In Wellington, bad weather means a chance to learn something, says Sharon Stephenson.

In Wellington, on a bad day, you can't beat being indoors. Thankfully, there is much to distract visitors from the weather. And although the big hitters like Te Papa are always worth a visit, why not step off the beaten track and check out Wellington's boutique museums?

The Reserve Bank Museum

A museum about money isn't the easiest sell, but it turns out New Zealand's only specialist economic and central banking museum is fascinating. Tucked into the ground floor of the Reserve Bank on The Terrace, TV viewers might recognise this as the venue for the press conferences when the Reserve Bank Governor decides the fate of the Official Cash Rate (OCR).

The nearest you'll get to the cash in the basement is the replica vault door, and the display of $1 million in $50 notes will have you running for the nearest Lotto shop.


But it's not just about filthy lucre: the time-line puts leading economic and social events into context, along with a range of videos, including a hilarious 70s one about car-less days.

NZ Holocaust Centre

It's easy to think the Holocaust had only a peripheral effect on New Zealand. The Holocaust Research and Education Centre is a sober reminder of how it affected people closer to home.

This tiny museum just off Cuba St tells of humanity lost, resilience and survival, via the stories of Holocaust survivors who found their way to the capital. Photographs, videos and oral histories weave a fascinating but gritty look at what these refugees endured and how many of them went on to successfully rebuild their lives in New Zealand. The museum aims to "teach tolerance, courage and racial harmony".

Cable Car Museum

For more than 100 years, "red rattlers" have trundled up to the Botanic Gardens. This award-winning museum, in the historic winding house for the original cable car, which ran from 1902 to 1978, is a love letter to what is now New Zealand's only working cable car system.

The capital's second-busiest museum (after Te Papa) provides a look at not only the original machinery that used to wind the cars up the hill but also features two restored grip cars.

National Tattoo Museum


The first of its kind in the South Pacific, renowned tattoo artist Steve Maddock opened this small museum in 2001 to ensure the rich history of the ta moko, or tattoo, was shared and protected. No matter what your views on permanently marking one's body, the museum (basically two rooms and a tattoo studio) is a look into an art form that dates back around 5000 years.

The focus on interactivity isn't high here, with only a few touch-screen TVs but, if you're so inspired, tattooists are on hand to provide your own body art.

The Cricket Museum

I'm not the world's biggest cricket fan, so I wasn't terribly fussed about visiting this museum at New Zealand's oldest cricket ground, the Basin Reserve. But its domestic and international cricketing memorabilia from 1743 turned out to be an interesting way to fill a rainy afternoon.

The collection includes a curved cricket bat dating from 1743 (the only one in the Southern Hemisphere) and the working cricket ball made from Red Cross parcels used by New Zealand prisoners of war.

Much of course, is made of the infamous underarm bowling incident but I had no idea that once upon a time underarm bowling was standard procedure.

The BNZ Museum

Two museums about money? Don't snigger - as with the Reserve Bank Museum, this small collection on Wellington's Waterfront is a delight. Displays document the discovery of gold in New Zealand in 1861, including the 1861 account ledger for the BNZ's Auckland branch, which includes entries from former governor, Sir George Grey.

There's a charming collection of vintage adding machines, tills and typewriters that show how laborious banking must have been. My favourite, however, is the wall of retrospective bank advertising, particularly the sexist ad that proclaims: "Next to a husband or diamonds, a girl's best friend is her BNZ cheque account."

Getting there: Jetstar flies up to eight times a day from Auckland to Wellington, with tickets starting at $49.