One of the best things about travelling across Aotearoa is the ease in which you can get around, especially if you’re road-tripping by car. Look beyond the big cities to find rare, cultural treats and boundary-pushing contemporary art in picturesque regional areas.

Here are some out-of-the-way art galleries worth making the trip for.

Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui
Whanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery has one of the most notable art collections in New Zealand, comprising over 8000 artworks valued at approximately $30 million and spanning more than 400 years of international art history.

Named in honour of philanthropist Henry Sarjeant, who funded its creation, the gallery has relocated to a temporary space – Sarjeant on the Quay – while its usual home (a 100-year-old building in the middle of town) gets a $50 million upgrade.

Check out the extensive photographic collection, including the Denton collection, a renowned practitioner of the pictorialism movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. There’s also a First World War political cartoon collection and a comprehensive catalogue of 18th and 19th century British and European paintings. Admission is free.

Tauranga Art Gallery, Tauranga
Relying largely on the generosity of art-loving donors, Tauranga Art Gallery has a collection of around 500 works, predominately by local artists and people with a connection to the North Island’s Bay of Plenty.

The gallery brings into sharp focus the early contact between Māori and British (Pakeha) settlers in many of its works and exhibitions, with early Māori art and culture usually front and centre. The modern zeitgeist is not ignored though, so don’t be surprised to stumble upon the odd Banksy. Education is a key theme, too, with exhibitions often tailored to align with the national school curriculum. Entry by donation (koha).

The Hundertwasser Art Centre, Whangarei
Named after the Austrian avant-garde artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who moved to the Bay of Islands in his later years, this brand-new arts centre in the Northland town of Whanagrei opened its doors in February.

Two galleries make up the centre. One will include the only permanent display of Hundertwasser works outside of Austria, while the other – the Wairau Māori Art Gallery – will be New Zealand’s first public gallery dedicated to exhibiting contemporary Māori art. Curated entirely by Māori, this gallery was inspired by Hundertwasser’s strong attachment to the Māori people he lived around, and their connection with living landscapes.

The building was designed by Hundertwasser himself and is worth the visit alone, adorned with mosaic tilings, ceramic columns and trees sprouting from the roof, reflecting the artist’s love of nature.
Entry is $21 for adults and $10 for children.

Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth
Take a walk along New Plymouth’s waterfront and you’ll likely be drawn to the mesmerising, moving sculptures by Len Lye. An artist like no other, Lye is a devotee to the “art of motion,” specialising in creating kinetic installations – often long, wand-like structures set in public areas that bow and whistle with the wind.

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery on Queen Street houses the Len Lye Centre, home to a vast collection of Lye’s groundbreaking work, including textiles, photograms and experimental films (some 18,000 items). But don’t overlook the gallery proper, arguably New Zealand’s finest cutting-edge, contemporary art museum. Built on the site of the city’s former heritage cinema, it features nine exhibition spaces, including a (new and updated) 60-seat cinema.

The permanent collection is an eclectic mix of paintings, photographs and sculptures (check out the corrugated iron fashioning of the Interislander ferry Arahura) and be sure to grab a souvenir from the well-stocked gallery shop on your way out. Entry is $15 for adults.

Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin
New Zealand’s first art gallery – established in 1884 – is located in The Octagon, right in the heart of the South Island city of Dunedin. Notable for holding the only Monet in a New Zealand collection, the gallery mixes overseas art with local favourites, such as the pioneering painter (and Dunedin native) Frances Hodgkins.

Fans of watercolours will delight in over 1300 British works, as will devotees of decorative arts, Japanese prints and classic oil paintings. There’s even a selection of 20th century Australian art to remind Aussie visitors of home.

Exhibitions are continually rotating through so check the website for the latest announcements.
Entry is free.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Tourism New Zealand.