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

50 Best Places to Experience Māori Culture in New Zealand [2024]

© James Heremaia – Tourism NZ

Where to Experience the Māori Culture in New Zealand

Hāngī, hongi, haka, poi, whānau, marae, tiki, Aotearoa… What does it all mean?! All becomes clear once you have partaken in a Māori cultural experience. There are a few ways to learn about New Zealand‘s first culture. Whether it’s a performance, a tour or a stay on a marae (Māori meeting grounds), New Zealand sure gives you your cultural fix. Whatever Māori cultural experience you choose, one thing is for certain; it will always include the famous haka war dance. But where exactly can you experience Māori culture in New Zealand?

Rotorua – North Island

There’s no denying that Rotorua is the place to go for Māori culture. Many Māori 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, Māori geothermal parks and organised Māori tourist attractions where you can even stay overnight.

The Best Māori Cultural Attractions in Rotorua:

  1. Te Pā Tū (formerly Tamaki Maori Village) – Cultural evening entertainment with a hangi buffet – more info on Viator and Klook
  2. Mitai Māori Village – Cultural evening entertainment with a hangi buffet
  3. Te Puia – Daytime cultural performances set in a geothermal park
  4. Whakarewarewa: The Living Māori Village – Learn Māori traditions in a geothermal landscape – more info on Viator and Klook
  5. Hell’s Gate Geothermal Park – Geothermal park and hot pools steeped in Māori legend and history – more info on Viator and Klook
  6. Buried Village of Te Wairoa – Historical tour of an ancient Māori village
  7. Totally Tarawera – Culturally and environmentally focussed sightseeing tours around Lake Tarawera.

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

Bay of Islands (Ipipiri) – North Island

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 (Māori canoe).

Maori Cultural Experiences in the Bay of Islands

  1. Waitangi Treaty Grounds – Museum, crafting, cultural show and historical site – more info on Viator and Klook
  2. Taiamai Tours – Guided waka tours down the Waitangi River to Haruru Falls.
13 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand© NZPocketGuide.com

Auckland (Tāmaki Makaurau) – North Island

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 Māori culture in Auckland, also known as “Tāmaki Makaurau“.

Māori Cultural Experiences in Auckland

  1. Auckland Museum – Māori exhibitions and cultural performances daily
  2. TIME Unlimited Tours Full day culturally-focussed sightseeing tours of Auckland and its west coast – more info on Viator and Klook
  3. Kiko Guided Tours – Full day culturally-focussed sightseeing tours of Auckland and its west coast
  4. Hike Bike Ako Waiheke Island – Maori cultural tour combined with hiking and cycling on Waiheke Island
  5. Te Hana Te Ao Marama – Cultural tours of a model historical Māori village and pā site
  6. Potiki Adventures – Tour Waiheke Island with a local Maori guide with wine and olive oil tasting
  7. Navigator Tours – Customised cultural tours, including fishing and waka tours, in the Auckland and Northland regions.
© James Heremaia - Tourism NZ

Northland (Te Tai Tokerau) – North Island

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, Tāne Mahuta, where Māori guides will teach you about myths and legends surrounding the forest. Alternatively, in Whāngarei, there are some down-to-earth Māori tours with local families offering an alternative experience far from the typical “kapa haka” performance.

Māori Cultural Experiences in Northland

  1. Footprints Waipoua – After dark guided tours among New Zealnad’s largest trees
  2. Tu Tika Tours – Comprehensive small-group tour of Whāngarei with a focus on traditions of the Māori culture
  3. Whispering Trails – Gathering, hunting, fishing and guided hikes.
NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

Whanganui National Park – North Island

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 Māori 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 Māori experiences.

Māori Cultural Experiences in Whanganui

  1. Tieke Hut – DOC hut on a working marae
  2. Ki Tai – Guided canoe tours in the lower regions of the Whanganui River
  3. Owhango Adventures – Multi-day culturally-focussed Māori guided canoe tours of the Whanganui River
  4. Unique Whanganui – Multi-day culturally-focussed Māori guided canoe tours of the Whanganui River
  5. Whanganui Tours – Driving sightseeing at culturally significant sites along the Whanganui River with local guides.

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

Wellington (Te Whanganui a Tara) – North Island

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

Māori Cultural Experiences in Wellington

  1. Te Papa Museum – Guided Māori tours, collections of historical artefacts and exhibitions showcasing Māori history
  2. Kapiti Island Nature Tours – Nature-focussed tours with lunch hosted by a local Māori family
  3. Te Wharewaka o Poneke – Waka and walking tours in Wellington city centre
  4. Waka Kapiti Eco Tours – Waka tours on the Kapiti Coast (north of Wellington).
NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

Hawke’s Bay (Te Matau-a-Māui) – North Island

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 Māori village) and learn the ancestral history and traditions of the Māori people.

Māori Cultural Experiences in Hawke’s Bay

  1. Waimarama Maori Tours – Private or small-group tours of a historical pā site with a local family.
© NZPocketGuide.com

Wanaka – South Island

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

Māori Cultural Experiences in Wanaka

  1. WanaHaka – Traditional pōwhiri welcoming ceremony at the Wanaka Tree and culturally-focussed wine tours.

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

West Coast (Te Tai Poutini) – South Island

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 Māori 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.

Māori Cultural Experiences on the West Coast

  1. Garth Wilson Jade – Take a tour of a carving workshop from one of the descendants of the region’s original pounamu traders
  2. Arahura Greenstone Tours – Collect and make your own pounamu pendant near Hokitika
  3. Te Koha Gallery – Pounamu carving in Franz Josef
  4. Bonz ‘N’ Stonz Carving Studio – Although not Maori-run, this is another opportunity to carve your own pounamu.
© NZPocketGuide.com

Abel Tasman National Park (Te Tai Tapu) – South Island

The breathtaking coastline of the Abel Tasman National Park provides an idyllic setting for learning about a traditional yet significant waka canoeing.

Māori Cultural Experiences in the Abel Tasman National Park

  1. Waka Abel Tasman – Cultural and scenic tour aboard traditional Māori waka in the Abel Tasman National Park.

10 Best Places to Experience Māori Culture in New Zealand [2024]© www.nelsontasman.nz

Christchurch and Canterbury (Waitaha) – South Island

In Christchurch and the wider Canterbury region, Māori culture is a vibrant and integral part of the community, reflecting the area’s deep-rooted history and traditions of the Ngāi Tahu tribe, the principal Māori iwi (tribe) of the southern region of New Zealand. Not only do local museums like the Canterbury Museum and the Christchurch Art Gallery incorporate Māori perspectives and artefacts in their exhibitions, but there are also Māori tours to immerse further.

Māori Cultural Experiences in Christchurch and Canterbury

  1. Ko Tāne Waka – Waka paddling tour down Christchurch’s Avon river
  2. Te Puna o Waiwhetū (Christchurch Art Gallery) – Features Māori art and exhibitions
  3. The Canterbury Museum – Offers collections that include Māori artefacts and historical exhibits
  4. Te Ana Māori Rock Art Centre & Tours – Learn about the region’s ancient Māori rock carvings at a museum in Timaru and take tours to the original sites.

10 Best Places to Experience Māori Culture in New Zealand [2024]© ChristchurchNZ

Dunedin (Ōtepoti) – South Island

In Dunedin, or Ōtepoti, Māori culture thrives through the presence of the Ngāi Tahu tribe. The city celebrates its indigenous heritage with vibrant art, traditional carvings and local institutions like the Otago Museum showcasing Māori artefacts. Guided tours offer deeper insights into the rich Māori history and contemporary contributions, making Dunedin a pivotal location for experiencing and learning about the enduring legacy of the Māori in New Zealand.

Māori Cultural Experiences in Dunedin

  1. Horizon Tours – Maori-run nature and sightseeing tours in Dunedin, including culturally-focussed stargazing tours.

10 Best Places to Experience Māori Culture in New Zealand [2024]© NZPocketGuide.com

Māori-Style Tattoos

A more permanent way to experience the Māori culture in New Zealand is by getting a Māori-style tattoo. Otherwise known as ta moko, Māori tattoos often tell a story. Get your tattoo designed by a Māori artist and you will learn a lot about the culture along the way. There are many places you can get a Māori tattoo in New Zealand, but a good place to start is with these tattoo studios focussing on Māori designs:

  1. Moko Ink – Specialises in traditional Māori and Polynesian tattoos in West Auckland
  2. Ōtautahi Tattoo Auckland – Offers ta moko and kirituhi, focusing on the wearer’s story
  3. Ōtautahi Tattoo Queenstown – Ta moko and kirituhi designs for individuals in Queenstown
  4. Art n Soul Tattoo Studio – Whangarei’s oldest tattoo shop with a mix of styles, including Māori designs
  5. Zealand Tattoo Queenstown – Specialises in timeless Maori, Samoan and Oriental tattoos
  6. Zealand Tattoo Christchurch – Expert in Māori, Samoan and Oriental tattoo designs in Christchurch
  7. Visual Intelligence Tattoo & Art Studio – Offers a variety of styles, including ta moko, in Papamoa
  8. Karanga Ink – Indigenous and Māori tattooing, blending tradition with modernity in Auckland
  9. Natives Tattoo & Supply Co – Specialises in ta moko and kirituhi art forms in Palmerston North
  10. Flax Roots Tattoo – Offers classic Māori and contemporary designs in Hamilton.

Learn more about getting a Māori tattoo with our complete guide to Where to Get a Tattoo in New Zealand?

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

Frequently Asked Questions About Māori Cultural Experiences

Exploring Māori culture offers a profound insight into the heritage and spiritual essence of New Zealand. Here are some frequently asked questions to guide you through Māori cultural experiences.

Which cities and regions have the most Māori population?

Well, 60% of the Māori population resides in the Bay of Plenty, Auckland, Waikato and Northland regions. While you can find Māori 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 – even on the South Island!

Where can I see Māori culture in the South Island?

Māori culture in the South Island, or Te Waipounamu, can be experienced in several places. Key locations include:

  • Ōtautahi (Christchurch): Here, you can visit the Canterbury Museum and Te Puna o Waiwhetū (Christchurch Art Gallery) for Māori art and historical artefacts and join the Ko Tane Waka tour.
  • Abel Tasman: Join a waka paddling tour in paradise.
  • Greymouth, Hokitika and Franz Josef: Experience greenstone (pounamu) carving; a traditional Māori craft.

Which is the best Māori experience?

The “best” Māori experience is subjective and depends on what you are looking to learn and experience. On the North Island, places like Rotorua and Waitangi are renowned for their immersive Māori cultural experiences. In the South Island, consider engaging with cultural tours in Christchurch and Abel Tasman or experiencing pounamu carving on the West Coast for authentic insights. Experiences that include a pōwhiri (traditional welcome), hāngi (traditional feast), and kapa haka (Māori performance) are highly recommended for a comprehensive understanding of Māori culture. Learn more about these aspects in our guide to The Māori Culture in New Zealand.

Are there Māoris on the South Island?

Yes, there are Māoris on the South Island. The South Island is home to several iwi (tribes), with Ngāi Tahu being the principal iwi. Māori people in the South Island, like those in the North, are proud of their heritage and actively maintain their cultural practices, traditions and language.

Where can I learn about Māori in Christchurch?

In Christchurch (Ōtautahi), you can learn about Māori culture at:

  • Ko Tāne Waka – Waka paddling tour down Christchurch’s Avon river
  • Te Puna o Waiwhetū (Christchurch Art Gallery) – Features Māori art and exhibitions
  • The Canterbury Museum – Offers collections that include Māori artefacts and historical exhibits
  • Te Ana Māori Rock Art Centre & Tours – Learn about the region’s ancient Māori rock carvings at a museum in Timaru and take tours to the original sites.

Which is better: Mitai or Tamaki Māori Village (Te Pā Tū)?

Both Mitai Māori Village and Te Pā Tū (formerly Tamaki Māori Village) offer compelling and immersive experiences, but they differ slightly in focus and style:

  • Mitai Māori Village provides a more intimate setting, often highlighted by its authentic war canoe display in a natural bush setting.
  • Te Pā Tū is known for its interactive approach, allowing visitors to engage more directly with Māori culture through workshops and demonstrations in addition to the performances and a feast.

Choosing between them depends on personal preference. If you lean towards a more intimate, family-run experience, Mitai may be for you. For a broader, more interactive evening, Te Pā Tū (Tamaki) could be the better choice. Both are highly rated and offer deep insights into Māori culture.

Where is the best place in New Zealand to experience Māori culture?

While Rotorua is often considered the heartland of Māori cultural experiences due to its concentration of interactive experiences, the best place can vary based on what aspect of Māori culture you’re interested in:

  • Rotorua – For geothermal wonders combined with cultural performances, traditional crafts and hāngi meals.
  • Waitangi – For historical significance, visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands, where New Zealand’s founding document was signed.
  • Auckland – For urban experiences, Auckland offers the Auckland War Memorial Museum with its extensive Māori artefact collection and cultural performances.
  • Northland and the Far North – For a more spiritual perspective, the Cape Reinga/Te Rerenga Wairua area offers insights into Māori mythology and spirituality.

Each of these locations offers a unique perspective on Māori culture, from historical and spiritual to contemporary life. Depending on your interests, you might find one area more compelling than the others.

More on Places to Experience the Māori Culture in New Zealand

That’s it for our list of the best places to experience the Māori culture in New Zealand, but it’s by no means the end of our tips for learning more about New Zealand’s fascinating Māori 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 Māori Culture in New Zealand.

Author

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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