We didn’t intend to arrive at the Kauri Museum in Matakohe at night, but that’s the way it happened. So we parked the truck by the front door and settled down to wait for morning. (It’s lovely to have our home with us at all times!)

The Kauri Musum at night, August 2011
Until it was time to go to bed, we played around the outside of the museum.

Parked outside the Kauri Museum, August 2011
We spent the night parked outside the museum and were the first customers of the morning.

We’ve received personal recommendations to visit this museum ever since we raved about our experience at the Dargaville Museum. So we entered the museum with great expectations of fine exhibits and a friendly atmosphere.

The volunteer staff who unlocked the buildings greeted us warmly when we made it through the front door, and she quizzed us politely to determine how best to charge us the minimum amount necessary for admission. “How old are the children?” “Are you homeschoolers, by any chance?” Somehow — with her generous calculations in our favour — we gained entry for $24 which is less than the standard adult fee!

We were encouraged to wander around leisurely. The ticket is valid for two days, and the exhibits can be time-consuming if you linger over each one. The museum showcases the history of the kauri-timber industry in New Zealand and its importance to early European settlers, the impact on the environment and the subsequent gum-digging that provided extra income to Maoris and European immigrants.

The Kauri Museum, August 2011
A cross-section of a large kauri tree is displayed with disclaimers that this tree is still a midget compared to the size of the biggest known kauris.

The Kauri Museum, August 2011
On display is a selection of fine kauri carvings, including this chain which has been whittled from a single piece of wood.

The Kauri Museum, August 2011
A large board table that was previously at New Zealand's Government House is topped with a single piece of kauri.

“The museum is child-friendly,” we were told upon entry, and they weren’t wrong. Exhibits had buttons to press, little explanatory notes written especially for children and stools to provide extra height for little feet. The girls found a basket of toys thoughtfully placed in a corner next to a television that played a documentary on the kauri industry.

The Kauri Museum, August 2011
There are many buttons around the museum that set displays into motion. With this display, a miniature girl starts milking the pint-sized cow.

The Kauri Museum, August 2011
We appreciated the many child-friendly aspects to the Kauri Museum, including the positioning of little stools alongside exhibits that would otherwise be too high for short people to appreciate.

The Kauri Museum, August 2011
The layout of the display rooms really captured the girls' imaginations. They could relate to the mannequins and create stories about what's happening.

We liked the replica boarding house which features intricately furnished rooms — each with a different theme. David had a bit of fun entering into some of the exhibits — doesn’t he look the part?

The Kauri Museum, August 2011
With his bag in his hand, David descends the stairs to begin a new journey of adventures.

The Kauri Museum, August 2011
David listens to the faint strains of bygone music.

The Kauri Museum, August 2011
David heads off on his bicycle to deliver the groceries.

The Kauri Museum, August 2011
David enjoys getting into the spirit of the displays' era.

The Kauri Museum, August 2011
David helps the men who are making barrels.

The Kauri Museum, August 2011
David helps some very quiet ladies wash their clothes the hard way.

The Kauri Museum, August 2011
When you enter this bushman's hut, he kindly offers a cup of tea, so David took him up on the offer!

The museum is quite a sprawling building and it can be easy to overlook whole sections of it. I kept relying on my map to make sure we explored every exhibit. Downstairs, a large room was devoted to the display of kauri gum.

The Kauri Museum, August 2011
The Kauri Museum boast the largest collection of kauri gum in the world. Kauri gum is the hardened sap from kauri trees (much like amber) and can be polished to a high-gloss finish and carved into jewellery or trinkets.

The Kauri Museum, August 2011
The gum-diggers wore rubber boots to protect their feet from the mud while digging in the swamps for valuable kauri gum. Now these same boots are called "gumboots" in this part of the world.

Outside, a collection of antiquated playground equipment — swings with real wooden seats and solid steel bars — kept our girls amused. Even though a chilly gale drove me to shelter in the nearby buildings, the girls were happy to be out in the sun.

Playing outside the Kauri Museum, August 2011
The girls particularly love playing on this see-saw. They had never encountered one of these dangerous devices before (sheltered as they are...) and each took turns jumping off and hurting their sister before they learned how to mount and dismount in harmony and peace.

We headed north after a little lunch. The girls could have probably stayed and played all day, but I was ready to keep driving.

We’re encouraging them to anticipate each coming destination with the same enthusiasm with which they’ve embraced our previous destinations. If they’ve enjoyed themselves so much here, how much more will they enjoy themselves in the places we’ll drive to in the future?!