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Family fun

9 motoring museums worth a detour in Southland: guide

  • 2 minutes

National Transport & Toy Museum Wanaka @nttmuseumwanaka

Brave the chilly breezes of Southland and the chance of brisk showers. We are talking about the middle of summer and the changeable Southland climate here. Invercargill is a perfect place for over five world class museum collections that are largely indoors. This makes a great reason not to worry too much about the temperamental weather outdoors. Invercargill deserves accolades for fostering gold standard destinations for motoring fans. Burt Munro, setting the world land speed record on his iconic Indian Scout bike perhaps triggered the enthusiasm for wheeled motion whatever it was spinning.

Bill Richardson Transport World, New Zealand @NZ Autocar
Bill Richardson Transport World @NZ Autocar

1. Transport World

Invercargill is home to Transport World, originated with the passion of Bill Richardson. Boosting the largest private collection of petrol signs, transport trucks and toy models. The collection spans from a 1904 Ford Ac car to a 2016 Dub Box caravan. A dedicated area focused on children engages young visitors giving adults an opportunity to linger over the bright red 1940 Dodge Airflow Texaco tanker, known as Tex.

  • Opening hours: Daily
  • Admission: Fee
  • Cafe: Yes

2. Classic Motorcycle Mecca

Classic Motorcycle Mecca is devoted to over 300 motorcycles and artworks. A dazzling collection that will gladden the hearts of motorbike fans. The mecca is home to more than 300 classic motorcycles, prized artworks, and tributes to greats such as John Britten and Ivan Mauger. The collection is located in a restored heritage building in Invercargill’s inner-city has made Classic Motorcycle Mecca – the leading motorcycle collection in the southern hemisphere making the venue a match make in motorbike nirvana  Do not forget to look out for Ivan Mauger’s 1977 Speedway World Championship bike, the 2017 Brough Superior (known as the Rolls Royce of the motorcycling world) and a Honda CBX 1000.

Classic Motorcycle Mecca, New Zealand @NZ Autocar
Classic Motorcycle Mecca @NZ Autocar

Mecca is home to The George Begg exhibit officially opens on 13 February. Housed in a gigantic 1600m2, custom-built space at Classic Motorcycle Mecca, the Begg exhibit includes a display of race vehicles built in ‘George’s Toyshop’. Visitors can discover memorabilia from his competitive motorcycling days (he raced on the famed Isle of Man) including his AJS race bike and more.

Open: Daily

Dig This, New Zealand @Invercargill
Dig This @Invercargill

3. Dig This Heavy Machinery

Dig This is a boys and girls toy zone where heavy machinery is located in an enormous grown up sized sand pit. New Zealand’s only heavy machinery playground is hands on thrills for everyone. Take your pick and get behind the controls of bulldozers, diggers, or skid steers. You don’t need any experience – just a willingness to give it a go. Ultimate bucket list holiday fun.

Open: Daily

4. E. Hayes Motorworks Collection

A hardware store that has it all. E. Hayes and Sons Motorworks is an independent Hammer Hardware and TradeZone Industrial store and home of Burt Munro’s Authentic bike, At the same time, our entire store is home to the unique E Hayes Motorworks Collection representing one of the finest private collections of FREE TO VIEW classic motorcycles, automobiles and engines in New Zealand.

Open: Store trading hours

E. Hayes Motorworks Collection, New Zealand @NZ Autocar
E. Hayes Motorworks Collection @NZ Autocar

5. Thornbury Vintage Tractor Museum

Thornbury Vintage Tractor and Implement Club Museum. Many rare tractors and machinery have been restored to their former shining glory. Local farming memorabilia and the district’s first fire engine – the Bedford “Green Goddess” has pride of place. You have got to love a volunteer run museum where the key to the building is at the pub if nobody is home.

Open every Sunday from 1:30pm to 4:30pm from Labour Day (the end of October) till Queens Birthday (the start of June). After-hours visits can be arranged and a key is available at the Thornbury Tavern.

6. Demolition World

Demoworld Invercargill New Zealand. Junk is another person’s fascination with all things discarded. Museum collectors, fans of discarded artefacts rejoice you can trawl through Joe’s finds to your heart’s content. village – the village has been in films, plays, TV and magazines. A popular destination for school trips, tourists and anyone wanting to walk back in time. A tiny town, a place from the past, an anachronism is a interesting bramble through a surprisingly large ethnographic collection.

NOTE: While not a motoring museum it definitely ticks the boxes for fascination and fun.

Open: Weekday trading hours

Demolition world, Invercargill - New Zealand @Matej Verčinský
Demolition world, Invercargill @Matej Verčinský

The museum opens on public holidays, Sunday afternoons during the tourist season or by arrangement. Contact 03 234 8201 or 03 225 8670.

Invercargill is not just toys for grown ups it is also home to the Catlins and driving routes exploring the Rivena of New Zealand. Remember to check out what else to do in Southland.

Classic Sports Car Museum NZ, New Zealand @Highlands Museum
Classic Sports Car Museum NZ @Highlands Museum

7. Classic Sports Car Museum

Classic Sports Car Museum NZ | Highlands Museum, in Cromwell, Otago. New Zealand’s newest motoring museum is spectacular to look at and fun to visit.  You can even get behind the wheel. Try a hot lap in a range of supercars and race cars. There’s also a Go Kart track, and Highland hosts several major motorsport events per year. Attractions are Go-karts, U-Drive, We-Drive.

8. National Transport & Toy Museum Wanaka

National Transport & Toy Museum Wanaka, NZ – A Museum for all ages. An enormous collection, covers 16 acres of land with over 600 cars. Warbirds and Wheels. engines that soar, Wanaka is right next door.

National Transport & Toy Museum Wanaka, New Zealand @nttmuseumwanaka
National Transport & Toy Museum Wanaka, New Zealand @nttmuseumwanaka
Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead, New Zealand @Shellie Evans
Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead @Shellie Evans

9. Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead

Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead. How does that nineteenth century lathe work and what is the shaft driving, at Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead machinery is turned on. The workshop – with its labyrinth of overhead shafts, belts and pulleys driving various lathes, drills and saws – was previously powered by a windmill and then a water Pelton wheel, but now runs on an electric motor. Offering fascinating insight into how things were created back then, the machinery is brought to life with lively commentary on four scheduled Operating Days and many other times throughout the summer. Check beforehand to ensure you arrive when the switch is on.  Forget about ear muffs, it is deafening fun, noise on steroids.

Open: check website for up to date information.

Part of Heritage New Zealand administered sites.

Getting there

The journey is worth it.




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