History of the Museum

Throughout the 1990’s the capital experienced a cultural renaissance and a surge of civic pride. With the opening of the new National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, it was the perfect time for Wellington to have a Museum that celebrated its own stories. The old Bond Store that housed the Maritime Museum was the ideal location.

On 27 November 1999 – after extensive restoration, conservation and development – the Maritime Museum re-opened with a new name and a new purpose. It became the Museum of Wellington City & Sea with a mission to preserve, present and promote Wellington’s social, cultural and maritime heritage. Wellingtonians now had a place that celebrated their history.

Careful restoration has preserved the Bond Store’s striking facade, as well as solid timber beams and original flooring inside. Beneath the floor the 4,000 tonne building rests on state-of-the-art base isolators, making it structurally strong in an earthquake.

The interior exhibition spaces were developed by a team of award winning designers and architects: Hewitt Pender Associates and Athfield Architects Ltd. After 10 years of operation the Museum continues to strengthen its relationships with Wellington communities and explore new areas.


The Museum is housed in The Bond Store, an 1892 premium heritage building designed by leading architect Frederick de Jersey Clere.

Despite its grand exterior, it was primarily a bonded cargo warehouse; a holding warehouse for goods that required the payment of customs duty before they could be released to the importer. The head office of the Wellington Harbour Board, a vital centre of power for early Wellington, was located in opulent offices upstairs.

In the 1960’s new methods of cargo handling were introduced, with containerisation and roll-on/roll-off ferries changing the face of the shipping sector and Wellington’s wharf. By the mid 1970’s, The Bond Store was no longer at the centre of activity on the wharf and had become a rabbit warren of mostly empty offices. Then the Harbour Board had a timely suggestion: to convert it into a small museum to house its collection of artifacts detailing the story of Wellington harbour and maritime history.

The Wellington Harbour Board Maritime Museum was opened in 1972, and when the Harbour Board wound-up in 1989, most of the building became gallery space. The Maritime Museum operated for over 20 years and built a strong following amongst maritime enthusiasts and supporters. The most dedicated of these maritime friends were involved in the development of The Bond Store for its next stage of life – as the Museum of Wellington City & Sea.



T: +64 4 472 8904  or send us a booking enquiry
Booking essential for all tour groups

Open: 10.00am to 5.00pm every day
Closed: Christmas Day

General admission is free

Admission charges apply for all groups and bookings essential


the Museum is located at the heart of Wellington’s waterfront and is 2 minutes from Lambton Quay and the cable car.


Any cancellations made within 24 hours prior to activity will incur a 50% fee. If activity is cancelled due to weather conditions considerations will be made.

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