Santa’s Cave
Te Whare Hana Kōkō

1918 - 2020: Celebrating more than 100 years of Magic in Palmerston North

Meet Santa

Santa will be in the cave to meet visitors at the following times and dates:

10am – 12.30pm: 14-15 November; 21-22 November; 28 November – 24 December.

2pm – 4.30pm: 28-29 November; 5-6 December; 12-13 December, 17-23 December.

1.30pm – 3pm: 24 December


Please note: Santa’s Cave closes at 3pm on 24 December

Santa’s Cave Events

Celebrate the 100th opening of Santa’s Cave with a festive programme of special events and tours.
Places for all events are limited and bookings are essential: call 0800 4 A MUSEUM.


4 & 18 December, 6pm and 7pm
PJs in the Cave!

Beat the queues and bring the family in for an exclusive time in Santa’s Cave. The kids can don their jim-jams, have a Milo and round off the evening with bedtime stories read by the man in red himself! Sessions are an hour long, from 6-7pm and 7-8pm. There are two dates, 4 December and 18 December
$7 Child, $2 Adult, ($15 per family of 4, with extra children $3 each)

Image: Santa Claus on the balcony of Collinson and Cunninghame department store (above ‘Toyland’) throwing sweets to a crowd, 1932 – early 1940s (detail). Black and white photographic print Collection Te Manawa Museums Trust, Acc. no. 86/135/14


A seasonal favourite for all ages!

Santa’s Cave is now open!

The historic Santa’s Cave is a perennial favourite for all ages and walks of life. For some, it’s a magical trip down memory lane. Others find its kitsch-factor totally endearing. There are those who even find it curiously creepy… but all agree, it wouldn’t be Christmas in Palmerston North without the Cave. It is one of our region’s most loved treasures. General entry to Santa’s Cave is by donation – your support keeps the tradition alive!



Decking the Halls for 100 years!



In 1904, Leo Henry Collinson and John Cunninghame started a clothing store on The Square in Palmerston North. Their partnership was a roaring success, and by 1910 the business of Collinson & Cunninghame Ltd employed more than 50 people. When members of the Collinson and Cunninghame families sold the business to the Farmers Trading Company in 1983, C&C’s (as it had become known) was considered to have been a true family business built on delivering value, quality and excellent service.

Elworthy Doddrell, a young Englishman trained as a hosier (a dealer in stockings and socks), worked in London before migrating to New Zealand with his wife and two children in 1910. He obtained a position with Collinson & Cunninghame Ltd in Palmerston North. According to his descendants, Doddrell suggested to C&C’s management that they open a Christmas Cave in the basement of the department store. Doddrell moved to Wellington in 1912, becoming Superintendant and Assistant Manager at the D.I.C. department store there…but the seed of the idea was planted.

1918 marked the end of the First World War but also the arrival in New Zealand of the influenza pandemic, which swept across the world in October and November that year, killing more than 8,600 New Zealanders. To generate a spirit of optimism throughout the community, Collinson & Cunninghame decided to go ahead with Doddrell’s idea, and the Cave opened on Christmas Eve, 1918. Admission was one shilling. Children under the age of 14 were allowed in from 6.30 to 8.30pm. In the windows of the store, displays included an electrically run toy circus complete with clowns, acrobats and animals.

Santa’s Cave grew enormously in popularity during the 1920s. One of the store’s catalogues recorded that in 1921, 11,000 people visited. Numbers continued to grow as each year a new series of displays was added. When Collinson & Cunninghame was upgraded in 1965, they did not forget about Santa’s Cave. In fact many of the displays you see now date from this period in the store’s history. When Farmers took over in 1983, they continued the Santa’s Cave tradition for 27 years, until relocating to its new store in The Plaza. By that time, an agreement had been reached with Te Manawa Museums Trust to take over the preservation and operation of Santa’s Cave, for the enjoyment of future generations