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Top 11 places to experience Maori heritage & culture in Aotearoa New Zealand

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Integral to the identity of Aotearoa New Zealand is Maori culture, heritage and history. There are a number of Maori tour attractions that are must-go places to visit and learn more about the fascinating story of the settlement of New Zealand.

There are passionate Maori operators enthusiastic about introducing visitors to their treasure trove of stories, happenings and the important places that are part of their cultural legacy. Maori Tourism, has a list of authorised Maori tourism operators providing visitors with a range of activities and attractions. For more ideas check out New Zealand travel guide, heritage and history  for where to go while visiting New Zealand.

Growing in popularity is the celebration of Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique new mid-winter public holiday, Matariki. Mid-year, the lunar festival often occurs in June.


Ahipara weaving and fibre centre where skilled artisans capture Maori beliefs in robes, capes, baskets and decorative objects. A contemporary interpretation of a timeless cultural craft is a must-go for visitors interested in textile art and/or heritage artisan skills. Rotorua is another repository for weaving and material craft.


Ensure that any purchases are ethically sourced and the profits are being reinvested in the community.


Manea Footsteps of Kupe. The Hokianga was a landfall for Kupe, a legendary East Polynesian navigator. His voyage and the eventual settlement of Maoris in New Zealand is brought to life (Ompare, Northland). And make time to further explore the Hokianga; a place where Waipoua Forest is home to the ancient kauri trees. Footprints in Waipoua introduce you to the amazing forest giants, over 2000 years old, the kauri tree.

Tour Manea Footprints of Kupe @ManeaFootprints
Tour Manea Footprints of Kupe @ManeaFootprints
Waitangi Treaty Grounds, New Zealand
Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Waitangi is the heart of the story of the beginnings of contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand. The green manicured lawn reaching out to the bay with the flagpole fluttering in the breeze, the colonial buildings and magnificent treaty grounds with their ocean going waka (canoe), museum and interactive centre are a must-go for visitors interested in heritage and history.


Rotorua with its dynamic living earth of boiling mud and steaming vents has been on the tourist circuit for over 200 years. Undoubtedly a sophisticated Maori cultural experience awaits visitors, check out Rotorua attractions and activities from Maori hangi (outdoor food preparation) to visiting a living village surrounded by steaming vents to contemporary art and craft galleries showcasing talented Maori artistry.


Rotorua Ohinemutu Heritage Village and St Faiths Church

Ohinemutu heritage village has been occupied for hundreds of years. The warm geothermal waters provided steam to cook, bath and heat houses. The village is a living community and a short flat 10 minute walk from downtown Rotorua.

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Pou Haki (Flag Pole) at Ohinemutu, New Zealand
St Faith’s Anglican church at Ohinemutu on Lake Rotorua
Rotorua Village, New Zealand

Rotorua Whakarewarewa: an iconic living Maori village

Authentic experience curated by locals it does not get any better than this. Stunning displays of geothermal energy.

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Pohutu Geyser, Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, Rotorua. Landscape Format with Rainbow.

Te Puia geothermal centre & Maori Art and Craft Institute

Temptation, beautiful jewelled objects would make a perfect holiday memento. And then there is the sheer power of a geyser blowing its top.

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Rotorua Museums & Art Galleries things to do

Outstanding Rotorua Museum with its interactive exhibits. Pompeii of the Pacific, New Zealand’s Buried Village is a testament to the Smith Family.

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Rotorua visitor information centre elaborate Tudor style building, Rotorua, New Zealand
The Bathhouse, one of attractive landmark of Rotorua city, New Zealand. The another name of bathhouse is Rotorua museum.
The Buried Village of Te Wairoa, Rotorua, New Zealand @Holidify

Rotorua Government Gardens

A free public historic garden open 24/7 is a highlight for many visitors. The gorgeous garden is nestled on the edges of Lake Rotorua and within walking distance of the town centre.

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Rotorua Government Gardens spring tulips, New Zealand
Government House Croquet House complete with baby selfie and tulips, Rotorua, New Zealand
Lime pool, heavily mineralised, Sulphur Bay boardwalk, Rotorua

Waikato & Taranaki are notable for their archeological records of the impact of the New Zealand Land wars. There are abandoned pa (villages) destroyed or confiscated during the 19th century. Look for the visible sign of bullet holes in churches and the raised earthen walls of British colonial military redoubts. There is a considerable body of research for the dedicated historian who wishes to discover more information. Te Papa Museum and regional museums, libraries and public records are an excellent place to start.

Ruapekapeka pa - ruins of a maori fortress in New Zealand
Ruapekapeka pa


The modern motorway, State Highway 1 in part is constructed over an original military route for Armed Militia (British colonial forces)

  • Visit Ruapekapeka Pa, fortified military Maori site, ingenious military strategist, Te Ruki Kawiti designed the fortification
  • Visit Kihikihi, Waikato historical precinct with intact original police premises and Rewi Maniapoto Memorial, the Ratau Hill Redoubt and Orakau Battle site
  • Visit Pironga, Waikato and view the remains of the Alexandra Redoubt a 19th century military site
  • Visit Cambridge and embark on Te Ara Wai Journey, a digital mobile story while exploring Cambridge, launched by Waipa District Council.
  • Visit Taranaki and play golf in Manaia and observe The Manaia redoubt is the site of two 1880s blockhouses, and a 1912 replica of the original lookout tower is now part of the golf course.


Waikato, the scene for the nineteenth century NZ Land Wars echoed in a tiny church. Pukekohe’s heritage East Presbyterian church was a witness to the Waikato War. A battalion of Maori warriors attacked a semi-completed stockade resulting in loss of life for both sides of the conflict. The Māori warriors hid the bodies of their slain in the hollows and branches of large trees around the church. A memorial boulder now marks their resting place in the cemetery. The church still bears bullet holes from the battle.


Taranaki where the song  captured the beat of the 20th century in Patea is a contemporary take on an ancient oral tradition. Music and the oral recitation of ancestral links is an integral part of Maori culture. The voice is a powerful instrument welcoming visitors to a marae (meeting place) with established protocols. For visitors who wish to find out more about welcome ceremonies Rotorua’s Maori Village and Whatakane’s Mataatua House are great places to visit.

Heritage Rotorua Maori Village
Heritage Rotorua Maori Village

Whakatane Mataatua Meeting House offers an authentic contemporary introduction to Maori cultural beliefs in a beautifully restored meeting house. Be enthralled as the ancient narratives of our tribe are brought to life before your eyes in Hiko: Legends Carved in Light, the award-winning Mataatua digi-cultural light spectacle. Check out Whakatane for more inspiring holiday ideas.

@Whirinaki Forest Footsteps
@Whirinaki Forest Footsteps

Aotearoa New Zealand is home to Whirinaki prehistoric rainforest. Ancient forest giants tower up to 200 metres. The podocarp forest hosts rimu, totara, kahikatea, matai and miro trees with some estimated to be over 1000 years old. The timeless forest is just over an hour’s drive from the bustling port of Tauranga yet it slumbers without the hordes of tourists you would expect. Accompanied by the guardians of the forest, Whirinaki Forest Footsteps, guides explain the relationship between the forest, the land and the people. The walk is a 12km capturing the key highlights of the forest with a packed picnic, forest to fork, introduction to traditional herbs, waterfalls and mossy canyons. A moderate degree of fitness is required for the tour.

A private guided tour, set at your own pace is available from Whirinaki Rainforest Experiences. For further information check with the tour operator.


Kaiteriteri is home for Waka Tours Abel Tasman. Their beautifully painted waka (traditional double hulled canoes) are a great way to test your seafaring skills. All age groups will enjoy time on the water learning how to paddle in unison and gain insights into local Maori culture and history.

Waka tours, Kaiteriteri Beach, New Zealand @iantrafford
Waka tours @iantrafford
Hokitika's clock tower, West Coast, New Zealand

HOKITIKA and the importance of pounamu is woven into the story of the West Coast, South Island. Trading routes, seasonal hunting grounds and the emergence of a weapon, a jeweled headpiece and a decorative object is now a sought after souvenir. The Arahura River estuary is north of Hokitika and is a well known source of pounamu (jade). Gold jewellers, wood turners and potters have open studios. Spend time, walk around the compact town and observe what takes your breath away. Polish your pounamu (jade) at a workshop.


TE PAPA is the repository of the past and signal for the future showcases the story of migration and immigration. As the museum online resource describes, ‘Te Marae offers a singular experience within Te Papa and is also unique within Aotearoa, New Zealand as it is Te Papa’s response to the challenge of creating an authentic yet inclusive marae, a communal meeting place for the 21st century.’

Te Papa interior, Wellington, New Zealand
Te Papa museum

Undoubtedly the list of Maori tourist attractions is growing with a greater emphasis on immersive experiences.



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