13 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand© James Heremaia - Tourism NZ
13 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand

10 Best Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand [2023]

© James Heremaia – Tourism NZ

Where to Experience the Maori Culture 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 sure gives you your cultural fix. Whatever Maori cultural experience you choose, one thing is for certain; it will always include the famous haka war dance. But where exactly can you experience Maori culture in New Zealand?

Which Cities and Regions Have the Most Maori Population?

Well, 60% of the Maori population resides in the Bay of Plenty, Auckland, Waikato and Northland regions. While you can find Maori activities on the South Island, options are limited. Read our list to find the best places to experience the Maori culture as you’re travelling around New Zealand.

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 and you’re bound to hear them on one of the many cultural experiences available. Visit one of the villages, Maori geothermal parks and organised Maori tourist attractions where you can even stay overnight.

5 Best Maori Cultural Attractions in Rotorua:

  1. Te Pa Tu (formerly Tamaki Maori Village – more info on Viator and Klook)
  2. Mitai Maori Village
  3. Te Puia
  4. Whakarewarewa: The Living Maori Village (on Viator and Klook)
  5. Hell’s Gate Geothermal Park (on Viator and Klook).

Learn more about each specific tour in the 10 Best Maori Tours in New Zealand.

13 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand© Destination Rotorua

2. Bay of Islands (Ipipiri)

Discover 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 British to form the country of New Zealand. The grounds are also where you can enjoy a cultural performance outside of a carved whare (meeting house). The Bay of Islands is also the place to try paddling in a waka (Maori canoe).

Maori Cultural Experiences in the Bay of Islands

13 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand© NZPocketGuide.com

3. Auckland (Tāmaki Makaurau)

From cultural dance and song performed in the Auckland Museum to a marae stay on the beautiful Waiheke Island, there are varied options to enjoy the Maori culture in Auckland, also known as “Tāmaki Makaurau“.

Maori Cultural Experiences in Auckland

© James Heremaia - Tourism NZ

4. Northland (Te Tai Tokerau)

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 walking tours to New Zealand’s largest kauri tree, Tane Mahuta, where Maori guides will teach you about myths and legends surrounding the forest. Alternatively, in Whangarei, there are some down-to-earth Maori tours with local families offering an alternative experience far from the typical “kapa haka” performance.

Maori Cultural Experiences in Northland

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

5. Whanganui National Park

Make your Whanganui Journey, on the New Zealand Great Walks, a cultural journey by staying in a marae. That’s right, one of the backcountry huts along the Whanganui River, a river that is so significant to the local Maori that it has been given the rights of the human entity, is a marae. For those who do not want to travel into the depths of the wilderness, however, Whanganui City also boasts its share of Maori experiences.

Maori Cultural Experiences in Whanganui

10 Best Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand [2023]© Daniel Deans - Department of Conservation

6. Wellington (Te Whanganui a Tara)

Models, arts, crafts and interactive display: the Te Papa Museum in Wellington is a huge source of information on Maori traditions and boasts a dedicated “Mana Māori 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 Experiences in Wellington

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

7. Waimarama & Hawke’s Bay

Located in the quiet coastal town of Waimarama in Hawke’s Bay, Waimarama Maori Tours aims to give as authentic Maori cultural experiences as you can get. Visit a historical site (old Maori village) and learn the ancestral history and traditions of the Maori people.

Maori Cultural Experiences in Hawke’s Bay

© NZPocketGuide.com

8. Wanaka

Although most would associate the scenic lakeside town with skiing and photo opportunities concerning lone trees, Wanaka still has a rich Maori history and is steeped in traditions which you can experience with its local Maori tour operator. Whether it’s a traditional Maori welcome to the town or an indulgent wine tour, there are some interesting Maori experiences in this South Island town.

Maori Cultural Experiences in Wanaka

10 Best Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand [2023]© Viator

9. Hokitika & the West Coast

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 that you can experience in towns like Hokitika and even Franz Josef. You will have something to cherish forever or a souvenir gift for your family and friends when you get back home.

Maori Cultural Experiences on the West Coast

  • Bonz ‘N’ Stonz Carving Studio
  • Arahura Greenstone Tours
  • Te Koha Gallery.
© NZPocketGuide.com

10. Getting a Maori-Style Tattoo

A more permanent way to experience the Maori culture in New Zealand is by getting a Maori-style tattoo. Otherwise known as ta moko, Maori tattoos often tell a story. Get your tattoo designed by a Maori artist and you will learn a lot about the culture along the way. There are many places you can get a Maori tattoo in New Zealand, but a good place to start is by reading our guide to Where to Get a Tattoo in New Zealand?

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

More on Places to Experience the Maori Culture in New Zealand

That’s it for our list of the best places to experience the Maori culture in New Zealand, but it’s by no means the end of our tips for learning more about New Zealand’s fascinating Maori experiences! Check out the guides below for more interesting reads:

Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in our complete guide to The Maori Culture in New Zealand.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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