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10 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand

Learn about Maori traditions in New Zealand.

Hangi, hongi, haka, poi, whanau, marae, tiki, Aotearoa… What does it all mean?! All becomes clear once you have partaken in a Maori cultural experience. There are a few different ways to learn about New Zealand’s first culture. Whether it’s a performance, a tour, or a stay on a Marae (Maori meeting grounds), New Zealand is sure give you your cultural fix. One thing is for certain, a Maori activity will always include the Haka – a war dance.

Where can you learn more about the Maori? Well, 60% of the Maori culture reside in the Bay of Plenty, Auckland, Waikato and Northland regions. While you can find Maori activities in the South Island, options are limited. Read our list to find the best place to suit you.

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1. Rotorua

There’s no denying that Rotorua is THE place to go for Maori culture. Many Maori legends are told about this iconic city. You’re bound to hear them on one of the many cultural experiences in the city. Visit one of the villages where you can even stay overnight.

Maori cultural attractions in Rotorua: Tamaki Village, Hells Gate Geothermal Park, Mitai Maori Village, Mourea Marae, Rotorua Museum, Te Puia, Whakarewarewa, Pohutu Cultural Theatre, and Rotorua Healing Tours.


2. Bay of Islands

Go to one of the most historically significant places in New Zealand, Waitangi. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds is where a treaty was signed between the Maori and the Europeans. The grounds are also where you can enjoy a  cultural performance. The Bay of Islands is also the place try paddling in a waka (Maori canoe).

Maori cultural experiences in the Bay of Islands: Waitangi Treaty Grounds (Culture North) and Taiamai Tours.

3. Auckland

From cultural dance and song performed in the Auckland Museum to a Marae stay on the beautiful Waiheke Island, there are a few options to enjoy the Maori culture in the City of Sails.

Maori cultural experiences in Auckland: Auckland Museum, Te Hana, Potiki Adventures, The Maori Auckland Tour, TIME Unlimited Tours, and Walk with Maori – Waiheke Island.

4. Hokianga

On your way up to the very north of the North Island to the spiritual Cape Reinga and Spirits Bay, stop in Hokianga Harbour for a overnight Marae stay.

Maori cultural experiences in Northland: Motuti Marae.

5. Whanganui National Park

Make your Whangaui Journey, on the the New Zealand Great Walks, a cultural journey by staying in a Marae. In the heart of this untouched and ancient forest, this truly is a unique experience.

Maori cultural experience in Whanganui: Tieke Hut

6. Wellington

Models, arts, crafts and interactive display: the Te Papa Museum in Wellington is a huge source of information on Maori traditions. The city also offers a “Maori Treasure Tour”. At the nearby Kapiti Island, you can combine spotting New Zealand’s unique wildlife with some Maori hospitality as you stay the night on the island.

Maori cultural experience in Wellington: Maori Treasures Cultural Tour,

7. Kaikoura

In the South Island, Kaikoura encompasses both mountains and sea. Learn about the Maori legends of this land and even take a tour into the forests to see how New Zealand plants were traditionally used.

Maori cultural experience in Kaikoura: Maori Tours Kaikoura.

8. Christchurch

Delve into the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve to see the South Island’s only Maori village experience. Witness a cultural performance and eat a delicious Hangi meal cooked in an “earth oven”.

Maori cultural experience in Christchurch: Ko Tane

9. Queenstown

See for yourself the famous Haka at the top of the Queenstown gondola. The performance encapsulates the war dance and use of poi.

Maori cultural experience in Queenstown: Kiwi Haka

10. franz Josef

Franz Josef isn’t just about glaciers! See a Maori show with stick games and weapons demonstrations. It is one of the more affordable shows – ideal for a tight backpacker budget.

Maori cultural experience in Franz Josef: Puawai Maori Cultural Show

11. Hokitika

A rich history of greenstone (pounamu) discovery exists along the West Coast of the South Island. There are opportunities here to carve your own greenstone – a Maori tradition. You will have something to cherish forever or a souvenir gift for your family and friends when you get back home.

Maori greenstone and bone carving in Hokitika: Bonz n’ Stonz Carving Studio & Gallery and Arahura Greenstone Tours.

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