The 10 Best Places to Experience New Zealand Indigenous Culture

The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. Legend has it that they arrived here over 1000 years ago on giant wooden canoes called Maataa-hourua from Hawaiki, their mythical Polynesian homeland. Their journey is one of rich mythology and tribal warfare. The legend tells of Chief Kupe, arriving in New Zealand around 950 A.D. Early Polynesian settlers made their homes along the coast, especially the more temperate and hospitable east coast. When they arrived in New Zealand, it was known as The land of the Long White Cloud. Today, 14% of New Zealand’s population are the Maori. Their traditions, language, and history are an integral part of New Zealand’s cultural identity.

The Maori culture is rich in song, art, dance, and spiritual beliefs in gods who represented elements of nature. The Maori believe their ancestors can be called upon to aid them in a time of need. The Polynesian language of the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand is the Maori language. It is closely related to Cook Islands Maori, Tahitian, and Tuamotuan.

Carving, weaving, group performance, tattoos, and oratory are traditional arts found in the Maori culture and are still practiced all over the country today.

If you’re looking for a place where you can indulge in the New Zealand indigenous culture, Auckland has several attractions where you can learn and experience all things Maori.

1. New Zealand Maritime Museum

The New Zealand Maritime Museum features exhibits about Chief Kupe and the very first Polynesians to arrive in New Zealand on giant canoes. Their exhibits will extend into the discovery and settlement of New Zealand by the Europeans as well complete with a rich history or wartime, which will shed some light on the Maori people and how their lands were settled.

2. The Auckland War Memorial Museum

The entire first floor of the Auckland War Memorial Museum is wholly dedicated to the Maori, Pacific, and New Zealand indigenous culture and artifacts. You can browse more than 1,000 Maori treasures called taonga including the last war canoe carved from a giant Totara Tree and intricate wood carvings. The museum has collected these artifacts for the past 150 years. Investigate New Zealand indigenous cultural origins through their natural history exhibits and walk through art displays full of beautiful Maori artwork.

3. Kiwa Art

Kiwa Art gallery and shop stocks the traditional arts and crafts of the Maori and Pacific people. Kiwa Art is named for the vast ocean of the Pacific, ta Moana Nui a Kiwa. Their collections include wood and bone carvings, tapa cloths, tribal jewelry, pounamu which is New Zealand greenstone, and native artifacts. Kiwa Art has supplied Museums, collectors, and institutions worldwide with valuable items for display.

4. Maori Walking Tour of Mount Eden

Experience the Heaven to Earth Mount Eden walking tour and learn the importance of the dormant volcano Mount Eden, which was a Maori stronghold at one time, and overlooks Manukau and Waitemata harbors. Your guide will tell you the history of this magical place through stories that have been passed down through generations. Experience their legends, steeped in abundant spiritual beliefs.

5. Auckland and Northland Cultural City to Cape Private Luxury Tour

To submerge yourself in Maori culture, indulge in this unique four-day tour of the local people and culture. Your Maori host will act as your cultural ambassador and guide you in sharing amazing connections with the local people and their vibrant culture. You can feel a genuine spiritual connection to the region’s lands. Hear stories of the local peoples’ heritage and experience one-of-a-kind activities in stunning surroundings from the center of the city all the way out to the cape.

6. Auckland Maori Tour & Cultural Performance

In Freemans Bay, you can explore Auckland with the guidance of a local Maori guide who will tell you all about Maori and New Zealand indigenous culture and the colonial history of the region. Throughout the full day tour, you will make stops along the way to hear about the history of people and places including a personal tour of the Maori section of the Auckland Museum. You will also get to witness a Maori Cultural Performance including the Haka war dance, which is widely famous and a central part of the Maori identity and values.

7. Maori Cultural Centre

Visit te Hana te ao marama, the Maori Cultural Centre in Auckland to indulge in all different aspects of Maori culture. Take a tour through the Maori villages or the Marae, a meeting place that is a central part of Maori culture, usually representing a Maori ancestor. You can even experience a NoHo which is an overnight stay to experience the night skies through the eyes of the Maori. Shop authentic Maori jewelry, wooden and bone carvings, artwork and authentic clothing for a souvenir of this amazing cultural experience with the New Zealand indigenous people.

8. Tamaki Hikoi

Before the European settlers arrived in New Zealand, Auckland, or Tamaki in Maori, was fought over for a very long time. It was the battleground for many tribal wars. Listen to stories on this cultural walking tour through Auckland focusing on the Maori people, land, and New Zealand indigenous culture.

9. Auckland Shore Excursion

A real Maori guide will travel with you through the rainforest of Waitakere Ranges and the countryside in a small group tour of North Island city and the west coast. You will be able to watch the Haka, the Maori war dance at Auckland Museum, and learn about generations of cultural heritage as your Maori guide tells you the histories and stories of their people.

10. Kura Gallery

The Kura Art and Design Gallery features both contemporary and traditional original artworks from Maori and Pacific artists including Maori carvings, vibrant Maori jewelry, genuine greenstone native to New Zealand, exceptional design, and even authentic handmade furniture. Kura has a passion for representing Maori art and artists and supports the growth of their art and design culture. Indulge in the beauty of their cultural artwork.

Whether you’re just looking for a cultural experience that lasts a couple of hours or for one that continues several days, Auckland has all you need to submerge yourself into an authentic and rich Maori experience. You can gain real knowledge about the history of their people, observe and celebrate with them in their performances of their war dance, and see their beautiful indigenous art, or buy some souvenirs crafted by the Maori. You’ll walk away from your experience feeling more connected to the people, the land, and their culture in Auckland.


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