Top 10 Kid-Friendly Activities to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand

by Lena Taylor
two travellers walk along a path admiring the Waipoua Forest in new zealand
Discover, experience and celebrate Maori culture in New Zealand with our top 10 activities for the whole whanau to enjoy!

1. Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Waitangi welcomes you on a journey of discovery through Aotearoa’s most important historic site. Explore the 2 new museums (Te Kongahu Museum of Waitangi and Te Rau Aroha museum) with interactive screens and audio-visual experience, and learn more about our history with a guided tour.

Plus, don’t miss the live demonstration in the Carving Studio, traditional Maori waka, the action-packed 30 minute cultural performance and the age-appropriate scavenger hunt and more!

2. Whale Watch Tour in Kaikoura

Retrace the tale of Paikea (The Whale Rider) with a whale watch tour! According to legend, Paikea came to New Zealand from the Pacific Islands on the back of a whale many centuries ago, and his descendants include the Ngati Kuri people of Kaikoura.

A marine lovers paradise, Kaikoura is the perfect spot for the whanau for wildlife spotting all year round. On the 3.5 hour tour, you’ll have the chance to see the world’s largest toothed predator, giant Sperm whales, as well as fur seals, pods of dusky dolphins and the endangered wandering albatross.

3. Maori Highlights Tour in Te Papa Museum, Wellington

Gain a deeper understanding of Maori culture and Aotearoa at the incredible Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa! On a one-hour journey, experience the living and breathing taonga (treasures) of te iwi taketake (first peoples of the land). From historic, artistic, and contemporary perspectives, the Maori Highlights Tour is able to give families in-depth knowledge of what makes New Zealand’s Maori culture so unique!

4. Northland Footprints Waipoua

The Waipoua Forest Daylight Encounter Tour is a great adventure that the kids will enjoy, where you can see some of the largest remaining Kauri trees in the world! Local Maori guides will introduce you to the myths, legends and culture that surround these lords of the forest. You’ll meet the oldest known kauri tree in the world Te Matua Ngahere “The Father of the Forest” at between 2,500 and 3,000 years old, with the highlight of the tour being “The Lord of the Forest” – the giant Tane Mahuta!

5. Cruise to the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings, Taupo

Journey to the Maori Rock Carvings in comfort and style across one of the world’s largest freshwater volcanic craters, Lake Taupo. The giant Maori rock carving of Ngatoroirangi is one of New Zealand’s most extraordinary contemporary artworks towering 14-metres above deep water! Take in the stunning views of the secluded bays with the 90-minute tour, while learning about the history and mythology of the region and getting up close to the carvings only viewable by water.

6. Te Hana Te Ao Marama, Te Hana (Auckland Region)

Just a 4-5 minutes drive north of Wellsford, the tiny town of Te Hana is one that’s easy to drive straight through but it’s actually home to a cultural gem. Te Hana Te Ao Marama is Auckland’s leading Maori Cultural Centre offering a variety of authentic Maori cultural experiences.

Take the family for a Guided Maori Village Tour to be transported back 300 years to the time of Princess Te Hana, or even have an overnight stay at the Marae – currently one of two Marae in New Zealand to be Qualmarked (NZ tourism’s official mark of quality). Or, the ultimate Experience Package includes a buffet hangi lunch, village tour and cultural performance!

7. Pounamu, Bone & Paua Carving in Hokitika

Experience the NZ carving tradition, and design and carve your own unique masterpiece in pounamu (NZ Jade/Greenstone), bone or paua. With the help of the master carvers at Bonz n Stonez, you’ll be guided every step of the way and you’ll be able to reveal the practical skills you didn’t know you had.

You can choose to bring your own jade, bone or shell otherwise the “Carve Your Own” package has all materials supplied. Founder, Steve Gwaliasi, has spent almost 30 years of his life mastering the art of pounamu carving, and has run carving courses at Tai Poutini Polytechnic, the NZ Correspondence School as well as running workshops in the studio.

8. Waka Experience with Te Matau a Maui Voyaging Trust, Hawke’s Bay

Take to the seas with the 2-hour cultural sailing experience across the beautiful Hawke’s Bay aboard the “Te Matau a Maui” – a traditional Polynesian sailing waka that has travelled widely throughout the Pacific. Plus, if you want you can even have a turn becoming part of the crew to help sail the waka! Te Matau a Maui Voyaging Trust are a registered charitable trust with all koha (donations) and payments going back into the Trust allowing them to continue delivering environmental, health & cultural education programmes to the community.

9. Te Puia, Rotorua

There’s so much for the whanau to see with the must-do Te Ra (Day Time) Experience! Come face to face with the Southern Hemisphere’s largest active geyser (Pohutu Geyser), explore jumping mudpools, and over 500 geothermal wonders in the Whakarewarewa geothermal valley!

You’ll also have the opportunity to see kiwi birds in the Conservation Centre, watch master carvers and weavers at work at the New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute, and learn about Maori history & culture as guides share stories passed down from the ancestors. Plus, the model Pre-European Maori Village and sacred Marae can give you a rare glimpse into how Maori people lived prior to European settlement.

10. Auckland Museum

One of New Zealand’s first museums, the Auckland Museum tells the story of Aotearoa. It’s renowned for its internationally significant and unique collection of over 2000 Maori treasures and artifacts it protects and cares for, including rare carvings, whole buildings, and the last great Maori war canoe carved from a giant Totara tree!

Most of these are displayed in main Maori galleries, He Taonga Maori (Maori Court) and Te Ao Turoa (Maori Natural History Gallery). These taonga are the ancestral representations of all the major tribes of Aotearoa, embodying spiritual power measured in terms of mana (ancestral authority), tapu (restriction from everyday being) and korero (associated narratives), and these taonga continue to be viewed as key symbols of tribal identity by Maori today.


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