Maui's Fish: How the North Island got its name

The Māori name for the North Island of New Zealand is Te Ika-a-Maui - the fish of Maui. Here's how it got its name.

Maui was a demigod in Māori mythology - a clever trickster famed for his many great deeds. When Maui's older brothers refused to let him join their fishing trip one day, he hid in the bottom of the canoe or waka until it was safely out to sea. His brothers were furious and wouldn't give him bait or a hook, so Maui used his grandmother's magical jawbone, baited with his own blood. With these tools he caught an enormous fish and hauled it up to the surface.

While Maui went to fetch the rest of the village, his greedy brothers began to carve up the fish for themselves, hacking into it with their weapons and hewing off great chunks. This is how the North Island got its bumpy terrain of mountains, valleys, lakes and cliffs.

If you look at a map of the North Island you can see the fish, with its tail at the top and its head at the south, and its fins on either side forming Taranaki and the East Coast.

You can explore Maui’s catch by bus with InterCity’s ‘Big Fish’ TravelPass. Take in highlights of the North Island, from Auckland’s big city vibe and black sand beaches all the way down to Wellington inside the fish’s mouth.

On the way you’ll pass through the carved-up, diverse countryside created by Maui’s brothers, from the lush rural countryside in the Waikato (where you’ll take a guided tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set) through to the volcanic plateau of Rotorua and Taupo and the gorges and hill ranges that form the spine of Te Ika-a-Maui.

Find out more about InterCity’s North Island TravelPasses.

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