Popular Māori cultural experiences

Māori culture and values shape the everyday life of people in New Zealand.

Transport yourself on a journey of discovery, from past to present, with these 10 unique Māori cultural experiences. 

1. Meet Tāne Mahuta, the magnificent Kauri tree

Standing tall and proud in the Waipoua Forest is Tāne Mahuta, one of New Zealand's tallest native kauri tree. Embark on an intimate tour through the forest with Footprints Waipoua. Discover the ancient kauri forest with local Māori storytellers who will guide you at twilight, so you can witness the stillness of the forest as it transforms from day into night. Learn how the forest plays an important role in the lives of local Māori and the eco-system. Listen carefully for the sounds of wildlife, including kiwis and morepork.

2. Learn about the Treaty of Waitangi

As the founding document of New Zealand, the Treaty of Waitangi holds great importance in New Zealand's history. In Northland, take a guided tour through the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, explore the heritage buildings and get up close to the historic war canoe. With so many things to see in the museum, take advantage of the Waitangi Experience Pass which gives you entry to all areas for two consecutive days, so you can take your time exploring the museum.

3. Experience the journey of Kupe, the great Polynesian navigator

Manea, on the shores of the Hokianga Harbour, shares the stories and traditions of the great ancestor, Kupe. According to the people of the Hokianga region, Kupe was one of the first Polynesian navigators to arrive in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Experience a 75-minute multisensory journey of guided storytelling – through large scale artworks, film, performance, digital interaction, and the spectacular Hokianga environment. 

4. Be the first in the world to see the sunrise

In Māori mythology and origin stories, Māui was a famed character whos deeds led to the discovery of New Zealand. This is symbolised in narrative as the 'fishing up' of the North Island. The people of the East Coast of the North Island recount that their mountain, Maunga Hikurangi was the first piece of land to emerge from the sea during these times. As one of the easternmost locations in New Zealand, found 90 kilometres north of Gisborne in the Tairāwhiti region, this mountain is one of the first places in the world to see the sunrise. For a special experience, take a dawn tour with Maunga Hikurangi local guides.

5. See Māori art come alive and witness the wonder of geothermal activity

In Rotorua, you will find Te Puia and the Whakarewarewa Geothermal ValleyTe Puia is not only a place to experience the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere and bubbling mud pools but a place where Māori arts are kept alive and taught at the New Zealand Māori Art and Crafts Institute. Visiting Te Puia gives you the opportunity to see talented carvers at work, turning pieces of wood into intricately detailed art, and feel the power of the geothermal activity. 

6. Paddle a Waka (Canoe) to Split Apple Rock

Paddle a waka (Māori canoe) along the Abel Tasman coast with Waka Tours Abel Tasman. As you glide across the water, hear the stories of Māori ancestors who sailed waka across the Pacific Ocean to Aotearoa, New Zealand. Learn the protocols associated with paddling a waka before embarking on our journey to Toka Ngawhā, Split Apple Rock.

7. Bathe in the healing waters of Ngawha Springs

The geothermal waters of Ngawha Springs(opens in new window) in Te Tai Tokerau, Northland, are famous for their healing properties. Traditionally, Māori women bathed in the waters after childbirth and occasionally Māori warriors from warring tribes bathing together after battle. Ngawha Springs has 24 public and private pools to choose from, each with its own temperature, colour and mineral content. This means you can choose your pool based on your purpose – for instance, some pools are used to treat skin conditions, while others are recommended for chest infections. All are perfect for relaxing in.

8. Take a glimpse into the old world at Te Pā Tū Māori Village

Te Pā Tū Māori Village, found 15km south of Rotorua, is a recreated traditional village under the shelter of an ancient 200 year old native Tawa forest. Discover what life was like for the Māori communities pre-European contact. Honoured traditions, food, stories, songs and performing arts of old remain prevalent to Māori today. 

9. See Whales in Kaikōura

At Whale Watch Kaikōura, glide across the southern waters and, if you're lucky, come up close with giant Sperm whales. Hear the stories of how the local Māori people live with the land and sea together as one. Learn about the great ancestor, Paikea, who came to Aotearoa from the Pacific Islands on the back of a whale many centuries ago. 

10. Experience the Queenstown canyons on a Jet Boat

Experience the beauty of the Queenstown Canyons with Shotover Jet. Feel their power and see the jaw-dropping scenery through an adventure-seeking jet boat ride. Owned by Ngāi Tahu, the iwi (tribe) of the land, the team at Shotover Jet has exclusive access to the spectacular canyons and can tell stories of their ancestors and the special connection they have to the land and area. 


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