After a 3 1/2 hour ferry crossing from the Southern Point of New Zealand’s North Island (Wellington) to the Northern tip of the South Island (Picton), we sought out a fun destination that would reward the kids for good behavior on the ferry, as well as fill some extra time before a long drive to Nelson. Picton is a small town with a population of only 4,000-ish residents, and although it gets a lot of through-traffic, it isn’t typically thought of as a destination for tourists to New Zealand.

You have to admit, this port town has a sweet little spot on the water!

There goes the ferry!

On TripAdvisor I spotted the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum in Picton, and immediately found myself fascinated and wanting to visit. The Edwin Fox is a boat that was built in 1853 in India, and was the last of her type (made exclusively from teak and saul timber). She has quite a history–first being a cargo ship, then transporting troops for the Crimean war, and then again carrying civilian passengers and cargo. It also spent time carrying indentured servants from Southeast Asia and China to Cuba, where they worked in cane fields. In 1858 she was chartered by the British Government to transport convicts to Western Australia, and then in 1873 it was charted by the Shaw Savill Company to carry immigrants from New Zealand to England. This especially piqued my interested…because I am a “Saville” (also sometimes shorted to “Savill”), and I’m almost certain there is a relation, although I have yet to track down c0-owner Walter Savill in my genealogy research. The Edwin Fox did 4 voyages carrying a total of 751 passengers to the new colony in New Zealand (the longest emigration route in the world), and then she was repurposed as a freezer hulk to support the booming sheep business on the South Island. She reached her final resting place in Picton in 1897, where she remained as a freezer ship, then a coal hulk. The Edwin Fox society purchased her in 1965 (for one shilling) and after many delayed efforts they finally got her on a dry dock in 1999 where they have preserved her as a tourist attraction.

We started our visit in the upper room of the museum that showed an informational documentary about the ship’s history. The kids didn’t find it too interesting, but while the adults tried to watch the kids happily occupied themselves with the dress-up bin!

The room had great displays with artifacts, placards and many photos. When we had our fill, we headed down to the ship itself!

Since it also had dress-up, the kids’ fun continued!

We tried to teach the kids what it would be like to sleep in Steerage Class in these replica bunks. “Steerage Class was the cheapest accommodation, with the world food & conditions. Each “unit” was for a family of up to 6 people-Dad, Mum and up to 4 children. Imagine 3 people sleeping “top and tail” on each level, in dark, damp, smelly spaces, on a straw filled mattress, for a 12 to 14 week voyage!”

There was a great deal of sickness in Steerage Class—as it was often crawling with ticks, cockroaches and rats. There were outbreaks of serious diseases such as measles, diptheria, scarlet fever, typhoid, small pox and tuberculosis.”

Next we went below-decks where a great expanse of open boat was available for exploration…

and make-believe…

Eli (2 1/2 years old) mainly just watched his older, silly siblings!

All-in-all, the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum is somewhat small, but well-done and a fun break after/before a long ferry ride! I think it was also helpful in educating us and providing us perspective regarding the conditions the British emigrants had to face on their long journey to New Zealand!  Now…if only I can figure out my relation to Walter Savill, the co-owner of the Shaw Savill Company who last owned this boat…then I will be fully-satisfied! 🙂

My name is Alisa, and I love traveling the world with my adventurous husband and rambunctious 5 small children. I am passionate about gorgeous scenery, meeting new people, and I’m a certified salad nut. Most of all, I love making memories with my family, and I enjoy sharing our travels with others!


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