History, Arts & Culture

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For a totally unique Kiwi experience, immerse yourself in the local arts and culture.

New Zealand may be a young country, but there is lots to explore in our rich arts and culture scene.  

The diverse wealth of Māori culture, performing arts, literature, museums and art galleries will leave even the most fervent arts and culture buffs completely satisfied.


New Zealand has a thriving arts scene with galleries and studios around the country, a strong performing arts community, and traditional Māori arts and crafts on offer too. 

Major public galleries house historic and modern New Zealand art collections as well as visiting international exhibitions, while dealer galleries offer in-demand and up-and-coming artists.  

You’ll find pieces by local jewellers, ceramicists, sculptors, photographers and glassworkers as you browse local stores. Keep an eye out for artist’s studios and gallery spaces for a chance to meet the artists or see them at work.  

Māori carvers work in wood, bone and pounamu greenstone and you can get a special insight into their process at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute at Te Puia in Rotorua.   

Major arts events include:

Māori culture 

The Māori are the indigenous people of Aotearoa. Their centuries-old culture has shaped New Zealand culture today and is an integral part of life here. From the moment you arrive you will hear te reo Māori spoken – whether it’s a friendly “kia ora” from a local, or the spine-tingling experience of a powhiri (welcome) with waiata (songs).  

You can learn more about Māoritanga through the many cultural attractions around New Zealand, with marae visits, performances, guided tours of historic and cultural sites, and interactive exhibitions of traditional arts and crafts.  

Museum treasures 

New Zealand’s museums are full of interactive experiences and carefully preserved treasures to discover. You’ll find the stories of ancient Māori and early European settlers alongside the story of our developing nationhood and what has made us distinctly Kiwi.  

Highlights include our national museum of Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, the Auckland War Memorial Museum and Toitū Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin. Local museums in smaller towns also offer a fascinating glimpse into New Zealand’s past.


New Zealand is a young country when it comes to human settlement, but our story is rich and there are plenty of spots for history buffs to enjoy 

Historic Māori pa sites, early settler cottages, grand 19th century mansions, an Art Deco city and New Zealand’s only castle all wait to be explored.    

Visit the beautiful Waitangi Treaty Grounds in Northland to learn about a key moment between Māori and the new European arrivals that continues to shape New Zealand life today.  

In Auckland, grand old homes showcase the finer side of colonial life. Napier’s stunning Art Deco architecture captures the glamour and style of the 1930s, while Wellington is home to the old Government Buildings, the largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere. 

Tongariro National Park in the central North Island holds dual UNESCO World Heritage status for its natural wonders and cultural importance to Māori.  

The South Island’s heritage sites highlight the glamour and hardship of the gold rush days, and the day-to-day toil of pioneer farmers. See the remains of the gold miners’ settlement in Arrowtown, and marvel at the splendour of Larnach Castle, built by an eccentric Dunedin banker in the 1870s. 

Early history highlights 

Seek out the less visible marks of New Zealand’s early Māori history – undulating ridges on hillsides point to ancient Māori fortifications and settlements, and you can follow in the footsteps of early Māori as they travelled by water and on land for hunting and trading.  

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