Te Aroha & District museum

Presenting the history of our town and district in ways that recognise and explain our shared past, as the foundation of our future

The Coastwatchers

During the early years of the Second World War, New Zealand was in very real danger of being invaded by the Japanese. To achieve an early warning of an invasion the Government established a network of “Coastwatchers” who maintained a lonely vigil over sixteen million square miles of the South Pacific Ocean. 

Two soldiers generally accompanied each civilian radio operator, supplied by the New Zealand Post and Telegraph Department. The soldiers were all volunteers, selected for their initiative and self-reliance.  

Come and learn about the Coastwatchers and the tragic story of local men Claude Kilpin from Manawaru and Robert Hitchon from Waitoa who remained at their posts despite grave danger and paid the ultimate price. 

The Te Aroha and District Museum Society Inc presents the history of the district through thousands of artefacts and extensive displays of historic photos; early Maori relics; gold mining days; early settlers; business and development; the Domain; and the town's rich spa history through which the story of Te Aroha, the district and its people is told.

The Museum's home, for the last 53 years, is the Cadman Bath House sitting splendidly at the top of the Domain and along with the other buildings at its side it forms the only complete Edwardian Domain remaining in New Zealand.  The Bath House opened in 1898 and was the first building commissioned especially for tourists - Te Aroha is hailed as "the birth place of tourism in New Zealand". 

In 1971 the Te Aroha Mayor Henry Skidmore began the Museum.   From humble beginnings the Museum has grown to be a vibrant place of interest and is constantly developing both through extending its collection and methods of display.  The Museum is proud to showcase a great number of its artefacts, along with photographs and the stories behind the objects and people of Te Aroha and its surrounding districts.

"Taking the waters" is a wonderful DVD by author Kevin Wells which provides a fascinating history of the spa days and the Domain, narrated by actor Ian Harrop.  This DVD will take you on a journey of discovery and is available for viewing at any time at the Museum, it's a great place to start your visit.


Take our full immersion virtual reality tour here and get a flavour of what our Museum is all about.

"Excellent, really enjoyed it"

"So much information, wonderful"

"Awesome"  "Absolutely beautiful"

Recent comments from our visitors book


Volunteers have added to, created and refreshed many displays recently at the Museum, including: the Power display; the Hot Springs; Pioneer Days; Sporting Heroes; Spa History; Honouring our People; our Aviation Story; Waihou Village - and there are more new displays in development.