Maori culture is what makes New Zealand truly unique and special in the world. It's not mountains, glaciers or forests, it’s the first nation people of New Zealand, the Maori. Everyone visiting New Zealand wants to find out all about our fascinating indigenous culture, here are our tips for the best places to experience Maori culture on your New Zealand tour.
The Maori came to Aotearoa (New Zealand) from Polynesia, the first explorers sailed in outrigger canoes using only the stars to plot their course. Kupe, the great Navigator and first New Zealander of all, landed in the Hokianga Harbour in Northland, and is the original descendant of the Ngapuhi people who call this area their home. The Maori have no written language, and rely on oral legend and artworks to tell of their history, so the exact date of arrival is not known precisely, but it’s commonly thought to be between 1250 and 1300 AD, but some accounts place it as early as 750AD.
Further migrations from Polynesia led to Maori settlement all around the country, with the warmer coastal areas like Northland and the East Cape becoming population centres. As nothing was written down, there are several different accounts of when this happened - but the theory of ‘a Great Fleet’ of waka (canoes) from Polynesia to Aotearoa around 1350AD is one that is given credence in both Maori and Pakeha (European) histories. The names of these early waka are significant with the earliest Maori settlements in the country - Aotea, Kurahaupo, Mataatua, Tainui, Tokomaru, Te Arawa and Takitimu.
Over the centuries before Europeans arrived in New Zealand, Maori culture developed from an Eastern Polynesian culture into the more recognizable New Zealand Maori culture we see today. From the 15th century, Maori became less nomadic and settled into defined territories, which remain as their tribal homelands today, and form the basis of the areas we visit today on our tours.
The only way to experience and learn about Maori culture is to visit their regions and meet their people, they are the only ones who can tell the stories of their ancestors and homelands.
Maori Culture is omnipresent in New Zealand, every area we visit is the spiritual home to an iwi (tribe) and their ancestors. We consider it a privilege to visit these areas and value the opportunity to catch up with our friends around the country. Here are the Maori culture highlights we always visit on our tours around New Zealand.