, Atua (guardian) has many personifications here and across the Pacific. Tangaroa, the controller of tides - he whose breathing makes the ebb and flow - taa ngā roa whakamautai, with connotations of the combined forces of waves, wind, moon, stars and the related forces of nature.

Our History

The Maritime Museum was first proposed in 1980 by a group of like minded individuals, many of whom were Auckland Harbour Board and Union Steamship Company members. It was to house the growing collection of maritime archives within the Auckland Maritime Society and Auckland Museum collections, while establishing a New Zealand maritime history collection and exhibition facility. It was to be the first and only museum that dealt with New Zealand’s maritime history as a whole, and was to be called the Auckland Maritime Museum Hobson Wharf.

Auckland Maritime Museum Hobson Wharf opened in August 1993 with Dr. Rodney Wilson as its inaugural director. The name subsequently changed to the New Zealand National Maritime Museum. The New Zealand National title was bestowed by then Prime Minister the Hon. Jim Bolger in 1996.

The museum is run by the New Zealand National Maritime Museum Trust Board, a body incorporated under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957.

Founding Director, Dr Rodney Wilson, passed away 27 April 2013. View our tribute to a spectacular man. Read more.

Our Vision

Our aspiration

To explore and unite people with the sea

Our Mission

What we do

To preserve, present, interpret, and celebrate Aotearoa New Zealand’s maritime heritage. Being a place of learning and understanding: engaging our audience through unique maritime experiences

Our Values

Guiding our decision making

Kaitiakitanga - To strengthen our identity by protecting and sharing Aotearoa New Zealand’s Nga Taonga o te moana o Tangaroa

Manaakitanga - Respect and value all of our stories, all of our Taonga Moana and all of our relationships

Whanaungatanga - Working together to achieve best practice

Courageous & Curious - To explore, to challenge, to be bold, to be innovative. Being active and growing through curiosity

Creativity - Being smart and creative

Integrity -& To have integrity in all that we do

Annual Plan 2017/18

For the museum’s current annual plan click here.