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Otago quirky cool collections, oddities, museums places to go

  • 3 minutes


Otago single collections, unusual objects

Otago is home to garden boosting over a thousand teapots, a hidden gem of the Otago Museum with a tropical flourish, a vanishing world of dinosaurs, geological oddities and a beetle with its own patch of grass. Quirky stories and hidden gems found in small towns are part of our KIWI TOWNS series. Often the towns are on one of our road trips creating a one of a kind holiday experience.

The tunnel towards the beach at the Tunnel Beach, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
The tunnel towards the beach at the Tunnel Beach, Dunedin


Explore a beach where a father built access to the beach for his daughters to go swimming. Tunnel beach is fascinating with sea caves, rock arches and steps leading to the tunnel. In the 1870’s local politician John Cargill commissioned the tunnel. There are 72 steps and it can be slippery in wet weather. Beyond the beauty of the rugged sandstone cliffs and secluded beach the descent through the tunnel is definitely a quirky way to get to a beach. For details check out Tunnel Beach Track – Dunedin area.


Find a museum with an indoor rainforest and over 5 metre waterfall surrounded by thousands of butterflies, tarantulas and turtles. The tropics are part of the Otago Museum’s permanent collections. It’s fun, a great place on a chilly winter day in Dunedin and the place to go with kids.


Hidden gems include a three storey indoor slide and a skeleton riding a bike.

Tūhura Science Centre at Otago Museum, New Zealand @otagomuseum
Tūhura Science Centre at Otago Museum @otagomuseum
@Totara Estate
@Totara Estate


Discover the secret of one of New Zealand’s premier export successes, the frozen meat industry. Beautiful Oamaru bluestone buildings, a tranquil cafe courtyard and beautifully restored agricultural equipment are part of a historic farm. The birthplace of New Zealand’s premier money earner, refrigerated meat shipped from NZ to England in 1882. Visit the restored buildings and your imagination will do the rest. Farm life in the late 19th century was hard physical work. You can also enjoy a cup of billy tea and scones in the old cookhouse, and there’s a heritage gift shop on site.


The garden is feastooned with thousands of teapots. Teapotland is a quirky house and garden with teapots in the garden, on the fence, perched on logs and on the pathways. The outdoor installation is on the main street of Owaka.

Teapot Land, Owaka, The Catlins, New Zealand
Teapot Land, Owaka


A hidden gem where you get to search for your own dinosaur fossils.

Duntroon, New Zealand. A museum focused on thirty million years ago with prehistoric dolphins with crocodile-like mouths, enormous penguins, and gigantic whales that once swam in the area. After some of them died, their remains were buried beneath the earth for many epochs.

You’ll find fossils of these fantastic beasts at the Vanished World Centre, a fascinating collection of oddities from the ancient past. Paleontological treasures from the region’s ancient past located on the quiet backroads of Otago.


Milton is home to a butcher’s museum. The museum’s historic equipment and photographs dating back to the early 20th century are managed by Rex Spence. Butchery Museum with historic equipment and photographs dating back to the early 20th century, managed by Rex Spence who is a practicing butcher (South Kill Abattoir). It is a place where the kids get to find out where the meat comes from for their favourite McDonald’s burger. Learn more about What’s so great about Milton.

As you drive through the town perhaps you will notice an odd kink in the road. There are several theories why Milton has a decided bend in its main street, the favourite being two surveyors were heading towards town from different directions and weren’t quite on the same page regarding direction.


Cromwell should be on your radar with a glorious sports car museum, a homage to all things petrol driven. The Highlands Classic Sports Car Museum gleaming machines range from Michael Schumacher’s Benetton Formula One car to the Aston Martin Vulcan, the ultimate in motoring luxury. Go karting, Radical U Drive and a funky vehicle sculpture park is entertainment everyone can participate in. The cafe with its sweeping windows, overlooking the lap tracks with the adrenaline infused puff of magic.

Classic Sports Car Museum NZ, New Zealand @Highlands Museum
Classic Sports Car Museum @Highlands Museum
Cromwell Chafer Beetle Nature Reserve, a paddock where a noctural bettle lurks, South Island, Wanaka, New Zealand
Cromwell Chafer Beetle Nature Reserve, a paddock where a noctural bettle lurks, South Island, Wanaka, New Zealand


Nature doesn’t miss out on things to do in Cromwell with the beetle being the poster boy / girl for conservation. A flightless beetle has its own insect conservation reserve, a 81 hectare unassuming patch of native grass on the outskirts of Cromwell. The endangered beetle has similar status as the feathered beauty, the Kākāpō. The beetle is tiny (15mm) and lives mostly underground meaning you are effectively visiting a patch of grass. Although an inconspicuous beetle, the Cromwell Chafer is extraordinary in that this is the only place in the world the beetle has been found. At night the beetle feeds on native cushion plants, herbs and grasses.

Will visitors see any beetles? Very unlikely. Don’t let that stop you visiting a patch of grass though. Learn more with 10 ideas for a slow trip through Cromwell, things to see: Best Bits.


Best Bits travel guide is published by Owned and managed by PacificJane Ltd.


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