Butler Point Whaling Museum commemorates the close association of the Point and Mangonui with the global whaling industry. Whaling became popular in New Zealand in the late 1700’s and New Zealand’s safe waters, large population of whales and plenty of places to stock up on food and provisions encouraged whalers from around the world. William Butler began his career as a ‘green hand’ at 14 years old and went on to master his own whaling ship at 24 years old, before settling in Mangonui. Here he became a successful merchant, supplying the whaling industry and trading with Australia.
Visit the museum and explore the history of whaling in New Zealand, through the story of Captain William Butler.
Tours of the museum, house and gardens are by appointment only and can be booked online.
Exhibits held within the museum represent almost 50 years obtaining authentic items associated with the whaling industry. Pieces have been sourced from New Zealand, Australia, England and North America. Together they represent one of the finest private collections in New Zealand.
Among the items on display in the Museum are a refurbished whaleboat; a reconstructed tryworks; examples of whalebone; a large range of harpoons and flensing (cutting in) equipment. You can view paraphernalia associated with shipboard life, including a full set of ship’s surgical instruments; old prints and photographs of aspects of the whaling industry; and models of whaleships and whaleboats. An extensive collection of scrimshaw, including some unique and very notable pieces, is also on display.
The first recorded whaleship to visit Doubtless Bay was the ‘William and Ann’ captained by an American, Eber Bunker. Over the years many other whaling captains arriving in New Zealand had contact with the local Māori. Department of Conservation and the University of Auckland carried out archaeological excavations on the Pa (hillfort) at Butler Point and uncovered both early Māori artefacts and European manufactured items such as clay pipe pieces and glass bottle fragments. This clearly shows early historic contact between Māori and visiting whalers. The artefacts from the excavations are on display in the Museum. In New Zealand waters many of the whalers were Māori. Explore the historical links between the local Māori and the whalers at the museum.