We recently went on a cruise around New Zealand. Well, I guess it was time we saw our country from the outside, but it did mean that we knew most of the ports already. However, we had never explored Port Chalmers, the port for the city of Dunedin, so we left the ship eager to see what we could find.
And we were immediately rewarded by the clean, charming, and very comprehensive Port Chalmers Maritime Museum, just a short walk from the wharf.
For a start, it is unique, in that it is surrounded on three sides by a working container port, Port Otago. The building is historic in itself, being the original post office, which dates back to 1877. And it is sited where the sailing ship John Wickliffe landed the first settlers, on 23 March 1848.
Though small, the building offers a surprising amount for the maritime enthusiast. Immediately striking is the number of very good ship models that are grouped near the entrance.
A connecting door leads to the Pioneer Room -- originally the dining and living rooms of the resident postmaster -- which is devoted to local history, and tells some fascinating stories.
Above, is the Port Otago Gallery, housed in the mezzanine floor, which documents the history of the very busy port.
For researchers, there is the Ian Church Archives, lovingly collated by my late friend, and maritime historian, Ian Church.
As well as a collection of ships' registers, it includes family and oral histories, shipping indexes, and school and cemetery records. There is also an electronic database. Access is by prior arrangement, by contacting one of the volunteer curators, at firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment.
So it is worth visiting Port Chalmers just for the museum. But we enjoyed exploring the picturesque village, too.